Monday, October 19, 2009

A Yacht of Giants

Saturday evening at the Auckland Maritime Museum was the launch of Lion New Zealand Charitable Trust. This is the vision of William Goodfellow an entrepreneur who has established Sail New Zealand and Explore New Zealand.

The Trust is philanthropic and will provide boating experiences for kids who may have never seen the sea, let alone been in a wonderful yacht. Sally and I are proud to support and partner with Bush and Beach, Fine Wine Tours and Explore New Zealand to provide a prize as part of the fundraiser at the launch.
The launch was a cocktail party, not the usual party we attend. I don’t own a jacket and I was concerned about wearing my suit as I would be underdressed. I need not to worry as I had forgotten it would be full of yachties.

Sally who looked like million dollars and I were among the first to arrive there. Melissa Prentice who works for Explore New Zealand organized the event was at the door as the meeter and greeter which she did with warmth and it was really great to see the expression on her face.
She was assisted by bevy of young women in black cocktail frocks. They were the New Zealand young olympians who mingled and spoke with all. Not only are they great ambassadors for their organization but they also added another layer of glam to the evening. If they were after high rollers they were making a mistake talking to us ,then again Sally did look like a million dollars.

Generous amounts of finger food were continuously on the go and fine wine and beer provided by the sponsors flowed.
William Goodfellow is not the most conventional of blokes and his informality was the key to the success of the night and will also make the Lion New Zealand Charitable Trust not only successful but fun.

The serious business of the launch was the multimedia event with film footage of the Whitbread 1985/6 around the world challenge also the Sydney to Hobart 1986 race. There were interviews with Peter Blake and others from the crew. Both these races were tough not only for the boat but in human terms. Roaring 40s are not a sailors dream, I have sailed with a few thousand tons of a merchant ship beneath me. Give me the adventure but calm water any day. Sally’s stomach was turning even watching the footage of the huge waves so I knew she would not be bidding on being the 18th man on the Sydney to Hobart Race.

The MC , Tony Stevenson a trustee of the Lion New Zealand Charitable Trust is one of the funniest men I have heard in a while. The first speaker was William who spoke of the history and his love of Lion New Zealand, (Lion was sitting in the harbour in front of the museum looking absolutely majestic) his vision and commitment for the trust. The next speaker was Graeme Dingle in a cocktail jacket too. Graeme has made a lifelong commitment to mountaineering and the advancement of opportunities for underprivileged children. In my high school years Graeme was doing these amazing things in the mountains and also writing great books about them. At that time he shocked New Zealand by taking a woman along to the mountains and sharing the great adventure with her. Yes, these things did shock New Zealand in those distant days. Old friends Waka Attawell and Gaylene Preston have made documentaries with him. His speech was colourful, passionate about trusts he has been involved and others that he has founded. These trusts coming together is not much short of a marriage made in heaven. He was the first giant of the evening to speak. And another very funny man.

The next speaker up was the Honourable Dr Jonathan Coleman, who is Associate Minister of Tourism. He is also the Member of Parliament for Birkenhead and fifty or so of his constituents were there and all would have voted for him. Birkenhead Point is one of the great maritime areas of Auckland with steep streets leading to the sea. Beautiful villas including one of our Best of Auckland members sits on one of these streets. All of which are named after the great Liners (i.e. Awatea, Wanganella, Mariposa) who sailed in and out of Waitemata for decades. They were owned by great shipping companies such as Union Steamship, Matson and Huddart Parker. The qualities of these villas with the exterior verandas covered in wisteria are testimony to these once prestigious ships and companies .Jonathan’s contribution was generous and well received. He paid tribute to William’s entrepanuership and what he has achieved. Jonathan and I shared the stage a few months back at a sustainability seminar and he is a genial nice guy.

Next speaker up was a battered PJ Montgomery who chaired the panel discussion with past crew member of Lion NZ including Grant Dalton, Kevin Shoebridge and Simon Gundey. PJ is a great public advocate for yachting New Zealand. He has done more to explain the value of America’s Cup than a football team full of politicians have managed to this date. They talked of their Whitbread challenge and Sydney to Hobart races. They were the last amateur crew in big time yacht racing and gave up 18 months of their lives without receiving or expecting a dino. Their contribution will again be recognised by their support for the Lion New Zealand Charitable Trust. They entertained the crowd with great stories and there was that easy comradeship and humour between them that sailors have. They acknowledged Peter Blake and his family and like Blake and Dingle these guys were also the other giants. A loose description of giant I think, is a comment by Dr Martin Luther King speaking at that great march on Washington DC about the measure of the man being by the character of his soul. All of these men possess this character. 1984/5 was the time of change in New Zealand. We came more outward looking and a confident country and these blokes in many ways epitomised and represented some of this change. They not only sailed for themselves and the yacht but for New Zealand too.

