Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A Busman's Holiday

Bedford camper bus

With New Zealand's summer holidays in full swing, the old converted buses, now serving as family campers, are out in force on the roads.

This nicely maintained one was spotted in a quiet suburb in Christchurch. It probably saw service as a country school bus in an earlier career.

The satellite dish is on the house, not the bus's roof.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Christchurch Past & Present #13 - Rangiora

Ashley Street, Rangiora

Some of us plan to be at the cricket in Rangiora today, a small town a short distance north of Christchurch.

Here are some views of Rangiora about a century ago. They were mailed back to England by a new immigrant involved in the retail tailoring and clothing industry.

High Street, Rangiora

The "x" on the Ashley Street postcard view marks where he lived while in Rangiora, the "x" on the far right in the High Street view, the shop he worked in. He later moved north to Tauranga and then Auckland to complete his time in the retail trade before leaving, perhaps, to return to England.

The Post Office, Rangiora

Monday, December 29, 2008

A Day at the Cricket

There's nothing like a day at the cricket when the weather is warm & sunny as it was Sunday at Christchurch's QEII Village Green.

The Canterbury women's cricket team, here in the field, lost their one day game by seven wickets to the Northern Spirit. Wilkins and Browne, both batting when this photo was taken, each scored 50 runs + apiece.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Christchurch – Past & Present #12 A Day at New Brighton Beach

Children taking a paddle near the pier, New Brighton, circa 1910

When the New Brighton Pier was opened in 1894 it launched a new phase in seaside holidays at the beach. Gala days were held on the foreshore near the pier. Large crowds turned out, arriving by tram from the city and on occasion by excursion steamers run from Lyttelton. The beach was also used for racing horses until the New Brighton racecourse was built.

Beach crowd viewed from the pier, New Brighton, circa 1910

No one appears to be bathing, instead everyone is dressed up in Sunday best admiring the surf. At least the risk of sunburn and skin cancer are minimized, however uncomfortable the seasiders may be in their clothing.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

Christchurch – Past & Present #11 New Brighton Pier

The New Brighton Pier was opened in 1894. It was 210 metres long and six wide. Aside from a promenade along the pier to take in the views of Pegasus Bay, slot machines and penny peep shows provided entertainment.

Gardens along the shoreline, a bandstand, and the ubiquitous tearooms provided other forms of entertainment along with a walk along the sand for parents and paddling or bathing for the young.

The pier deteriorated in the 1950s and was dismantled in 1965.

The new pier was built in 1997, extending out to 300 metres. It is anchored by the New Brighton public library and a cafe. The New Brighton shoreline remains a popular seaside recreational spot for Christchurch residents.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Christchurch – Past & Present #10 New Brighton

Turn of the twentieth century views of the seaside suburb of New Brighton, Christchurch: the pier, Seaview road, the Esplanade, and the River Avon.

A view, circa 1910, looking east towards the sea down Seaview road, a solitary tram coming down the sandy, dusty street on its return run into Christchurch. The pier pavilion may be seen at the end of the road. The store on the front right advertises the Lyttelton Times newspaper and Nelson Moate's tea.

The New Brighton clock tower that now stands at the end of Seaview road in front of the New Brighton public library and the entrance to the new pier.

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Travis Swamp Wetland - Ducks

A duck sends out concentric rings or ripple effect on a pond in Travis wetland.

A pair of ducks paddling on an overcast December day.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Travis Swamp Wetland - Paradise Ducks & Black Cormorant

Paradise shelducks in foreground and a Black Cormorant (in top left corner) on a stream bank.

Paradise ducks are found in open waterways and grassland habitats, while the black comorant is usually found in open waterways.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Travis Swamp Wetland Restoration #2 - Manuka

Manuka bushes on the northern edge of Travis wetland.

To re-establish an eastern lowlands swamp forest, pioneer species such as manuka are needed to pave the way for the development of a swampland forest of kahikatea, totara, and matai trees. Manuka colonises both wet and dry soils, acting as a protective nurse for the taller, canopy native tree species.

The manuka bushes in the Travis swamp are some of the last natural remnants on the Canterbury Plains.

