Small town, no longer home

Small town, no longer home

It’s been nearly 20 years since I left that town with no desire to return.  Last week opportunity, nostalgia and curiosity more than anything else led me back.  Without realising it at the time, the short visit managed to slay a demon of sorts for me as well. Upon reflection I think part of this is because my sense of ‘belonging’ has been well and truly established somewhere else.

When many of us think back to ‘how things once were’ we think of the freedom, innocence and outdoor adventures of living in a small country town.  In this respect this town had the goods and was a great place to be a kid.  We could explore our surroundings without limits.  It was safe.  But as much as we reflect in nostalgia for how great it was, I also remember the hurry to get out.

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Wyndham (population 505) is one of those towns.  It’s the type of town where everyone knows everyone.  Gossip is rife, but by well meaning, salt of the earth people.  It’s conservative Southland.  Little diversity, just white working class New Zealanders going about their life in an unassuming but flavourless way.  The only claim to fame that I can think of for the town is that according to her autobiography, Janet Frame once lived there.

We drive down every street in town (trust me, this didn’t take as long as you’re imagining), most are named after people and places of the Crimean war.  There was no body around.   No kids biking, or even at the playground. I don’t know anyone who lives there any more either.

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I was surprised how many heritage buildings there were for what had always been a small rural town.  That wasn’t something I noticed as a kid.  I was happy to see a handful of houses being restored, like ‘the Doctors house’ and noticed the Catholic church is now a private residence.   There has always been the odd empty shop on the main street, but I was astounded with how many more had joined them – and how many had been demolished.  Another telltale sign that things are quiet is seeing corrugated iron boarding up windows or rotten boards on a main street.  Like in movies.  The post office still grand, still the light pink it has been as long as I’ve known it – has missed out on the lick of paint that would have made it a landmark to be proud of.  I marveled at the main town intersection – which anywhere else would be a roundabout… here… a hodge podge of streets meeting.

I wander down some roads and reserves and reminisce about where I tried my first cigarette (which fortunately was a bad experience), saw a stash of playboys hidden in a bush, by who knows, and learnt how to start fires with dried grass and twigs.  I gazed over the fence which we used to go through to get to our swimming spot in the Mataura river.  The smell of that river has stayed with me.  I wonder how we were allowed to swim there unsupervised…  I’m struggling to remember if it’s always looked this vast.

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Finally the high school beckons…   I was astounded at how small some of the buildings looked.  At least 25% smaller than I remember.  Though in essence it looks the same.  Native wood, formica and industrial metal lends itself to a timelessness.  Of all of the buildings, it’s the school hall that conjures up the most memories.  I re-imprint the school emblem above the stage. Integrity.  The rows of stacked wooden bench seats are still there.

I think about how many people like myself are holding their breath in assembly and class so they aren’t noticed.  How many hover at the back so they might get through another day without dying more on the inside.  Surprised at the memories that flood back.  Some good… more bad.  Everything looks more overgrown on the steps outside the hall.  Did it always look like this?  So sad?  I look at the grass field.  It’s massive compared to many schools now and I vaguely remember we had the biggest field per capita.  But it was never big enough to hide on.

Which brings me to wanting to tell you this, if you’re wishing away each day like I did.  You will get through this.  I got through it.  Each day drags; hell a lunchtime can feel never-ending.  Another year will pass, then another.  Then one day it’ll be over.  You wont need to endure it to get your education, placate your parents with your attendance and get your ticket the hell out of there.  Start again.  I wish I’d known how small that school was, how small that town was so that I might have been able to understand that it didn’t define me.  It’s not my home any more.  Who you are at school doesn’t have to be who you are when you leave.  Create a new life.  As many times as you want.  Don’t like your job change it.  Don’t like your town change it.  Move.  It’s up to you.  Breathe.  Dream and Go.  Get the heck out of there, this doesn’t have to be your home.  It’s not mine any more.