The public came behind Lion and their crews aided by the then a commercial network owned by Radio New Zealand. Throughout Aotearoa was a network of radio stations and among their staff were journalists and hosts whose charter included telling stories and promoting our people and our endeavours. This I speak of through experience.

Not to be forgotten are the sponsors. They are essential to any event or cause. Original Lion sponsors many of whom have gone under in crash of 1988 added a little humour to the night. Some of them took some of my money at this time too.
Another like Tom Clark, a sailor, a manufacturer and benefactor have passed on. Tom’s Crown Lynn crockery is now highly collectable and Kiwis are proud to own his crockery.

Steinlager is an original sponsor whose product kept me watered all night long and the purity of their product left me in the good shape next morning. Yes, Steinlager lives up to its claims and also provides the missing link of 1980’s adventures of Lion. If you go to the movies and watch the Steinlager add, David Lange comment from the Oxford union debate “we can smell the uranium on your breath” booms out. I mentioned to Grant Dalton who confirmed that Lange was around.

But the success of the evening must go to William, Mel and their crew, William’s energy and integrity will insure the success of this trust to sail into a great future.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Rail or Road


The debate on this important decision has yet to consider the inevitability of the rising cost of petrol, reducing vehicle use and petrol tax revenue.

Smaller electrical vehicles with a limited range are only a few years away. All this will happen. The global recession has delayed this from occurring and New Zealand has yet to feel the impact or to notice global change.

Within five years world oil production will peak. More oil fields will come on stream but they will not be the size of existing fields and oil will not be as easy to extract .Oil prices will rise

Hybrid cars will become more popular however they are only an interim solution.

Global automobile companies are developing electric cars .Britain and other nations are developing electrical recharging stops they also charge higher registrations for larger cars. New Zealand is not even considering these changes

We know from recent experience people vote with their feet and use public transport when petrol prices increase.

Our advantage is cheap hydro, geothermal some wind and solar power. Electricity is the fuel of the future so

this is where our investments should lie.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

More Silk Than Saville Row

Hemi, my canine friend, and I noticed in Redmond Street a couple of Jags, a BMW and a Bentley too. This is at the Three Lamps end of Ponsonby an area of eclectic shops with friendly shopkeepers– far from the fashionable evening cafes and eateries of mid to South Ponsonby Road.
Turning into Three Lamps we saw a crowd spilling out of Dymocks Booksellers into the street; we noticed wine and nibbles were being freely distributed to those nearby. Hemi was hungry and I was thirsty. Being opportunists we availed ourselves of the generosity flowing our way.
We quickly found out the crowd was there for the book launch of Peter Williams’ (QC) Petals of Memory. Peter is one of NZ’s leading QCs and is a public face supporting unpopular causes – like prison reforms and Palestinian rights. He is also a competent musician, sailor, and as John Yelash says, a bush poet.

Among the tales that night were poetry and yarns from the sailing days, and stories of protests against nuclear testing in the Pacific. The strength of the poetry is in Peter’s passion, which flows out though every line. Among the 120 people present there were prominent judges and lawyers. Their cloth was of the finest, but the real quality was Peter’s poetry. (Judges and Queen Counsels are not a common sight in Ponsonby)
Bohemian artistic and once working class Ponsonby has never been for them with the exception of Peter. Rumour has it though, that in a previous time more than a few of the Silk were regulars at Flora McKenzie’s brothel in St Mary’s Bay.

Peter’s book, with its striking cover paintings by Ronald Jorgensen and Terry Clark, (both clients of his and major figures in our folklore) is warm and tender and tells of Peter’s great love of life, adventure and his care for his fellow man. He was not short of praise for the women he married and his beautiful daughter Katie who was in attendance.

His poetry was read by among others, John Yelash, well known sailors, legal folk, and Peter himself.
Much of the talk was of his great yacht Fidelis, one of the fastest yachts in the Pacific, which won the Sydney to Hobart.
Among those there to pay respects to Peter were Green MP Keith Locke and Ballu Khan, the Fiji-Indian born business man who Peter and his partner Heeni Phillips represented in the High Court in Suva last year. Also, Joe Karam, who steadfastly led the successful campaign to free David Bain over the years.

I first saw Joe in action in 1969, as a full back for St. Patrick’s College Silverstream Rugby team where he kicked four penalties to defeat Wellington College 12-9. I knew he would be an All Black but never realised that he had so much compassion and sense of justice. As a lonely tyke at Wellington College, that game was one of my finest days at the College.

Returning to the book launch. The atmosphere was one of both electricity and warmth with Peter Solon wandering through the crowd playing his violin tunes. The added colour of the poetry made this one of Ponsonby’s great nights.

I happily paid for the book and would have easily paid more for the performances.
Great poetry, good red wine, as well as a wonderful woman - my partner Sally, and our great dog Hemi made this night the best of times.