Monday, December 31, 2012

Guns and Hollywood

Cam Slater (aka Whaleoil) struck a raw nerve with his post (1 January 2013):

"A whole bunch of anti-gun celebrities have come out with a video against guns…the problem is the hypocrites have  made films, tv shows, made money from the glorification of the gun culture they now stand against…some even use guns themselves as a hobby…and all caught on camera.

Mike Hunt has taken their video and made a mashup of their utter hypocrisy:"

This video shows the raw truth of what is terribly wrong with the entertainment industry. It is appalling how Hollywood dishes up this violent gun culture totally divorced from reality and worse that we public pay to see it.  Both the creators and consumers have blood on their hands when some nutter shoots innocent people.

Hunters know well the damage that high powered rifles do to mammalian flesh and bone and the thought of them causing that to any human-being is unthinkable.  Yet it is hunters that suffer the political fallout and public odium to anybody who owns guns.  Yes there are tragic hunting accidents, some inexcusable, but fortunately they are rare.  Cars, motorbikes, and chainsaws cause tragic accidents too.

If President Obama really wants to reduce these awful mass shootings, he should tackle mindless gun violence on film and computer.  The entertainment industry wont stop it voluntarily.  

Saturday, November 24, 2012

The story of Corporal Harold Smith's action in WW1 at Chunuk Bair, Gallipoli

I found this story in the personal effects my grandfather (Bill James of Whangarei). My grandfather had Harold Smith's letter published in the Northern Advocate  12th Nov 1915.

It is a tale of humour made in times of great horror. I'm publishing it again
as part of the 100th anniversary of World War One and to ensure he and his mates are not forgotten .
Corporal Harold W. Smith



Corporal Harold Smith, writing to his friend, Mr H.W. James, Whangarei from Malta hospital on September 7th says:-

"At last I have been able to dig up a piece of paper and pencil to send you a little news.  We arrived at Suez after six weeks on the water.  Although we had a good trip I was not sorry to set foot on land once again.  We came ashore about 4 pm and entrained straight away for Cairo, and then onto Camp at Zeitoun, where we arrived about 3 am the following morning.  Our stay here lasted only about a week, when we got order to get to the front as quickly as possible.  So we were taken to Alexandria and boarded the transport which took us to Lemnos Island, a large base a few hours steam from the Peninsula.

That was “some trip”.  It only took two days, but that was long enough for me.  You know what a great sailor I am.  That ship was absolutely filthy, the stink was terrible, we were so crowded, well you had to lean over the side to poke your tongue out.  All we had to eat was bully beef and biscuits and sleep where you could find room to lie down.  I slept in a lifeboat - most remarkable I seem to patronise these safe places.  

Well, we arrived without accident, and at sunset were transhipped to small steamers and taken up the Dardanelles.  We landed in barges.  Everything went lovely.  In fact, I might say “all was merry as a marriage bell’ until we came within 500 yards of shore.  Then for some unaccountable reason everybody stopped talking and seemed to crouch down behind any cover they could find.  I put it down to the pieces of lead that were flying through the air.  I didn't know for sure because I’d never been to a war before, but a chap told me after we got ashore that the Turks were most careless with their rifles; that they would fire at anybody.  In fact I was sorry to hear this you know, as I thought they might start firing at me.  Well my son we were fired at from the time I landed until I was hit.  I tell you we had a pretty lively time.  

It was early on Sunday morning when we landed, and we started off by carrying ammunition up to the reserves.  You know how light a case of .303 is to carry, and how fresh and energetic and happy you feel after being in your equipment (which is altogether too light, weighing only 60 lbs.) for 24 hours, with nothing to appease a gnawing hunger, or a well developed thirst.  You know, my dear William, how much more pleasant it is to do these things in the dark, with wires lying around just about the level of your neck.  Of course there were not many, in fact not nearly enough.  I hit every one and from my rough estimation there were about 2000.  

However, we had a bit of a spell when we got under cover, and a feed of bully beef, and those very soft biscuits which they serve out, and then felt ready for any little job they might give us to do.  We got it too. In the afternoon, in company with some Tommy’s, we advanced up to what they called Shrapnel Gully, under heavy shrapnel fire.  We lost a few men but reached the top and dug ourselves in, and were comparatively safe.  We were to hold ourselves here to be ready for a big charge, which was to take place the following day.  

