Thursday, December 29, 2011

Soho Quarter a reply to comments by Phil O Reilly

Letter published in the New Zealand Herald 30 December 2011 Phil been a long term Ponsonby resident and I salute his contribution to Ponsonby and Auckland. Ponsonby would be poorer without him. However, his outlandish comments about Soho Quarter cannot go unanswered. Not all Ponsonby residents were shown plans. There were so many plan changes. Every time the developer was granted consent he tried to push the envelope. This developer also refused to take into account the effect his plans would have on local residents concerned about traffic flow into their streets. They held genuine concerns about their health and safety. The development plans were not the Chancery by any means . At first there were going to be theatres ,then there were apartments, but at the end it was a huge block of retail shops and offices right on a residential street. The only thing we were told was that there were also going to be flying saucers. Phil is ungenerous or out of touch with his Ponsonby neighbours with his statement that it was never going to, prevail because of affronted and old core of Ponsonby fossils. On the contrary, a contemporary development would have worked for all and would have been applauded People are not stupid, when they are being sold rubbish they know it.

Sunday, November 13, 2011

New Zealand General Election November 2011

This letter was published in an abridged form in the New Zealand Herald November 14 2011.
There are issues that sit under the election radar which have not attracted the media attention they should. They relate to bio security and the management of three recent major disasters; the Christchurch Earthquake, the Pyke River Mining Tragedy and The shipwrecked Rena. These issues have all been raised at election meetings and forums with little reporting. Politicians have largely avoided questions regarding to these issues by referencing commissions of inquiry or refusing to comment.

How well prepared are we to respond to another emergency? This is a legitimate public concern.

The management of our recent disasters indicates a loss of institutional knowledge and infrastructure. Does this mean that our major export industries, agriculture, aquaculture and tourism, are also vulnerable? Daily we get news of a worsening global economic situation. Do we still control what we can by maintaining our existing knowledge and improving our reduced infrastructure? Our valuable exports are all at risk if we don’t have the capacity to respond quickly if another disaster were to strike. All people want to know is what steps being taken to rebuild capacity and are things getting better.

Piece of mind is a wonderful thing.

Monday, October 31, 2011

Live Aid .When harvey met Bob

Last evening I watched and enjoyed the film Live Aid – When Harvey Met Bob. The same footage that moved Bob moved me. I was hosting friends to dinner that night and with the food that I had prepared and was in the process of cooking suddenly became obscene because of the misery we were seeing on TV about the Horn of Africa. We talked about it over dinner and I was challenged to think of something we could we do.

I was a ship steward and I came up with the idea to get a ship with an unpaid volunteer crew to take emergency aid and development products to Africa. The maritime unions backed my proposal. Through Sonja Davis I met Mary Sinclair who was working with Corso. We connected with Chris Laidlaw who was working as African advisor for David Lange. Together we took the union proposal to Lange who gave us government support. A national steering committee was formed and Ian Johnstone from TV NZ became the front man. We formed Operation Hope using the Union Company freighter MV Ngahere. People throughout New Zealand were inspired to support us. Operation Hope raised millions of dollars and Corso raised a couple of million too.
The bankers association through Max Bradford made all their branches available for donations and promoted the project children gave their pocket money and pensioners gave too.

Last night friends rang me to let me know that Live Aid – When Harvey Met Bob was on TV. This morning my then girlfriend rang and she recalled all the nightmares and challenges that we had to in organizing that voyage and mission. We had one month to get it going. This was before fax machines and few people had credit cards.

I tell you this so that a Chapter in New Zealand history can be remembered here as it is on the Horn of Africa. In New Zealand the Live Aid Concert and Operation Hope were quickly forgotten because of the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior. Incidentally shortly after Jackson Browne, Neil Young and others came to Auckland and at Mt Smart stadium held a benefit concert for Greenpeace. People do do selfless and wonderful things.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Heaps more could have been about the Rena disaster

Published in an abridged form in the Weekend Herald 15 October ,2011
Maritime New Zealand’s management of this event has been appalling. Part of the issue is that they are now money managers as opposed to maritime experts. The paltry fines and penalty for wrong doing are a disgrace as is the failure to take up Mr Winstone’s offer of two barges which may have prevented beaches and fisheries being polluted and the awful deaths of sea animals and birds.
They could have arranged for Wellington’s floating crane, the Hikitia to get to Tauranga which is capable of lifting the empty containers off.
Instead they waited days before making any move to contain the imminent disaster or to communicate with the public .
For the Prime-minster to say it has been handled well, is just wrong.He should have declared a state of emergency and Minster Joyce should have flown to Tauronga and called a public meeting. A committee including mayors , iwi, unions, churches, business leaders and others to coordinate the response could have been formed. He could have found out what resources and marine know how were available locally and things would have turned out better. At least Nero fiddled while Rome burnt.Our Government leadership did nothing

The public are in wonderment about why the tax payers should pick up the tab for any of the cost.
Fishermen are concerned about when they will make a living again as are tourist operators. Some will go broke losing a lifetimes investment .Locals have no idea when they will swim or enjoy their beaches. Exporters whose product is now lost many of them will be worried about their markets and some of them may lose contracts and have penalties imposed .
Perhaps they the hapless crew is guilty of negligence . Are not the shipping company and owners also guilty?

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Rugby World Cup Quater Finals Auckland New Zealand

Saturday night quarter rugby finals provided some stunning rugby for spectators everywhere.

The Irish /Wales game provided the best possible crowd behaviour and respect for this great game.

When a penalty of a conversion was being attempted by the goal kickers you could have heard a pin drop .

The booing and jeering when goal kickers are attempting to kick in the Anzac nation is a disgrace. Sadly the English supporters at Eden park last night also caught a dose of this Anzac disease. May it not become something that plagues the Anglo-Saxon world.

One way to curb this behaviour would be for the IRB to advise the referees to blow a the whistle when the bad behaviour starts and they stand the goal kicker down until the spectators refrain from their shocking behaviour.

If the IRB can fine a player and fine $ 10,000 for wearing a non regulation mouth guard then surely they must be able to end this appalling and disrespectful behaviour. New Zealanders are passionate about rugby and it would be better if the New Zealand Rugby Union took hold of this issue and sorted it out once and for all.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Others Peoples War

Fran O Sullivan is correct bluster won’t bury Hager’s revelations on military. The questions that Hager has raised are worthy of serious consideration if not an inquiry.
Since her column Hager's book has sold extremely well in many of the most thinking areas of New Zealand .The chattering classes to quote from the' Ponsonby Look 'have bought it widely in Ponsonby in fact it sold out with in a day.
Increasing numbers of people are concerned and are disappointed that the 4 Estate has failed in their duty in regard to the reservations contained with in this book .
The primeminster who has not read Hager book Other Peoples War cannot just dismiss it. The content is serious and the questions that it raises deserve proper answers.
O Sullivan is also correct to raise Jon Stephenson’s, Metro article “Eyes Wide Shut which also ask questions about our involvement in Afghanistan. A war that every day is more pointless and in which there is no taste within New Zealand for further engagement .The loss of good and courageous men there is even more reason for proper answers.
I have met both Hager and Stephenson these men are earnest investigative journalists of the highest calibre and are courageous.
The Primeminster is like Muldoon as he chooses to play the men and not the issues.
More surprising is Phil Goff’s decision to support John key is weird too. The allegations that our top military and foreign affairs officials actually worked to undermine New Zealand position and seed authority to the British and Americans when Helen Clark had put our people United Nations command is scandalous.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The Haka

This letter was published in the New Zealand Herald in an abridged form Wednesday 14 September, 2011.

Jan Pearson is out of touch with her ideas about the haka .New Zealand to most foreigners means our clean and green environment Lord of the Rings and the haka.
We were in a restaurant in Buenos Aries last month and the staff immediately gave us their version of the haka. Elderly Italian and German visitors were impressed by the Maori battalion and their haka no doubt helped Jan’s grandfather as it terrified the Germans.
Flash mob hakas at the moment are going over the internet and thousands of people send them on. On Friday night at Eden Park tens of thousands loved both the haka and Tongan reply.I was surrounded by French and Argentinian supporters who were passionate in their love of the haka
When Sarah Ulmer won gold at the 2004 Olympics all the kiwi fans leapt to their feet and did a haka as she biked past. Most of them were Pakeha. I was trearful watching on television.
On the walk along the waterfront hakas were performed by school boys as the waka party passed. Unlike Jan, I loved it as did everyone around me. She will have to get over it as there are many more Pacific Island teams yet to play and they will all reply to the haka. What has really made this World Cup is the Polynesian flavour.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Waitamata Local Board Plan

I presented this submission on Thursday 26 August 2011

I agree that we need to protect our built heritage and character both in our town-centres and our residential houses. Individual heritage and character buildings that are commercial also need protecting and I support the plan to protect them.
• I support the Board in developing projects that promote, identify and celebrate our heritage. I favour the immediate undergrounding of electric power cables and the extension of Victorian lights from Grafton bridge along Karangahape and Ponsonby Rds to the West and Grafton to Khyber Pass Rd, along Broadway and down Parnell Rd. Ideally the whole link bus route should be uniform .[I realise The Heart of the City may have other considerations ].
An exception that I favour is the strip along Park Rd out side the Starship children's hospital the lights be in the shape of space craft. For children hospital can be a traumatic experience so lets create a little fun for them. In principal the older historic neighbourhoods should have paving, lighting and verandas which indicate to locals and tourist that they are somewhere special. St Marys Bay Rd from Ponsonby Rd to Dublin Street should immediately have the undergrounding of electricity and street lights replaced to indicate the importance of this small strip of important heritage buildings.
• I support quality and creativity in new developments but they should be built to the District Plan rules. I support planning for growth with housing that meets the needs of residents however it should not come at the expense of destroying our heritage.
• I support a more sustainable approach to new and old buildings. To protect heritage buildings I favour more provision for mixed use of buildings ,rate relief in to compensate owners who retain their buildings who could demolish and build higher buildings
• I support attractive higher density housing in places like the old Lion Breweries site but we must should ensure that there is ‘social housing’ for lower income Aucklanders, and apartments for families.
• Because we are inner city and city fringe dwellers I support ways to make cycling and walking safer for those who choose to make this transport choice. I support improved cycle infrastructure with dedicated and connected cycleways and improved bike parking in shopping areas.
• I support an audit of intersections that can be improved for pedestrian safety and increasing the number of low speed zones.
• I support a cycleway and walkway over the Harbour Bridge, and the third harbour crossing needs to be a tunnel.
• The City Centre rail link is the most essential public transport asset for the super city and has my support. I support a heritage rail station in Parnell, and the new trams from the Wynyard Quarter to Britomart and up Queen street .
• I support a greater network of bus lanes to improve the efficiency of buses, and the visual signal that it is a ‘bus, motorbike and cycle only’ lane needs to be emphasized to motorists with increased green marking of the lane.
• I support a re-prioritizing land use away from the provision of parking so that the public are encouraged to use public transport on longer journeys into the city.
• I support more events for our local communities and events which cater for our youth. The music in the parks programme should be extended to provide opportunities for youth and consideration given to a summer arts programme targeted at youth .This would need to be worked in conjunction with government agencies . It is beneficial for all to have our youth involved in activities rather than hanging out all summer with their skateboards. however to engage with youth we could have a skateboarding competition.Whatever is done youth must have a say and their involvement will be to crucial to a successful out come.
• We need both the St James and the Mercury theatre in Council hands and refurbished to become flourishing arts venues.
• I support community gardens and fruit trees in public places to teach our children where food comes from, and be part of the glue that holds our communities together.
• I support as accessible Auckland that enables all of those in our community to enjoy and participate in what Auckland has to offer.
• I support the upgrade of Myers Park for our inner city apartment dwellers and developing the Waitemata coastal walkway so both visitors and local can enjoy it.
• The site at 254 Ponsonby Road will make an excellent village square and be a focal point for the centre of the ‘Ponsonby mile’.
• Many of our Park management plans need to be updated to protect the parks from ‘exclusive’ commercial activities that prevent locals and local clubs using them.
• With thousands of new residents due to be housed in the Wynyard Quarter the facilities such as parks and community facilities needs to be assessed and I support the Board in conducting a needs assessment.
• Public spaces are critical to residents and workers alike in the city centre and we need improved signage of the dozens of ‘through site links’ that Council negotiated for us from developers. I support the Board in ‘bringing back’ public spaces through improved signage.
• I support developing a localised plan to cut carbon emissions so that residents and workers can have clean air to breathe.
• Waste minimisation and resource recovery are key components in establishing sustainable communities and local initiatives are the best way to make us all aware of the rubbish we produce. I support your plans to help us locally find a solution.
• I support a holistic approach to caring for our streams which involve the local community being involved. Coxes Bay is a shining example of the Council and community working together over many years and this needs to occur in more areas in Waitemata.

