Thursday, February 28, 2013

Ben Affleck 'loves New Zealand.' Yeah right

Some New Zealanders took umbrage at the portrayal of New Zealand’s involvement in the Iran crisis way back in the late 70’s in the film Argo. The historical reality of the event was distorted badly if not dishonestly. To many young film goers of the present such a presentation would paint New Zealand in a bad light, particularly from an American point of view. That New Zealand stood by, as the movie portrays and did nothing to help in the crisis is an unfortunate but typically Hollywood way of ‘rewriting history.’
Oh yes, Ben sort of wiggled his way out of what could have been a delicate situation, but in the end some damage has been done to NZ’s reputation. The facts of the matter are of course very different. Why did Hollywood choose to go down the path it took? Why----it does so regularly and if generations of film-goers have been misled, then I guess it is their own fault in that they rely on their world vision being informed by a ‘fantasyland’ industry that has influenced every nation on earth with its story-telling.’
Therein encompasses the position we should all take before we overreact. Films are generally just that; a form of storytelling where the facts are often substituted in the name of entertainment. New Zealand should just move on, as our ‘esteemed’ Prime Minister, John Key stated in the New Zealand Herald. Hell, if we take Argo too seriously we will have the world believing that New Zealand really does have a population of Hobbits living in cave-like dwellings, surrounded by enchanted forests and fairies. Oops, that’s true, isn’t it?

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Optifast---be gentle!

I met with the dietician yesterday. This was a very rushed process as I had to travel to Whangarie for a family funeral (we said goodbye to a wonderful old Aunt of 92 years of incredible living).
I learnt about the process re Optifast. It seems that the first 3 days of this VLCD (very low calorie diet) are going to be the worst. After that the body goes into a state whereby the fat is burnt quite quickly. This is all to shrink the liver to allow for easier access to the bits they want to ‘transform.’ Given that the whole process is laparoscopic, I shall do my best to assist by ‘doing the right thing.’  
I will be on this regime for 4 weeks prior to my date with my surgeon. I see him next week and he will give me my operation date. I can order Optifast online, but I propose to visit the chemist I know and get deal form him. I also want him to make up a mixture of the available products so that I don’t get too bored. I can add two cups of veggies a day and one small piece of fruit. How I eat them may be made more interesting by adding the veggies to a thin miso broth. I also propose to make an ice cream out of the ‘shakes,’ using my ice-cream maker. That sounds a bit decadent but it is all within the rules. Hell I am not about to waste $19,000 that I am going to spend on the whole procedure!
Am I looking forward to this next phase? Well, it’s more like, I just want to get it all over and done with and discover a new healthier me. Once again I say to anyone who is thinking---‘just go on a diet,’ I am no different to someone who has a problem with smoking, gambling or alcohol.’ I won’t be rude because most comments I receive (but not on here for some reason---maybe it’s a bit too public) that are negative are based on misinformed thinking. By entering this new  phase of my life I am also saving myself and the Taxpayer money, by not further complicating my health and becoming a drain on the afore mentioned. We need our taxes for other things, don’t we?
Mm---what’s for dinner tonight, as I can still have 5 more days of relative freedom? Hell, I lost 3 KGs in the last 3 weeks and I don’t know how.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Onehunga's time has come---just have to wait a few years

Take a look at the picture. If the end result of the development is even half as good then we can say with pride, that Onehunga has been restored to its rightful place in Auckland; as a premium suburb with great features.
The Manukau in general has faced an onslaught of human activity. It has been used a waste dump for our toilets and our industrial waste. It was once a place where people enjoyed the foreshore and finally, we are about to see revival.
The trucks and earthmoving machinery are attacking the foreshore and using material from the Waterview Tunnel project to claim new land, which in turn will be the framework for at least five beautiful beaches. If we can be sure that the water quality is safe, then Onehunga will become a place to relax and enjoy life at the seaside. Wouldn’t it be great if those two wonderful old buildings along Orpheus Drive could open up and provide café-like settings? Sunday afternoon will feel like a ‘blast from the past.’ I can’t wait to see the end result. In the meantime we can happily put up with the dust and noise.
Onehunga Foreshore in the future..It has started!

Sunday, February 24, 2013

John Banks has absolute faith in Charter Schools, so so should we!

If John Banks believes so ardently in the efficacy of Charter Schools, then so should we---- right? I mean, let’s face it, such schools will allow the ‘less fortunate’ to have access to all that these wonderful new schools bring to the ‘new education scene.’ Those ‘lucky’ students from decile one schools will be able to hook in to a vast new network of privilege and ‘connection.’ Isn’t this what John’s new model promises? So, why are we so denigrating of his efforts to bring good schooling to the masses?
Therein lays the main (and there are so many) week point and downright dishonesty of the proposed new schools. Just how many of the students of South Auckland will be invited to take part in this experiment? What happens when behaviours and deficits in cultural capital (go look it up to save time here) get in the way of the ‘direction’ in which these schools wish to travel? What happens if absences and poor grades start to reflect on the ‘reputation’ of the new schools? Just watch them (if they get off the ground) slowly transform into elitist institutions, where poor kids are gradually discarded as ‘cannon fodder’ for the distorted political agenda of those like John Banks.
Listening to him on the radio this morning was like hearing something akin to Alice lost in Wonderland. He places his political livelihood on the success or otherwise of his Charter School experiment. The trouble with that is that a whole lot of resources will get sucked into yet another bad dream, one that has shown itself to be of dubious quality in many overseas situations. Must we go down the same path, all in the name of thinly disguised political survivalism on the part of the National Party and the Act Party?

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Don't push just any old button on your computer!

Today I committed a cardinal sin; well as far as the world of computers is concerned, that is. My nephew who is a bit of a computer whiz; he makes his living at it so I guess that qualifies him. He had stayed with me for two days and before he left he sorted out some issues re Malware---I hope I have correctly described what he did.
I waved goodbye and immediately signed in to check my blog page and emails. Having done that, I decided to give things a rest for a while. That is when my horror of horrors began.
My eyes rested (well I was in that mode after all) on a Samsung ‘Restore’ icon. My mind went back to the work my nephew had done. Hey—he had done me quite a favour so why not carry on as he had set me up? I should make sure that everything was right.
I quickly became enmeshed in a world of questions and decisions and before I knew it, I had lost everything on my computer. I could sign back in using a new password, but that was it. I could not connect to anything, including the internet. I panicked and considered throwing it out the window, until I remembered that my beautiful computer was only 2 years old. How embarrassing. Should I ring my sister? What would I tell my partner? I tried to forget about it and ‘own up’ when my partner came home---after a very long hard day at work.
I waited and thought up what I might say. There was only one pathway---complete honestly. I was asked----‘What the hell did you do?’ How much lower could I go? I admitted my foolery and after about 2 hours of reinstalling and seeking out my favourites, I am up and running again. Wow, I am sure a ‘dinner at a nice restaurant’ is in order----OH no---not for me. I only have two days of food freedom before I go on a month of Optifast, before I have my Bariatric surgery. OH well, maybe my fingers will slim down too and I shall make less mistakes. Yeah right!

