Friday, December 4, 2009


Alexander is eleven years old.

He flew unaccompanied from Copenhagen to Auckland.

He has seen the pyramids of Egypt, the Blue Mosque in Istanbul, the mountains of Serbia and the cities of Israel.

He has tramped Lake Waikaremoana, dug in the sand at Hot Water Beach, caught maomao and swum with dolphins.

He described a baby blackbird being fed by the father until it was strong enough to fly away.

He taught us some Danish words and showed us how to suck sweet nectar from a flower in our garden.

He made sandwiches for his lunch and squeezed grapefruit for juice.

Alexander gives me hope for the world.

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Lose the lycra!

Is it shallow to care about how you look riding a bike? Not according to the CEO of Cycling England who told a recent cycling conference that "noteveryone wants to look like a rainforest toad on a bike". If we want to attract young women to cycling, he said, we should consider the barriers to their doing so. Hence the appeal of Frocks on Bikes whose members aim to "put the beauty back into biking" and have some fun in the process.

We should encourage people to take the short trips by bike or on foot. When we leave the car at home and bike to the dairy we get fresh air and exercise along with supplies. There is one less car on the road and we're saving money. These days a basic bike costs not much more than a tank of gas. And when we do drive we are more likely to share the road courteously with cyclists.
A recent survey showed that 42% of New Zealand households have a bike. Many are probably gathering dust in the garden shed. We could clean off the cobwebs, hop on and help save the planet. It could catch on!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Simple to Vote for the Super City

What do Rodney Hide, John Banks and Len Browne have in common?

They all agree that STV - Single Transferable Vote - is the best method to elect the mayor of Auckland.

Under STV, voters rank the candidates 1, 2, 3 ... If a candidate receives 50% or more of the votes, he or she is elected. If not, voter's second choices are transferred until a candidate gets over the 50% threshold. The elected mayor therefore enjoys the support of the majority of voters.

John Banks and Len Browne could receive a similar number of votes. Under First Past the Post a one vote margin could conceivably decide the mayoralty resulting in a minority mayor being elected.

The government has chosen to stay with FPP in Auckland on the basis that Auckland is already undergoing enough change. Given the importance of this election it would be an opportune time to adopt a fairer system.

Monday, November 2, 2009

from Refraction

Wonderful Waitakaruru!

If you should need convincing that art enhances public spaces, take a trip out to Waitakaruru Sculpture Park beyond Tauwhare (

It is worth going just for the twenty five glass sculptures in the current exhibition but also to enjoy all the other striking, beautiful and intriguing art in the landscaped gardens of the former quarry. Rhododendrons in full bloom are an added bonus at this time of the year while the Leaping Frog cafe is a year-round treat.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

but is it art?

We should expect contemporary art to push boundaries. In doing so, it may be controversial as was the winning entry at this year's Trust Waikato Contemporary Art Award. No doubt the judge's choice contributed to a 53% increase in visitor numbers at the museum compared to the previous September.

Dane Mitchell's Collateral, a pile of discarded packaging, is conceptual art where it is the idea that is important. It has also been described as "pretentious, self-indulgent, craftless tat". More critically, this particular idea has been done before.

As judgement rather than rules prevail in art, you may wish to decide for yourself.

Monday, October 5, 2009

on blogging

Blogs can be rabid rants or thoughtful comments on the issues of the day akin to talkback radio, letters to the editor or media opinion pieces. Some are intensely personal and may read like diary entries.
So they are then the written word - good, bad and indifferent - in a new medium in this digital age. Are blogs the no cost vanity publishing of the 21st century or more?

Friday, September 25, 2009


In the last ten days I have been fortunate to be part of a raft of celebrations.

  • The Recognyz Youth Awards celebrated outstanding and inspirational young people for their contributions to the community along with talented young performers who had the capacity crowd rocking.

Waikato's Latino community welcomed spring at their annual Fiesta de la Primavera with sensual dance, song and drumming. I would say that there are some advantages to having being colonised by the Spanish (except, of course, for the conquistadors and the Inquisition)

Hamilton's rainbow community launched Hamilton Pride Week with an entertaining launch featuring Gloria - in fine voice - an MP and more ... the week had something for everyone from picnic, pets, knitting, movies, the traditional interactive Rocky Horror Show, lectures and movies. Who says Hamilton is boring?

At the Sustainable Business Awards the standout popular winners were Te Whangai Trust from Kaiaua - where unemployed people grow native plants - and our Enviroschools - encouraging children to think sustainably - which began in Hamilton and is now nation-wide.