I had a good sleep that night being dead tired, and in the morning after making a little tea and scoffing some more bully beef, I was feeling pretty fit.  The shrapnel was falling round fairly thickly.  One of our fellows got a piece through the jaw and I got out of cover to tie it up for him, when ping! a shell burst right overhead and I got a piece fair in the back, just missed the spine by an inch.  As it is I have lost the use of of my legs, Bill, although the doctors say it will come back.  The wound is almost healed now, as I have been wounded over five weeks.  

I have had no mail since leaving New Zealand and do not suppose I will get any now, as they take such a devil of time to locate us.  I suppose I will be sent back to New Zealand when I get a little strength, and my wound is healed.  Although my legs are gone, I consider myself lucky compared to some of the poor fellows I saw up there and back here.  You cannot imagine it until you see it.  It is Hell!"

Death Notice:

Corporal Harold W. Smith

After prolonged suffering, Corporal Harold W. Smith, Auckland Infa
ntry, passed away at Tooting Military Hospital, England.  Corporal Smith who was 24 years of age, received a bullet in the back in the big attack on Chunuk Bair early in August, the lower part of his body being paralysed.  After treatment at Malta, he was removed to England, and underwent an operation about six weeks ago, for the removal of the bullet.  The latter, however, could not be reached, and after a brave struggle he died on December 8th.  He was buried with military honours at Wandsworth Cemetery, many Australian and New Zealand soldiers attending.

(I am unaware if Harold Smith has any descendants or relatives. Please feel free to disseminate the above article for public good purposes), IJ

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Okarito whitebait story

La Femme d'Oracle

I fish too, once a year, for WHITEBAIT.  A family delicacy.  As the only one of 9 siblings left on the Coast I'm expected to provide. 

The seasons been poor.  Two days ago I squeezed into my wetsuit on a rare day with no wind or rain. After 2-hours scooping I had 50 or 60 bait, my first for the season. They were still swimming in the one egg I whipped up, but died quickly as they hit the frying pan. I ate them all, relieved I was alone, & not expected to share my first taste.  Ahhh!  So delicious !!

So to Labour weekend. Lovely visitors. I determine to treat eldest son who shares my love of whitebait. Still raining. COLD. I join 20 other brave souls and trawl the river for 2 more hours. The bait are so scarce, I'm embarrassed to take home just half a dozen. Or is it 8.

Add 1 egg?? or 2??  They swim in water in the bucket on the kitchen bench while I thaw out under lashings of hot water (solar remember).

But no. They are admired. And photographed. And then, with umbrella to shelter them from the pouring rain, my city visitors return the luckiest ever 8 whitebait to the wetland under the boardwalk,  just over the road from our house.

Delicacies should always be presented frozen!!

The 8 lucky whitebait

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Two West Coast Rain Poems

Bloody Hell its wet!!

It rained and rained and rained 
The average fall was well maintained 
And when the tracks were simple bogs 
It started raining cats and dogs. 
After a drought of half an hour 
We had a most refreshing shower 
And then most curious thing of all 
A gentle rain began to fall. 
Next day but one was fairly dry 
Save for one deluge from the sky 
Which wetted the party to the skin 
And then at last the Rain set in! 

Rain come down, it all comes down to rain:
the great rain, the dark rain, the Rain Father

pissing his worst in the headwaters, Mother-
of-all-Rains squatting, showering blood, mud

rain ricochets back off the clay, the heavens
polluted, the hills collapse, slip rain, sod rain,

the fat tears of God rain, rain so thick and vast
it can drown the prayers of believers from

you back to Jesus! Fear rain, awe rain, rain no
beggared philosopher washed downstream on a

trunk of rata could ever explain: dog rain, cat and
rat rain, the rain that drowns ambition, swallows

towns and smashes bridges, train-eating, brain-
beating, roof-drumming over & over & over. Rain.

Source: Jeffrey Paparoa Holman, The late great Blackball bridge sonnets. Wellington: Steele Roberts, 2004, p. 40

Sunday, September 9, 2012

Matarangi. An example of how not to build a town.

From the Coromandel highway turn-off, the road to Matarangi winds its way through a wetland on the southern side of the Whagapoua Estuary.  After several kms you reach a rather dilapidated concrete monument that marks the entrance to Matarangi.  The first sight in the settlement is the town refuse station,  followed by the CBD, an enclave of cheaply-built shops dominated by realestate businesses with flags flying.