School zoning---here we go again!

Every year we hear about parents trying to enrol their kids into a school they perceive as being ‘better’ for their children than the one a few hundred metres down the road. Some schools have gone to the extreme by setting private detectives on suspicious families to ensure that the system of ‘out of zone’ enrolment is not abused. Other schools have actively encouraged or at least turned a blind eye to the practise.

There are many reasons why parents go to such lengths. There is the misinformed judgment that their children will not achieve at the neighbourhood school and that their kids will not be safe, because ‘certain kids’ attend the local school in high numbers.

Let’s cut to the point. Some of these decisions to ‘cheat’ the system are based on a white flight theory. This is not limited to ‘white families alone; many parents of other ethnic groups also hit he roads every morning to ‘escape’ what they perceive to be a school that does not meet their needs. One only has to observe the bus stops in South and West Auckland or the train stations to see a myriad of school uniforms, lining up to travel to schools in the city or other areas of Auckland.

Without debating such moves and motives further, perhaps I should look at the ramifications for such decisions. We have the transport system heavily loaded in the morning and afternoons and parents making trips beyond their home suburbs, further increasing traffic on the road. This doesn’t make sense from a transport planning perspective.

Such student movement across Auckland also brings into focus another important factor. Surely the local school should be of an adequate standard and offer a stimulating learning environment and one that is safe and nurturing. If it is a question of resourcing, then that should be addressed.

Yes, there is a question of balance re ‘the right’ of parents being able to choose the school for their children, but allowing this massive movement across the city, not only feeds into the chaos of morning and afternoon traffic, but also creates potential ‘ghetto schools’ in the suburbs. This is a delicate question and one that politicians and schools and parents would rather avoid, but we must ask the questions---‘what sort of society so we want?’ Do we allow open slather and create and exacerbate problems that no one wants to talk about, or do we face them head on and have the discussion?’

I suspect that the ‘head in the sand, bums up’ option may well prevail as many head for the hills and so-called better schools; leaving those schools they have fled to face uncertain futures. It is not just Mother Nature and her earthquakes that cause social dysfunction! It is us and our own beliefs and mistaken perceptions about what is right and wrong. We must address the fears of those  who choose to turn their backs on their local schools and come up with a ‘community’ solution. We can start by being honest.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Don't worry--you are not eating horse in New Zealand, but you could be getting more than you bargained for!

It seems that Europe is awash with stories about horse meat being consumed by ‘unknowing’ customers. To make matters worse for those who abhor the eating of horse meat, the quality of the said product leaves much to be desired. Whether it comes as a result of a law change that has taken horses off the roads in Romania or another source is a moot point, but the result is a large number of unhappy customers.
In New Zealand, it seems that we don’t have the same issue. No, we are not a horse eating nation, but we do have some rather interesting ingredients in the processed foods we eat. If you were thinking that your sausages in a tin were pure beef, then you better think again. You could be eating a combination of pork, beef, chicken and God knows what other ‘meat’ products.
To those of you who rely on ‘processed foods’ and take them at face value, then---think again. If you really want to be n control of what you eat, then you are going to need to ‘dig deep’ and forget that you are tired. The message is that if you want full control of what goes onto your gob, then GO BACK TO BASICS!
Yes, buy your meat form the butcher, where you can be sure you are getting exactly what you pay for. If that means having the good old fashioned meat and three veggies, then do it. You can ‘tart’ it up with spices and herbs. Come-on---anyone can learn to do basic cooking. It’s not rocket science. Sorry---bad analogy.
Invest in a slow cooker---get one online or from Trade Me. They are cheap. There is nothing like coming home from work to the smell of a stew or casserole. Prepare them before you go to bed at night and out the container in the fridge. Then, all you have to do is take it out and switch on the slow cooker.
Get away from processed foods----they are killing us. If you have read my blogs, you know where it has landed me----in ‘deeeeeeeeep dodoland.’ Processed foods are out and natural ‘me in control’ foods will be the order of the day soon, albeit it on rather small amounts.
Come-on Kiwis---we produce some damned good product; fresh, clean and healthy. Let’s eat it in moderate amounts and send those processed foods and the outlets that shove it onto us packing.
 A ‘reforming processed food addict.’

Monday, February 18, 2013

The third version of Roskill will be out soon!

Yes, it’s true. I am having Roskill re-edited yet again, this time by a well-known editor, Richard Stratford. We are down-sizing it so that it will appeal to the teenage market. Everyone knows that getting kids to read these days is becoming a real battle, hence overly long books (that’s anything over 70,000) just don’t cut it.

You can look forward to the new slimmed down version, with the errors expunged, ready to be launched with at our younger readers in mind. It will still appeal to parents, but the message will be more concise. Watch out for my announcement. I am hoping to reach out to the school ‘class text’ market. Roskill is aimed at young people who live under the threat of a parent who chooses to use ‘P,’ (Methamphetamine). Parents should read it to better understand the ramifications of their use of this scourge on New Zealand society. Check out my website for updates re Roskill. The older version is still for sale. You can buy my books from the site or direct from me  

If you don’t want to buy, then check out your local library for my books. Ask and they may buy.

1)     ‘Coastal Yarns,’ by Neil Coleman

2)    ‘Roskill,’ by Neil Coleman

3)    ‘Talk To Me,’ by Neil Coleman

Sky City Government deal--is it good for NZ?

There is no doubt that John Key, our sort of popular Prime Minister, is good at making deals. His past working life would bear witness to that statement, even if I don’t have much in common with the methods he may have used. OK, I’m just not part of that particular life choice. To some he is a hero, yet other the devil incarnate. I am not a political/moralist who would judge him for the way he made his money. In my ideal world, there is room for many approaches to life.

I do however take a different view about the deal he is purported to have made with Sky City re the proposed Convention Centre. Even though he has been ‘exonerated’ by an august body from any underhand dealings, there is still a strange smell about the ramifications of this deal.

The ratepayers of Auckland will not be burdened with a debt for this new centre; something that will bring a sigh of relief after having witnessed yet another round of rate rises. That in itself will silence many critics, who base their ‘happiness levels’ on things economic rather than any strong social conscience. The 500 extra poker machines would be a small price to pay, from their point of view.

