Travel soothes the mind

Well, that was an optimistic title, really.

I had some time on the West Coast over the New Year break, and while absolutely enjoying the hospitality of my various hosts, visiting friends and family of my son-in-law, I also had some opportunities to explore some of the less satisfactory side of life on the Coast.

But first: the good bits.

Here’s a lovely picture of natural beauty, the Hokitika Gorge (I’ll leave out the pix with people scattered through them, you’re just getting the unadulterated glacier-fed river and bush-clad gorge).

Hokitika Gorge from the swingbridge

Hokitika Gorge from the swingbridge

Then we wandered along towards Greymouth, and discovered Shantytown, which has gone up in price 500% since my son-in-law last visited a couple of years ago. As we weren’t a busload of asian tourists, we had a quick look, used the conveniences and left. It seemed like a good business, and the gift shop was doing a roaring trade in the smallest pieces of gold-flake I’ve ever seen in my life, but there you are, to each his or her own. The working small-guage gold-fields train from Kaitangata looked cute.

Kaitangata engine steaming towards the station, Shantytown

Kaitangata engine steaming towards the station, Shantytown

Further down the road, on our way to have a look at Lake Brunner, we stopped at the roadside info for the Brunner Mine disaster, the big news of 1896, and the reason we have any mining legislation at all, really. I popped across on the bridge that spans the Grey River, to check out the site remains and the memorial to the 65 miners who died in that incident, and found that there were also memorials to the 19 miners who died in the Strongman mine disaster in 1967, and the very recent Pike River disaster in November 2010.

Pike River Miners Memorial at Brunner Mine Disaster Memorial

Pike River Miners Memorial at Brunner Mine Disaster Memorial

In conversation with a local woman who was also by the memorial that day, I wondered whether the choice to work in the mines was not as real as she posited, due to the lack of other industry investment in the region. We discussed that one from opposing angles for a few minutes, before both coming to agreement on the fact that Pike River Coal had distinctly transgressed current mining legislation around safety, and that they would have to answer for that in Court in the remainder of the Commission of Inquiry. Meanwhile, there is at least one little boy born since the accident who has never met his dad, and many more family members who still grieve the loss of their brothers, sons, husbands and workmates and want an answer to why it was allowed to happen. Mr Whittall still has some actions to account for.

Greymouth is a pretty town, if prone to ground-level fog for much of the winter, according to my hosts. We had a late-afternoon lovo, the fijian version of hangi, but with a chilli-basted twist to satisfy the spicy palates of my relatives and their friends. With the afternoon sun glinting off the children’s paddling pool, and the surf crashing in the distance, I could fully appreciate why families would come to this part of New Zealand and relish the life it offers them. I left small-town New Zealand behind me when I moved to the city to study in my early adulthood, but I often find myself looking at provincial towns and seeing the beauty in their simplicity, their proximity to recreational areas, the unspoilt compact urban areas, and thinking ‘What if?’. Even the local newspaper had an attractive air to it!

Carpark wall mural at the Greymouth Evening Star

Carpark wall mural at the Greymouth Evening Star

Two days on the West Coast was hardly enough to satisfy me, and my traveller’s bug wants to be sated with a trip to Karamea, a look at Punakaiki Rocks, maybe an expedition to see the Denniston mine historic site before too much longer – there’s a lot to see in this area, and I can see myself coming back again.
Perhaps that is a fitting way to give some help to the Coasters, too – building tourism and art/craft enterprises, showing off the history without degrading the lives of those who remain engaged in local industries, making a sustainable future for those who live in this beautiful but often harsh environment.

Looking After the Long Term

Last night in Karori, the Wellington Central electorate had one of its first public meetings of the campaign period.

Sue Kedgley MC'ing

Sue Kedgley MC'ing

Outgoing MP Sue Kedgley, who has stood in Wellington Central for four consecutive terms of Parliament, hosted new Candidate James Shaw and sitting MP Dr Kennedy Graham, from Christchurch, for an evening of presentations and discussion about sustainable options for our economy, a smart green economic plan which has been rolling out in stages over the past couple of months.

Dr Kennedy Graham in mid-flight

Dr Kennedy Graham in mid-flight

Dr Graham spoke first, detailing the development of global policy initiatives developed during his time with UNDP – from the 1992 Rio Summit on Climate Change forwards, he has been in the vanguard of those trying to quantify, and provide a matrix of solutions for, a range of climate issues. He was our Green MP at Copenhagen 2010, and gave a sobering presentation on the changes that have occurred since that first conference in 1992. The win over ozone depletion of atmosphere was the best outcome of those years, but we have lost biodiversity, and seen global CO2 emissions rise far outside the protocols first discussed, then reviewed at each subsequent Climate Conference. The time is now at hand to be bold and bring our country into the possibility of a bright green future; it is not a time to sit on our hands and continue to say, ‘We’re so small, our emissions don’t rate against the big economies of China or the USA’, which is a cop-out taken by too many local commenters.