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Symomnd Street Billboard Decision IS Appalling

Published in the New Zealand Herald Tuesday 16 August 2011

Shale Chambers is right to protect the interests of our community as local boards do need more say in resource consents.
The decision of the Independent Planning Commissioner, Karyn Sinclair to override council officers decisions was appalling in these circumstances. She allowed an inappropriate billboard on a building which will impact on residents directly and from a tourist and commercial point of view will impact on the Symonds Street local business community.
The terms of reference of these independent planning commissioners should be reviewed. They may be planners but do they understand local communities?
Do they understand tourism?
With Symonds Street being on the official rugby world cup walk, this can be only the worst possible decision to highlight the best of Auckland. This decision needs to be reviewed urgently.
The council should empower our local community boards with the right to stand up for their residents and local businesses and have more say . They should have the right to question short sited decisions such as this .
Community Boards should also take into account the importance of Tourism and Heritage to the life and economic contribution to Auckland.


Gerard Hill

Monday, August 15, 2011

Mr Joyce Please Explain

Mr Joyce and the National Government should explain with more detail why the rail link will not work .It is an Auckland decision however, with his decision to rip $14million out of the public funding for Auckland public transport it makes everything a little harder for our council to deliver.
There are government decisions involving billions of dollars which they made with competitively little discussion or no discussion .For instance the tax cuts , labour law changes and direct subsidies for the Hobbit movie. In economic terms do they stack up? The bailing out of South Canterbury Finance was that justified or in the national interest?
The decision to relax gambling legislation in favour of sky city was done over dinner. Once upon a time this would have gone to a parliamentary select committee What changed?
With tax cuts and increase in GST the jury is still out. Did these decisions get put through the ringer to the ninth degree like is happening to the inner city rail loop ? The northern motorway extension is being pushed through regardless of any economic benefit.
In short, the government subsidies have gone to the South Island wealthy who made foolish or greedy decisions, to Sir Peter Jackson, Warner Brothers and a subsidy on Wellington jobs, Sky City shareholders.
None of these proposals were named by Dame Judith Mayhew from the City of London when she came here in April. This respected kiwi who has run the City of London made two recommendation to get the Auckland and hence national economy moving .One was a broadband net work and the other was the inner city rail link .With respect to Mr Joyce, Dame Judith does know how to make international cities work .Her opinions and suggestions should be treated with respect and not lightly dismissed.


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Hungry Kiwi Children

Published in the New Zealand Herald Friday 29 July 2011
Bryan Rudman and writer Hamish Keith are correct .44,000 children going without breakfast is wrong it is an indictment our on our society. In 1937 Newton Central School was the first to have the benefits of free school milk along with other programs and social changes led by the local MP Michael Joseph Savage helped poverty to disappear .
Poverty we now criminalise . We starve children and wonder why they end up in the criminal justice system . Is that so surprising?

Lets continue to fund breakfast into decile one schools and extend it to other schools too.

If we add more support for all children perhaps we can break the cycle that takes these kids on to adult poverty and intergenerational problems. The reintroduction of school milk should not be ruled out . In 1967 when it was abolished New Zealand was more equal society and almost everybody ate breakfast.

If we can bail the foolish rich who invested in South Canterbury Finance then we must have the money to invest in these children .

The Child Poverty group and their perseverance should be congratulated . They are more than our conscience . They keep this appalling situation alive.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Submission on the Auckland Spatial Plan June 2011

Firstly I would like to congratulate the Auckland Council for developing such a
comprehensive and forward thinking plan for our city.
1. Transport and Infrastructure
Invest heavily in improving our rail, bus and ferry systems and reduce our investment in
motorways. In this option the Council would prioritize completing the CBD rail loop, a rail
loop to the airport, and a rail link to the North Shore within 15 years.
A road connecting route 20 and the motorway should be expedited to ensure the
efficient and profitable operation of the Ports of Auckland. A rail line from the Port to
Albany should also expedited. This will reduce a considerable number of truck
movements and could be used at off-peak times, which would allow for passenger
services through the north shore.
I believe this is the best option because it will give Aucklanders more transport choices
and make our city more resilient to increasing oil prices. However, I am concerned that
even in this third option the Council is not being ambitious enough.
Given the challenges of climate change, rising oil prices, air pollution and congestion I
believe the Council should also consider:
• changing our land use patterns to enable Aucklanders to make better transport
choices (for example, providing for more local employment, mixed-use zoning,
and removing harmful planning regulations such as minimum parking
requirements that result in huge areas of wasted land and reduce housing
affordability);
• improving the bus network to make it more efficient (for example, by developing a
radial grid of bus services and allowing free transfers from one service to
another);
• making cycling and walking safer and more enjoyable and investing in Travel
Demand Management Programmes to achieve a significant shift to walking and
cycling (e.g., 50% of trips by foot and cycle by 2040).
2. Environment
I support strongly the Council ensuring that Auckland become an eco city and also a fairtrade
city. I am also in favour of the Council's aim to create a network of wildlife
corridors across the city, enhance our parks and open spaces, protect streams and
harbours from further pollution, and reduce our waste to landfill by 40% through gaining
more control over the waste stream The Manukau Harbour should become a marine
park.
I also encourage the Council to consider the benefit to the city environment of
encouraging more local food production (e.g., through community gardens, school
gardens, protecting rural land for environmentally responsible farming, etc.). In rural
areas one effective way for the Council to protect water quality would be to encourage
more nutrient budgeting (to avoid over-fertilizing) and more riparian planting.
3. Climate Change
The Council has set an aspirational target of reducing Auckland's greenhouse gas
emissions by 40% by 2025. I support this and also encourage the Council to set a longterm
target of reducing our emissions by 90% by 2050.
I would also like to see the Council provide in their spatial plan a clear and detailed
outline of how they would implement both targets. To achieve this, the Council should
consider major investment in sustainable transport infrastructure and the use of more
renewables to meet energy demand.
I believe the spatial plan should provide more detail on what the likely impacts of
unchecked climate change will be over the next 30 years in terms of sea-level rise,
flooding, and extreme weather events, and how the Council plans to adapt to these.
I would urge the Council to set plans in place for short and long term goals for reducing
greenhouse gas emissions and outline clearly how they will achieve both.
4. Housing
Auckland's housing is already under huge pressure and migration will increase this
problem. The Government has suggested that the best way to reduce house prices in
Auckland is to allow the city to sprawl outwards. However, low density, sprawling
development requires people to travel long distances, which is costly in many ways, and
requires expensive infrastructure such as roads, waste, water and electricity. It doesn't
stack up economically or environmentally.
The Council has a strong focus in their discussion document on maintaining a compact
urban form for Auckland. They also aim to improve housing affordability through
measures such as making it easier for developers to build more medium intensity
housing (e.g., terraced houses, duplexes, units) and working with the Government to
redevelop Council housing more intensively.
I believe that some key other ways the Council could act to improve housing affordability
are:
• change their parking regulations so that, rather than requiring new developments
to provide a certain minimum number of parks (as regulations currently do), allow
parking to be shared between a number of buildings and uses, and encourage
direct pricing of parking when demand is high. This will lead to much less land
being wasted on unproductive uses and encourage sustainable travel;
• work to involve more third sector (e.g., not for profit) organizations in building
affordable housing, providing long-term rental housing and in developing
alternative ownership and funding models to facilitate security of tenure for both
owners and renters;
• ensure that when they do identify land outside the city boundary for redevelopment
that these developments are centred on major public transport links
(e.g., the Western rail line, the Southern rail line, the Northern Express busway)
and that the public transport is provided before the development is occupied by
residents. Massey and Favona are lessons to lean about how not do things;
• lobby the Government to build more intensive state housing in Auckland,
redevelop current state housing sites more intensively and to introduce a capital
gains tax on properties (excluding the family home);
• provide incentives for brownfield redevelopments rather than greenfield, to
balance out the higher economic risk profile for developers involved in the
former;
• take action to prevent inappropriate developments occurring on the fringes of the
Auckland region that will occupy valuable rural land and encourage individuals to
commute long distances to work. A good example of this is the proposed
Stevenson's Business Park development in Drury which the Council should
oppose;
• I support the Council plan to maintain the compact urban plan.
5. Urban Design
The Council has placed a strong emphasis in their spatial plan on improving the built
environment of Auckland and ensuring good urban design. I believe this is a positive
step forward. I support the Council's proposals to:
• protect the heritage buildings along our main streets . Ponsonby and Parnell
Roads are examples of streets that should be protected . Not only do residents
enjoy them but thousands of tourists walk these streets to look at and photograph
these buildings and streetscapes;
• residential one protections should be maintained throughout our heritage suburbs
and communities.
I have worked in excess of 35 years of my life in hospitality and tourism. My experiences
have also been international and taken me through Western Europe, the United
Kingdom, Asia, some of the United States, Argentina Uruguay and Chile. I spend
considerable time within New Zealand and Australia and I holiday in the Pacific Islands.
In all of these localities and countries I have taken part in cultural and heritage activities.
Since I established the first quality boutique inn within Auckland at Ponsonby in 1994
and also have guided historical walks in Auckland, I am well qualified to speak of the
economic value that heritage and culture, including neighbourhoods communities and
individual buildings, add to the visitor experience and their contribution to the local and
national economy.
To take a broad brush approach that allows a holus bolus approach to our housing stock
within the proposed changes will destroy the fabric of Auckland. The laissez-faire
approach that allows billboards to cover over and obstruct heritage buildings devalues
the not only the building but the street appeal. This is already devaluing the visitor
experience in to Auckland. Since we are unable to achieve agreement on something as
basic as this, how if we liberalise the zoning changes as sought by our three lawyers will
we resolve the bastardization of our individual buildings and neighbourhoods?
The high spending interactive tourists that Tourism New Zealand targets have a strong
interest in culture and heritage including buildings. How long they choose to stay and
consequently spend in a town will depend on what they see and can do. This is no
secret. All over the world communities protect these assets because they know the
intrinsic economic value of keeping them intact.
I refer now to some examples in New Zealand. Oamaru has used their buildings and
colourful social history to promote their region’s economic activity and employment.
Mayor Foon in Gisborne is using a natural disaster to reinstate Victorian buildings.
Hawera knocked down the home of Ronald Hugh Morrison and have suffered .These
few examples, but not limited to them, show that New Zealanders know the value of
buildings and visit places to soak up the culture.
Many New Zealanders visit the Surrey Hills and the Rocks in Sidney on their first O.E.
Perhaps later on they will visit the old town In Stockholm or listed towns as diverse as
Bath in England and Plockton in Scotland.
Thousands of towns and cities throughout the world can be listed where they have
strong heritage and town planning laws.
A major reason why they have decided to do this purely economic. They know how
much their existence is dependent on the experience the visitor has in their community,
and, again, heritage buildings are crucial.
One of the best examples I can offer, as it close by, is Tasmania. Launceston in the
north of the state in the 1960s allowed a permissive rule change and the town lost much
of its heritage building stock and the visitors stopped coming.
Hobart, the capital in the south, maintained tight planning and building rules and
flourished. When they woke up in 1985, Launceston had a change of heart and brought
building and town planning regulations back in. The consensus is that it was too late to
amend the rules and the damage done.
Auckland can avoid the mistakes and learn from this positive leadership in cities around
the globe.
To pay for our infrastructure needs, not to mention the jobs that are dependent on
tourism, we need every decent attraction we have. Our housing and neighbourhoods
and what we do with them will have a direct impact on our future.
Below are some suggestions that I support which can be done to ensure that we get the
best outcomes for our neighbourhoods:
• identify a hierarchy of town centres which will help to guide appropriate levels of
development in each area, recognising that one approach does not “fit all”;
• remove barriers to the redevelopment and rejuvenation of local “mainstreet”
centres, so that local residents can have their needs met within walkabale
distances;
• discourage the development of new “megamalls”, or the expansion of existing
malls, as they undermine local shops;
• introduce minimum sustainability criteria for new buildings;
• ensure that major buildings and developments are reviewed by an Urban Design
Panel;
• require resource consents to include a design sheet outlining minimum standards
for sustainable design criteria;
• make streets into public spaces that are used for recreation, rather than just for
transit, through good design, public art, more use of shared space, and speed
reductions and other traffic calming measures;
• incentivise the development of grid street and pathway networks to make travel
by foot and cycle more attractive;
• increase access for disabled persons;
• preserve our built heritage, cultural landscapes and archaeological sites through
creating a well-integrated Heritage Plan, and giving it appropriate status to
ensure a high level of protection;
• introduce "redevelopment" authorities which would mean that major sites could
be developed to a very high standard of urban design.
6. Caring for People and Building Strong Communities
The Council plan places a strong priority on improving the well-being of children,
reducing inequality and building strong, inclusive communities that value ethnic diversity
and are accessible to the disabled.
I support these, and particularly commend the Council's goals around reducing
inequality. Auckland has greater disparities between the poor and wealthy than any
other city in New Zealand. International research shows that income inequality leads to
other poor social outcomes that affect everyone - such as increased rates of child abuse,
obesity, mental illness and crime. By taking measures to reduce inequality the Council
may well also improve the well-being of children living in Auckland. While many
measures to reduce inequality are not the responsibility of local government, one
important way the Council can help to reduce inequality is by increasing the supply of
high quality, affordable housing. This will reduce over-crowding, facilitate better long
term engagement with education and health services, and make it easier for low-income
Aucklanders to live with dignity.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Auckland Unleashed; Published in the New Zealand Herald Wednesday May 11