Further on, the road leads through large areas of incomplete and unsold sections.  A place of unfinished subdivisions, halted because the money ran out.  We naturally looked for the beach but were instead led around a spider web of roads to the estuary boat ramp, decaying and silting up.  No sign of any effort to maintain or upgrade the facilities.  The sea floor was littered with rotting fish-frames, not a good look.  Backtracking we at last found the beach,  accessible down a few narrow pathways that run between empty holiday houses.  The beach itself is quite attractive.

How was such a soul-less place created?  The developers responsible for Matarangi (Hanover Group) should be charged for crimes against the NZ coastline.  They have created a settlement that privatises its prime asset, the beach.  In place of an accessible foreshore with open space and facilities it is all private holiday homes built along the fore-dune.  It is plain to see that the developer's goal was simply to maximise the number of sections for sale.

Where was the Hauraki District Council planning input?  To become viable communities, beach settlements need character and facilities.  Roads should lead visitors and residents alike to a generous central public space along the beach front with room for recreation and business growth.  Its not all about short-term gain through section sales.   The alternative is simply a disorganised cluster of empty holiday homes.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Okarito Marine and Mataitai Reserves

This year we've had major change in the legal status of our coastline and lagoon.  A new marine reserve is  agreed but not yet gazetted to include Three-mile, Five-mile and Waiho beaches.  A mataitai reserve covers Okarito lagoon and a short distance of the coastline about the lagoon entrance.

The process to create a marine reserve was driven by central government although they appointed a West Coast Forum to come up with the detail.  The goal was to have 10% of the coastline reserved, ostensibly to fulfill NZ's international responsibilities, but this has not been achieved.

As is the norm with resource matters these days, the process was an excessively drawn out battle between conservation interests and the fishing industry.  Local people's wishes were very much a sideshow; a re-run of what happened in the forest industry battles of last century.  Most local people from Okarito, liked the idea of marine reserves but their submissions as to boundaries etc. were largely ignored.

What really set off our alarm bells was the greenies idea that half of Okarito lagoon should be included in the reserve.  That in our view was ridiculous because it would have meant a split management regime for the lagoon and cut our food gathering resources in half.  By sheer good luck that idea was canned because the government took the lesser of two strategic options over the total area of reserves.

The whole process required having to submit on THREE occasions.  However,  it focussed our attention on fishing activities we had taken for granted.  Local wild food is so important to the identity of a place and where people choose to live.  At Okarito we have local shellfish and fish resources which broadly come under the challenger fishery zone regulations.  They cover a vast area of widely different local habitats.  We felt that those global catch guidelines are often inappropriate at a local level and impossible for us to have any influence on.

Gathering kaimoana in the Okarito Mataitai.
This is where the mataitai reserve enters the picture.  Our local tangata whenua,  Te Runanga o Makaawhio, raised a Mataitai proposal and after a good deal of thought locals liked the idea. The big attraction was the fact that it was locally generated and not imposed from abroad.

Let me explain briefly for those of you unfamiliar with mataitai reserves.  While they exist under the the fisheries act, they are not a marine reserve.  Rather their purpose is to recognise traditional Maori fishing grounds and provide for management of the customary food gathering by the local tangata whenua.  They generally exclude commercial fishing but allow for recreational fishing without permits by Maori and non-Maori alike.  Best of all, from our point of view, they allow for management of seafood by locals.

Makaawhio now may nominate someone as guardian, tangata tiaki/kaitiaki, for the reserve who can recommend local rules for sustainability.  As always, final control rests with the Minister of Fisheries who will undertake an "extensive consultation process" over local rules - God spare us that!

We hope commonsense will prevail and local Maori and paheka alike can feel they have the major say in the enjoyment and sustainability of their local fishery resources.

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Coromandel Mining Conundrum

The message is loud and clear.   Stark NO MINING signs pop up all along Coromandel's hilly roadsides to warn the Drillers and diggers they are not welcome.  The regions rich mining history is celebrated in the quaint museums and tourist sites but today it's a big NO-NO.  Not in our back yard, thank you. It is clear the descendants of these early miners have totally lost any empathy with the industry of their forefathers.