In writing this I am conscious of not wanting to offend those who live in or do love Wyndham.  I know there will be many.  The opinions are my own and share how I feel about a town that was once my world. 

 

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Central city park rushed through

This blog post has been edited, to remove my interpretation of a graph from the Hamilton City Council’s Long Term Plan summary, which I believed to show the majority of submitters being against the central city park.  It was pointed out, rightly so – that it shouldn’t be interpreted in that way – so I have removed it from this post so as not to be seen as ‘intentionally misleading’.  My intention for this blog is to inform as best as I can and encourage participation in civic issues, and I would never intentionally mislead or “lie”.  It’s not my style… you can find out and try to decipher the data yourself  on the HCC website.

The Council’s recent purchase of Victoria street buildings for a ‘central city park’, in my opinion blatantly ignores public feedback.  Here are the main reasons why I’m frustrated with this project and why I think the decision damages perception of our elected Council.

  1.  The Mayor admitted this was a boyhood dream.  As far as I’m concerned the only projects that should cross the Council table in a 10 year plan review are ones the community has asked for and where there has been a reasonable amount of legwork with the public / ratepayers.  In political speak this is “taking the residents with them on the journey”.  This project was rushed through.
  2. The true cost was and is largely a mystery.  Even Rob Pascoe, Hamilton East Councillor and former Accountant disagreed with the proposed budget for buying and demolishing the buildings.  That’s sure to kick us in the butt later…
  3. The integrity of the project was questionable.  Accusations about dodgy back door deals flew around and were taken seriously enough to call Audit NZ to do a report on the process taken to buy the buildings.  The report was held until after the project was given the tick…
  4. It’s in my opinion that the public is not in favour of this part of the overall River plan, in fact I think the Council has done a poor job of communicating what this proposal actually entails.  However, there is no clear data showing this – which is another symptom of the park not going through robust processes.

The central city park project was rushed, not costed properly and with a process already considered by some as dodgy, it was inexcusable for Councillors to disregard the loud public opinion against the proposal.  When residents don’t feel they are listened to it does irreparable harm which we’ve seen in a drop of voter turnout in 2016, and increase in negative indicators like those in the recent Quality of life survey.

Here’s the voting record for those who will use it to consider who to vote for in next year’s election.

FOR: King, Gallagher, Macpherson, Bunting, Taylor, Hamilton 
AGAINST: O’Leary, Pascoe, Tooman, Casson, Henry, Southgate
This vote was split so the Mayor used a Casting Vote FOR to break the tie.  Absent: Mallett

Read more: Central city mayhem

Martin Gallagher on why a Watchdog has been appointed to the Waikato DHB

Last month the government appointed a Crown monitor to the Waikato District Health Board to improve leadership and governance.  This appointment came after a series of well publicised, though not always completely transparent failings of the elected board.  Think back to Nigel Murray, Bob Simcock, SmartHealth and the budget blowout on the Collingwood street refurb.  The next step, if decision making doesn’t improve would be firing the board and appointing commissioners. It’s important to note that elections are only a year away but given overall lack of public understanding and participation – we shouldn’t accept election time will drastically change things.

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Martin Gallagher, who is on that board has kindly agreed to an interview and has given me permission to “ask anything” and to “not be afraid to be tough”.  Don’t mind if I do…  Earlier this year I  interviewed Sally Webb, then Acting, now Chair of the board.  While unspoken, I certainly didn’t feel I could “ask anything”.  You can listen to the podcast of that interview here (starts at 10min).

So this week I’ll ask Martin, what the role of the board is; the failings that led to a Crown monitor being appointed; how responsible he feels for some of those decisions; whether it’s time to ditch the current model; and how they are ensuring we have a sound hospital and health care service in the future.  Tune in to Free FM at 10am Friday.

Read more:  Who is on the board?

Waikato DHB gets government watchdog.

Board member calls for New Zealand district health boards to be reduced by half

 

 

 

Conservation week with Eugenie Sage – Minister of Conservation and Andrea Graves from Riverlea Environment Soc.