It is good that all representatives of our communities, both citizens and corporate are putting ideas forward to the Auckland Unleashed discussion.

Mike Bayley of Bayleys Real Estate has not thought this through as he does not incorporate heritage housing in his proposals for Auckland .

Protection of heritage housing in residential one has no place in his world. What is Auckland without our villas?

There is a real economic value in maintaining our heritage areas and streetscapes. Tourism being one.

The public realm needs to be expanded to accommodate the 50-60 000 extra residents he thinks will live in Auckland in the next 20 years . His estimation on these numbers may be underestimated .

If we are going to lose our back yards and live in apartments and terraces we need more public spaces for recreation. The city and city fringe parks are well utilised. At certain times of the day they are at near peak public use .

We will need not only more of them but also a mix of parks.

A place for energetic children will not work for elderly citizens. Footpaths will need to accommodate walkers , shoppers , strollers, mobility scooters and dogs.



Gerard Hill

Kiwisaver

Real incomes will never catch up with Australia if the government contribution to Kiwisaver is slashed .

The superfund that Australians enjoy is a major part of every citizens income. The exodus of New Zealanders to Australian will only continue to increase if the benefits of Kiwisaver are reduced.
The Australian funds provide a major contribution to Australia sovereign funds and investment within Australia including industry, infrastructure and jobs We may be nuclear free but true independence is only achieved if your country is economically independent.

Kiwisaver, the New Zealand Superannuation Fund and Kiwibank are essential for our long term security and development .

The lack of development funds in New Zealand is detrimental to our national interest. The Kiwisaver funds which are invested by private fund managers provide not only retirement funds for every member but also have benefits for the local capital markets. The government also gets some income from this market.
If governments inter fare with this scheme than people will want to get out of it. This may affect over time the viability of the scheme and our new saving culture.
As employers we have encouraged all our staff to join Kiwisaver. They are not highly paid, have had no benefits from tax cuts but Kiwisaver provided a foundation for their aspirations . Cutting the government contribution for them will be another bitter pill.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

 
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Joe Stalin looks at Don Brash with Admiration

Harold Wilson said that a week is a long time in politics.

Last week has certainly been that. ACT, an independent, sovereign political party was high jacked. A new political party Mana has appeared. Their one MP decided to resign from parliament and force a by election on us, months out from a general election.

What happened with ACT possibly happened in an Italian democracy before.

Two people who were members of another political party met with ACT leader and told him that his time had passed, he was toxic and could not do as well as they could. The leader, who holds elected positions as an electorate MP, is a Parliamentary leader and also a cabinet minister in the governing coalition walks. Amazing.

Stalin stirs in his grave. A smile of admiration rolls over his embalmed face.

The former leader who now is not toxic assures the Prime Minster that his party support to the government remains. His loyal deputy is currently on his knees assuring the assassin that he will be as loyal to him as he was to the previous leader and pleads to keep his cabinet positions.

The coup d'etat rolls on with the new leader meeting the Prime Minster and even siting in the actual parliament.

Wilson never imagined a week like that.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Annual Plan Submisson herad at Auckalnd City Thursday 28 April 2010

The Auckland region

Submission:
AUCKLAND COUNCIL – GOVERNING BODY
RE Public Notification of Planning and Resource Consent Issues
- Bring back City Scene-type publication. Use funds allocated to the new Council publication “Our Auckland”, which is of entertainment value only and does not inform citizens about serious issues.
- Set up the ability for individuals to sign up for email alerts for notification of all resource consent applications and proposed plan changes in one or many local board areas.

RE Heritage Festival
- This festival belongs under the governing body’s umbrella, not ATEED’s., - This is an event to foster well-being of Aucklanders which needs to be funded by the governing body.
The Auckland Heritage Festival has grown over a few short years into a very well respected and successful local event. This festival’s success is due to it being local, natural and organic.
Each year new groups representing different parts of our society participate reflecting the diversity that makes Auckland the colourful city that we enjoy
I would be not only be inappropriate but a huge mistake, to prostitute this festival .The festival works because it is non commercial and also appeals to visitors to the region because they see the festival as genuine and special to Auckland .
It will each year become more important to Auckland and will produce economic benefits but this should be a secondary consideration. I am in favour of more publicity and using distribution channels which may attract people to specific events.
I have organised a number of events though many years and have promoted events though other channels as well as the council’s good offices. This marketing can be done through the community boards involving the services and connections available within the ward.
The primary purpose should always be about sharing our history, our social history and the beauty of all aspects of our physical history. This also builds connectivity within the city as citizens learn about our city and increases local pride and social benefits at local levels. These things cannot be imposed but will occur naturally.
ATEED will have agenda and priorities which will not fit comfortably with the ingredients that build this festival and may well hinder the values that are essential to this festival to succeed.

To commercialise the festival would not only be culturally inappropriate but may exclude some of the events which are intrinsic to the festivals success. We do not need to make an Auckland Disneyland.


Its format and organisation needs to have input from local boards and heritage organisations, not just determined internally by Council staff.

RE Built Heritage
- A full review of heritage protection policies and practices needs to be undertaken, to establish a new, truly transparent built heritage assessment system that applies throughout the whole Auckland Council area.
- A comprehensive assessment of Auckland’s built heritage, commencing with the central city area, needs to be undertaken for all buildings built more than 40 years ago.
- A package of genuine incentives should be developed for building owners to encourage and reward them for their protection, retention and enhancement of historic buildings.
The council should also fund independent expert witness to contest the experts of those who wish to remove the heritage protection or destroy the streetscape of a particular street or neighbourhood.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Slavery At Sea

Published the Sunday Star-Times Sunday 10 April,2011.

Michael Fields story Slavery At Sea is a sad indictment of things that should not be happening anywhere in the world let alone in Aotearoa .

The New Zealand regulatory authorities who turn a blind eye and the Iwi owned companies who choose to exploit third world people are both culpable .They also threaten the viability of the domestic companies and the employment of New Zealanders.