Before making any more comments I should declare that I invest in Australian mining companies that operate in Asia and Africa. In those regions the vast majority of responsible mining projects are very welcome, bringing roads, royalties, jobs, education and health benefits to local people.  If you don't believe me read the annual reports of the companies involved. You can see how much local workers appreciate the benefits by the enthusiasm in their faces.  As a shareholder, I may benefit too although not in the past year.

But rest easy Coro protestors!  Why?  The political risk is too high in your District.  The mining industry remembers Helen Clark's unilateral decision to ban mining in Coromandel with no compensation to existing Licence holders.  Very few companies, beyond the energy sector, are going to dig holes in your backyard given the political risk, hostile locals and the expensive drawn-out public process needed to get approval even to prospect, let alone mine.  The orebody would need to be worth billions to risk the capital and effort. On the other hand, if such an orebody exists, the rest of NZ may say we cannot afford to leave it in the ground?

Assuming the unfound billions are a myth, where does this leave Coromandel?  Does it pay it's way in NZ Inc? I doubt it.  Not much sign of revenue here.  Farming north of Thames, with a few notable exceptions, looks like it barely earns enough to pay rates.  There are good mussel and oyster farms but that industry is also the subject of protest.  There is logging but the rate of cut suggests that work will soon be over for a few decades until the next plantation crop is ready.  A local sawmill would have generated more sustainable jobs, but that option was protested away.  Tourism? Well yes there is obvious potential but the local industry seems to consist mainly of low key, low profit activities.

The only boom industry evident is building holiday houses for Aucklanders along the sea coast.  It is amazing to see the millions, probably billions, of real estate and pleasure boats, that sit unused apart from a few days per year.  Can NZ really afford this?  But judging by the number of local real estate listings and few sales, its game over since the global financial crisis.  The governments budget announcements over the tax treatment of pleasure assets just nails the coffin shut.

What is poorly recognised is that holiday homes, i.e. urban development, has had far more visual and environmental impact than any potential gold mine.  Simply compare New Chums beach with Whangapoua!  Brings to mind the truism often quoted overseas "that the total land area disturbed by mining in Australia is less than the area covered by concrete car parks in the cities".

I have no answers to Coromandel's conundrum.  NZ will likely just leave the place to struggle along as Auckland's playground. In winter when there are few people about, it's a nice place to step off the planet and chill out along the beautiful coastline.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Coromandel for the Winter 2012

Last week, Deb and I, like godwits, migrated north to Whangapoua Beach, Coromandel, for the winter.  My brother and wife live here but this year they've travelled far further north to Europe.  An offer to house mind was too good to miss. After the West Coast, Coromandel is my favourite district.  Both share an extended coastline but "Coro" beaches are definitely more user friendly.  Its a   chance to relive my Northland childhood catching fish and exploring the bays and headlands. We've been here a week now, time to settle in and adjust to the new surroundings.  It's ironic that there are many similarities between the two localities.  Both have large estuaries with ample "wild food"; cockles, pipis, flounder, mullet and kahawai.  Okarito has trout and salmon whereas Whangapoua has piper, snapper and kingfish, plus OYSTERS. Wild food, the gathering of,  is a big part of our golden years.  Be it wild game, sea food, abandoned fruit trees, you name it, we've got our eyes peeled for anything wild and free.  Coro is rich in the stuff.  So far we've spotted rabbits, peacocks, quail and pheasants.  Wild pigs lurk in the surrounding hills.  Shellfish and fish are abundant too.  We're sure we won't starve this winter. Once we've stocked the larder I'll write other impressions of the District of Coromandel.

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Jock Anderson's jibe at Australians pre-Anzac Day.

Jock Anderson's controversial comments on Radio-NZ "afternoon panel" labelling Australian WW1 soldiers as "lazy bludgers" are hard to fathom.  Did the comments come from other historians re-inventing history or were they a tongue in cheek jibe at the Australians, a trifle overdone?  I listened to the playback and Jock delivered them with an authentic tone. I'd say he now regrets them or he ought to.

The comments defy logic. Anyone who visits the Australian outback is struck by how harsh the environment is, especially without air-conditioning and modern vehicles.  Even today Australians from the bush are tougher and more capable in the outdoors than most nationalities.
Cpl William James 44936

My grandfather, Bill James, fought in the Somme briefly, before catching measles.. He survived the remainder of the WW1 by joining the regimental band.  I have his personal diary and the hardship he suffered is well documented, cushioned by his special humour.  I've heard old-timers say the British fed their horses better than the colonial troops. I can't imagine it was any easier at Gallipoli.  Bill James mentioned having to steal eggs off Belgium farmhouses, but was also grateful for the food generously provided by local families.  He was often half starved on army rations.