Manuka also serves as a source of nectar for native butterflies and other insects. Restoration of manuka stands is held back by the effects of the scale insect, manuka blight, and the associated sooty mould.

Monday, December 22, 2008

New Zealand Economy Enters Third Quarter of Recession

The New Zealand economy contracted by 0.4 percent in the September quarter, continuing a three-quarter long recession thus far. Real GDP growth for the year ended September was 1.7 percent. The recession is the country's worst in 10 years, the last being associated with the Asian financial crisis of 1997.

Yesterday, Statistics New Zealand reported that the country's current account deficit (the trade balance on international goods and services) swelled to 8.6 percent of GDP.

Travis Swamp Wetland Restoration - Nursery Spider Web

Nursery spider webs can be seen hanging on shrubs in various areas of the Travis wetland.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Travis Swamp Wetland - Divaricating Plants

Divaricating plants such as the Coprosma species were a widespread form of vegetation on the eastern drylands in both the South and North Islands of New Zealand.

The scientific debate over why these plants developed small leaves and criss-crossed branches is yet to be resolved.

Some theories suggest that divarication is an adaptation to the grazing behaviour of the now extinct moa over many, many centuries. These adaptations are theorized to have increased the resistance of plants to the browsing action of moas.

Other explanations speculate that divarication results from the response of plants originating in tropical climates to climatic cooling in the ice ages, or some combination of both theories.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Pukeko Chick & Parents, Travis Swamp, Christchurch

Pukeko parents and chick at Travis Wetland.

Pukeko, one of the flightless native bird species, are wetland and swamp habitat birds. When they take "flight" from a disturbance or threat their white under feathers in the tail can be seen.

The pukeko is similar in appearance to the endangered takahe but is more common though in urban settings is likely to be low in numbers. About half of the pukeko population in the Christchurch area live in the Travis wetland during the winter.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Travis Wetland - New Zealand Flax - Harekeke

A natural lattice of flax leaves frames a view of the Travis Swamp centre lake. A paradise duck in the centre distant background (and out of focus) is framed by flax.

The New Zealand flax or harekeke's nectar-bearing flowers provide a food source for birdlife.

Harakeke served as an important fibre resource for Maori who used flax to weave ketes (bags), mats, bowls, capes, and ropes.

Flax is often found on the banks of streams in wetland areas. Flax on the left. On right in the middle distance is a stand of raupo whose leaves were used to thatch Maori whares (houses). Raupo rhizomes or roots were used for chewing; the tender fresh shoot of the rhizome was harvested in the spring. Maori made a type of bread from a paste of raupo pollen and baking it in an umu or earth oven.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Travis Swamp, Christchurch - Wetland Restoration

toe toe and flax frame a view of the central lake in Travis Wetland

In the 1990s, responding to public pressure to save and restore the Travis Swamp wetland, the Christchurch City Council purchased 119 hectares of the swamp. Encroaching sub-division development threatened complete loss of the remaining remnant of wetland in the Christchurch area.

Over a 20-30 year period the land is to be restored to reflect the pre-European landscape that once dominated eastern Christchurch in which a wetland system developed behind a sand dune system near the Avon-Heathcote Estuary.

Birds on central lake, Travis Wetland.

Wetlands not only act as a biodiversity reservoir for plant and animal species, they serve important roles as sediment and nutrient traps, water storage, flood control, and buffers in climate change processes.

As part of the restoration process, a 2.5 hectare lake was excavated in the centre of the swamp to provide a habitat for both local and migratory bird species. A stream rings the wetland, acting as a moot to deter predators from entering the wetland. Extensive plantings of native plant and tree species have been undertaken to provide food sources for wildlife as well as to improve the water filtering and storage functions of the wetland.

Marshland on the northern edge of Travis Swamp.

Monday, December 15, 2008

Top Flight

Teal Flying Boat, circa 1940s.

For those of us without the stamina and grace of a godwit, mechanized flight is the means by which we must travel. Above, a TEAL Solent flying boat crosses the Tasman sea and is about to make a water landing. Times have changed and we trans-Pacific travelers may expect a shorter (still 13 hours!) and more comfortable flight with TEAL's descendant, Air New Zealand.