For those who witness the damage done by ‘out of control gambling, this new move will represent nothing but more suffering and social dysfunction as yet more families are torn apart by the effects of gambling. There is a good deal of evidence to show that gambling in all of its forms is a potent force in wreaking havoc in a large proportion of our families. The desperate are not the only victims; others too are drawn into the never- ending search for that big win.

We see the results in WINZ (Work and Income New Zealand) and CYFS (Child Youth and Family Services) offices as families struggle with the effects of gambling addiction. It is easy to say that if Sky City doesn’t draw in the ‘players,’ other forms of gambling will play to the crowd and the harm is simply removed to another sector. We must ask the question----is this new centre worth the carnage that will result?

Many will say that the economic benefits will outweigh any damage in the form of increased tourists spending resulting from the extra 20,000 visitors estimated to visit Auckland and the convention centre. Perhaps that argument is similar to the trickle-down theory; one that is much touted by those at the top who ‘allow’ a little wealth to flow down to the minions at the bottom. I can’t see a lot of evidence for this in our history.

I suspect the forces behind both arguments will be quite evenly split, so we are not going to see a pullback by the present Government and I believe that the Labour Party will probably go along with the plans, especially once the contract is let. The present Mayor, Len Brown seems to have sucked up to the big boys too, as he eyes other plans for the future of Auckland. Get used to the ever lengthening lines outside the City Mission; made up of the homeless and desperate. Maybe they will even move their premises---away from eyes that ‘may be offended by the sight of society’s ‘flotsam’----- Out of sight, out of mind.

The Harawiras, led by a 'gentle granny.'

I have been aware of the Harawira Family (Whanau) for more than three decades, dating back to the infamous time at the old Carrington ‘institution,’ that was led by the ‘gentle granny.’ She came in for a torrid time in the media as she was exposed for the bully she was. It seems that nothing has changed for the family as yet another incident; this time by relations of Titiwhai, all members of a so-called anti-violence organization.
There are reports that Titiwhai is extremely angry at the reported beating of a 12 year old child who apparently ‘mouthed’ something at the young men, who had been drinking at a nearby gathering. It must be very difficult for Hone as well. He has made a strong stand against violence along with his partner. Just when he was on the verge of gaining some respect for the work he has done, re his anti-smoking and anti-violence stance, this comes along.
We must remember, that family ties may be strong, but that is no guarantee that some members may act in a thuggish manner and that all of the Whanau should not be dragged into the resulting furore and that the ‘good work can continue. Deep down, I think that Titiwhai is a ‘gentle granny’ and that the media just loves to find the cracks on the family. What other family in New Zealand comes in for so much attention? Yes, you have to think, don’t you? Still, if you put yourself in that position by the actions of family members---well the pigeons do come home to roost, don’t they!

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Gay, Bi and Transgender young people in our schools

Firstly I need to say that I didn’t use the word ‘queer’ to substitute for ‘gay’ as some in the Rainbow Community describe  themselves or are so  labelled by others. I come from an era where the word ‘queer’ had very negative connotations, so I ‘won’t use that to talk about friends, students or anyone else in the community.
Right I got that off my chest. For teenagers, the years between 12 and 20 are difficult enough time; facing everyday issues and struggling with identity are in themselves a stressful time. For those who are trying to work out their sexuality identity, the struggle is that much harder. Much of the ‘journey to self-realization’ happens while they attend our secondary schools (in NZ).
As teachers and those who work with our students, we have a special responsibility to allow that journey to happen in a safe environment. Sadly, this is not always so. Suicide figures for teenagers in the Rainbow Community’ are much higher than for the general population. While there has been an improvement in support for all students at secondary school in the last few decades, we still have a way to go for those who are ‘different’ in any way. For the RC students, that is an absolute truth.
Some schools are lucky enough to have the PSSP (Peer Sexuality Support Programme) in their schools, but these schools are a minority. All schools by law must have ‘anti-harassment’ policies, but not all schools implement them in the manner intended.
Teachers and those who work in schools bring with them their own understandings and positions about the RC, sometimes holding very narrow and unsympathetic views. At best these people keep those views to themselves, for a range of reasons, including religious beliefs, cultural understandings and views that are ‘uninformed.’ Others are just ‘uncomfortable’ around RC students, preferring to ignore issues that arise in their classrooms. That they have an obligation as teachers to uphold ‘anti-harassment’ policies is neither here nor there. I guess you could say the same about other school policies. It comes down to the ‘collective buy in’ of staff members. Some do, others don’t.
Young people are increasingly searching for support and that can best be delivered by teachers who have a better understanding of the issues faced by our RC students (and others). That means, staff development and time to reflect. Sadly, that is not happening to the extent that the RC needs. For those schools lucky enough to have the PSSP Programme in tier schools, then there is a good starting point; both for staff development and dialogue with students. There is support from the Ministry of Education’ in New Zealand and from the strong Teachers’ Union, the PPTA, but we have a long way to go before all students feel safe in their schools.
It was great to see the revival of the Hero Parade, now aptly named the Pride Parade. Auckland’s mayor and the Auckland Central MP played a part in this fabulous celebration for the Rain Bow Community. Long may it continue, this time without break for a decade. It was so good to see young people out there, saying---‘we’re back!’

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Texas wants to be the real 'lone star state.'

I read with interest a report that said that some of the populace in Texas wish to leave the USA and go it alone. That they are the 15th biggest economy in the world speaks heaps for such a desire; they could actually do it. Apparently there has always been a move in Texas (and in other states) to do just that, but it has always been a small minority of Texans who wish to follow through.
I have often wondered at why more states don’t have movements to leave the Union, but not quite so stridently as Texas. There seems to be a move in many countries to ‘fragment;’ from Spain, to The Russian Federation and possibly regions within China. If we looked hard enough, I guess it wouldn’t be hard to find other examples of regions wishing to break away from the ‘mother state.’
I wonder if there is any such move in New Zealand. The only area I can think that would lean that way is the inland area around the East Coast. They after all never bowed down to the Crown in our struggles here.
West Australia would be the most logical state in Australia to have such ambitions and they have the wealth to manage such a transition, but in all cases, I doubt that the aspirations of the few would become a reality for the many.
What then will happen in Texas? I guess things will carry ion as per normal. I cannot see the USA fragmenting any time soon, but who knows what ‘conditions’  and events will turn the dribble into a flood? The process of ‘nation making’ has always been and always will be a continuing force in our future.

Facebook---is it allowing too much 'unreal' communication?

