Witi Ihimaera’s gift to the Waikato

Listen now.  In this podcast I’m joined by acclaimed New Zealand writer Witi Ihimaera who tells us about “Flowing Water” a story written to honour the lifeblood that is the Waikato River.  The theatrical performance is happening as part of the Hamilton Gardens Arts Festival next weekend.  You can get your tickets here.   

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I also tell you why Two Birds Eatery (my new show sponsor) is so awesome and share events happening in the Tron this week.

Music on today’s show is from 100% Waikato bands Katchafire, Cheshire Grimm, Rubita, The Recently Deceived and Louder Louder.  

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I don’t want to swim in the river anyway…

*This formed part of my show on ‘Water’ – you can listen to the podcast here.**

I spent my childhood summers swimming in the Mataura river.  I lived in Wyndham, a painfully small hick town where all we had for entertainment was that river.  Even at a young age, it would be normal to spend your whole day there.  While I have heaps of good memories about hanging out there and learning to swim – something always stuck with me, though it wasn’t until I was much older that I understood it…  the stench. Did you know you could smell water while being underwater? Wyndham is downstream from Mataura which at that time had the Papermill and Meat works… utilising it’s position on the river banks to pump it’s discharge.  By the time the water got to us, it was rank.  But strangely enough we didn’t get sick – I’m not sure if it’s because Southland kids are tough or if it just didn’t have bacteria like E-coli we hear so much about now.  Back in those days Southlander’s were sheep farmers – dairy conversion happened in the 90s – this will have impacted on the water quality in replace of more stringent controls on what the factories did.  I wish this intro could have been about how clean the water used to be… I guess my generation wasn’t that lucky either.

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My family checking out the views around Pukete Pa, on the Waikato River.

That’s one of the reasons I went to the public meeting on swimmable rivers, hosted by the Green party.  Before we go further – no this is not about campaigning for the Green party – if National or Labour organised a meeting on swimmable rivers I’d go to that… but it’s obviously not going to happen, according to our current government there is no problem.  I believe it’s important to leave the planet for our kids if not better – at least no worse than we inherit it.  We’re currently failing them.

About 50 people turned up – which is pretty good considering it was a chilly Tuesday night.  Heading the meeting was Catherine Delahunty who James Shaw described as a “Warrior” and she is.  She has lead a public meeting for 10 of the most compromised rivers in New Zealand – she is a passionate advocate for protecting the wairua of the river.  Before I share some of main technical challenges with our water quality – I just wanted to remind you that this isn’t necessarily about swimming off Wellington Beach or Swarbrick landing… it’s about protecting our freshwater sources.  In the three elections that the Greens have campaigned for swimmable rivers – this election has had an unprecedented amount of support for that policy, partly because the Havelock North contamination reminded so many of us that we are NOT guaranteed clean water supply.  We have to look after what we have.

There were three speakers for the evening; who have dedicated their time and energy to speaking up against polluters. collaborating to improve policy and educating industry and the public on what our threats are so we can work together to address them. Contrary to popular belief this is NOT anti-farmer, it’s anti-bad practice.  Once we know more – we should do more and science is unrefutable… or is it?… we’ll come back to that later.