As a child I was particularly interested in WW2 and I read many of the books written by Churchill and NZ soldiers in the late 1940's and 50's. My father was medically unfit for war and served in the home guard but my Uncle Jack Richards of Whangarei served in Egypt and Crete.  He was captured in Crete and survived the sinking of the Nino Bixio in 1942 by swimming in the sea for several hours before being rescued (by the wrong side). In my opinion, there is no way he or the fellow Australians in that war could have been described as bludgers.

Lcpl John Richards 36028

I've heard ex officers in the 1950's saying that Britain would never have won the war without the troops from her ex-colonies and the USA.  The crucial difference in the quality of the colonial troops related to the skills they learned from being mainly farm boys.  They were used to fixing machinery and travelling long distances.  If the tank or truck broke down they could fix it immediately.  In contrast, the British or German troops would wait for the engineers.

As for the character of modern Australians, the great grandsons/daughters of the diggers, this I can attest personally from clients we had in our kayak business at Okarito.  When conditions got tough, that is paddling in the cold and wind and against the tide, young Australians performed as well as any NZlders, and better than other nationalities.

The whole affair seems like many others these days, reinvent history or make shock horror statements simply to gain notoriety.

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Wild Foods Festival - Okarito style

By Debbie

Blackberries and Yogurt  Mmmm!

Step outside our house after dinner these evenings and you will feast on a treat remembered from childhood....we are in the midst of one of the best blackberry seasons I can remember.  The first crop was light, as always, but the berries were plump and sweet.  Now we're into the main crop and bushes are laden.

Blackberry season co-insides with excursions to favourite and sometimes secret sites!!!  Its a family tradition, and as the only remaining family members still permanently "on the Coast" its up to us to fill the freezer with berries for the homecoming visits, and the resulting mouth-watering pies.

More intensive farming these days has greatly reduced the areas of wild lands. Blackberries are largely confined to roadsides and riverbeds.  The best berries are found amoungst the scattered clumps of totara trees at the extremities of the river-flats.  Several spots are known to host the so-called "Italian" variety, big juicy berries with bursting flavour.  Roaming with your billy,  often brings to mind the early pioneers who introduced these plants, what a welcome relief they must have been to fruit staved gold miners.

As they must have been to our mothers and grandmothers, who made jellies and pies, in an era where frozen supermarket treats were non-existent.  Today our grandchildren ask when visiting from the city "do you have any of those black berries in the freezer" and gobble them up frozen - the healthiest fast food ever.

But back to Okarito - is that a mushroom over there - better stop the black-berrying and take off your hat, there's a feast on the ground, popped up overnight, a legacy from the days of sheep roaming freely.

And hurry, nearly low tide, time to gather mussels ;  time and tide wait for no man!!!

Monday, February 20, 2012

Fix the Building Act.

After Bernard Hickeys lamentation, Govt eyes blind to housing crisis, Not PC published a brilliant blog Unaffordable housing? No wonder!

"IN A NUTSHELL, THE big problem is that government has gone beyond right: it has passed laws giving the Reserve Bank the power to print money, bureaucrats the power to prescribe the methods and materials by which houses are built, and  planners the power to control and restrict people’s land."

"Meanwhile, the Department of Building and Housing were given the power to tell builders how to build houses. Rather than deregulation, which never happened here, builders have endured a flood of new regulation: producing pages and pages of gold-plated building regulations and a rise in the cost to build a house that has out-paced even the rate of house price rises"

Everyone has their own horror story of mindless regulation or engineering opinions needed to get compliance for a standard 3 bedroom kiwi house.  Pity the building inspectors, who driven by desire to eliminate liability for their Council, have to meticulously enforce every detail.  In our district even an 80 year-old hut in the bush cannot be altered unless it conforms with the Act.

Is there is the way out of this mess?    Here's my suggestion:  

Preserve the Building Act but widen the range of quality standards.   What I mean is broaden the Act from a singe "gold-plated" standard by creating 4 classes of dwellings as follows:

1.  Class A - fully compliant with the Building Act and guaranteed by Council.  

2.  Class B - more than 80% compliant. Any new work must meet Building Act standards.  Non compliance issues clearly identified on the LIM.  