Classical pianist Stephen de Pledge is arguably Hamilton's most famous musical son. He returned to his home town to give a stunning performance at the university.

The third Jambo soccer tournament saw 29 teams of young players competing. How did Hamilton manage to muster teams from the Cameroons and Madagascar?

At the stylish Korean Youth Performing Arts event trendy teenage vocalists wowed the audience along with more traditional dancing and drumming but the beautifully costumed tiny tots stole the show.

We marked Suffrage Day on 19 September with both a brunch and a dinner.

The National Student Photographic competition, organised by Hamilton's Oliver Raman, is in its fifth year. The awards evening attracts students and their families from around the country. Their fabulous photos are on display at the Performing Arts Venue, University of Waikato will go on tour nationally.

Flagstaff's Kids Klub won a national award for their walking programme, Happy Feet. Thirty cute pre-schoolers lined up with their enthusiastic teachers and parents to be acknowledged for walking at least part of their journey to the child care centre each day.

From these occasions I see at first hand the dedication and hard work of those involved in these successful events - the organisers, the participants and their families. We are the richer for what they do.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Above the Parapet

It's just over a year to go before the next local body elections.

Women who may be considering standing for election in 2010, or wish to support others to do so, are invited to attend a seminar in Hamilton on Saturday 10 October which will cover what's involved, the joys and challenges of local government and strategies to be successful.

Professor Margaret Wilson will provide a historical overview of women's participation in public life. Penny Hulse began by protesting against a landfill in Swanson and is now Deputy Mayor of Waitakere City. Soraya Peke-Mason will share her experiences as Rangitikei District Council's first Maori woman councillor.

Julie Starr, Wintec Editor-in-residence, will look at case studies of how candidates may reach voters through cost effective social media.

This should be an informative, fun day with plenty of time for networking and discussion.

To enrol, email Milly Brown at or phone 858 5208.

Saturday, 10 October 2009 at St Peter's Cathedral Lounge, 10am -2.45pm.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Postcard Protests

We're in the age of postcard political protests. The current crop includes Stop Night Class Cuts, Waikato Commuter Train Now and New Zealanders Love Libraries - all causes which I support.

Members of Parliament and Ministers are being deluged with postcards by protesters making their point. No stamp needed!

It is relatively easy to sign a petition or send a postcard while it takes more time and thought to write to a MP. It takes even more time and commitment to a cause to show your support publicly by attending a protest rally. So it was encouraging that more than 200 people did so recently when they came to Garden Place to protest the cuts to night classes.

Some brought their own placards. Once which read - Night classes, not Prozac - captured the argument made the speakers that night classes benefit not just the individual attending but also the wider community and their support is therefore a sound investment for government.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Heart of the city

It's all very well to make the news and carry umbrellas and keep dry shoes
And say what everyone's saying here - and wear what everyone else must wear

But today I'm tired of the whole affair - I want free life and I want fresh air
I want to go to Garden Place - curl my hair and paint my face

Grab a coffee and a chair - find half of Council sitting there
Surf the net in the wi-fi space - read a yarn in the story place

Take the kids and grandma,too, take the monkeys from the zoo
Watch pink scooters hurtle by, gaze at the web cam in the sky
See the river passing through, listen to poetry as you do
Paint a picture! care to dance? in Garden Place, you'll have your chance!

Don't undersell yourselves, girls

I suspect that this headline in the Waikato Times of 4 July was written by a male sub-editor who would himself expect to be described as an adult. We are unlikely to see a headline which reads, "Don't undersell yourselves, boys".

According to the article, women are responsible for earning on average 12% less than men because we don't sell ourselves well. The recently dis-established Pay Equity Unit of the Department of Labour might have provided a more thoughtful analysis; as did Margaret Wilson's recent lecture at the university: It is time to talk about women - again, in which she outlined progress in women's participation in the public life of this country and where we still have a way to go.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Cutting classes!

If you have picked up a Continuing Education supplement from your letter box this weekend you will know that from next year most high schools will no longer offer evening classes. Each year, more than 200,000 New Zealanders attend these safe, affordable and accessible classes.

I could accept the need for cuts if this government were not spending additional billions on roading. In a recession, more than ever, these classes are needed to enable people to gain skills, build confidence and remain connected to the community. For some, attending a class at the local high school may be the first tentative step on the way to further learning.

For people coping with difficult or stressful situations attending an evening class is a better option than swallowing pills or playing the pokies.