There are four main threats to water quality.  1.  Nitrogen levels. 2. Phosphorus levels.  3. Germs/bacteria, and 4. Sediment.  These were outlined in more depth and formed the base for the Healthy Rivers Wai-Ora plan (The Waikato Regional Council is currently collating submissions on this).  No one believes that the “80 year plan” in it’s current form goes far enough, far enough.  The focus on the night was our dairy practice – because that is the biggest contributor to pollution in our river (but not the only one, point source discharge and what us city dwellers puts down the sink and into our soil also contributes).  Fencing, is obvious and a part of the solution; riparian planting and planting native bush in general helps to counter run off.  A pollution levy (which could cost the ratepayers about $7.50 per year) to support good change.  No more dairy conversions (this is a big one).  At the moment we have 9 million cattle, that is the equivalent of 126 million people … without a toilet or sewerage system.  It’s undeniable that we need to decrease our cow numbers – but ultimately what does this mean for farmers?  Have you heard of the sentiment quality over quantity?  We need to shift from a growth focussed model (thanks to Fonterra) and focus on added and higher value output.  This can be done and there are heaps of inspirational farmers to prove this.  We need to make sure the land consented for dairy is actually suitable for it.  This comes down to our Regional Council doing it’s job.  We also need to change how we view our natural resources.  A controversial “Scientist” Jacqueline Rowarth has claimed our river is amongst one of the cleanest in the world and seems to think that if the river goes out to sea it is wasted – well it doesn’t work like that… We have to allow  nature to do what it wants to do and work with it.  Which brings me to science.  It can be confusing – but doesn’t have to be.  Our current government changed the acceptable levels of E-Coli in the water to make it look like the rivers were more swimmable… on paper yes – in practice… obviously no.  Can Scientists stand up and call the government out on this?  Well, only with a great deal of difficulty and guess what – it all comes down to money.  It depends if they can afford to have their funding cut.  This happens.  It happened to Mike Joy who is a fantastic advocate and happened to one of the speakers Dr Alison Dewes who agreed it was a real fear.

So… I know you’re all asking what can I do?  Well, I think it comes to a few easy things.

  1.  Help your community restoration planting activities.
  2.  Inform yourself to have an overview on environmental policies.
  3.  Sign the petition for swimmable rivers (whether you vote Greens or not, this is about sending a message that we want more for our river).

We have fabulous advocates in government; follow them – share their work, party politics aside.  And please, support our farmers.  This is not us and them, we have to support the farmers who the majority want to do better – don’t denigrate and put it all on them.  They deserve it.

We have to remember that “nature can heal itself if we let her”.

 

 

 

March 4th in Hamilton

March 4th is the annual Children’s Day Carnival in our central city with the theme “Who’s your hero”.  The Carnival encompasses events run by different organisations in and around Garden Place from 10-2pm.

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Chalkfest run by Free FM is again part of the day’s events and can be found in Civic Square. Book your chalk space by emailing marketing@freefm.org.nz.  There are great prizes on offer.  While the theme for the day is “Who’s your hero” you can draw whatever you like with the chalk provided.

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Running alongside this – shutting down Worley Place is a Pop-up Park and Skate Competition run by HTown Skate Project.  Take the rare opportunity of being allowed to skate in our central city!  You can register for the competition (and use the park) from 8.30-11am with the competition starting at 11am.

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As well as these events Waikato Museum is open from 10-5pm, and getting on board with the Children’s Day “Who’s your hero?” carnival.   There will be face painting, superhero crafts and other fun activities.  Don’t forget that the Bob Marley exhibition is on in the Museum, so if you haven’t been in to check it out here’s your chance.

If you want to avoid kids – Frankton Thunder might suit you better.  Held over two days for petrol heads and classic car enthusiasts a large focus of it is to raise money for Child Cancer with their Ulysses Motorcycle Club Child Cancer Charity Run and Miss Frankton Thunder competition.

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Finally the much anticipated Future City Festival!  27 bands in two venues (Creative Waikato or Nivara Lounge), over two days.  Tickets are $35 from www.undertheradar.co.nz

I’ll personally be at Creative Waikato on the Saturday at the door – so please come say Hi!

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Confronting the anxiety beast at Pecha Kucha

I went to be in the audience of my first Pecha Kucha last year; and walked away thinking – “that’s so cool” – I wish I could do it.

And then laughed.  There is NO way that would happen.

What a difference, 6 months can make.

I laughed because, not only am I an introvert, I have social anxiety.  For me this means that even in a group setting – and even if I know everyone, I succumb to the physiological symptoms of anxiety, which usually stops me from putting my hand up and usually means that whatever I wanted to say, comes out as something else.  It’s always been this way.  Always the increased heart-rate and often the feeling of everything closing around me with the thudding pressure in my head and inability to stop shaking – or worse can’t move.  The extent of it varies with the situation – but it’s always there.

That’s why the thought of voluntarily putting myself in front of a crowd for 6 minutes and 40 seconds and talking was incomprehensible.