Facebook is part of the lives for a huge number of people worldwide. It has allowed many people to communicate in an instant throughout the day (and night!) and probably been instrumental in millions of real time liaisons, often resulting in permanent relationships. It is loved by most and has opened the ‘doors’ of communication to a vast number of people who may have normally remained lonely, isolated and friendless. Yes, Facebook has a great deal going for it.
It has its downsides too. Many of the so-called ‘friendships’ are shallow, unreal and possibly dangerous. Communicating with someone you have never met can have its issues; namely distance, possible misinformation, criminal activity, ‘grooming’ and downright misrepresentation of character and identity. That is just a short list.
Those issues have always been with us but Facebook allows for a far greater participation in social interaction for a huge number of people. Facebook often changes the way it runs and its rules. If a person is not up with the play, they can be left ‘exposed’ to the surveillance of countless millions of people they do not know, in any sense of the word. Hence, it could be said that Facebook is potentially a dangerous space for the naïve, young and not so young. Trust is a word, not a reality for many users.
For those of us who work with young people, we know that Facebook is an integral part of their lives. We see their ups and downs; the dangers, the sadness and anger when things go wrong. In its extreme, it can be life threatening as young people grapple with their own problems, issues and life journeys. Parents are often totally unaware of the actions and activities of their children online; not just with Facebook of course.
Facebook can be all consuming; taking young people out of their reality and interrupting other important tasks, including education, participation in other ‘healthier activities and risking the formation of real time and place friendships. Tell any teenager that and they will vehemently disagree with you, conveniently forgetting that they may well have been the ‘butt’ of a cruel ‘gossip circle’ in the past week.
Those working with young people are themselves barely able to keep up with social media developments; Facebook just being one of them. We should all assume that the kids are way ahead of us in such matters. Thereon lays a danger. We as adults, parents and caregivers are not up with the play for the most part. Below the surface of the young peoples’ behaviours there is often a whole lot going on that we have no idea about. Facebook may be the ‘header,’ but the machinations will be totally hidden, leaving us thinking that the sullen mood is ‘just one of those things’ that teenagers go through.
Leaving things alone and doing nothing is no longer an option. We must become more familiar with the good and the less good of Facebook and others (yet to come!) social media platforms. We indeed have our work cut out for us. One thing we can do is be open to communication with our ‘charges,’ be we parents, teachers, counsellors or anyone else with a stake in the future of our young people.

Will we be able to swim on the 'new' beaches at the Onehunga Foreshore project?

The Manukau Harbour has been seen as the ‘poor sister,’ to its busy and dazzling counterpart on the other side of the Auckland Isthmus. This has not always been so however as in its early development the Manukau represented a ‘faster and more direct’ journey across the Tasman Sea to Australia. It was only after ships became too big to navigate the treacherous Manukau entrance that Onehunga became left behind on some sort of time warp.
The same could be said for the recreational use of the Manukau. In the early days of settlement, it was possible to see ladies dressed in their fashionable bathing costumes alighting from horse-drawn changing carriages and the ‘bay’ was quite the picnic spot.
Then came the pollution; some from badly run industrial sites and of course the terrible sewerage ponds and plant near the once beautiful Puketutu Island. One would never consider swimming amongst such filth then and even more so once the bay became disconnected and landlocked because of the new motorway.
The ‘bay’ as some of you will know is one of my favourite places (when the tide is in) for walking my beloved Jack Russell, although ‘walking’ is a bit tame to describe her manic rushing about and playing with her best friends (Doggies of course). The ‘bay’ is one of the few places where we can let our dogs loose.
Things are about to change. Maybe, we will be able to swim again, once the new beaches have been constructed on the other side of the motorway. Perhaps our dogs won’t be welcome during Summer time daylight hours, but everything is really moving along and in a few years we will be able to enjoy the ‘fingers of fill that are thrusting out into the bay. If only we could be sure that the new beaches will be clean enough; that is the question.
I have begun to swim at an off the leash area next to Waikowhai Bay, about three bays around from Onehunga. The only problem is the ‘hike’ back up to the upper car park after a swim. That sort of negates the idea of having a refreshing swim. However, the water felt and looked clean and my enquiries resulted in advice that the Manukau is fine for swimming so long as one does not do so after heavy rain. Is that not the same over the Isthmus, on the ‘sparling Waters there?
Let’s hope that things will be great for the new development and that once again, Onehunga can assume a position it so richly deserves.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Dick Smith doesn't like New Zealand beetroot in a can!

I thought that when I heard ‘the’ Dick Smith on the radio this morning, bemoaning the fact that New Zealand was responsible for the demise of the Beetroot’ farmers in Australia and that Heinz had shifted their production of beetroot to NZ, causing the loss of many jobs; both in the canning industry and for the farmers who grew the beetroot.
For a start, I didn’t know there was a ‘dick Smith.’ I had always thought it was like Jenny Craig; if there was a real person they had long departed. I now stand corrected.
Dick went on to claim that New Zealand beetroot doesn’t taste as good as the Australian product. I would have to conduct a ‘blind test’ to work that one out. He also claimed that New Zealand farmers would get their comeuppance when Heinz put the same pressure that was purported to have been placed re pricing on Australian farmers. He has a point there. Why would Heinz give a stuff about Australian farmers (and possibly NZ ones, next) when it all comes down to competiveness and profit margins. I guess ‘they will shift to China like everything else’ is what he is saying.
Maybe NZ and Aussie should work together on these issues. We do not want to be pushing Aussies out of jobs and the same should be true for them, re NZ. Unfortunately the real world of ‘global markets’ doesn’t operate like that.
So, is this another case of ‘sour grapes,’ something akin to the Aussie dude who questioned the quality of our NZ White wines? NO, I don’t think so. Dickey boy has a point, other than the one he made about ‘taste.’ Global marketing is what really drives these moves and the swings-and-round-abouts may well come back and bite us in our collective bums.

There was once a beautiful Princess called Princess Hekia!