3.  Class C - less than 80% compliant.  Includes most pre-1990 housing. Must have sewage, electrical and fire safety compliance.  Owner can make alterations themselves so long as they comply with Council planning standards, height, shade size etc.  Bought/sold on caveat emptor basis.

4.  Class D - Non compliant. Includes the typical kiwi bach, huts, temporary accommodation, etc. Can be built by anyone but must have basic sewage, electrical and fire safety.  Bought/sold on caveat emptor basis.

To solve NZ housing needs we must provide more flexibility for people to meet their housing needs according to what they can afford.

Saturday, February 11, 2012

Climate Change: "NZ should drop ETS and adopt a simple carbon tax"

To continue from my earlier blog why NZ should have adopted a carbon tax rather than an ETS scheme.

Whaleoil has blogged the following excerpt article from the Financial Times (requires registration, then search ETS).

Europe’s largest employers’ group has warned against meddling in the carbon market to prop up sagging prices, just a day after one of the continent’s top energy executives declared the market “dead” and demanded urgent intervention to save it.
In a letter to parliament released on Wednesday, Philippe de Buck, president of BusinessEurope, warned that moves to withdraw carbon permits from the market to bolster prices “would, if implemented, create further uncertainty and price volatility, and establish a risky precedent of rapid political interference in the market”.
Mr De Buck, whose constituents have struggled to forge a common position on the issue, said he wanted “an open discussion … about the general climate policy framework and the longer term future” of the carbon market.
In December, the European parliament’s environment committee approved a resolution calling for the removal of more than 1bn surplus carbon permits from the market in an effort to shore up prices. The industry committee will vote on a similar measure at the end of this month.
Other elements of corporate Europe, particularly heavy industry, argue that such meddling would make a mockery of the market.
Johannes Teyssen, chief executive of Germany’s EON, urged policy makers to make fixes. “Let’s talk real: the ETS is bust, it’s dead,” Mr Teyssen said in Brussels this week, adding: “I don’t know a single person in the world that would invest a dime based on ETS signals.”
Our scheme is now in serious trouble (or will be shortly).  Message to John Key and Nick Smith, "Follow Australia with a carbon tax before the ETS gets even more embarrassing"

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Get your kids into agriculture.

Professor Jacqueline Rowarth from Massey University highlights the lack of New Zealand students interested in a science career in agriculture  She councils against filling the gap with overseas graduates, "some positions could not be filled by migrants as they require a hands on knowledge of NZ's agriculture and it would be smarter for the government to look after its own people".  I couldn't agree more.

All the signs point to agriculture being a smart career choice for young people.  With the world's population fast approaching 9 billion, and an even greater growth rate of middle-class,  food price rises seem inevitable. Great news for NZ because farm profitability has at long last started to improve.  The industry is adopting IT rapidly and this will lead to leaps in productivity and innovation.  Agriculture is the exiting place to be.

Unfortunately, it is an uphill battle to get our kids inspired in NZ's primary industries.  It just doesn't compete with  the warm fuzzies they see on TV such as conservation, psychology, small animal vets, cooking etc. I often ask students how they rate a forester on a scale from 1 - 10 where doctors and nurses were number 10 and used-car salesmen were say 1.  Students from New Zealand, Australia, USA and Canada universally put foresters a 2 - 3, (not respected).  A sad reality given that the world desperately needs better forest management and many more trees.  Interestingly, students from Europe often rate a forester at 8-9 just below the medics.  Agriculturalists have not had such bad press as foresters but I doubt they rate much above 5 on the popularity stakes.

Poor public perceptions of agriculture is by no means new. Even Massey University, years ago, dropped the good old Ag. Sci degree much to my chagrin at the time.  I went to Massey University straight from high school, a decision I have never regretted.  The B. Ag. was just what I needed.  It produced graduates who were true generalists, understanding a wide range of subjects such as;  biochemistry, animal/plant physiology, economics, statistics, management, ecology, mechanics, construction, microbiology, genetics, hydrology, dairy, meat, wool industries.  Best of  all, Massey taught us to think independently.

The great advantage of this degree was to open our eyes to possibilities we'd never heard of before. Graduates of my year dispersed into all sorts of careers in the primary industries, in my case, forestry science.  Massey taught me so much and shaped my thinking throughout my career.  I am always grateful for that.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Flying adventures.