Fishing is a major industry in New Zealand and one that should employ more people . The quota system was designed to manage fish stocks but was also intended to sustain employment .

Our deep sea fishing fleet is in trouble if there is no investment is ships or plant . That Talley’s ships are now over twenty years old is a real concern for the local industry, and threatens the regional economy of ports like Nelson .The competition that is affecting the viability of the local industry is from locally owned Iwi companies.

These Iwi owned companies do have choices they do not have to operate as they do.

Maori have a strong fishing tradition and culture in fact many work for Talley’s.

These Iwi owned companies have the possibility of being responsible players in the industry and be known for a high quality operation. They could own their own ships and processing plants . To employ and provide a real career path for their Iwi members in all the seafaring skills in engineering , deck and master mariner tickets as well as catering would achieve for them the mana that Ngai Tahu have achieved in Tourism.

With these tickets and the opportunities there are many who would choose to work internationally in well regarded maritime companies or in their shore based manufacturing plants where there would be management positions for them too.

Perhaps the first step is to have an industry conference to develop a future for the industry and in the first instance to clean up the untenable problems that exist in the industry.

Minster Heatley this is called leadership.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Christchurch does not need a $500,000 Czar Tthe Minsrty of Works would have done the job.

Columnist Deborah Coddington Sunday 27 March whose Sunday Herald column that the government is not the solution ,they are the problem is out of touch with our New Zealand experience, In Christchurch they miss the Ministry of Works .

In Napier after the earthquake or in Samoa when cyclone Ofa ravaged this island paradise the ministry of works provided the many services the community needed , provided to government reliable and contestable reports on what needed to be done . They had the engineers and the bull dozers .

The engineers not only designed and built bridges, roads, buildings, and hydro dams they also new how to cost. .Many a private company executives checked their figures twice or more when the ministry officers were in the room.

This honest broker who the right liked to attack served New Zealand well . The worst criticism ever said about the Ministry of Works was that they over engineered.

Cabinet in governments of all political shades respected their ability and the capacity to get things done . They would also relied on their officials to hold private companies honest.

Columnist Fran O Sullivan writing in the Weekend herald 26 March describing John Keys year as annus horribilus was referring to Pike River, the international situation and the Christchurch earthquake .

His year would been better , Christchurch would be in a better space temporary Bailey bridges across the Avon for a start and a well costed budget all care of the MOW would have given all confidence .

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Auckland Fringe Festival 2011 WWW.Aucklandfringe.co.nz

This bianual festival kicked kicked off on the 25 February through to the 13 March.

Saturday the 26 February was a festival taster with all the acts performing .

The highlight for those who recall Ben Hur ansd other 1960s epics perhaps was the Paper box Wars ears which invloved kids of all ages and a cast of 100s.

Auckland is not a cultural desert and the Fringe Festival is a fun event . the programme is extensive.

With luck and some spare time we will get to many show as we can

Tueday First March to the 5th March Opera Risque is on. Sally and I will be attending on Tuesday.

Saturday was a fun day check out the photos below.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Food for Thought

With the Greens continuous rise in the polls do you think this would this have anything to do with the Labour party long public sleep on sustainability?

I read Rod Orum and agreed with almost everything he said in his page in the Star Times today . He also hammered the importance of sustainability.

Because of Labour previous championing of sustainability we were awarded the 2009 International Award for Sustainable Tourism.
This award is of considerable importance to New Zealand both economically and for increasing our already strong environmental reputation. This relates solely to the Labour Governments efforts and also to the many Tourism Business who work hard to maintain New Zealand good name.

When I spoke at a number of events in 2009 and 2010 on sustainability and talked about Norm Kirk and the saving of Lake Manapouri in each of these presentations young people asked me what party did he lead .



Labour has done much on the environment to be proud off . why do they not shout this from the rafters?


Labour in Australia this year gave the Greens a huge number of votes .

Do you think the National Party offering to Maggie Barry a list position is to pick up a number of those votes that Sue Kedgley used to deliver to the Greens?. I have blogged on Sue contribution.

I would have thought that Labour would have chased a number of those votes . In my meetings in Auckland with heritage and urban design people Sandra Coney’s and Sue Kedgley name are often bought by women.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Chinatown

The epistle below was published in the New Zealand Herald Monday 7 February 2011as the Headline letter entitled NOT RIGHT TIME FOR CHINATOWN>

The suggestion for part of Auckland to become a Chinatown should be delayed until we have sufficient capital to make it work .
Wellington continue to embarrass itself with Wellywood. May our leaders spare Auckland the same derision.

Chinese Community representative Kai Luey is realistic with his comment that it would take a lot of investment and dedication to make it happen .

To pay a civic respect to the Chinese people who have both contributed much to Auckland and New Zealand and who have also been the victims of a past terrible discrimination a more fitting memorial would be more respected .

Councillor Lee and Waitemata Community board Chairman Chambers are correct that Ponsonby and Parnell should also be in plans to make Auckland a vibrant thriving city centre.

These suburbs contribute to the Auckland economy. Aucklanders come to dine and drink others including thousands of interactive tourists spend time and money in this Auckland’s heritage heartland. The council should investigate the many options to inshore that this is protected and enhanced. To have some progress in time for the Rugby Worlds Cup would be to Auckland’s advantage .

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Ponsonby Rd and High Street Auckland Defeats Starbucks.

This letter was published in an abbreviated form in the New Zealand Herald 27 January 2011.
I responded to a feature by Nathan Field. Nathan is senior equity analyst at Gareth Morgan Investments.
Nathan tells only part of the story about why Starbucks will not be the dominant player in the New Zealand coffee market . We don’t all prefer coffee carts or seek edgy places. Starbucks have retreated from Ponsonby Rd and High Street . Both these streets are the home to high quality, well established, independent coffee roasters.
I know these establishment well . Yes some of the crew can be tattooed and occasionally you may be served by a surly actress . The reality is something different .
The lounges are comfortable all have clean toilets and Auckland City A grade hygiene certificates. Their friendly, knowledgeable staff make great coffee and know their product .
All these small businesses actually lead the way in service and quality . Starbucks is a different experience and their crew seem to be scripted . It is great that staff are on message . Better still when they actually believe it . This is another difference you get from the enthusiastic staff in their Ponsonby Rd and High street coffee lounges, they take seriously what they do.
Despite Nathan’s purple prose, Starbucks know that not being on Ponsonby Rd or Primrose Hill in London they can only be another chain of which there are many. Auckland is home to well travelled kiwis and increasing numbers of European and South Americans.
It is patronising for anyone to state that we are not true coffee aficionados .

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Queenstown Jazz and Blues Festival Labour Weekend 2010

Queenstown is known for its outdoor activities and it is the home of the bungee jump. It is not known for culture and music. Dunedin, the provincial capital of Otago, is the home of music and culture there. However, the Queenstown Jazz Festival is now a mature 30 years old. From small beginnings in smoky local pubs (weren’t they great?) it is now a festival of over 50 events performed at outside venues, pubs in Queenstown, and Arrowtown. The Memorial Hall was decked out to resemble a Harlem or Chicago club. It worked well.
I caught two acts there on Friday. Erna Ferry, backed by band leader Roger Fox and the NZ School of Music. In tribute to Peggy Lee, the woman and her music, Erna gave a tight and at times passionate rendition of Peg’s hits. She also gave a narration of Peggy’s life and loves.

Saturday I saw a Queenstown singer Kiri Winders who paid tribute to the 1940’s. YES! Ella Fitzgerald, Billie Holliday, Louis Armstrong, and Frank Sinatra. Life did seem more interesting before TV! Winder is more than a competent jazz singer or diva. She was part of the famous Dunedin sound in bands Valve and My Deviant Daughters.

I concede I’m a sucker for big bands and jazz. Perhaps having a father who jumped ship in San Francisco to see Dinah Washington, Bing Crosby and Duke Ellington and his band at the Coconut Grove instilled some passion in my veins.

Kiri Winders and her 1940’s Jazz Club. Her show radiated energy from the first minute as she slipped the faux mink off her shoulder. As it slid down her body the influence of Marlene Dietrich and Marilyn Munroe felt real. She carried it well all night long. Her jazz club were all veteran players and never missed a note. Even the festival organizer Simon had a part in the show. After the third costume change he was definitely part of the show ‘Hey Big Spender’, 'New York, New York' and ‘Its Amore’. He was hot! I am a fan of cabaret and am a sucker for a show. Tonight was a great night for Jazz. Ronnie Scott would have been happy if this was his club. Ardie Shaw, Ella Fitzgerald, and Duke Ellington would have been happy to have this Jazz Club as their band. Actually Roger Fox would be happy too. I met my old doctor Denise and her husband, we spent the evening together all of us totally captured by the show.

Jeff Bradley and the Delta Swing were my personal highlights. They opened for Kiri and from the first notes from Jeff's clarinet the audience knew they were in for something special. These men, like all the musicians I watched over the weekend, had a real love for their music. Jeff and his band lifted the quality of most and equaled the other big bands. Yes they too would be at home at Ronnie Scotts – A truly world class band!

Saelyn Guyton Quartet is a much understated name for an exciting band. Saclyn is a recent winner of the’ world famous in Gore’ Gold Guitar. This is no mean feat. She performed in the warm afternoon sun at the Village Green. A great venue and a good time to play. Many of the young people who work in the local hospitality scene are South American and European and before they started work, they hung out. So the crowd was young, well travelled, and hip. What an audience to play to! Jaclyn and her band were a little like Mike Frost and The Icemen, with Mojo Webb who also played in this slot really hit the spot with the audience. It might be a very nice outdoor spot, not the house of the rising sun, but this green lived on as the sun moved over the southern sky.

It seems impossible not to include in a jazz festival performers from Auckland. I caught up with, and shared a glass with Nigel Gaven, Richard Adams, and Caitlin Smith. We were all going to catch the blues acts, Nigel lamenting that 20 years ago Auckland was full of blues bands. We talked of great Kiwi Bluesmen Hammond Gamble, and Midge Marsden. We caught up with King Leo of Dunedin, a native of Virginia. He has been in New Zealand for six years and has developed a justified following in the south.

The imported stars were Mike Frost and the Icemen, with Mojo Webb from Queensland. Their bassist couldn’t make it so local, hip young, blonde, Shelly Osland fitted in with the band of hard nosed Chicago influenced bluesmen. I caught them twice on Friday, at the Village Green, and down by the lake at Earnslaw Park.

An emerging talent, was Sacha Vee, I tried to catch at Pog Moghones Irish Bar but the venue was unsatisfactory. Better suited to a singer/song writer rather than a rocking band such as Sacha Vee's. I also caught another Auckland singer Josephine Costain, like Nigel, a regular at Ponsonby 121 Café. She performed in the afternoon singing some very reflective songs in a 100-minute set.