Many sad stories are told about the land of Educasia, not the least about Princess Hekia. Her relationship to the ‘Family’ was one fraught with undertones of doubt and mystery. She had only recently arrived in the ‘Family’ but that did not stop King Jono from elevating her to great heights.
Oh yes, others in the ‘Family’ were most put out, quite literally in some cases, but their names quickly receded into history. Jono saw her as a way of keeping his supporters happy, particularly the ones from far off regions of his realm. King John decided that Princess Hekia should be made responsible for the ‘learning of the young people of his kingdom. He had heard that she had an interest in this position.
Princess Hekia moved into the newly furnished offices and sent for her underlings. She was determined to make changes to the way things had been. She met with the leaders of those charged with the learning of young people and these important people learnt very quickly that it was her way or the highway. The fact that there were many highwaymen already operating did not concern her. Princess Hekia had read somewhere that other Kingdoms were using new methods of running schools and that along with one of King Jono’s supporters in Council, the leader of the Merchants Society, there was now a strong push to replicate these methods in Educasia. Even when the leaders in the present system pointed out that there were many failings in these schools, she did not listen, such was her determination to please King Jono.
As word filtered out through official notices and promulgations, a great deal of unrest became apparent in the Kingdom. Educasia was quite unlike some of its neighbours; indeed it was seen as quite an enlightened Kingdom, with a long history of tolerance. Some would say that the King or Queen as recent history had proven, held their position at the behest of the people, all of whom had a say in who should be their leader.
People other than just employed officials began to leave notices nailed to trees and some were even printed by the members of the ‘Teachers Guild.’ The parents of many of the children also began to speak out, but all was in vain; the King and his Princess simply did not listen, no matter how much evidence that such schools were repugnant, the Guild and parents’ group produced.
As if that issue wasn’t enough to inform the King and the Princess that all was not well in the Kingdom of Educasia, another favourite product of the King’s ‘Think Tank,’ a new system of remunerating the teachers and their helpers was introduced. ‘New Pay’ was based on a system used in a neighbouring Kingdom; a huge Island Kingdom, across the wide ocean. This system used a new technology; one that had also failed in that Kingdom, but that was not taken into account by the Kings ‘advisors.’ So it went ahead and within weeks, there was an outcry at the inaccuracies of this system.
‘All will be fine,’ Princess Hekia decreed. ‘Give it a chance,’ she exhorted, while King Jono watched from his throne as he thought up more schemes to divert the peoples’ ever increasing doubts about his rule.
Every week the problems remained and there were murmurings about the stupidity of the system. King Jono began to look quite nervous when he made appearances in public. It seemed that wherever he went, he was dogged by those affected by the New Pay system. Stories circulated about people not being paid and how schools had to dip not their ‘grants’ to enable teachers to be able to feed their families. Finally, King Jono brought in a ‘fixer,’ much to Princess Hekia’s chagrin. The fixer was a smooth operator and the body language of the Princess said it all; she was not impressed at King Jono’s action.  
Smooth talking ‘fixer,’ immediately released an enouncement that he would make things right, but sure enough--- the problems continued. Finally along with the Princess and the King, the ‘fixer’ announced that the Royal Mint was going to strike more coins in order to bring in extra workers to make the system work. The teachers, officials and the parents shook their heads in amazement and decided to bide their time.
Watch out for Part 2 of ‘The Princess’s woes.’

Our MPs should represent a broad spectrum of our society, right?

I think most New Zealanders would be reasonably comfortable with the above statement. Our Members of Parliament should reflect all sections of society and the current system we use to vote our members in goes a long way to achieve this. However, it also throws up some rather interesting individuals, who tend to be on the edge to put it mildly.
Mr Prosser is such an example. The New Zealand First Party put him high enough on their ‘List’ to ensure that if they crossed over the required 5% threshold, he would get in. Surely they knew about his tendency to have ‘brain farts,’ as some have put it, some of them bordering on the extreme and most certainly the ridiculous. I wonder if this will come back to haunt them, but then again, maybe it was a cool calm and calculated move on the part of the party that seems to be quite effective at garnering enough support from certain sections of society that when added together, are more than capable of boosting the party’s fortunes. Winston Peters, the ‘Dear Leader’ is well versed in playing this ‘game.’
Mr Prosser probably says what a significant number of New Zealanders, albeit a small minority would like to say, but have the good sense to shut their mouths. I would not be surprised if Mr Peters quietly encourages such members to make statements that he knows will ring a few bells with people. Even the controversy that results could go under the heading; ‘any publicity is good publicity.’ I’m not so sure.
I suspect that the recent statements and writings of Mr Prosser would have embarrassed quite a few party members. Will they make their feelings known to party officials or will they just bide their time until it all blows over?
I must say, that some of the reactions to Mr Prosser’s ranting have been disproportionate to the actual event and comments, especially from overseas sources have been a little bit precious, some from countries whose human rights records leave a lot to be desired. Still, New Zealand can ill afford to have potential trading partners view us with anything less than adulation for our way of life and record on ‘things that matter.’
It is a pity that we all can’t just see the guy for what he is ----‘someone who burps before he thinks,’ but then again, maybe he really does think like that. Oh well, we have seen it all before and no doubt there will be other ‘fools and half-brainers’ in Parliament who will have their time in the sun too.
So, do our MPs reprenst the views held by all NZers? Well, I suppose they do. That is the price we pay for having 'freedom of speech.' I guess we can put up with the fools. We can certainly boot them out every three years.

I shall start Ebooking my books.

Yes, I have decided to get one of my books converted to an ebook so that you can purchase it for your Kindle or any other 'reading deivice.'  It won't take long and once I get used to the idea. Let's see how it goes. It has ben a big decission for me. especially after I had read some pretty damming stuff online about some of the 'providers.' Oh well, it's not the end of the lworld if I just do one to start. MMMM---now, which one?  Coastal Yarns, 'Roskill' or 'Talk To Me.'

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Why are you all being so mean to Hekia Parata?

Day after day, week after week, I read your terrible slating(s) of Ms Hekia Parata. Your words drip with venom and you paint a picture of a lady who has sold her soul to the devil. This cannot be! Her heart is in the right place, presumably somewhere inaccessible to the plaudits she should be receiving for the wonderful work she has done at the behest of the National Party.
Stop throwing stones at this wonderful person, who has vision and a plan to lift New Zealand kids to new heights, especially if they are lucky enough to attend private schools that need ‘refurbishment, and even more so if they are about to attend one of her new pet projects the Charter Schools. Yes I know she had another name for them but it completely eludes me at the moment. After all I am still so angry at you for denigrating Ms Parata for her attempts to make New Zealand even more elitist for the chosen few.
Go back to your pens and construct praise where praise is due. Just don’t forget the vast majority of the students who will not benefit from her much vaunted vision for New Zealand. Oh---don’t forget the wonderful system, Nova Pay, which has ably assisted in her determination to pay teachers, support Staff and others what she thinks they richly deserve----stuff all!

"They took my Pocket knife,' says embattled NZ First MP.

