Sir Colin Meads’ funeral

August 28, 2017

Sir Colin Meads’ funeral is being live-streamed on the All Blacks’ Facebook page.


Service, sacrifice and successes

June 5, 2017

Former Prime Minister John Key is now Sir John and heads the list of 186 New Zealanders recognised for their service, sacrifices and successes  in the Queen’s Birthday Honours.

To be a Knight Grand Companion of the said Order:

The Right Honourable John Phillip Key, of Auckland. For services to the State. . . .

Services to the state doesn’t really sum up what any PM does. Theirs is also services to the people.

That demands a great deal of hard work and sacrifice and their families have to make sacrifices too.

That all living former PMs have been recognised with a similar honour (Order of New Zealand, Damehood or Knighthood) doesn’t mean that the honour was perfunctory.

Sir John led New Zealand through a particularly difficult period which included having to deal with the global financial crisis, the Pike River mine disaster, the Canterbury and Kaikoura earthquakes and their aftermaths.

He led a team in which current Prime Minister Bill English played a vital role.

They turned a forecast decade of deficits into surpluses and allowed current Finance Minister Steven Joyce to present a Budget this year.

That provides choices over the provision of services and infrastructure that must be the envy of every other country.

The team forged important new trade deals which will contribute to on-going economic stability.

Another of the new knight’s legacies is the cycleway network that is leading to the creation of jobs, providing exercise opportunities for locals and bringing domestic and international tourists.

The flag referendum is regarded by many as a failure but I think it sowed the seeds for inevitable change.

Sir John was, and remains ambitious for New Zealand and New Zealanders.  Unlike one of his predecessors he was determined to leave the country and its people better for his service, and he has.

Others to receive titular  honours are:

To be Dames Companion of the said Order:

Mrs Julie Claire Molloy Christie, ONZM, of Auckland. For services to governance and the television industry.

Emeritus Professor Peggy Gwendoline Koopman-Boyden, CNZM, of Hamilton. For services to seniors.

To be Knights Companion of the said Order:

Mr Graeme Dingle, ONZM, MBE, of Auckland. For services to youth.

Mr Michael Niko Jones, MNZM, of Auckland. For services to the Pacific community and youth.

Professor Timoti Samuel Karetu, QSO, of Havelock North. For services to the Māori language.


Riverstone Castle on Prime

June 4, 2017

Dot and Neil Smith are dreamers, but not in the sleepy, never get anything done way.

They are people who work hard to make their dreams come true.

. . .It’s a bit like Grand Designs on steroids. Dot Smith and husband Smithy (aka Neil) start with a bare paddock. Smithy, who has been dragged around innumerable castles in Europe, said to her one day: “What if I dug you a hole in the ground there and we put a little island in the hole and put a castle on there?”

Well, it’s not so much of the little. This is a massive project. The completed Riverstone Castle, built from solid Oamaru stone quarried locally, literally sits on an island. There’s even a dungeon.

But as with every good home building show, this one is just as much about the people as the build.

Pink-haired, 60-something Dot is clearly a romantic, but not in any drippy way. This is a woman who, with her family, has worked hard to run a successful empire that includes six dairy farms, an award-winning restaurant, giftware shops and gardens to die for. But she loves a fairytale.

“You’ve got to make a bit of romance happen in your life, otherwise when you get to 65 or 70 you’re a bit past all the other romantic parts,” she says. “So we’ve got to make little fairy stories where we go.”

When told, “Most people your age would be scaling down”, Dot says, “No, I’m scaling up”. . . 

Dot: Queen of the Castle screens on Prime at 8:30 tonight.

John Clarke 29.7.48 – 9.4.17

April 10, 2017

John Clarke, satirist and comedian extraordinaire has died.

Born in Palmerston North, he studied at Victoria University before heading to London, where he gained a break through with a part in the 1972 Barry Humphries comedy The Adventures of Barry McKenzie.

Clarke came home a year later, and was in the cast of New Zealand’s first sitcom, the student-flat comedy Buck House.