I caught for half an hour the James Annesty Quartet, a Melbourne based quartet playing contemporary jazz with palatable influences of folk and rock. This made for an inclusive sound that invited the audience to enjoy, almost like a conversation.

Gerrard's Southern Scenic Route Travels

Tuesday October 26th
Picked up by Mikey, a friendly Green Cab taxi driver (www.greencabs.com), also a rock and roll dancer, with a Zephyr 6 modified to a convertible.

Cost won the argument in my choice of airline. It was Jetstar. I arrived 80 minutes before departure and just as well, Jetstar has a Stalinist booking system which demands you check in on-line and print your boarding pass out. My boarding pass would not scan. In fear I approached the check-in desk where Marie, a smiling, genuinely friendly clerk, checked in my baggage – thankfully I was well under weight. Marie offered me a lounge pass for $15.00, which was probably good value – I declined. I spent $11.50 on a coffee and croissant at the café. Auckland Airport has free broadband computers available and they were being thrashed by appreciative travelers.

My Jetstar flight was comfortable and the route was below the clouds. Jetstar is one of the newcomers to aviation with a growing operation and new routes.

My rental car from Ace Cars (www.acerentals.co.nz) was a Subaru Legacy with 6 change C-D player ideal for this trip. I don’t need an international company and prefer to support local business and Ace rentals are great value. We do need to save forex.

I dined at a French Café the Solera. Me, the ‘lone kiwi’, the other customers from around the globe. Larry and Jean hailed from Missouri. We enjoyed Ray Charles playing on the sound system, good food and wine. For me, a salmon salad and Peregrine Chardonnay. We talked of Jessie and Frank Jones, mythical bank robbers. Also Senator Thomas Eagleton, George McGovern's choice as his running mate in the 1972 American Presidential election. It transpired that Larry and Jean were personal friends of the Eagleton's.

It was damp and misty as I drove out of Queenstown, past Lake Hayes and onto the Crown Range. I played the Rolling Stone's CD, 'Exile on Main Street'. The shambolic album of 1972 having been re-mastered and one which brings back pleasant memories of my youth. Secret Virginia, perhaps the CD’s finest track played as I climbed toward the peak. Snowflakes were dropping lightly, and with thoughts of romance in my head, I rang partner Sally and invited her to join me. She declined. I arrived in Wanaka around 5pm to a warm welcome from my in- laws Mike and Gill. Like a true Southern man, Mike placed a bottle of Speight’s in my hand before my suitcase hit the floor

Wednesday
I awoke after seven hours, an eternity to me in recent years, and felt rested.
I drove to Alexandra to meet Peter, Sally’s father. Having just enjoyed his 97th birthday, he was in fine form. We talked about the amazing mine rescue in Chile. Peter funded his way through university as a miner. He was a member of a Wobbly West Coast Miners Union at Waiuta. He graduated as a mining engineer, and in the Second World War rose to the rank of Major, serving with distinction in the North African campaign.

We also talked of Syria, a place Sally might visit next year. His memories of Damascus are not only biblical but of a fine sophisticated Middle Eastern city. He recalled the inland intelligence trip where he surveyed every bridge in an internal valley from the Turkish border to the sea. One of the bridges was rusting away as a contractor had mixed the cement with seawater. If the bridge was blown up they would have been doing him a favour, as there would be hell to pay. As Rommel did not choose this wrath, the bridges were saved and all except a very rusted one is in use today. No points for guessing which one we enjoyed KFC for lunch. He chose mashed potatoes and gravy; I had French fries to accompany colonel Sanders fourteen secret Herb& Spices

I drove the old Earnscleugh road, past orchards and vineyards onto Clyde, a very attractive, 19th century mining town. It was 3pm and talkative children in uniforms cycled through the historic streets, mingling with others, of all ages, from around the globe, enjoying the Otago Rail Trail. Arguably one of the world’s most picturesque rides.

I was surprised at the buzz in this town. Construction humming, but quite obviously a plan to retain the village charm. The reproduction street lights blended well with the original 19th century streets. I chose the Old Bank Cafe over the well recommended Old Post Office Café. The Old Bank had a number of cycles outside, the riders tucking into tasty looking home baked pies and salads. I chose a fruit loaf, generously filled. I was not disappointed.

Out of Clyde, I stopped at a couple of look-outs and the 15 minute gut-buster to the old reservoir was a worthy trek. The reward, a wonderful panorama of Cromwell, old mining areas, and cherry blossoms painting the valley spring.

I drove towards on Tarras, a small town on the other side of the lake, which is also the southern entry to the Lindis Pass As Merino sheep clung to the hillsides, signs informed that this was the home of Ice Breaker (Ice breaker is a local company which has developed an international market for its fine Merino products). The large and well established, 1910, Bendigo Station runs beef cattle and sheep, and among its attraction is the Pelagrine vineyard that dominates the area for miles. On the CD, Al Green’s, Take Me to the River, played as I made my way back to Wanaka

Thursday
Mike, Gill, Finn and I wandered up the Clutha River walkway to Albert town. It was a cool clear morning. As well as the half dozen or so walkers, we are passed by two silver-haired mountain bikers whose blond partners could be their daughters. They live in Waipu Cove, just south of Whangarei, in Northland, and take spring and autumn holidays in the South Island every year. Attracted by colors and lack of crowds, they have campervans and know the back roads well.

Gill wandered back to get the car while Mike and I continued for another hour, on tracks which skirted emerging sub-divisions, past Mt Iron, one of Wanaka’s more gut busting walks, continuing out to the main road.

Wanaka is a summer and winter playground originally for the Otago/Canterbury wealthy, now catering to visitors from throughout the world. As well as skiing and fishing, mountaineering in Mt Aspiring National Park also a number of local walks. On previous visits I have walked up to the Rob Roy Glacier – a very attractive and demanding walk. This visit I intended to undertake some less demanding walks -perhaps a ‘ramble’ is a better description.

It turned into a warm sparkling day. New Zealand enjoys a reputation as a pretty, green, sustainable place. Every community has its local tip, where each week dads' would take their rubbish. They are now called Recycling Centres, and Wanaka’s is a real goldmine. It also employs a number of people. Skiers dump their gear and at times you can get a real bargain. A pair of Swiss [insert name] skis for $10.00, a real find! Yes they were. Mike checked out that if they were in good shape.

That evening we dined at Relish, perhaps Wanaka’s top restaurant. It was a lovely warm, wooden building. Our waitresses Amy and Sarah were knowable about the food on offer and great fun. I had an entrée of hare pate, really good. Goat for the main course, served rare, on a salad with roast potatoes, delicious.

Mike and I checked out the Wanaka Toy Museum, amazing. However, boys and girls of all ages would need a day there, so much to see. Also a microbrewery – Wanaka Beer Works. The tastings were finished for the day so we bought a mixed six-pack.

We continued onto Luggate, 10km from Wanaka, for a pint. The pub caters for skiers during the season and on that warm spring afternoon; a group of self-opinionated farmers were expounding their thoughts on a number of issues. Surprisingly, they were drinking Coronas rather than the quality local brew ‘Speight’s’. Our barmaid was a highland Scot who hooked up with a local lad a half dozen years back. The skiing was her first attraction. She poured a good pint. Her long jet-black hair with its red tips, kept well away from the taps.

Friday
We ambled along the Glendu Bay walkway. The poplars, which grow prolifically along the shoreline, are rotting and have been culled for safety. A beautiful tree, but for a woodsman, a waste of space. They burn fast and produce little heat. Wanaka winters need better wood than that. There were only a couple of other walkers - a well dressed athletic woman with her pointer and a slow moving old fellow with the physique of a rugby prop. Perhaps his slow movement was the result of too many tough games.

We stopped at the Edgewater Resort for coffee. Our waitress, a vivacious blonde with great sense of humour, told us things were quieter than she wished. A rangy Dutch woman sipped her coffee and shared the wonderful time she had walking around Wanaka. Next day she would travel to Dunedin to see a rugby game. The local team, ‘The Highlanders’ were at the bottom of the national league. Most likely to be a dull game, I felt, but I didn’t say, that if she wished to have local culture she would be better off watching the game in a local pub.

Saying goodbye to Gill, Mike, and Finn (their Jack Russell), I headed back over the Crown Range. The snow had melted and I stopped to enjoy the vista. Sealed in 2000 it is now the main route between Wanaka and Queenstown. It is also our highest road at almost 1100 meters. From the summit there are great views, only surpassed by the ski fields and the top of Aspiring National Park.

I decided to walk the one hour Mt Pisa walk. It is a gut buster and I was definitely not as fit as I was a year ago. However, my efforts were rewarded with amazing views.

I lunched in Arrowtown, finding a fresh fish shop with a special of whitebait fritters. That’s a no-brainer. $13.50 had me 60 grams of whitebait. I added 100 grams of pan-fried bluenose and chips. The local bottle shop sold me a Wanaka Brewski Lager, it partnered well. I shared my table with a retired couple from Timaru, who had been tramping at Glenorchy. They enjoy this paradise; it gets them away from the problems at their local polytechnic which has had a funding cut. They will not be voting for Mr. Key. The other couple were young English lawyers enjoying a gap year. We all enjoyed the spring sun and chatted easily.

I visited the St Patrick’s Catholic Church and pay my respects to Australia first Saint – Sister Mary MacKillop. They have the signs up outside her cottage. She was a resident here for a while, establishing the order known as the Brown Joes. It is already a tourist attraction. A couple from Melbourne have made the connection and travelled over from Queenstown on the strength of this. Not bad since she has only been a saint for a week. (Don't get this?) She was canonized the week before.

I checked into Queenstown Apartment Motel (www.queenstownapartmentmotel). Vanessa gave me a warm and helpful welcome, and lots of advice. She wrote on a map about restaurants, bars, and the venues for the Jazz Fest. I had not intended to stay in Queenstown; however Jazz and Blues do touch my soul. The great thing about a road trip is freedom – that is why I’m here.

Queenstown from a media perspective is well served with print media. The local weekly Mountain Scene is supplemented by the Queenstown News and also served by two provincial dailies ‘The Southland Times’ and ‘Otago Daily Times’, and from Auckland, ‘The New Zealand Herald’. I bought and read the Southland Times. The Friday editorial, lamenting the state of the venerable old steam train the Kingston Flyer, which has falling into disrepair through the financial situation of its owners. It lamented how it is now out of action for the second tourist season and described it not only as a financial and venerable asset to the south, but as a cultural one too. I agree it is. Southland has already lost the Fluety Paua shell house a couple of years ago, stolen in the middle of the night like the Elgin marbles. Now the Fluety house is an award winner at the Canterbury Museum. A double dose if you like, of Rough Justice!

I found the Halo Café situated beside St Peters Anglican Church, an excellent spot for breakfast and the Sural Café and Bar in Rees Street another excellent place for an aperitif and a meal.