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I have opinions, views and stories to share.  I have so much to say and while written communication is how I’ve always done it – I feel that it was limiting me. Confront the beast.

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So, one night after a few wines I put my name forward to speak at the next Pecha Kucha… than wondered WTF had I gotten myself into when I found myself on the list for the night. I had about a month to prepare.  I left organising it until the weekend before, but had spent a lot of time thinking about what I would even talk about.  How I was going to do this and again… WTF had I gotten myself into.

I went through waves of anxiety  –  especially when the introduction was put up on the facebook page.  I went through moments of positive self talk… I can do this… What’s the worst that could happen? (Well I tried not to think about that too much).

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After organising my slides, writing a script and practicing a few times – I found myself in an un-naturally calm and positive frame of mind (totally not like me).  I was ready for this. Here are the things I think helped the most to get me up on the stage.

  1.  Being prepared.  Know what you are talking about. I wasn’t sure how I would handle the pressure and was kind to myself by having full notes.
  2. Practice.
  3. Visualise yourself doing it successfully.  (For me successfully didn’t mean perfect, it meant getting what I wanted to say out… and not falling over – wear flat shoes).  Imagine yourself being the best you can be.
  4. Self talk.  You CAN do this.  People do this ALL the time.  You are prepared.
  5. Accept the anxiety.  I absolutely accepted and was prepared to be anxious.  In the weeks leading up to it when I was feeling nervous – I would breathe and do positive self talk.  This included about minutes before hand when I was starting to get uncomfortable in the wait…  BREATHE
  6. Ask to go first.  Anxiety happens because of anticipation.

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I did it.  I was comfortable – Pecha Kucha is absolutely the best format and crowd to be speaking for the first time in front of.  I even enjoyed myself on stage – which is totally strange for me to admit even to myself.  Something that I thought I couldn’t do… I totally did.

I’ll be publishing the presentation this weekend – stay tuned.

Hamilton: City of the (not too distant) Future

Taking the train from Britomart, Auckland to Hamilton city – I didn’t really know what to expect.  Friends who had visited a decade prior advised me to avoid what was arguably the most boring city in the world.  But, since it was on the main trunk line south and coincided with one of my favourite indie bands being in town I decided to risk a night… how bad could it be?

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Ref: Hamiltron comix blogspot

Unlike expensive and logistically nightmarish transfers I’ve had in other cities – the fact that you walk out of Hamilton central’s underground station and on to Victoria street where most of the accommodation choices are meant it was off to a good start.  My hotel was literally across the road; in the centre of town with a river view.  Win.

After offloading my pack, I asked the reception where I should go to begin to explore the city.  She sent me to the Waikato Museum, to catch the free walking tour bus which runs Friday – Sunday.  I’ve got to admit – walking from hotel to the Museum, wasn’t particularly spectacular.  Apart from some obviously new developments – it looked like any other city I’ve been to, though there were some nice heritage buildings – freshly painted and flower baskets hanging from awnings above trendy cafes and bars.  (I was also pretty excited to see the Riff Raff statue, but since I was running late I decided to come back later).

The walking tour – was surprisingly good.  It was free so I couldn’t complain, but the friendly host – an Hambassador, I think she was – took a group of us, along the river – pointing out where a new pedestrian bridge was being constructed next year to reach Memorial Park in the East.  We wandered through the new Ferrybank arts precinct, which ran along the river and up to Victoria street – I was mesmerised by street performers and thought how lucky Hamiltonians were to have two theatres in one area.  A larger one called “the Founders” being finished soon and the Meteor theatre, which had been refurbished and was thriving for community performances.  She pointed out the Waikato Brewery building which had been converted into trendy eateries, St Pauls cathedral and parks of interest like the Band Rotunda – which thousands flock to for free jazz sessions every Sunday afternoon!