James Shaw making a point

James Shaw making a point

James Shaw then took the floor, and delivered an impressive presentation of the three key policies that the Greens are working on this election, to alleviate the pressures on kiwis that have been exacerbated by the global recession – Addressing Child Poverty in NZ, launched by Metiria Turei in West Auckland, Cleaning up NZ’s Rivers, launched by Dr Russel Norman in Wellington’s Waitangi Park just ten days ago, and a sneak peek at the next policy around energy sustainability, which I won’t go into here because it’s being launched on the 21st September, a mere three weeks away, so look out for the media on that when it happens.
Best one-line of the evening to James – “as Clinton said, ‘It’s the economy, stupid!’, or as Kennedy put it, ‘It’s the stupid economy!'”; which followed on from Dr Graham’s rather sobering facts and figures very well, as the discussion turned to ways of improving both our economy and our sustainability.

Why I despise fundamentalism, even if it is “green”

Religious fundamentalism is inherently oppressive. I’ve spent much of my adult life battling against the oppression of the religious “leaders”, both Christian and Muslim, who oppose equal rights for the GLBT community and believe women’s place is in the kitchen and subservient to men.

But there is also a green (note small “g”) fundamentalism I equally despise. It is exemplified by this comment at frogblog:

have you ever considered that a vegan/vegetarian national mp…

..has more (personal) green/environmental-’integrity’ than a carnivorous green m.p..? for

Sorry, but I don’t think the weekly meal of organically grown pork I enjoy compares in any way to the environmental desecration the Nats will impose on us in their quest to maximise dairy profits by pouring cowshit into our streams and rivers, subsidise greenhouse gas pollution that will cause potentially catastrophic climate change, and destroy our environmentally sensitive ecosystems by mining the shit out of National Parks.

I agree that a vegetarian diet is the most ecologically sustainable diet. But give us omnivores a break.

The meme of that comment would also have us ban car use completely too, as well as animal farming, despite the fact that this would throw untold thousands of people out of work.

The authoritarian approach of people like Phil u who wrote that comment is one of the reasons the Green Party struggles to get political traction.

Most people don’t like being told from on high how they should live their lives. I have made a choice in the interests of sustainability to not own a car. Others make a choice to not eat meat. All Greens do our bit, and we should encourage others to do so.

But let’s not do the fundamentalist “I’m greener than thou” personal uptick or downtick number, and instead work together politically to enhance and protect our planet and its ecosystems.

“A Sustainable Economy for New Zealand” Conference

“A Sustainable Economy for New Zealand”
Conference at Legislative Council Chamber, Parliament, Wellington
Friday, 12 November 2010

Sorry about the late notice about this, but it’s been around the internal networks, so excuse me if I just give a brief overview, then I’ll try to report back on how it went.

This has been organised by Dr Russell Norman and Dr Kennedy Graham, with a keynote speech by Dr David Suzuki, as part of his australasian tour.

There are 4 sessions covering Global Sustainability, A Sustainable National Economy (in two parts, Business, agriculture & labour, then Monetary & fiscal policy; Trade & investment policy; & Energy & climate policy) and Political Perceptions of Sustainability. These have panels of speakers including academics, politicians and industry representatives.

Kennedy has blogged about it here on Frogblog.


Due to my sloppy energy recovery levels, Kennedy Graham and the Frogblog team have beaten me to a good overall review of the Conference, so I’ll just link to their posts:
Ken’s post is here, and video of Suzuki’s speech is here, credit due to excellent filming by Jackson Wood of the frogblog crew.

Sustainable business, fashionably!

Yesterday’s Weekend DomPost had, in it’s glossy ‘your weekend’ section, a rather good article by Sharon Stephenson, about Laurie Foon of Starfish, a designer I’ve long been a fan of.
[My attempt to post the link has failed, as the stuff website seems to jealously guard the contents of the weekend magazine!]

During the last election campaign, her staff were unfailingly helpful if I was doing the rounds with posters or fliers to put in shop windows; and we often took a while, having a chat about new products they had in stock using recycled or sustainable produced materials, such as their sneaker lines and some of the new textiles that were coming in for summer.