Is this guy, Prosser for real? It is claimed that he was upset when his pocket knife was taken when he tried to board a plane. Apparently this was enough for him to launch into his diatribe against Muslims. If his knife was taken, that in his mind is enough for him to demand that ‘Western’ airlines should ban all men between the ages of 19 and 35, who look like Muslims from boarding flights.
He launched his ridiculous rantings in a magazine in New Zealand (that most people have probably never heard) of a few weeks later. One wonders at the editorial policy of the magazine and is left wondering if it was all about ‘circulation rather than being mouthpiece for serious discussion. I will not even name the magazine, because the last thing I want to do is to add to their numbers.
I have another cynical observation to make. The leader of New Zealand First, the party in parliament to which Prosser belongs, somewhere way down the list, has been measured in his response. Mr Peters (leader) has fallen short of apologizing for his wayward member’s comments. He almost appears to be distancing himself although he did make some comments about the silliness of Prosser’s ravings, but we are left with the distinct impression that the old ‘war-dog,’ Peters, is once again making a calculated move. He knows that at least 5% of the voting public will be agreeing with Prosser and that any losses from the Party will be more than made up by the bigots who share Prosser’s views.
Call me what you will, but think carefully about the above statement. We have seen it before in relation to ‘election time’ sensationalism.  I bet Mr Peters tells Prosser off, not for his statements, but more about when he made them. The silly bugger should have waited until just before the next election!
 In the meantime, NZ is attracting unpleasant and unwanted attention, all because a dopey twit was pissed off and ‘spat the dummy’ over a pocket knife. We do need to be concerned about our ‘image,’ but hopefully sane heads will prevail and see the ‘Prosser-talk’ for what it is----trash.

Monday, February 11, 2013

North Korea's 'big dump.' Something doesn't smell too good.

While many of its citizens live at levels reminiscent of conditions in Third World Nations; often hungry and cold, North Korea embarks on a stupid, pointless and dangerous pathway. Just who is it that is threatening this Asian nation; certainly not its southern Neighbour and even less likely, Japan or China.

Why then does its third megalomaniac leader in a row, (Sorry, I ain’t gonna call him ‘Dear Leader’) showing all the signs of being divorced from reality, insist on developing a nuclear capacity and a method of delivering his new ‘toy.’ All references to childhood and toys aside, this latest development is one that could endanger a huge swath of humanity in its hellish possibilities.

This time, even China has upset the ‘mad man’ of North Korea through its response that for once takes a real swipe at its errant neighbour. If NK is allowed to go down its present pathway, more than just its neighbours will be at risk. Furthermore, if NK extends its bourgeoning relationship with another whako regime; namely that in Iran, then surely the whole world must turn their attention to finding a solution to this ‘otherworldly’ problem.

Are we going to enact some sort of ‘Peace in Our Time’ scenario? Does not History teach us something? Come on China, Russia, Japan and the USA! ---Put your differences aside and ‘pull finger,’----the dike is about to break!

NZ First MP, Prosser is a tosser---ooops a prat!

I have often agreed with a good deal of NZ First’s policies and I  believe that they really do put ‘NZ first,’ but when one of their MPs came out with the load of crap that was reported in today’s NZ Herald, I wonder at the selection processes of the Party when it comes to making up their ‘list.’ Sure, they want a broad spectrum of candidates, but do they really want a bigot to represent them? Surely they knew enough about Mr Prosser and his way out views when they included him on their list. He can only do damage, both to the Party and to New Zealand as a whole.
No one likes terrorists but to make the links he as by saying that no Western Airline’ should let young Muslim men board their flights is patently stupid and totally discriminatory. I am not defending the extremist views of some sectors of Islam by making this statement and I deplore the actions of such groups, but there has to be a better way of keeping travellers safe, than banning a whole section of society from flying. Come to think about it and I am having trouble remembering when a flight was last bombed out of the sky by an Islamic terrorist. Most victims of extremist violence seem to be predominantly in Islamic nations.
Perhaps we need to look a little deeper at the utterances of Mr Prosser as he puts himself before the people at the next election. Sadly his views will attract a certain minority of NZers and we will wonder if Winston Peters is playing the same game he often does----that is, finding an issue that is almost guaranteed to attract enough voters to cross the threshold that is needed to gain seats in the New Zealand Parliament. Am I being a little cynical, perhaps? Come on NZ First; if you wish to attain a level of credibility and remain mainstream, cut he idiots from your party.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Melita Dean's big Marlin

Do you recall a blog I did on Melita's big cath; no , not the 'catch of the day'----it took her ten years to achive. Melita had it smoked and today she brought the results into work. She had some little packets of it in her freezer bag and some dip, which was quite creamy and with a slight tomato flavour. I have to say that both products were 'simply the best smoked fish I have ever had.' For some reason I was expectng the fish to be dry, given the large size of the fish. I was wrong. It was melt in your mouth stuff. I asked if I could buy some and out of her bag came another packet. I shall savour it this weekend with my friends and family.
After my Bariatirc surgery, I may not be able to eat such wonderful food; you just don;t know with these things, but the fact that I have tried it now makes me feel damned good. Thanks Melita. You are one hell of a woman and I hope you don't have to wait for another ten years. I hope you havn't spoilt my taste for other smoked fish now!  Guess what---- Melita doesn't like it!

Mr Key, you have made a mockery of the refugee 'quota systerm.'

Last weekend the Prime Ministers of New Zealand and Australia met at the iconic town of Queenstown, New Zealand. The pristine air did nothing for their thinking if what we are hearing about a decision they made.
It seems that NZ is about to take 150 refugees and that this number will be included in the 750 that NZ usually takes. This will happen each year. There is a fundamental problem with this, all in the name of fairness.
If NZ does go ahead and take these refuges, it is most unfair to those genuine refugees who are ‘doing the right thing’ by joining the quiz The refugees that Mr Key has agreed to take are from the queue-jumpers who have paid exorbitant prices to ‘people smugglers,’ then to be placed on islands near Australia to be processed when their boats either sink or enter Australian waters.
Mr Kay uses the reasoning that if and when NZ receives ‘boat people’ who have managed to make it this far, then Australia will help process them. This is all a little vague and possibly improbable given the nature of the Tasman Sea.
Come-on Mr Key and Ms Gillard----get real. This is nothing more than an attempt to push NZ not taking a group of people on a regular basis who are not following process. Is this not a message to the rest of the world where People smuggling is rampant that NZ is a soft target simply because Australia has not found a solution to this vexing problem?
Yes, NZ must play its part in helping to resolve issues around people smuggling, but no in this manner. Go back to Ms Gillard, Mr Key and do not be pressured into making these stupid and unfair decisions.