By then, Clarke had already pioneered his iconic character Fred Dagg in short TV sketches and a Country Calendar ‘spoof’ edition. . .

Clarke moved to Australia where he continued to delight audiences as a writer and satirist.

For 25 years he and Brian Bryan Dawe poked the borax at politicians in Clarke and Dawe.

You can see some of his work at Mr John Clarke, read his bio at NZ on Screen and listen to an interview with Jesse Mulligan at RNZ.

Bunny Walters 31.5.53 – 14.12.16

December 14, 2016

Bunny Walters, one of the 1970’s iconic New Zealand singers has died:

. . .  A descendant of Ngāi Te Rangi, Mātaatua waka, Walters was 63-years-old.

Walters was best known for his hits Nearest thing to Heaven, Take the money and run and Brandy. . . 

When no-one was watching

December 11, 2016

Some of the reaction to John Key’s resignation has been gracious.

Some, from people who don’t know the person but don’t like his politics, has not.

This tribute is one of the gracious ones. It’s from Jake Millar who found a good man who changed his life when no-one else was watching:

It was C.S. Lewis who once said “Integrity is doing the right thing, even when no one is watching.”

This is perhaps the greatest lesson I have learnt from our outgoing Prime Minister John Key, a man who changed my life by doing just that.

When I was 15 years old, on Saturday September 4, 2010, my father, Rod Miller, died in a skydiving plane crash in Fox Glacier, which killed nine people.

It was the worst plane crash New Zealand had experienced in 17 years, and it tore many people apart.

It was a rough time for New Zealand. The very same day Christchurch experienced its first major earthquake, destroying the city. And just over one month later, the West Coast was hit with another tragedy, after 29 men died in the Pike River mine disaster.

It was how Key reacted to these terrible tragedies, particularly the one closest to my heart, where I first began to truly respect him, and appreciate him as a remarkable leader.

Following the plane crash, Key took the four-hour return drive from Hokitika to Fox Glacier to visit the crash site, and pay his respects to the victims.

Key’s humanness and kindness inspired me during this difficult time, so I wrote to him as a 15-year-old, thanking him for caring, while asking him for some advice in regards to my own future.

I was amazed to receive a very personal letter back directly from the prime minister.

Not only did he address all of my points issue by issue in an extremely kind and personal way, but he also enclosed a card, saying he wanted to meet me. 

Several months later, Key, while visiting the West Coast to see the victims’ families of the Pike River mine disaster, came to our family home in Greymouth for whitebait sandwiches, a cup of tea and a chat about my future.

He didn’t publicise the visit for political profit. No media were invited. He did it out of the goodness of his heart, because he wanted to help, and because he cared.

It was the goodness of Key’s heart that inspired me to try my hardest in life, and strive to be the best version of me that I could be.

I vividly remember being inspired by the fact that Key had lost his father as a young kid, before achieving his childhood dream. I remember thinking, ‘if he could, why couldn’t I?’ . . .

The point to all of this is not that I’m something great, but that it’s all been inspired by that early spark of inspiration: when Key wrote to me.

I remember running into Key at a National Party function years after our first meeting, and he asked how my mum’s art business was going. He had only met her once, years earlier. This showed how much he truly cared.

Whether you loved or hated his politics, as prime minister, Key was a good man. He had integrity. He cared about the people he represented. He did the right thing, even when no one was watching. . . 

The longer I observe and participate in politics the more I see good people doing their best to do good for the country and their people.

The outgoing PM was one of these, his presumptive successor, Bill English is the same, whether or not anyone is watching.

P.S. – you can read more about Jake Millar here.

366 days of gratitude

July 27, 2016

Last week’s funeral was for a man in his 90s, sad but the natural order of things.

Today’s was for a man who was only 58, sad.

But he was a man who packed more into those 58 years than many others would have in twice that time, including saving several lives while risking his own as a helicopter pilot.

Today I am sad that his life is over far too soon but grateful that he lived in a way that made the world so much better for his being in it.


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