The Saturday editorial in the Times was about the Hobbit movie, calling the actor’s antics to get a deal clumsy and silly, but it noted the cost of the claims would not be a significant impact on the budget. I find it incredible that the movie shoot would be moved to Ireland or England where costs would be much higher. The editorial concluded it will be the $$$ of government subsidy required and noted that Sir Peter Jackson in his own submission about the film industry calls for more subsidy. This has been the most reasoned statement on a dispute in what is a very important industry to New Zealand.

Sadly the debate has been more emotional and the language inflammatory. Perhaps this is the way in an industry which all the players are passionate about and love. The only way through this mess would be the government to call an industry conference to discuss and work out a plan. The government is a major funder through the NZ Film Commission and as a generous provider of subsidy has a legitimate interest. It would be in their interests to facilitate the industry to sort this out. It is called leadership.

S


I walked down the hill back to Halo for breakfast. St Peters Anglican Church was having a jazz service and attracted quite a flock.

On the way to Arrowtown; the road a mixture of cyclists in bright coloured latex outfits, campervans and an occasional jogger. There is still the odd paddock with sheep. Lake Hayes reserve was a mini gymkhana and the young girls on their beautiful mounts would have made a wonderful calendar shot.

I arrived with plenty of time at the Buckingham Green to soak up the Prescott Calder Quartet from Dunedin. Veteran players who injected a little humor in their performance which worked well with the late brunching crowd

Buckingham Green is in the centre of the village. The stage was above the green and music drifted down to fill the park, which had filled to a hundred or so people. Families picnicked and tourists, without the benefit of a blanket or fold- out chairs, sat at the cafes. I took a walk around the old Chinese settlement, which tells the stories including discrimination, hardship, and opium.

Back to Deep South ice cream parlor for another serve of their tasty product and I made my way to the information centre to use their computer facilities. $5.00 got me an hour of broadband in comfortable surroundings.

On my way to the ’Tap Room” to catch Jeff Brady and the Delta Swing again, I caught up with Kate and her daughter Ruby. Kate had worked in the Tourism NZ Media Group, taken a job with Tourism South Island and ended up married to a farmer. She was in fine form and we had a decent yarn

Jeff Bradley and the Delta Swing took well in the mid-afternoon sun. The band comprised Roger White on Piano, Mike Cain on bass, and drummer Bob Bair. In spite of a few sound issues we were treated to a warm and tight performance. A really solid set for jazz purist’s including, 'St James Infirmary', 'The Basic Street Blues', Aker Bilk's, 'Stranger on the Shore', 'Petit Fleur', 'Sunset', Benny Goodman, 'If I had you' and 'My baby just cares for me'. This band would be at home on a good night at Ronnie Scott.

They were my personal highlights. I watched many bands over the weekend; all of them had a real love for their music. Jeff and his band lifted the quality of most and equaled the other big bands. Yes they too would be at home at Ronnie Scotts – A truly world class band!

I headed down to Willows Bar to catch blues band King Leo. I was sprung again. Willow's is owned by former B&B owner, Sis Walker, a natural host. The food was generously proportioned and well presented. It tasted fine too. The beer was cold and a warm-hearted banter went on between Sis, her crew and the guests.

Queenstown is no cultural desert at least around Labour weekend. The diversity of its population is its savior in many ways, including a weekly mass in Portuguese at St Patrick’s in Arrowtown. The congregation can look like they have come in from Rio's Coco Cabana beach.

Sunday
Back to Halo for another great breakfast. Surprise surprise! Musicians and singers Nigel Gaven and Catlin Smith appeared, then Ponsonby Road Grand Central bar owner Jeremy. We talked about the festival. Jeremy referred to Queenstown as the dark side but he had a good time too. He lives in Wanaka for much of the year.

I visited at their Arthur's Point home, Andy and CJ, regular guests of ours, who have just had a baby Angerana-Eve. The Arthur Point pub, a landmark built in 1862, looked derelict and trashed. Andy said there are possibilities of it being moved to the other side of the road, on the riverside. I hope so. I have such fond memories of a few sessions there a time or so back

On to Te Anau, stopping at Kingston. The train no longer runs, the engine rusts and the carriages gather cobwebs. Yes, another victim of a finance company’s collapse. The café on the corner of the main road is run by a short rotund Southern man (he rolls his ‘r’s’) and his Vietnamese wife. The coffee was insipid, and the toasted sandwich overpriced. The Australian ice cream was good.

On through Garston, Athol and Five Rivers all with more promising eating and drinking options.

The sun was high, all was beautiful. Traffic cops swarmed like bees. Te Anau was blessed by sun, the lake reflecting the green of the forest. Just minutes before I had been in the sweep of red tussock land.

At Te Anau Lodge (www.teaunaulodge.com), this brick, former convent looked impressive, like a baronial mansion. Sitting on 6 acres of land, mainly lawn, with a water feature. A small wooden church from Clydedvale a Southland village and also the original homestead from nearby Mararoa Station is now situated on the property. Both these heritage buildings will be renovated into quality accommodation. Yes, every room in every building at Te Anau Lodge can tell a story. The interior with hard wood floors, stained glass, and high ceilings, contains 8 rooms of varying sizes. All are comfortable and well decorated. Welcomed by Margaret and George and before I can get a request out of my mouth I am offered a choice of refreshments or a tour. George took me for an extensive viewing of the house and grounds. Te Anau Lodge has more than a few stories to tell. Built as a residence for the teaching nuns at St Josephs Convent in the Southland mining town of Nightcaps, in 1936, and shifted in 2000 to Te Anau it is really something special. George and Margaret are not only generous hosts but knowledgeable guides.

We all dined at a local pub/restaurant, ‘The Ranch”. For me a venison steak, washed down with an Mt Difficulty Pinot Noir.

Breakfast was a great cold buffet with a choice of freshly cooked options to choose from.

Next, Doubtful Sound. Laurence, the Real Journey bus driver arrived on time at 8:45 to pick me up. A retired couple from Tokoroa were already on board. We stop to pick up a couple of Spanish honeymooners from the City Inn and also a retired English couple from around the town.

Laurence has lived around Te Anau for a generation, and like all the other Real Journey drivers, is a Southlander with a warm matter of fact way to tell stories of the region and its development.

Peter Wadd, our bus driver and nature guide, also added the historical dimension of the Manapouri Power Station. This history is colorful. The cost of the road over the Wilmont Pass was embargoed for thirty years and has only recently been disclosed. Yes, a 21-kilometre road, which in 1964 cost over $2,000,000 making it one of the most expensive roads anywhere.

The Wanganella, a Trans-Tasman liner of the Huddart Parker line was decommissioned and became the accommodation house for several hundred single men. Peter Duncan, my partner Sally's ex, had the soft job – the only soft job in the whole project as the projectionist on the ships cinema. Peter helped consume some of the 1,000,000 beer cans that slipped under the Wanganella and now sit in the depths of Doubtful Sound.

The initial laborers on the project were Italians and Yugoslav tunnellers who pushed through the mountain. The water that has produced the power Comalco Te Wai Point aluminum smelters and contributes 15% of the Hydro electric power in New Zealand. Also among the workers is one of New Zealand’s most colorful sons – Tim Shadbolt. In the 1990’s when Southland Capital and New Zealand’s most southern city wished to shake off its conservative image, a few of Tim’s old work mates persuaded him to run for mayor. He has just been re-elected mayor for the 6th consecutive term. Tim’s 1972 biography ‘Bullshit and Jellybeans is highly collective. I own a battered copy

Captain Cook, on his second voyage, in 1773, named the Sound, Doubtful. The Fiordland coast is rugged and many a small boat has been lost.

In the 1970’s I had a job on the Wairua – the then Bluff to Stewart Island ferryboat. Part of the ship's work was to provide services and tending to the lighthouses. At the southern end of the Fiordland, World Heritage Park is Puysegur Point. On the 24-hour trip from Bluff, it was the only case of seasickness I have had in my life. When I returned to Bluff and felt terra firma I was still shaking three days later.

Lake Manapouri is one of the world’s most beautiful areas. This was my third trip here in over 40 years. Those trips have been some of the highlights of my life. On this trip I was disappointed, well only slightly, because the sun was shining and Doubtful Sound is at its finest when wet. On those days waterfalls magically appear. Previously I have experienced dolphins playing in the mist and birds flying low under the clouds. The area receives 7 metres of rain a year. Today the sun is shining and the vista is wild beauty. A little cumulus but the sky was mostly electric blue.

I travelled on Real Journey’s Patea Express. It is a purpose built vessel. Our crew Peter, Eugenice (Portuguese, I never found out how she got here) and Russell the Skipper were all professional and obliging. Based on my experience today, these folk comfortably qualify as amateur naturalists, botanists, and historians. Their knowledge is the difference of why you should travel with Real Journeys. The wildness and beauty speaks for itself. The birdsong is a tribute to DOC’s efforts but it is the knowledge and warmth of this crew that made the trip, for the 79 passengers, a great experience.

We were unlucky the dolphins and penguins chose to take a break, but the Southern Fur seals in the inlets were a first rate consolation prize. Young seal pups play and slid down the rocks. Oh la la, great to see kids having fun. Then there was the green attraction of sphagnum moss which among its benefits also helps the bush and the trees.

The proposal to raise the level of Lake Manapouri which would have killed much of this became a battleground for the green movement of the 1960’s and 1970’s. When Norman Kirk and Labour won the 1972 election, Kirk committed not to raise the level of the lake. 250,000 New Zealanders signed petitions and Kirk’s landslide victory gave him the mandate to honour his words and credit New Zealand with the greatest environmental victory on our planet.

Fiordland National Park has been rich in resources. Hard men slaughtered thousands of seals in the 19th century. Fishermen today hunt Crayfish (lobster) – some at times risk their life for Blue Cod.

In the 1960’s deer stalkers, who received a bounty from the crown for each deer they shot, discovered another El Dorado using helicopters. Unfortunately many lives were lost and the only area to lose more life in these tragic figures, Russell our guide told us, was in Vietnam.

Today tourism sustains the local economy, creating real jobs, many with career prospects and returning tens of millions of dollars to New Zealand.

Real Journeys’ take the environment seriously and promote sustainable practices throughout the operation. The Patea Express was a great way to explore Doubtful Sound.

Say a prayer for Wilmont Pass, without it we could not visit.
There would be a few deerstalkers, fishermen, a cruise boat watched by kiwi, kaka and a few other birds and from time to time a visiting cruise boat. Perhaps in time we will get another man with a broken heart like Richard Henry (the ruins remain of his house) who battled from 1904 to 1908 to save endangered native birds from introduced stoats and rats.