Poverty in New Zealand

I have long believed that figures quoted for ‘poverty’ in New Zealand are way under the mark. There is a great deal of hidden poverty and some of that is masked by ‘credit card debt,’ with the owners of many cards in a position that will not see them paying off the debt for many years, if ever.
Figures quoting numbers between $18 and $20 as being the minimum wage needed for even a basic existence have been released. If you live in Auckland, Christchurch or Wellington, the issue is even more serious. Think back to the last election and $15 an hour failed to make it as an acceptable minimum wage.
If these figures for the new minimum wage are to be believed, then a vast number of New Zealanders are being left behind. God knows how they manage each week and if anything out of the ordinary hits them, then they slide further into debt. We are basically sitting on a time bomb, because the forces are building that lead to increased crime, suicide, child poverty, ill health and kids falling behind in their learning, simply because their households lack the means to provide a base in which to ‘thrive.’
I can hear the cries from those who say that ---‘hey we did it and look where we are now.’ Of course that can be true, but for many people, no amount of ‘cutting and scraping’ will mean that there is a surplus at the end of the week. For those living on various benefits, the problem is even worse, but the fact remains that for at least 750,000 ‘working NZers, poverty is a fact of life.
We will hear platitudes from the political parties, with National leading the way, to diffuse the situation by attacking beneficiaries and playing down the need for higher wages, all under the theory that NZ must be competitive on the international market; that is it must remain a low wage economy in order to be able to make profits. They don’t say however that much of that leaves our shores for foreign bank accounts.
Labour will play around the edges, but they can no longer make the claim that they are a ‘workers party.’ That label has long gone ‘south.’ The other parties will scramble for the crumbs of political clap trap; nothing in their policies making a real difference.
I have painted a nasty picture of the future for a large number of New Zealanders. For those who see the same factors or who live them and don’t think beyond how they feel, then there is always the ‘Australian scenario,’ but even that is now being increasingly seen as a dream that is often jaded for the players.
What can we do then in New Zealand, to restore some of those wonderful ‘halcyon days’ of that distant past, if it ever existed? I don’t want to be one of those individuals who just take swipes at the ‘system’ without suggesting answers, but sadly I suspect that I am. I watch Parliament when I can and that observation leads me to the conclusion that for the most part, it is a circus, albeit one that is supreme to the alternatives. I just wish that individuals could hold more sway with their ideas than party machines alone.
I get the feeling that the world to which NZ belongs has become one that is controlled by ‘big business, more so than Governments. One only has to look at how little large USA businesses pay way less taxes than they should, sending their profits to countries that allow them to hide their profits. If those companies paid their share, the USA could lead a recovery in the world economy and a ‘real trickle’ would flow down to those at the bottom of the pile. I suspect that the same issue affects large NZ companies.
Much could be done in NZ to close the gap if wealth was shared more evenly, but somehow, I know the battle is not happening re the poor, because their voices are not heard and they have little or no influence on policy making. The bottom line is that the rich fight far harder in a range of ways to keep their money than the poor, because they have the means. The poor simply do not have the power, but as their numbers grow, something will snap as it has in the past. Then the balance is partially restored until the next ‘tidal wave’ comes. We are approaching that time.
We are a small country and our ties are closer than those of larger nations, so perhaps that ‘connection’ can lead to meaningful policies and actions to prevent some sort of violent ‘shakedown,’ something that never works in the long run. I want to live in a country that ‘cares,’ as indeed many of us do, on both sides of the ‘wealth divide,’ and return to a more inclusive society.

Masterchef--maybe the contestants should watch previous shows

What is it with some contestants and their inablitity to get the 'seasoning right?' It was sad to see a young guy thrown out, after having had a second chance to make ammends. He over-salted and peppered his dish. Why didn't he watch previous shows and learn the lesson---you must not under or over season a dish. He wasn't alone in that 'failing.' Is it that the contestants just guess or do they have no idea. Lets face it; there is a tendancy for many people and countless processed foods to be over-salted. With all the publicity and a history of  people leaving the show for such transgressions, one would think they would have learnt, but no; they continue to chuck in the salt, possibly not testing and hope for the best. Obvioulsy that stance leads to failure and exlcusion. Learn the lesson well, remaining contestants!

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Fingers of 'fill' push out into the Manukau Harbour.

I drive past the big machinery everyday alongside the South Western motorway, more often than not, four times as I take Perdy for her daily walk/manic run. I am excited by the progress and I can’t wait to see the completed $30 million worth of beaches and parks.

Onehunga has long been the poor cousin when it comes to spending money on its ‘lost beaches.’ That is all changing as the trucks and heavy machinery are pushing out into the sea and the shape of things to come emerges.

My only worries are that the ‘dogs’ have access (yes even if it is restricted, much like what happens on Takapuna Beach during Summer time hours and that the water quality allows for safe swimming. My research tells me that the Manukau Harbour is safe enough these days, except after it has rained heavily. Is this not the same on the Waitemata beaches, especially on the North Shore?

Keep up the good work, contractors and we shall all benefit from a rejuvenated Onehunga Foreshore.
It's a start, but a good start.

We are not winning the war on 'P' (Methamthetamine) in New Zealand!

I had been led to believe that New Zealand was winning the ‘war on ‘P’ but apparently my understanding is wrong, according to a confidential Police report that is now public. I had thought that efficient policing combined with an attitudinal change has been instrumental in this scourge on our society waning. Sadly, it seems my perceptions are based on inaccurate reports I have been reading in the news media.

If anyone knows the truth I think that it would be the police. Day after day they are observers of our society as well as guardians for the safety of our nation. The police are not seeing a drop in the use of ‘P,’ despite their efforts to curtail this evil drug. Families are still being torn apart, business put at risk and our young people are still being enticed into this ‘dark world.’ ‘P’ figures as a contributing factor for many of the burglaries and other crimes that beset every corner of our country.

The late Sir Paul Holmes was a tireless fighter in the battle against ‘P.’ I had been meaning to send him a copy of my book, ‘Roskill,’ but I never got around to it. Others need to take up the challenge.  ‘Roskill’ is about a family struggling with the results of a member who has entered the world of ‘P’ and how it self-destructs. It is only when Moana,’ the mum decides to fight back that there is any hope. This could be any family in any country. What would you do if you faced that terrible ‘truth?’

‘Roskill’ is primarily written for teenagers, but parents should read it too. It contains a message of hope and at asks the big question---what would you do?

Go to  to buy your copy or get one from me direct at


Support group for 'Bariatric Surgery' people

I have been asked by a few people if I would be interested in starting a support group for people who are going thorugh the same process I am embarking upon. My answer is, yes I will, but I think I need to 'let a little more water go under the bridge first. I feel that although I run groups in my work as a counsellor, I would prefer to experience the 'ups and downs' that I know are just ahead of me. That in turn will give me a deeper understanding of the real world of future 'group members,' and bring a level of empathy to add to the experience I have already gained in groupwork. Read my blogs and I shall keep adding to them. The next stage on my journey is to see the Dietician, followed by my final meeting with the surgeon. Then it's 4 weeks of Optifast before the date with the 'future me.'
PS--If there are people who would like an online support group, I can create a Facebook page too. Let me know.