Ko te wiki tiaki ao tūroa tenei.  It’s Conservation week from the 15th to the 23rd of Mahuru.  For my 100th show, I’ll be speaking with Eugenie Sage of the Green Party of Aotearoa.  She is the Minister of Conservation and Land Information, the Associate Minister of the Environment and Acting Minister for Women.

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I’ll ask about her year so far – which included criticism of her signing approval for a Chinese company to bottle water at Otakiri Springs – Whakatane.  We’ll discuss protests at the Karangahake gorge over the weekend – resulting in the arrest of 5 people, including ex-Green party member Catherine Delahunty.  Eco and Ag-tourism are an economic opportunity for the Waikato, so I ask how we can ensure it’s sustainability.  With 1080 in the news again, we’ll korero about it’s role in conservation and finally how the coalition and central and local government are working together.

The focus of this year’s te wiki ao tūroa is our backyard – so coming back to local issues I’ve asked Andrea Graves to speak on behalf of the Riverlea Environment Society Inc about the mahi they do; their vision for the area, how development at Peacocke might impact on that and how we can get involved in advocacy and by getting our hands dirty!

Tune in to Free FM 89.0 (Waikato) at 10am this Friday.  Stream live online or wait for the podcast which will be shared on facebook or my website after the show.

A case for ‘citywide voting’

A case for ‘citywide voting’

The Hamilton City Council (NZ) is currently “consulting” on it’s Representation Review.  It looks at the number of Councillors, how many wards we have and whether we have community boards.

The Councillors voted to consult on keeping the status quo which means keeping two separate wards (East and West) rather than bringing in “citywide” or “at large voting”.

I had lots of discussions / interviews on the topic, read lots of comments and ultimately disagree with their choice.  Rather than staying silent for the status quo to be passed, it’s imperative that anyone who would prefer to vote city-wide in 2019 will need to let them know by making an online submission (and preferably speaking to it in the chamber).

I have made my submission and have pasted it below – I’m happy for anyone to copy and paste  the reasons outlined into their own submission.

To all elected members… 

Be bold, be brave and vote for change.

I am asking you to put forward / and vote for “at large voting” in this representation review. I believe it is an opportunity to ‘shake up the status quo’ and potentially improve voter turnout in 2019. (Proof of the status quo not working is the 32% voter turnout in 2016).

Reasons:
All Councillors (should) make decisions based on what is best for the city as a whole.

We need more choice, so that we can have the best possible candidates representing us.

I believe that at large voting will improve diversity of elected members, by allowing communities of interest (be it ethnicity, environment, social justice etc) to rally support for a candidate citywide.

‘At large voting’ is a better form of representation for voters who are transient or in unstable accommodation.

* I applaud the decision to implement Maaori representation in committees. I believe at large voting in 2019 and STV voting from 2022 would serve the communities well by ensuring we have the best people representing us.

I hope your decision will be based on the overall vision which is to improve participation of your constituents.

Ngaa mihi

You can read more about the Representation review on their website.   If you agree with me and even if you don’t – equally please  Make your submission here.

Hamilton Circle Jerk on Free FM

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To say I’m pretty darn excited about this weekend’s 10th annual Hamilton Circle Jerk is an understatement.  It’s hands down the best showcase of local music for the year – with 11 bands doing covers of other Hamilton bands songs (past or present) before sharing an original.  In this week’s Free FM podcast, the organiser of this madness Lauren joins me in the studio to talk about the concept and the bands in this year’s line up.  We’re joined by Timmy, Richard and Matt from Funk Therapy and Rob from brand spanky new band Bitter Defeat.  We spin tracks (digitally) by them, Bloodlux, Mobile Stud Unit, Hollow Grinders and local scoundrels Wink Wink Nudge Nudge.  Anyway have a listen and see you on Saturday!  Listen to the podcast.

Check out an earlier post about Future City Festival (March 2018) and the videos with my studio interviews with Bloodlux and Glass Shards.