At this point I opted to hire a bicycle from the Ferrybank info centre and joined the daily cycle tour from the city to the Hamilton gardens through Hamilton East.  Our guide was busy telling stories of the cities past on our way along the river – with a few loops to capture buildings of interest like Euphrasie house – which apparently came really close to being demolished.  It was also really interesting to check out Beale Cottage – the oldest house in Hamilton, and Greenslade.  Apparently the council decided to focus on restoration and preservation of houses of note in the city.  The Hamilton gardens is world famous and did not disappoint.  I was blown away  – and could easily have spent a lot more time there had it not been for being distracted by the food trucks that set up at the gardens from Friday to Sunday nights.  I was grateful for the free wi-fi because I wasn’t sure if my memory card was going to hold all of the photos I was taking.

Dropping the bike off back in the city,  I wandered along the path back up to the hotel to change for the gig.  I’ve travelled enough by myself to not care about being by myself at something like this but found the people so friendly and unpretentious that I made a heap of new friends.  As soon as people hear you are from out of town they become animated in the “things you need to check out” including beer recommendations – they’re proud of locally crafted brews here. Apparently the underground music scene is really big here too – and they tell me they have a couple of central city festivals a year – so I’ll be back.

I took breakfast at a little cafe at Victoria on the River – just down from the hotel. Something I noticed was that the really cool things in this city are hidden.  You really have to ask someone, or pick up a map – but it lends itself to being part of the charm.  This city is so underrated that it’s cool.

After breakfast I wandered around the city to check out some of the Boon street and public art from a map and guide I was given at the gig last night. I was stoked to hear acoustic music coming from the stage when I got to Embassy Park.  With kids, families and older people sitting around enjoying the sun I could imagine it being a great place to live.  The coffee I had while I was people watching was one of the best I’ve had too.

With an hour left, I browsed the vintage and artisan craft shops tucked away in their laneways – I also managed to catch a weekly market in Garden Place – with even more entertainment happening on a stage.

By now – I’m starting to feel guttered that I didn’t plan longer here – I’ll have to hit up my friends who said it was dull.  With sadness, I walked back down to Hamilton central to get back on the train to head south.  Vowing to return one day soon.

(These things may or may not be happening at the moment, but will be soon…)

What is it about retro?

This Saturday Hamilton will enjoy it’s biggest Retro fair of the year.  The 6th annual Waikato Mid-Winter Retro fair runs from 9-3pm at the Chartwell Church Hall, 124 Comries Road. Hamilton.  With free entry, plenty of parking and over 20 exhibitors cramming anything and everything you can think of into a hall, there’s no excuse for missing it.  Prices are reasonable, and whether as a trip down memory lane or a hard-core mission to find the perfect seat for the lounge, or missing plate to a set, you won’t be disappointed.

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But, what is it about retro?  Retro is technically products made between 1950-1970… (the 80’s is starting to be included).  For some people, something which is ‘just an old chair’ will be the gorgeous Scandinavian inspired recliner, handmade in New Zealand in the 1960’s that someone else desperately wants.  The wood is better quality… (it’s ACTUAL wood as opposed to wheatbix); the craftmanship is superior – and the style is sleek, modern but completely practical – and comfortable.  Remember that gawdy orange, yellow and green Tupperware?  We want it… they literally last a life-time and are so practical.  It’s down to quality again.

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Some of us will flock to decor.  I personally, cannot resist looking at pictures, clocks, lamps and small furniture.  They’re the items that make our house a home.  Sometimes it comes down to subject matter, a theme, a colour which suits your decor or just because it’s $5.  Sometimes the picture that we like will also hold fond memories.  Perhaps that same framed picture hung in your Nana’s house, perhaps someone else inherited it, when you would have secretly liked it.  Now’s your chance to find it.

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Over the last few years I have found that the items that create the most nostalgia for people is kitchenalia.  It’s’ your Crown Lynn plates, glass decanters, 50’s cake mixers (that last a life-time); wooden handled utensils, kitsch cake tins and eggcups.  So many eggcups.

While some collectables are the exception, despite retro products being better quality they are often cheaper than the reproduction items you’ll find in chain stores.  You’ll find the “real deal” and save money.  That’s not to mention the benefit of re-using already existing items – which is way better for the environment.

What is it about retro?  It’s the quality, style and price/environmental benefits.  But, a huge part of that appeal is the recognition, feeling and nostalgia that comes from finding – and taking home something you associate with loved ones.