Friday, February 8, 2013

Nigeria----sad events for an emerging giant.

The news that health workers were murdered while trying to eradicate Polio in Nigeria comes as yet another warning about how far extremists (Islamic/Sharia law proponents in this case) will go to force their beliefs upon the vast majority of the moderate Christians and Muslims of this huge country. Nigeria has a complex makeup and a large number of ethnic groups. Most of them have a love of their country and hold views that mirror those of most humans; a desire to bring up their families, receive an education and be able to provide for their families.

Take any country and this ‘middle group’ is usually the majority, but all too often an ‘extremist tail’ holds sway to a point that does not represent their actual numbers. The majority does not ‘become involved’ to the extent that these marginalized do in everyday politics. If they do, it is from a peaceful/legal perspective; quite unlike their violent and militant opposition.

It is the very nature of ‘moderates,’ not to use extreme methods to push their agendas. In countries where ‘democracy is still emerging,’ the struggle itself is fraught with danger as groups vie for the baubles of power. Where ‘religion’ is used as the driving force to effect ‘policy,’ the picture changes from that we see in the USA, India or indeed New Zealand, my home country, to one of violent street movements and assassination of those opposing the views of the extreme element.

It has taken countries like the UK a thousand years to arrive at their ‘Westminster’ system of democracy and two centuries for the USA to practise and work their system which in turn drew from other historical examples. We cannot expect emerging democracies to suddenly ‘hit the mark,’ but they will work out their own systems.

They may not mirror those of the ‘West,’ but that is their decision. Trying to impose ‘our’ systems will not work. They will have to find their own solutions to the extremist threat and only when ‘invited’ should the West intervene, and then only in a manner that is agreed to by the emerging nation.

The days of the USA and others trying to force the issue, under the guise of the UN or some other body (NATO, EU) should be seen as an action from the past. We have seen countless examples of such actions being counter-productive to the forces of democracy as the local population becomes the loser. We need to look at our own histories to see that there were whole segments of the populace that were either alienated or subjugated during these formative periods.

Nigeria’s struggle to become a modern democracy is one that is going to take time. As an emerging middle-class demands an increasing say and an end to corruption, the picture will become clearer. They will need to find a way forward to deal with those extremists, mainly in the North of the country.

Perhaps they can become the South Korea of Africa. That country has moved to a position that is the envy of Asia and that struggle had its moments. Of course they have the unsolved issue of their Northern ‘cousins.’ Religion is not the only ‘dogma’ that divides and ‘political dynasties’ also cast their controlling shadow over the aspirations of the ever suffering populace.

For those of us in the middle; some of us lucky enough to live in nations where the political/power sharing desires of the citizens have outlets that do not cause fractions and where political change is ‘peaceful.’ We should give some thought to the struggles to those countries that have barely begun their journeys. Let not those who wish to impose their narrow views of what constitutes the make-up of a nation state have their way. Those in the ‘middle’ need to step up to the mark and garner a good deal of courage in order to stand up to the ‘despots.’
Nigeria----your day will come!



Thursday, February 7, 2013

Australia and New Zealand--almost 'bedfellows.'

No, I am not talking about gay marriage (but I will if you want) but I am talking about the very special relationship between NZ and Aussie. Maybe it’s a bit like that between the USA and Canada. Then again it’s a bit different, depending on what level you are talking about and who you are talking to. One similarity is that NZ and Canada sometimes feel like they are being treated like the smaller sibling.

There is no getting away from the fact that NZ and Australia have a shared history; in sports, cultural heritage (the European side) and economic ties and in the common sharing of blood during war time.

Like any ‘siblings,’ we have little hissy fits from time to time, but to be fair, it is NZ that throws the toys from the cradle; most times Australia hardly notices that NZ has even let loose. That comes down to the fact that NZ just hates been patronised and Australia doesn’t even know it is doing it.

There is no getting away from the fact that both nations are inextricably tied, economically. The relationship benefits both nations and if anything, it grows stronger; to the point that the Trans-Tasman economy is almost as ‘one.’ This economic give and take has been a long time in the making and it has not always been one way. There have been times when the ‘flow’ of people has been form Australia to New Zealand and that may well occur again in the future as Australians tire of ‘fires and floods,’ along with a fear of unfettered inflow of refugees from parts further afield.

Sometimes Aussies feel that they are disporprtio0naltly affected by hard economic times in NZ. This takes the form of thousands of NZers leaving for Australia and then becoming a burden on the Aussie taxpayers when things don’t work out. Similarly they may feel that NZ is not holding up its share of the Trans-Tasman defence arrangements. There is no doubt that Australia shoulders the much bigger part of defence commitments in the region.

It could be said that NZ’s armed forces are run-down and if it were not for the goodwill of Australia, our ‘forces’ would be verging on a joke. Take for example the fact that Australia pays for a group of specialist navy personnel to fill the gaps in the NZ navy, left by NZers leaving for ‘greener ‘pastures in Australia.

NZ cannot continue to rely on Australian goodwill; it must take a stronger role in this special relationship. Yes, the ‘sheep jokes’ will continue and Australians will still take the piss out of us, but we can give that back in kind. Just scratch the surface and the ‘real relationship’ will become apparent; one that is genuine and destined to be the dominant force in the South pacific/Tasman Ocean area. There is not much NZ can do about the fact that Australia is just ‘bigger’ than us.

Italian voters ---I hope you do not have short memories!

Since WW2 Italy has had dozens of Governments, some of them with a very short life. In later years, Berlusconi has featured in quite a few of them. He is also in the position of controlling a good deal of Italy’s media and has unashamedly used this to push his own political agenda. At the other end of the scale he has been tainted re a range of issues, almost too many to list.
I am sure that we could call him ‘shady’ to say the least in New Zealand. We would simply not trust him. Now we have the prospect of him leading yet another Government. I can only make a plea to Italians to search their memoires about this guy and when they vote in a few weeks, take into account his recent history. Can you really trust this guy? Can you not see that he is once again manipulating the media and offering outright bribes to the rich and middle-classes? Do you not learn from history?
I hope that for the sake of the nation that you choose wisely on Election Day. I do however feel for you, as your political past has been turbulent and I do not see any evidence of a ‘rising star,’ so do your best. Italy will have its place in the sun no matter who you chose and the people will eventually root out that which corrupts.