A recent article (How far behind me is that 737) brought back similar memories from my flying career.

My experience was at the end of a flight from South Westland to Christchurch International Airport.  After an awe-inspiring but otherwise uneventful flight over the mountains, I reached  Dunsandel checkpoint and was cleared by the Tower to join "long final" for the main runway, 02.  Great I thought, feeling chuffed that my dusty old Cessna 172, CKN, was equal with the big boys.  The whole city should see I'd arrived.

Dunsandel is quite some distance from Christchurch so I kept up my speed gradually loosing height and scanning the airspace for other traffic. Over the radio came a call from a 747.  He was given permission to join "final", number 2 to the Cessna.  Mm mm! that's me!  I glanced behind and sure enough I could just make out the outline of  the 747 miles away.   Apart from a little tension that I didn't have the sky and airport to myself, things went smoothly.

For a bush pilot landing at an international airport is not all beer and skittles.  You need to sharpen up mentally to deal with radio traffic, several other aircraft in the sky, and funnily enough, decide where to land on the enormous expanse of tarmac ahead.  I had learnt that if you land too early you end up taxing for miles.

After a few more minutes the Tower cleared the 747 to land again behind the Cessna.  By this stage I was comfortable at 70 knots on "short final", setting up for a landing well down the runway.  The next radio call was the Tower clearing me to land and please clear the runway immediately to the left.   I glanced behind again - YIKES - the 747 was bloody enormous and was approaching fast.

Woowee! I immediately selected full flap, cut the power, and pushed down the nose for a short landing.  Once stable on the ground, I applied  full brakes and charged off to the left across the grass as instructed. Then followed 300 tons of high speed aluminium thundering down the strip, the crew no doubt laughing at my reaction.

Well so much for my hoped for dignified and notable arrival.  I taxied humbly along the access way well back from the 747 and slunk over to the private apron.  Back to the bush ASAP.

Sunday, January 1, 2012

The Humble Pipi

Its Xmas holidays and outdoor blokes find an irrepressible urge to escape and provide food for the extended family.  Despite the fact there is enough food around here to feed Africa more food must be gathered.

An easy way where the whole family can be involved is collecting pipis.  Mudflats are a great place for city kids to engage with nature - muddy water that hides crabs to bite small toes, plenty of sharp shells and small wriggly fish.  All adds up to lots of squeals, oohs and yuks.

The humble pipi is one of those strange life forms that some of us find a delicacy.  But unless exposed to shellfish as a child, most people are turned off by their weird shape and plainly visible intestines. "DISGUSTING" is the classic uninitiated teenager response to watching seafood lovers gorging on a pipi feast.  All the more for those who love them, I say.

Pipis and cockles were standard holiday fare at my grandfather Bill James's bach at Tameterau on the Whangarei harbour. My grandmother, Mary, would boil a great pot full and empty them into a large bowl on the table.  Bill would hold a stick and no one dared move until he said "GO" and the feast would begin.  We ate them plain with a little vinegar but bread was a compulsory accompaniment to stop us kids eating too many.

From that childhood grounding, whenever I moved to a new place in later life one of my first tasks was to locate kaimoana.  And it was Maori who often led me, either by direct invitation or my surreptitious observation.  The West Coast is not notable for extensive shellfish beds, nor do many locals seek them.  The pipis in the Okarito lagoon are hard to find because they are surprisingly mobile.  They prefer moderately loose fine sand with not too much glacial silt.  This habitat moves with every flood and the spring tides, as do the pipis.

I'm always a bit cautious about gathering after a flood or fresh in the river because of the risk of food poisoning even here at remote Okarito. While we have relatively few farms or septic tanks in the catchment (95% native forest), there are wild animals in the bush so it pays to be cautious.

Debbie's recipe for pipi patties.

Ingredients:   Throw into the blender;  two eggs,  one chopped onion, cup of herbs to taste e.g. parsley, basil, chives and some coriander (whatever you've got), salt and black pepper to taste, three tablespoons sweet chili sauce, teaspoon of crushed ginger, teaspoon of crushed garlic, two cups of pre-cooked pipis.

Mix and fold in approximately half a cup of flour until the mixture is firm.  If there is not enough flour the patties will not hold together.  Fry in olive oil in moderately hot pan being careful not to blacken.  Pipis burn easily.