Paying to implode


If you’ve ever wanted to demolish something big, here’s your chance to bid for it on TradeMe:

Naylor Love & Ceres NZ, the contractors demolishing 14-storey Radio Network House in Christchurch, have donated this fundraising opportunity for someone to ‘push the button’ to detonate the explosives that will bring the building down, to the Canterbury Earthquake Heritage Buildings Fund –  

The current bid is $8050.

Word of the day


Mahy – a word wizard; literary genius; writer with the gift of  scansion and sense of verbal play.

Quip of the day


My body is about 90% water. Will I have to give it back? –  D. Miller Wanaka in the ODT’s To The Point (not online).

Environmental role models needed for ag


New Zealanders need to hear more about the great progress farmers are making to lift their environmental performance says Ballance Agri-Nutrients Chairman David Graham.

“Farmers, their co-ops and their industry bodies all agree there is a need to protect and improve New Zealand’s water quality.  We have made good progress and we will make more.

“That’s a strong message we need to take to the rest of New Zealand. They don’t hear enough about the great work being done by  our farmers.  Nor do many of them realise how much of our economy depends on six inches of topsoil and how important it is to ensure that soil is productive.”

He said initiatives like the Ballance Farm Environmental Awards were important in showcasing and celebrating agriculture’s great role models and demonstrated to New Zealanders that farmers are committed to sustainable farming. He singled out this year’s national winners, Blair and Jane Smith, as an example of best practice at work.

The fact is, most farmers have always been committed to looking after the land and preserving it for generations to come – it’s just what we do.  Farming sustainably is good common sense and makes good economic sense too.”

Mr Graham said that in order to give communities confidence that farming can and will change, role models like the Smiths were important.

“The Smiths represent a new generation of farmers who understand and are clearly demonstrating that reducing waste and improving efficiency is as good for the environment as it is for the bottom line.”

The Smiths run Newhaven Farms Ltd – a North Otago sheep, beef, forestry and dairy support operation that spans three family-owned properties totalling 1528 ha, and were chosen from nine regional winners. He said despite identifying many talented farmers and role models through the Ballance Farm Environment Awards over the years, it can’t all be left up to them. “While the timeframes to introduce agriculture into the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme appear to have eased off, we cannot rest on our laurels.  The extra time will allow the sector to develop effective, proven mitigation practices.”

Ballance is making a contribution to the cause through their $32 million Clearview Innovations research programme, which is part funded by the Government’s Primary Growth Partnership.

The seven year programme targets all the major challenges facing farming today; nutrient efficiency, water quality and  farm productivity  and is focussed on farming profitably with a lighter environmental footprint.

The Balance Farm Environment Awards showcase the best of farming.

All the entrants are role models for the industry.

This is important not just for other farmers but for the public which is too often shown only the minority of farmers who don’t regard themselves as stewards of their land and the wider environment.

Farmers we spoke to in England and Europe last month spoke admiringly of New Zealand farming practices.

There is no room for complacency and there is still a small minority of farmers who either don’t know or don’t care about the importance of sustainable farming practices.

But that is all the more reason to celebrate the majority and industry leaders like the Environment Award winners.


Conference reflections


My first National Party national conference was way back in 1996 – a few months before our first MMP election.

I was thinking about that while getting ready to go to his year’s conference and wondering if I’d been to enough and was in danger of suffering from conference fatigue.

The warmth of the welcome as I registered on Friday morning told me the answer to that was no and that was continually reinforced throughout the weekend.

As a regional chair I was privileged to sit through the candidates’ college, where I met some aspiring MPs and learned from two existing ones – first term MP Simon O’Connor and Prime Minister John Key.

The conference opened on Saturday morning. Speeches from ministers were informative and interesting with plenty of time for questions. Several workshop sessions also enabled plenty of interaction from the floor and we had the opportunity to debate seven remits too.

Saturday night’s dinner agenda included the presentation of a presidential citation to party stalwart and Super-Blue founder Bernie Poole and the Sir George Chapman Cup to retiring Young Nats president Daniel Fielding.

MC for the evening, senior whip Michael Woodhouse then introduced David Farrar who was chairing the debate for the Westminster Shield.

The moot was that the South Island should declare independence from the North.

Chris Finlayson led the affirmative team of Young Nats incoming president Sean Topham and Simon Bridges.

Nick Smith led Amy Adams and Neil Miller in putting the contrary case.