Air New Zealand 747 in Lord of The Rings theme.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Gone Fishing... in New Zealand

Fishing, Dunedin, circa 1910

This godwit has taken flight to join the others at the South Brighton Spit in Christchurch. So, gone fishing for a few days, perhaps, till I can report directly from God's Own.

Friday, December 12, 2008

Christchurch Past & Present #9 - Sumner - Cafe Continental

Sumner, the Christchurch seaside suburb, at the turn of the twentieth century. A tram ride out from the city centre to spend a day at the beach was a popular outing for many Christchurch residents, as it continues to this day. A century ago an afternoon tea of tea & scones might be obtained at the Cafe Continental before the return journey home on the open deck of one of the double deck tram trailers.

Multi-view postcard of Sumner circa 1910. Click on images for larger view.

The Cafe Continental, Sumner, circa 1910, across from the pier and Cave Rock. It is long gone.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Ernest Rutherford, New Zealand's First Winner of the Nobel Prize, 1908 - 2008

Ernest Rutherford (1871 - 1937)

10 December marks the centennial of Ernest Rutherford's receipt of the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for his investigations into the disintegration of elements and the chemistry of radioactive substances. A biography of Rutherford can be found here.

In 1898 at McGill University, in Montreal, Canada, he discovered that two quite separate types of emissions come from radioactive atoms, naming them alpha and beta rays. Beta rays were soon shown to be high-speed electrons. His research later moved to a study of the disintegration of radioactive substances which he discovered resulted from the transformation of the atom itself and thus the creation of new elements.

In 1919, Rutherford accepted the position of Director of the Cavendish Laboratory at Cambridge University in the UK. In that role he supported a flurry of new scientific work by others at the Cavendish that included discovery of the neutron by Chadwick, the splitting of the atom by a particle accelerator, and discovery of the ionosphere.

Ernest Rutherford come from a family of modest means and was reliant on scholarships to continue his high school and university studies at Canterbury College then in the centre of Christchurch, New Zealand where the Rutherford Den, a rather make-shift lab, is re-created in what is now the Arts Centre.

Rutherford failed three times to obtain a permanent school teaching position in New Zealand upon graduation at a time when opportunities for physics research were virtually non-existent in the country.

Thus, Rutherford became one of the early examples of the New Zealand brain drain.

Nonetheless, he never forgot his Kiwi roots, returning to give public lectures, to encourage the government to preserve more native forests and expand scientific research as well as creating opportunities for younger New Zealanders to study and work at the Cavendish Laboratory.

Three New Zealanders have won the Nobel Prize. In addition to Rutherford, Maurice Wilkins won the Nobel Prize for Physiology or Medicine in 1962 for his contribution to the discovery of the structure of DNA and in 2000 Alan MacDiarmid won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry for his contribution to the discovery and development of electronically conductive polymers.

Monday, December 8, 2008

New Zealand's "Decade of Missed Opportunities" - Speech From Throne

In the Speech from the Throne delivered by Governor-General Anand Satyanand following the opening of Parliament, New Zealand's incoming Prime Minister John Key portrayed the past decade as one of "missed opportunities" in which the country's productivity and economic growth had languished.

Against the backdrop of the global economic recession, the National government will introduce a series of personal income tax cuts in 2010 and 2011 that will result in 80 percent of taxpayers only paying 20c on each additional dollar of income earned, according to Mr Key. The government will also accelerate investment in infrastructure including a school building programme to "21st century" standards. Educational standards will be strengthened and apprenticeship and other youth training programmes expanded.

In two policy areas the new National government looks likely to dredge up some old political memories. The government, following its election policy, will change the Resource Management Act to "streamline" and give priority to projects deemed of national (or National?) importance. Those with long memories, or a good knowledge of political history, will note the parallels to the Muldoon goverment's "fast tracking" of projects asserted to be of national importance in the late 1970s and early 1980s.

And in a second, historically jarring chord, the new National government will direct that at least 40 percent of New Zealand's superannuation fund is to be invested in New Zealand-based assets. In the 1975 general election campaign the same political party funded a TV ad that implied such a policy was favoured by the Labour government (incorrectly) and that the consequence would be Soviet-style communism - with cartoon Cossacks dancing across the screen. (Politicians have never been interested in historical truth - the Cossacks were staunch opponents of the Bolsheviks).