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Wendy Ganley: 1960’s Fashion Designer

The story of a 21 year old Hamiltonian, opening her own fashion boutique on Victoria street, caught my attention.  That it happened back in the 1960’s, fascinated me even more for the vision, gumption, passion and dedication it would have taken to succeed.  It was a privilege to hear Wendy Hall nee Ganley of Elle boutique talk about her early career during an event at the Waikato Museum / Te Whare Taonga o Waikato on Sunday.  The exhibition showcasing her work, “Elle & the Youthquake” was curated with the New Zealand Fashion Museum and runs until the 14th of October.

Take a sneak peek here…

A visit to the exhibition will take some of you back in time… and for the retro-curious like me, have you swooning over the display of 1960’s clothing we spend hours scouring op-shops for today.  I’ve got a little collection of dresses in the mod style which I’ve collected over the years – it’s difficult to find them in my size, but I find the shape flattering and the colour and patterns fun.

Sunday’s conversation was facilitated by Doris de Pont, a fellow designer and Director of the New Zealand Fashion Museum in front of over 40 people.

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Wendy started out by making clothes for dolls, herself and friends.  After finishing school she contemplated what might be next; and while peers may have followed a path in nursing or teaching she decided to follow her love of design, textiles and colour.  The decision was fortunate for Hamilton, which could have been forgotten as a trend setter for fashion in those days.  Because trend setter she was!  Hems were getting higher, she was cutting holes out of the midriff, using crochet loops to make her version of a fur coat and combining colours not previous paired.

She shared her love of colour, showing off the bright orange lining on the inside of her cream wedding suit – which is in the exhibition (bottom left of the photo above).  Orange has been her favourite colour though points out it doesn’t look as good on her as it used to… I’m not sure if I believe this, I get the sense when looking at her that she would still get away with it – as stylish as she has remained.

Society was changing in the 1960’s.  Youth were no longer restricted by pre-war conservatism and more women were in the workforce, giving many of us discretionary income for the first time.   In fact, one member of the audience and one of Wendy’s first customers, an ex-nurse, recalls spending “all her pay” in Elle boutique, while other’s nodded in familiarity at lay-buying their latest desires. Many of these items still hang in their wardrobes.

Another theme, coming from stories of Wendy’s early career was the industry support given to her by fellow designers and given to others in return.  Wendy learnt couture from Babs Radon in Auckland, and mentored Marilyn Sainty in return here in Hamilton.  It was through working with Barbara Penberthy of Babs Radon that she was able to see how balancing motherhood and a career could work; through setting up a space for ‘the babies’ in her Frankton workshop.

Wendy was able to share her original sample books with the audience, which showed the textile swatches she had to choose from – and the designs and combinations used to make her clothing and accessories.  I was really surprised each item was a one off – she explained there wasn’t the same awareness of economies of scale; customers wouldn’t want to be seen at the races in the same outfit as someone else and besides, it wouldn’t have been fun mass producing them that way anyway!

Before trade was opened up in the 1980’s New Zealand wasn’t inundated by cheap imported clothing; or “fast fashion” as we are now.  Buyers consumed fashion under the kaupapa of “Buy once, Buy well”.  Quality over Quantity.  These garments were often one of a kind, hand made and of high quality, particularly with New Zealand wool a common textile to use.   Collectors like myself can attest to this enduring quality – with it not being uncommon to find an immaculate 1960s dress or suit in an opshop (they obviously knew how to follow “care instructions” unlike me).

Inevitably it got me thinking about how different things are now, and most notably in comparison to fast fashion.  Will there ever be a resurgence of NZ made clothing? Will we look back some time in the future and pin point the time when we started to “Buy once, Buy well” rather than base a decision on low cost and quantity.  Will we look back in 50 years and know who our local designers were?

We are not paying “The True Cost” #fashionrevolution

The Waikato Museum / Te Whare Taonga o Waikato has booklets about the exhibition available in their shop for $15.