I thought of taking notes so I could repeat some of the hilarious lines but I was too busy laughing to write.

The judges were David, John Key and Bill English who almost upstaged the debaters with their humour.

The negative team won by .5 of a point.

Sunday’s programme began with an ecumenical church service followed by a session on law and order, more policy breakouts and concluded on a high with the Prime Minister’s address.

A first-time conference goer who I met at the airport was fizzing. It was a reminder to those of us who have been to several conferences that we shouldn’t take for granted the easy access to MPs, that we can still be inspired by the speeches, that the networking opportunities between formal sessions is part of the fun and that the best way to treat fears of conference-fatigue is to go to one.

It was a wonderful weekend and I’m already looking forward to next year’s.

Why would new development be more risky than existing ones?


Energy Minister Phil Heatley gave some interesting numbers during his speech to the National Party conference at the weekend:

In Taranaki tourism earns $124 million a year and provides 1838 jobs.  Resource exploration earns $2.5 billion a year and provides 5,090 jobs.

Don’t tell the doom merchants but that resource exploration is from oil wells at sea and it’s not endangering the environment.

He also spoke about the Marsden Point refinery which earns large amounts of export dollars for us.

Don’t spoil the doom merchants’ story but last year there was only one environmental incident there – a pot of paint fell off a wharfe.

The doom merchants would have us believe we can’t drill or mine here because of the environmental dangers.

But we’re already doing it with no problems.

Why would new developments be any more risky than existing ones?

Margaret Mahy 21.3.1936 – 23.7.2012


Friends gave our daughter a copy of The Man Whose Mother Was A Pirate for her first birthday.

It was the first Margaret Mahy book I’d read and I was hooked from the first page.

Her wonderful way with words, her quirky use of language and unique view of the world made her books firm favourites in our household.

I read of her death yesterday, with great sadness.

The New Zealand Book Council details her achievements and contributions to literature here.

Storylines profiles her here.

A Kate De Goldi tribute in the Listener is here.

Her essay A Dissolving Ghost, Possible Operations of Truth in Children’s Books and the Lives of Children is here.

At NZ On Screen is  the documentary Made in New Zealand – Margaret Mahy. (Hat Tip for those link to Toby Manhire who writes: Weaver of magic, wearer of wigs, Mahy lives on in thousands of homes in New Zealand and elsewhere, her pages wrinkled from reading after reading.

Beattie’s Book Blog has a story which sums up her reputation and influence:

. . . One little story from a visit I made to an American library back in the late 1980’s. I was in the public library in the
small Connecticut town of Westport with the pre-school son of a friend. At one stage I took a photograph of him sitting looking at a picture book and was immediately reprimanded by the librarian who tersely asked “had I not seen the sign saying no photography?”. I apologised and upon noticing my accent she asked me where I was from. New Zealand I said. Oh my she said I don’t suppose you know
Margaret Mahy? Indeed I do I said, I know Margaret very well. Oh in that case she said please feel free to take as many photographs as you like! She then gave me a guided tour of the library which included two large full colour posters featuring Margaret and her books. And she talked endlessly and enthusiastically about Margaret’s genius and about listening her speak at a librarian’s conference.And then insisted on making me a cup of coffee. . .

She was a treasure, her books will continue to be so.

In memory of a great story person I offer these words of comfort from Brian Andreas at Story People  to those who knew and lover her:

It is still so new & all we see is the empty space, but that is not how it
is in the landscape of the heart. There, there is no empty space & she still
laughs & grapples with ideas & plans & nods wisely with each of us
in turn. We are proud to have known her. We are proud to have called her friend.

July 24 in history


1132 Battle of Nocera between Ranulf II of Alife and Roger II of Sicily.

1148  Louis VII of France  laid siege to Damascus during the Second Crusade.

1411  Battle of Harlaw, one of the bloodiest battles in Scotland.

1487  Citizens of Leeuwarden, Netherlands struck against ban on foreign beer.

1534  French explorer Jacques Cartier planted a cross on the Gaspé Peninsula and took possession of the territory in the name of Francis I of France.

1567  Mary, Queen of Scots, was forced to abdicate and replaced by her 1-year-old son James VI.

1701  Antoine de la Mothe Cadillac founded the trading post at Fort Pontchartrain, which later became the city of Detroit, Michigan.

1715 A Spanish treasure fleet of 10 ships under Admiral Ubilla left Havana  for Spain.

1725 John Newton, English cleric and hymnist, was born (d. 1807).

1783 Simón Bolívar, South American liberator, was born (d. 1830).
1802 Alexandre Dumas, père, French writer, was born (d. 1870).