Raise a glass for the Wilmot Pass and say another prayer and enjoy another glass

Within minutes of arriving in Manapouri, the penny drops that you are somewhere special. No, not Disneyland – but the Fiordland National Park. It is New Zealand’s first World Heritage site. The Te Wahipounamu World Heritage area comprises Fiordland National Park, Mt Aspiring National Park, some of South Westland, and Arokai, Mt Cook.

The Te Anau, Manapouri region offers much. Ideally you should allow a minimum of three days, and at least one of those days should be with an activity such as visiting Milford or Doubtful Sound.

There are also a variety of walks from an hour or two days, the choice is dependent on your wishes. It can be easy or more challenging. I chose a middle way. Yes, today you could call me Mr. In-between.

Beware of sand flies, although I fortunately didn’t meet any this time. They are a painful nuisance – get lotion, and lots of it!

The Doubtful Sound trip involves a launch ride over Lake Manapouri. The wow factor is automatic. A coach trip over the Wilmont Pass and then three hours on Doubtful Sound itself, more wow and wow. A visit to Manapouri Power Station at West Arm, and then back across the Lake. The sun was high, the green of the forest making the lake verdant. The snow had receded to the mountaintops and heaven is here on Lake Manapouri.

I didn't have time to consider walking the Milford Track, but had some choices for a few hours. There are a number of walks 2 to 3 hours drive from Te Anau on the Milford road.

The three I list here I have walked on previous visits.

• The Lake Gunn nature walk is 3km - allow 45 minutes easy walking. The mosquitoes resembled the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbour on a previous visit.

• The Divide to Key Summit is a 400 metre climb about 5 km return and offers fantastic views - allow 2 to 3 hours.

• Lake Marian is also about 5km and around two and a half hour return. Perhaps this is my favorite short walk anywhere. It offers great views walking up to a wonderful alpine lake - it is also a 400-metre climb.

All these walks are around 75 to 85 kms on the Milford road from Te Anau.

I made my way to a waterfront watering hole ‘The Moose’. I was in luck, a happy hour. My pint a bargain and slipped down easily. I dined at the Toscana restaurant, choosing a fungi and prosciutto pizza and salad. – A good choice.

Wednesday October 3rd

George suggested a three-hour walk from the base of the Kepler to the dam. It is a great walk and suitable for all. No gut busting hills. Within minutes you enter a thickening and the birdsong replaces the sound of the Upper Clutha river flow. Little fantails created a din chasing moths. They would not co-operate with my photography. I have stacks of photos to develop. The walking track is well formed and the sound of the river is almost constant. The greenery, the moss, ferns, and trees make a wonderful walk. There are small clearings where you can throw a rug down and pull out the thermos.

At 3pm I said my farewell to Margaret and George and head off on the Southern Scenic route. My destination Riverton/ Aparima. I had intended to walk a little of the Humpback Track and explore Tuatapere. Unfortunately time was short so I just passed through. I stopped at Clifden Bridge for a photo. Entering Riverton from the north, the late spring sun cast a warm shadow and with the remnants of the once great fishing fleet, it appears a very picturesque village. This area should be protected. It currently fits wharf sheds quay and period housing. Should some shortsighted development happen, Riverton would lose most of its appeal to the visitor.

For a bed I only had one choice, ‘The Globe Hotel’. $30.00 got me a nice room with a queen bed and washstand. The bathroom, a long walk in the middle of the night. It's not ' The Great Ponsonby ' but it was clean and friendly. My host, Tia, recommended that I go to the other pub the Aparima and have the Blue Cod. The bar had a half dozen regulars talking Chevy engines and Kim the barmaid was a good sort. She works in a number of pubs and confides that she has occasionally forgotten where she is.

Tia and her husband Leon joined me. They had been there a year and previously lived in Melbourne for many years, returning to have a family was their intention. He is a photographer and works in Invercargill. Conversation was about the late spring snow that wiped out 90,000 Southland lambs. It will take some years for Southland to recover. Also many farmers are selling to other farmers who are doing dairy conversions. There is a possibility of another freezing works closure as well as shortened season in the works. All this definitely impacts economically on this region

I slept well and rose to a damp day. I kicked myself for not taking photos the day before and headed off to photograph some buildings. Riverton has a number of attractive buildings along Palmerston Street and also a very impressive giant Paua shell which has also featured on a New Zealand Post stamp. This is the high street and other streets are named after Indian places like Lucknow and Delhi. In Bath Street I went to the Fiordland Souvenirs factory shop where Nicola, a cheery sales woman, sold me a number of Paua shells. This is a busy workshop and gallery. The selection included good quality jewellery. At Mrs. Clarke Café, est. 1891, I feasted on smoked salmon and poached eggs. My orange juice freshly squeezed. Made with premium Havana coffee, from Wellington, my flat white is the best I have enjoyed in the South. The café is quite chic and busy – truck drivers, policemen, retired folk and firm bodied young mothers. Some of the conversation is about whether the dairying will work out when Fonterra establishes its huge farms in South America and China.

The previous night Leon had said there was nothing to hold young people and you could think he is correct looking at Mrs. Clarke’s punters. However the front page of the Southland Times yesterday was about the Riverton swimming pool and how the community raised $3,000,000 to resurface it. They also have a skateboarding park. There is also continuous fundraising for the Riverton sound shell.

In the 1960’s Riverton was Southland's Riviera. No Bridget Bardot, but Southland talent and the sound shell ran everything from talent quests to concerts with national stars performing to thousands of people. Colac Bay and its surf is still the talk of legend and young men still dream of joining them

Mrs. Clarke has a great menu and is open for breakfast, and morning and afternoon teas. Run by Patrick and Cazna Gilder who bake lots of the goodies and also make cheese rolls, (South Island sushi). This café is a must and is at 108 Palmerston Street. The local council has developed a Main Street plan, work is ongoing and Mrs. Clark is fortunate in having a bricked footpath and also lamps.
I visited the information centre and museum, Te Hikoi, The Southern Journey. My guide was a retired school teacher who provided me with an informative tour.

The museum is a tribute to all the races who have settled in the area and the industries and some of the folk lore that accompanies this history. It is a substantial investment in Western Southland which will provide another anchor for visitors and more importantly build on the already strong regional pride of these people.

On the highway outside of Riverton there is an overbridge of a long dead railway line. At Otautau I connected with a railway line that goes through to Mataura, the industrial town of Southland, with a freezing works and until a few years ago a paper mill. It was the only blue collar community of any size in this rich farming region.

Driving up through the middle of Western Southland, into the small hamlets, there is even a building owned by a pipe band club. Yes, from the Highlands of Scotland there is influence. Pipe bands and Scottish dancing clubs still flourish, along with the inflections of their language.

Southlanders roll their ‘r’s’ and speak in terms of wee, lass, lassie. (oh rubbish!) Their holiday homes are called cribs and solid brick Presbyterian Churches and yellow gorse are testament to their heritage. The Scottish highland town of Plocton where the TV series ‘Hamish McBeth’ was shot is a connection to Southland. The poor crofters were cleared off their land three times and on every occasion some emigrated to Southland.

These hardy people built settlements in some of the hardest land anywhere. I refer to the Catlin coast, which I write about later.

The trip took me to the isolated mining towns of Nightcaps and Ohai, then back through the farming towns of Winton and Dipton. They will never appear on a tourist map. Invercargill bound with Greg Johnson drifting in and out of my head

Nightcaps is alive and well with the open cast mine owned by Eastern of Australia and has a couple of schools, grocers, and a pub. The Nightcaps rugby team is still a force in Southland rugby. The town of Ohai has an open cast mine run by the State's Solid Energy. It appeared very dead. There are no shops, the pub is a house, and even the police station appeared unmanned. There were tidy brick units where retired miners live. Some of the larger houses are still occupied, but many are on the market.

Driving into the Solid Energy mine, all was quiet. A red ute drove by, stopping to enquire, as I took photos. He questioned me closely and after a few minutes Gary accepted it was for personal reasons. He rang the Eastern mine and spoke with the manager who seemed to be shocked that there would be a tourist up there but he welcomed me. I did. The manager, Mark, was also inquisitive about my reasons but opened up. He offered to take me around and asked if I knew anyone else who might be interested. Unfortunately it was raining heavily and I did not have the opportunity.

Mark's office was not grand. It was pre-fabricated unit and you would be forgiven for thinking this was a permanent feature. Mark is absolutely confident about the future of mining in Southland. The most interesting thing in his office was two picks which he believed may be close to 100 years old, and a map of all the underground shafts.

I then made my way to the Railway Hotel, which is absolutely flourishing. The Takatimu mine employs a number of contractors from out of town and the pub is where a lot of them reside. The public bar was warm, a fire is blazing, with a bucket of coal beside the wood burner – I think more for appearance than use. I buy a pint and chat with the publican. Brian is 40 something and has had pubs on the West Coast as well as Southland. He is affable and believes that Ohai may come alive soon as natural gas has been discovered. I told him that I am surprised that unlike the West Coast there are no monuments to miners, their history or culture, or even to record the lives lost in the dangerous underground industry. He is really unconcerned and told me there are some private museums. I expressed surprise, as I thought tourism would be helpful for his pub and for the community of Nightcaps.

Within weeks the nation is shocked by the loss of 29 miners at the Pyke River mine on the West Coast. There is something about mining, with its inherent dangers, and a respect for the people who work in this industry which touches the psyche of people everywhere. I bought a BBQ pork roll, before heading off into the rich farming district of Southland.

I wonder if that future generation will know of the hardships and the national Labour’ disputes that these Southland miners were involved in and how with their backs and some with their lives help build our nation. Once they had a strong identity and sense of community. They would have needed all that and some special qualities to have survived in such an isolated community.

Through Dipton, I think of Caza’s comments that at least around Nightcaps I would see some real farms. She was referring to sheep farms. She is not happy about dairy farms, the smell and the way they affect the waterways. She spoke of an uncle who had suffered significant losses of lambs and that he might have to take an offer from someone who wishes to convert to a dairy farm.

Sheep certainly are still the most prevalent animals around here. The land is lush and open. I reached Dipton to find there is little there. An engineering workshop, a dairy, a gift and fashion shop, and a Memorial Hall. There was no gas station or pub. Dipton is so dull it makes Bill English look interesting.

Winton, the Matamata of the south. It is rich and has some substantial buildings, however it was damp and I wanted to visit a few things in Invercargill. The Invercargill Information Centre is at the Southern Museum, which is set in the beautiful Queens Gardens. The museum has wonderful exhibits on nature and human settlement, with a current exhibition on Nga Tahu, the original settlers, now a powerful force in the South Island economy.

I made my way to the famous “Gerrards Hotel’, now back to its original name ‘The Victorian Railway Hotel”. It is owned and operated by Trudy and Eoin Read. They took it over in 2006 and closed it down to renovate and restore. They have done an amazing job and have won an award from the Invercargill City Council for this. It is also listed by the Historic Places Trust.