I was a ‘Jive Junkies’ regular back at the turn of the millenium, and frequently had Sarah, the manager of the Cuba St store, send items back to the Starfish workroom to be altered to fit me perfectly. Never a quibble, just an attitude of ‘make it work’.
One time, I brought in a vintage ‘little black dress’, and asked Sarah if we could swing it through the workroom, before I wore it to a showing of ‘Les Miserables’ at the St James. Not only did she set that up, she also whipped out her pintin, heaved me into a dressing-room, and made sure that we had the dress pinned to the exact fit. Those were the days!

I was a fan for life, until the redoubtable Sarah was finally beaten into submission by the Left Bank body corporate, shutting her shop and heading back to hometown, Auckland.
However, my love of Laurie Foon’s designs has stayed with me, and I am frequently a ‘swing through’ at the beginning of the season to check out what’s new in fabrics and styles.

This year, as the article says, Starfish have a winter collection inspired by the Rita Angus Exhibition at Te Papa, curated by Jill Trelawney, who I interviewed about her biography of Angus. I can’t wait for this lot to hit the racks, and I imagine I’m going to seriously compromise my budget somewhere, because from the pix shown in the paper, this will be a lovely collection to own a piece or two from.

More about Starfish’s sustainable ethics here, from the Wellingtonian, and here, from the DomPost again, when Foon first began promoting her sustainability credentials.

I’m probably the fashion industry’s worst nightmare, in spending terms – I rarely buy on a whim, I prefer to buy directly from NZ designers, (most preferably local to Wellington) and I have made some spectacular wins in the Auckland sales in times past. And, god forbid, I occasionally sew my own designs up for special occasions, like the dress I finished at lunchtime on my graduation day, last year!

I’m a fan of vintage clothing, a trick I picked up from a few great set-dressers I worked with at one time. ‘Recycled Clothing’ has gained a cachet that old-school opp-shopping never had – and I both buy from, and donate clothes to, my favourite second-hand charity shop. (Opportunity for Animals, if you’re asking – branches in Newtown and Kilbirnie, all proceeds go to animal welfare projects in Aotearoa/New Zealand)

So, file this story under ‘fangirl’, ‘buy local campaigns’, and ‘Welli fashion celeb’s’, however you like; but do go and have a look at a designer who has put her ethics and her profits into the same (beautifully stitched) pocket, and manages to find a sustainable win-win even in the current recessional business climate.

Green transport policy launch stunt!

I can’t help it, this will be a slightly irreverent look at our policy launch photo-shoot on Sunday.

I’ve held off to let Frogblog have the shine of ‘firsting’ the issue, and of course, posting the official pix.

As you might have noticed from the shot of Jeanette shown, it was grey skies, windy, and everyone was well rugged-up.

Gareth Hughes and his team had done a great job begging people to come down on a Sunday afternoon, and he’d found help from the WCC Events team (p.a. & sound engineer), Living Streets Aotearoa (fetching dayglo orange vests, for marshalls to wear), and of course, Go Wellington buses, for a nice big new yellow bus, and the accompanying very patient bus driver, who mostly stood around for a couple of hours while the crowd was marshalled, photographed, re-marshalled and re-photographed. There was also the use of a balcony on the 3rd floor of the NZX building, for the photographers to get the panoramic shots of the 7 X 7 grid of cars parked next to the bus.

There were greenies from all over, due to some out-of-towners gathering for important exec meetings; and a stray Melbournite of my acquaintance, whom I was very pleased to nearly stand on, thus shrieking and leaping to hug her!
There was much networking of those who campaign on various issues going on in the corners, so I’m sure it will go down in memory as one of the social events of the campaign trail. All-in-all, a great way to produce PR, with committed ‘extras’ who weren’t about to complain about any of the delays, or other wee situations, that ensued.
I jumped on my bike for the cyclists shot, which I then failed to take any pix of, so once more I’m keeping my face off the blog 😉

Jeanette soldiered on in the face of (by then) heavy wind gusts, and her worsening sore throat, to be supported by Russ as it appeared that wind, speech notes, a glass of water, and then trying to use her hankie, all got a bit much. The details of the policy (see frog’s post!) were well-received by the crowd, especially the ‘cheap fares for children, students, beneficiaries and the elderly’ policy.

A bus-worth of car drivers carrying banners!

A bus-worth of car drivers carrying banners!

Jeanette with co-leader support to launch transport policy

Jeanette with co-leader support to launch transport policy

A few green cyclists, after the organised bit was over.

A few green cyclists, after the organised bit was over.