1814  War of 1812: General Phineas Riall advanced toward the Niagara River to halt Jacob Brown’s American invaders.

1823  Slavery was abolished in Chile.

1832  Benjamin Bonneville led  the first wagon train across the Rocky Mountains by using Wyoming’s South Pass.

1847  After 17 months of travel, Brigham Young led 148 Mormon pioneers into Salt Lake Valley, resulting in the establishment of Salt Lake City.

1864  American Civil War: Battle of Kernstown – Confederate General Jubal Anderson Early defeated Union troops led by General George Crook in an effort to keep them out of the Shenandoah Valley.

1866  Reconstruction: Tennessee became the first U.S. State to be readmitted to the Union following the American Civil War.

1874 Oswald Chambers, Scottish minister and writer, was born (d. 1917).

1895  Robert Graves, English author, was born  (d. 1985).

1897 Amelia Earhart, American aviator, was born (disappeared 1937).

1901  O. Henry was released from prison after serving three years for embezzlement from a bank.

1911  Hiram Bingham III re-discovered Machu Picchu, “the Lost City of the Incas”.

1915  The passenger ship S.S. Eastland capsised in central Chicago, with the loss of 845 lives.

1923  The Treaty of Lausanne, settling the boundaries of modern Turkey, was signed.

1927  The Menin Gate war memorial is unveiled at Ypres.

1929  The Kellogg-Briand Pact, renouncing war as an instrument of foreign policy went  into effect.

1931  A fire at a home for the elderly in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania killed 48 people.

1935  The world’s first children’s railway opened in Tbilisi, USSR.

1935   The dust bowl heat wave reached its peak, sending temperatures to 109°F (44°C) in Chicago and 104°F (40°C) in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

1937 Alabama dropped rape charges against the so-called “Scottsboro Boys“.

1938 First ascent of the Eiger north face.

1943 World War II: Operation Gomorrah began: British and Canadian aeroplanes bombed Hamburg by night, those of the Americans by day.

1950 Cape Canaveral Air Force Station began operations with the launch of a Bumper rocket.

1959  At the opening of the American National Exhibition in Moscow, U.S. Vice President Richard Nixon and Soviet Premier Nikita Khrushchev have a “Kitchen Debate“.

1966 Michael Pelkey and Brian Schubert made the first BASE jump from El Capitan. Both came out with broken bones.

1967  During an official state visit to Canada, French President Charles de Gaulle declared to a crowd of over 100,000 in Montreal: Vive le Québec libre! (“Long live free Quebec!”). The statement, interpreted as support for Quebec independence, delighted many Quebecers but angered the Canadian government and many English Canadians.

1969 Jennifer Lopez, American actress and singer, was born.

1969  Apollo 11 splashed down safely in the Pacific Ocean.

1972 Bugojno group was caught by Yugoslav security forces.

1974 Watergate scandal: the United States Supreme Court unanimously ruled that President Richard Nixon did not have the authority to withhold subpoenaed White House tapes and they order him to surrender the tapes to the Watergate special prosecutor.

1974 After the Turkish invasion of Cyprus the Greek military junta collapsed and democracy was restored.

1977  End of a four day Libyan-Egyptian War.

1982 Anna Paquin, Canadian-born New Zealand actress, was born.

1982  Heavy rain caused a mudslide that destroyed  a bridge at Nagasaki, Japan, killing 299.

1990  Iraqi forces started massing on the Kuwait-Iraq border.

1998  Russell Eugene Weston Jr. burst into the United States Capitol and opened fire killing two police officers.

2000 Private Leonard Manning became New Zealand’s first combat death since the Vietnam War when he was killed in Timor-Leste.

New Zealand soldier killed  in Timor-Leste

2001 – Simeon Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, the last Tsar of Bulgaria when he was a child, was sworn in as Prime Minister of Bulgaria, becoming the first monarch in history to regain political power through democratic election to a different office.

2001 Bandaranaike Airport attack was carried out by 14 Tamil Tiger commandos, all died in this attack. They destroyed 11 Aircrafts (mostly military) and damaged 15, there are no civilian casualties.

2005 Lance Armstrong won his seventh consecutive Tour de France.

2007  Libya freed all six of the Medics in the HIV trial in Libya.

Sourced from NZ History Online & Wikipedia

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