Trudy and Eoin are warm hosts who go out of their way to welcome you. It is a guest and host experience similar to what The Great Ponsonby offers. This is not a faceless hotel with plastic smiles, it is not a brand. It is quirky, interesting, and friendly. They offer a restaurant and have a bar for guests; however I wandered the streets to get a feel for our most southern city. I considered dining at Louis Café and Tapas bar but it was a cold evening and I needed the warmth of comfort food.

I found a bar/ restaurant, ‘The Kiln”. It was welcomingly warm and had a good crowd. I sat at the bar enjoying a pint, and dined on crumbed sweetbreads, a delicacy I had not eaten in 20 years, and oven baked blue cod. Both were exceptional. After dinner I wandered around, taking some photographs. Thankfully Invercargill has not done much 'development' damage and a number of fine buildings remain. I photographed a few, including the recently restored Opera House and of course the Victoria Railway House.

Returning to the hotel I met some guests including two couples, one English, the other Australian, in the house bar. We talked of Nightcaps and Trudy piped up that when she qualified as a teacher she headed off to Nightcaps in her old Morris 1100. She told of a wonderful community and how when the mines were corporatized, shops closed, and the heart was ripped out of these communities. All of us were interested in her story and surprised there was no monument to the miners and their industry in these coalfields.

I headed to Hayes Hardware shop to see the motorcycle collection which included Burt Munro's motorcycles. Another good reason to spend a couple of days in Invercargill. A credit to the city, are the public gardens. The populace also takes pride in their home gardens. Whether it be a doctor’s residence or worker’s cottage the gardens are well maintained and add to civic pride.

Next, a lunch date at Julie and Chris' farm near Clinton, a three-horse town on highway 93. Townie that I am, I shot past their gate and had to ring. Julie suggested she cycle down to meet me at the mailbox. Italy can even reach Clinton as she waits in style on her Italian Abici pushbike. It appears they're not all plebs in the south. It's a comfortable home with garden to match.

Julie's Mediterranean salad with roasted pepper, asparagus, and their own Limousine fillet beef cooked rare and beautifully marbled. It is a real treat. They run 4,500 sheep and smaller beef operation. Marketed by Hereford Prime, if you have the pleasure of eating this beef, you will most likely be dining at one of our top-end restaurants. Steve, Chris’s brother who farms nearby had unfortunately had an accident. Helicoptered from his farm to Dunedin Hospital in less than one and a half hours. Remarkable. Cell phones, helicopters, and ACC have certainly made farm life less isolated, comfortable, and safer.

Chris left to attend to Steve's farm. Meanwhile Julie produced a banana box of her grandfather's personal papers. Born in Armagh, County Down, Northern Ireland and a plumber by trade before arriving in NZ where he worked for the, once great, but no longer, firm called A & T Burt. He worked for the Union Steamship Co and during the war, from 1916 to 1917, served on the SS Maheno. Poignant letters and historic postcards record this experience and reveal a tender hearted man with a deep love for his family. This is interesting stuff and Julie has a few projects to work on. The stuff may well fit into Te Ari, the on-line encyclopedia of New Zealand.

Next, down the Owaka Valley. The sun was out, not a cloud and the land shines. Sheep graze and beef cattle look supreme. This was my first ever visit to the Catlins and I was in luck for three days. Yes, the Catlins are renowned for wind and rain, but the Sun Gods worked overtime for me.

Owaka is a small town with too many empty shops, a pub, restaurant, hairdresser, general store, grocer, a church or two. A great museum, I spent time there, but not enough. There were a number of books on the Catlins and of the shipwrecks on this wild coast. I took a double sided Catlins map, a heritage guide, and bought a book of highlights of the Catlins, as well a tea towel showing the ships that were lost. I also picked up a heritage trail brochure, which I used as my guide. The museum staff advised me that there are limited food and accommodation options in the Catlins.

I bought an ice cream at the grocer and mulled over whether I should buy some provisions too. I decided to chance it and drove to Fortrose, the southernmost point of the Catlins.

It was a wonderful drive and I went to all the viewpoints and beaches including Curio Bay. I didn’t find any sea lions, seals, porpoises, or penguins, but I did see a lot of kelp.

At Waipapa Point I visited the lighthouse built after the loss of the SS Tararua in 1881. This is our second major maritime tragedy in human terms. 131 of the passengers and crew lost their lives, including the captain, who was found accountable by a court of enquiry for navigational errors and not posting a proper lookout.

The lighthouse was manned with a lighthouse keeper and his family for 100 years. With the automation of the lighthouse in 1980, the cottages and other buildings were sold off. Tourism was not a major industry then and the cottages would have made a fine Catlins maritime museum. There has been over 650 years of maritime adventure on this coast. Maori certainly paddled their wakas and fished here.


As I drove to Tokanui, I waved to the backpackers eating dinner beside their vans, envious of their situation. On to Waikawa. Not much happening there but at Niagara Falls Cafe the gate was open. This was a great find. The restaurant busy. The maitre d and husband of the chef welcomed me with enthusiasm. I was surprised by the menu and with aromas wafting down from the galley, Johnny Cash playing in the background; I felt I had hit gold. These two are applying for New Zealand residency. I hope for them and the Catlin’s that they get it. Food of this quality and the warmth of the hosts are relatively few and far in this part of the world. It is in our national interest for them to stay.

I asked them to find me a bed. They did. I enjoyed seafood chowder made from local kai moana, and a main of blue cod. To drink, pale ale from an Invercargill brewery. Grace was; ‘thank the heavens that I found such a place.’

I made my way back to Waikawa towards the penguins. If I had waited to see penguins I could have driven back to Curio Bay to see them, but decide to see what my bed at the backpacker is like instead.

In the backpacker kitchen, two young couples (one French, one English) shared a meal. I paid the $50 after checking out my bed. Later we shared a bottle of red and I learnt they were staying a week to attend a surf school. They must have been hardier than they looked!

My bedroom was the cottage's main bedroom and had a queen bed. Fine for my basic needs. No doubt many romantic backpacking couples had been there before me, and were perfectly happy. My purpose, sleep. I managed to get some but in a bed that didn’t seem primarily designed for it.

Saturday
I took photos around Waikawa, including the Sea View accommodation, which would be my first choice. However with only two rooms, I could see it was full.

I visited the local cemetery overlooking the sea and was surprised by the infant mortality. If you could survive six months, you make it to your eighties. A harsh land and hard people.

Back at the Niagara Falls Café I enjoyed French toast, banana and bacon for breakfast. I met some of the other guests who also had dined there the night before. ‘The Catlin’s are a dream. ‘Everyone in Germany knows of the Catlins, Dirk, a banker from Colene told me. He said 97% of New Zealand has cell phone capacity, the Catlins doesn’t and he was having three days away from the phone. 'This is paradise’ he informed me.

Heading north, the road is tar sealed but remains beautiful. My first stop, McClean Falls. It is an easy walk and as soon as you start you hear the sound of water. The morning sun filtered by the bush provided a soft diffused light. At 22m tall, they are arresting the track was built by DOC, parents and students of Kings High School in Dunedin, and the New Zealand Employment Service. Kings High school is well established and perhaps more than 130 years old. Its zone is the wealthy St Clair and working class South Dunedin. I know two of its pupils, and they reflect much of the quality of this school, the suburbs they grew up in, and their families too.

One is Chris Laidlaw who currently hosts National Radio's Sunday morning radio show. Chris is a former parliamentarian, diplomat, and All Black. The other is Gary Parsloe, a seafarer unionist, who holds national office in the maritime union, and the international labour movement. He was also a good rugby halfback. Both men are respected and made considerable contributions nationally and internationally. One might accept a knighthood, one would not. One is republican, the other not, but both in a way are representative of Kings High School, this track, and how it could happen.

As you turn off to this walk, there is a good quality café and accommodation option. I enjoyed coffee and giant scones with fresh cream and homemade jam at The Whistling Frog www.whistlingfrogcafe.com, owned and operated by a Kiwi and San Francisco couple. Paul and Lynn are obliging and provide useful information to get the most from your time in the Catlin’s. They thoughtfully have built a complex that doesn’t detract from its situation and has many accommodation options.

Cathedral Caves is another natural wonder. However, to visit them depends on the tide. The tide was in and my luck was out.

Forestry and sawmilling were major activities in the Catlins to the 1950’s. The Lenz reserve 550 ha contains some walks in the forest and also a display quite close to the road of a bush railway and machinery. It is worth a look, and the quality of the walks available would need at least a day or so.

My next stop was Lake Wilkie, an easy walk with a boardwalk only a short distance from the road. It is surrounded by regenerating forest.

I stopped again to walk for an hour up the estuary, at Papatowai. A score of Oystercatcher calls accompanied my walk.

I took the back road to the Purakannui falls. A short walk in and the discovery of a Salvation Army couple exchanging marriage vows. Bridesmaids in high heels teetering on the uneven pathway, while hymns sung out to an accompaniment of roaring water- fall. A dramatic event.

Time running out. I missed Jack's Bay and Blow Hole, and headed onto the Lumberjack Café in Owaka. A group of middle-aged motorcyclists were tucking into steak. For lunch, I chose battered blue cod and chips, washed down with a pint of Speights.

At the Nugget's, and Kaka Point, the sea was crashing. A fleet of campervans were on the metal road to Nugget Point. Climbing the narrow track to the lighthouse I could feel the force as the sea broke through the rocks. Kaka Point was larger than I thought. For a decade or more, it was the home of one of our greatest poets, Hone Tuwhare. Part of the mystery was why did this sociable man with a thousand friends choose to spend his last years at Kaka Point, where nature is far from kind?

Balclutha with its beautiful bridge. A most attractive architectural feature.
They seem bent on destroying any building of merit in this town. It is possibly the Bogan capital of Aotearoa. Yes ACDC rules here.

Up the river to the former mining town of Kaitangata on its banks. This is where the mighty Clutha River meets the sea. The aroma of the Finegand Freezing Works, that greets you as you enter Balclutha.

Kaitangata, the home of black gold, has a pub and it's clean and tidy. Up on a hill its residents enjoy good sun and have bountiful gardens. The town may not be rich but the household gardens have a value which is great to see - the homes are simple but their gardens provide a natural beauty.

There is no visible tribute to the industry that built the town, only a small coal wagon. One of our recent All Blacks, Tony Brown, hails from here.

Another ice cream at the dairy/takeaway bar, as boys sipped cokes and watched the girls opposite walk by. I drove slowly as I headed north, contemplating the trip and how I would write it all up

Dunedin and to the Brothers Boutique Hotel. Rod, the owner greeted me like a long lost friend. My travel of the Southern Scenic Trail all wound up.


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