You can see the Dancing Cossacks here.

Now National appears to have come full circle and are prepared to socialize a large part of New Zealand's economy over time with the Money Manager State Capitalism of the Superannuation Fund. Die-hard, free market National supporters should be concerned about it as their forebears were in 1975. For those to the left of center, National is setting up a useful policy tool for the state to guide asset management and investment in 3 years time.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

There Is No Depression in New Zealand - Reserve Bank

The Reserve Bank Governor Dr Alan Bollard chopped the official cash rate from 6.5 percent to 5 percent on Thursday, the lowest level for five years.

In perhaps the "famous last words" category, Dr Bollard pronounced that "We believe the recession has ended and we will have positive but low growth for the next four quarters."

He then jawboned trading banks to "share the pain" and pass on the interest rate cut to their household and business customers and to keep advancing loans in tight conditions.

Banks responded by passing on some of the rate cut but not the full 150 points.

Trading bank economists think the worst is not yet over and that a 100 basis points cut in the OCR is possible at the next review in late January.

The major export markets for New Zealand are now contracting at a faster rate than previously estimated and the drop off in demand is likely to make the Reserve Bank's pronouncement that there is no longer a recession in New Zealand a mockery.

Should things get worse, Dr Bollard says the Reserve Bank has "a lot of ammunition in this box" to cut interest rates.

A pity the Bank didn't look around hard enough in that box for a tool (other than ammo) to squeeze the speculative bubble out of the New Zealand housing market a couple of years back. At the time it seemed the Reserve Bank was standing around saying it's all very terrible but we can't think of anything we can do about it.

More of the same inertia was exhibited in the recent deposit insurance policy fiasco when New Zealand got backed into a scheme because Australia had announced back in mid year it was going to pass legislation instituting its own scheme.

Did no one at No. 2 The Terrace think then that New Zealand would likely have to act to stem a tide of deposits following workers across the Tasman? Or that global financial meltdown would precipitate the conditions where New Zealand would be compelled in an open economy environment to match competitively overseas deposit insurance schemes?

Ideology rather than clear thinking still seems to guide policy in Wellington. And it's not just limited to the Reserve Bank.

So with apologies to Blam Blam Blam, 80s Kiwi rock band: There Is No Depression in New Zealand, Dr Bollard...

Learn to Count in Maori

Instructional video from TalkMaori, via YouTube, on learning to count in Maori:

Tahi, rua, toru..

Wednesday, December 3, 2008


And now for a spot of New Zealand kids TV, with Bumble and Fishy. Kia kaha!

And in case you didn't catch it, Fishy is a banded kokopu, Galaxias fasciatus, a galaxiid of the genus Galaxias. Fortunately for Fishy, when he was a tiddler - a whitebait - he didn't end up in a whitebait patty at the local fish & chip shop (hope the kiddies weren't traumatised by the thought). End of learning moment.

If Kiwi kids absorbed this sort of knowledge at a tender age through children's TV programming, how come the country isn't turning out a generation of Einsteins yet?

Damn, can't get that Fishy song outta my head!

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Goodnight Kiwi - Alternative Ending

This one didn't air so it is said. But the kiwi gets the chick after all. No word on TVNZ's official position on inter-species dating...

Monday, December 1, 2008

Goodnight Kiwi Comeback!

Well, it's late and what better topic to post on than the Goodnight Kiwi who graced the last minute or so of TVNZ's closing down routine between 1981 and 1994 before the yammering of all-night informercials started. A cooler, saner time (oozing sarcasm about here).

Here's the classic clip. Quite what a kiwi, a nocturnal bird, is doing sleeping when its wild peers are out rooting up worms & bugs, or hanging out with a cat, a predator of said kiwi, one cannot say but most people find it charming in its anthropocentric way. The kiwi even puts out a glass milk bottle...

But Goodnight Kiwi fans, the good news is they're back apparently. Starting 1 December, TVNZ is bringing the guys back for an encore - 3 all-new animated shorts.

Incidentally, the music is a Maori lullaby song "Hine e Hine".... Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzz...