In Thrust We Trust

In Thrust We Trust is a 48 track fundraising album by the friends and fans of Dr Dean Ballinger – local musician, artist, radio DJ, writer and educator. Recently Dean (aka Dirk Thrust) was diagnosed with motor neurone disease, so revenue from album sales will help him and his family. You can buy the digital album on Bandcamp.

In the latest Kelli from the Tron podcast, Andrew Dean and Greg Locke (friends and Hollow Grinder bandmates) join me to talk about why the late 1990’s and early 2000’s music scene was so strong – and resurrecting some of that previously unreleased music for this album. With Dean unable to join us, they took turns reading the responses to some of the questions I’d posed to Dean earlier in the week. (They’re published verbatim below).

Listen to the podcast here: or find it on Spotify.

But first, Dean Ballinger’s love letter to Hamilton … published in Waikato Times (2014).

Hamilton is nothing like the sun.

Perhaps more like the dark side of the moon:

Suburbs in which the main idea of fun is the annual festival of the balloon.

If roses are red and snow is white

This town is toned in hues of brown and grey:

The river runs a lovely shade of shite

And faces blanch at the rates they have to pay.

The fair music that fills the urban streets

Is in the form of gruntings from the munters:

The homeless snore on inner-city seats

While the malls groan with brain-dead punters. But although it may want for class and pomp

Deep down I will always embrace the swamp.

Kelli: You’ve been co-credited (or blamed) for the moniker The Tron –  how did that come about?

Dean: I was working on then-operating local radio station Ufm around the year 2000 doing the breakfast show with Greg Page. We had a contest on air to think up a better slogan for Hamilton than the then current ‘Hamilton – where it’s happening’. I can’t remember the exact genesis of ‘Hamiltron – City of the Future’ : maybe a caller suggested it, or Greg and myself bantered it out over the course of the morning? Think my main contribution was helping to popularise it. It is a goodie…

Kelli: If one of your songs was to be chosen to be a theme song for the Tron – what would it be and why?

Dean: The Hollow Grinders – probably The Hillcrest Incident, named after the suburb where Andrew and I used to flat together.

MSU – I think Stu’s Pie Cart is a classic ‘Hamilton folk-song’ – ode to Stu Nichols, corpulent character who used to run the Ham East pie cart next to Steele Park back in the 90s; favourite for students and band members to get a feed of artery-killing lard at 2am after a night out.

Kelli: You wrote your thesis “Conspiratoria – the internet and the logic of conspiracy” before fake news, misinformation and the NZ Public party  – what should we watch out for next?

Dean: I suspect the next election will see another conspiracy-based party here – American far-right conspiracy theorising like QAnon has become established in mainstream politics and spread internationally courtesy of the net. I think that there’s some energy for revolutionary change from the current neoliberal consensus that the likes of the NZ Public Party were tapping into, except their idea of revolution was based on American religious fundamentalism and nationalism. Not sure if ‘we need guns to defend ourselves from the satanic illuminati controlling our brains with 5G’ much of a substantial basis for a new social order. Academic hat on sorry, I’ll take it off now…

Hollow Grinders at Circle Jerk 2018. Photo credit: Ngamihi photography

Kelli: You must have some stories with 30 odd years of gigs up your sleeve – is there one that you’d like Andrew or Greg to read out?

Dean: The Hollow Grinders played at the Whangamata Beach hop a few times, lots of colourful incidents:

–          Being stuck in an opened truck trailer with rain blowing in – band had to stop playing for fear of being electrocuted

–          Drunk who commandeered the mike and asked us to back him singing his original composition “Martian Motel Number 9’. He was probably some famous old singer and if we’d backed him we could have had a hit (more likely amateur Elvis impersonator)

–          Was playing drums when another drunk guy walked up behind me, curled up at the side of the kit and started going to sleep. Should have at least insisted he was wearing earplugs…

–          Andrew may want to relate the infamous Easter Egg story…

Kelli: What’s the Tron’s music scene like compared to when the Hollow Grinders first started? What do you think we need to keep it going / improve it / etc

Dean: Always good bands around, e.g. Bitter Defeat, The Contenders, Glass Shards at the moment, but like many NZ cities issues with venues closing and bands/scenes losing momentum. Wailing Bongo and ContactFM at Waikato University were great focus points for Hamilton music back when the Hollow Grinders started in the mid-90s, but lack of that culture for contemporary students. Nivara lounge a current focal point, but uncertain if it will survive building of the new theatre on that block. Some good support online and on-air though – Hamilton Underground Press, Hamilton music wiki, The Hum 106.7 FM (if I’m allowed to plug another radio station)…and Free FM of course.

Kelli: We’re about to play Der Student von Prague – tell us about that project and the song?

Dean: Lumiere was a ‘solo project’ of sorts where I played synths and Andrew helped produced. I did an ‘album’ in the early 2000s and worked on some other material which never quite got completed – Andrew finished off ‘Der Student von Prag’ for the compilation. I think some of the music is alright but I wanted to have lyrics so I sang as well – should I say ‘talked/sang’ like William Shatner. Hmmm. Hopefully a decent contribution to sub-genre of ‘Hamilton eccentricita’…


I’d like to publicly thank Andrew and Greg again for their amazing efforts putting the compilation together – alongside helping me it’s also an excellent compilation of music by Hamilton artists past and present (including many H-Town expats).

Should also say something about MND. Meant to be a rare disease but, since being diagnosed a few months ago, have met multiple people who have had family members with the illness or know someone who suffered from it. NZ has one of the highest rates in the world apparently. Would be good to have more resourcing towards developing effective treatments, and/or making ones currently being trialled overseas more readily available here.

Don’t be cheap – buy the album

Ep #188 Rimu Bhooi – Green candidate for Hamilton East

Kelli from the Tron is a Free FM radio show and podcast made especially for people living in Kirikiriroa Hamilton. Each week I share local news, views, events and music.

🎼🎸Song 1 – I started the podcast with ‘Ocean Baby’ from Summer Thieves who were awesome on Raglan Roast Live recently (watch it here). They’re kicking off their ‘Bandaids and Lipstick’ tour from the Yot Club on the 17th July. More here.

Pitopito korero

Hamilton City Council – Te Kaunihera o Kirikriroa (HCC) are reviewing the voting system we use to elect our mayor and councillors in August. Head to to read more about the pros and cons of First Past the Post (FPP) and Single Transferable Voting (STV). Or – fast forward to signing this petition for better representation 👉

HCC have released a report they commissioned alongside Waikato-Tainui, “Historical report on Hamilton Street and City Names” by Dr Vincent O’Malley Read the report here.

The latest episode of William Ray’s Black Sheep. “The story of statues” Listen to the podcast

🎼🎸Song 2 – ‘Fall into you’ by Looking for Alaska (you should check out their merch here).

🎤Interview with Rimu Bhooi – Green candidate for Hamilton East

Rimu is an activist, uni student and the Green party candidate for Hamilton East. She talked about the experience of students during lockdown, representation, fighting for human rights and her positions on both referendum questions.

Listen to the interview via podcast 👉 (🎧 10_July_podcast)

Last week

I was joined by Looking for Alaska‘s Amy and Aaron to talk about the release of “Fall into you” from their upcoming album (due for release November). Listen to last week’s podcast 👉 (🎧03-07-20 podcast)

One more thing; If you want to support this show, and other independent community media from Free FM in the Waikato – consider becoming a Patreon. The money helps maintain the studios, provide training and get this content to it’s national and international audiences

Ep #187 Looking for Alaska

Kelli from the Tron is a Free FM radio show and podcast made especially for people living in Kirikiriroa Hamilton. Each week I share local news, views, events and music.

A new episode broadcasts live on Free FM at 10am every Friday with the podcast available shortly after on Spotify / iHeartRadio / Apple podcasts or

Last week

Dr Gaurav Sharma – Hamilton West candidate for the Labour party joined me in the studio to share his background in medicine and business and why politics is the natural progression; what it was like to be on the frontline (as a GP) during covid19 and his priorities for primary health. Listen from 9min 👉 (🎧26-06-20 podcast)

Pitopito korero

Hamilton City Council / Te Kaunihera o Kirikiriroa wants you to have your say on the voting system we use to elect our mayor and councillors. First Past the Post (FPP) or Single Transferable Voting (STV). The yourcityelections website is a great place to educate yourself on the pros and cons of both. I support the change to STV because I think we will have a better say in the make up of the elected council. The only benefit of FPP is that its easy. If you support a change, make sure you have your say in the poll, AND sign the Politics in the Tron petition. If you’re feeling particularly supportive – please consider making a written or verbal submission.

Sign the petition 👉

Despite the Waikato Regional Council and Waikato Tainui criticising Watercare’s management of infrastructure in Auckland – they are set to allow Auckland to increase their water take from the Waikato River – at least as an short term solution. The latest update.

Last week the Hamilton City Council released an historical account by Dr Vincent O’Malley into the historical figures for which our city and streets are named.  Hamilton, Grey, Bryce and Von Tempsky.  This report seeks to inform on the facts of history, to help navigate a way forward in how we deal with our difficult history.  Read the report here.

Yesterday the infamous in Kirikiriroa Mem drive was demolished, despite a campaign to save it as a part of our cultural artistic history.  Sad day for those who inhabited it, and for those who were a part of its history.  Read more. Speaking of arts – Skinroom in Frankton has been repurposed and rebranded as Never project space. Read more

🎼🎸New music

“Fall into you” by Looking for Alaska

‘Fall Into You’ is the first single from their upcoming album ‘Light and Shadow,’ which is due for release this November. Check out the video which dropped yesterday too.

🎤Interview with Amy and Aaron from Looking for Alaska

Like two weary vagabonds hitch-hiking along the open road with nothing but a guitar and a suitcase of songs and wayward memories, pop-folk duo Looking For Alaska are ready to set the music scene alight. Members Aaron Gott and Amy Maynard offer up a sound rooted in country-style guitar and soaring harmonies woven together at their very fiber, intensified by their on-stage chemistry.

Listen to the interview via podcast 👉 (🎧03-07-20 podcast)

Next week

Rimu Bhooi – Hamilton East candidate for the Green party will be in the Free FM studio to talk about her candidacy and the issues she’d like to hear talked about ahead of this year’s election on September 19th.

One more thing; If you want to support this show, and other independent community media from Free FM in the Waikato – consider becoming a Patreon. The money helps maintain the studios, provide training and get this content to it’s national and international audiences

Podcast: Is it time for Aotearoa to become a republic? 🎧

In the first Kelli from the Tron podcast for 2020, I ask the question “Is it time for Aotearoa to become a republic?” (79% of you had said Yes in the poll on my facebook page).

To find out more I spoke to Lewis Holden, the campaign chair for New Zealand Republic to ask what our current constitutional arrangement is, who (according to the polls) support replacing the English monarchy with a New Zealand citizen and the pros and cons of doing so. We talk about how it might impact on Te Tiriti o Waitangi and finally the steps we need to take if we want this to happen. Have a listen, and head to for more info or if you want to get involved in the campaign.

Then, I talk to Hamilton based indie folk duo Lhasa (Micaela and Sam). 🎤 🎼 They met studying music at Vision College but are now on a North Island tour which includes Nivara Lounge on the 22nd of January). (You’ll also see them at Parachute this year).

Listen to the podcast, and get in touch via social media if you have comments or questions 🙂  🎧 

Episode 159 – Two new councillors on their first month on the job

Listen to the Podcast

Councillors Jen Nickel (Waikato Regional) and Sarah Thomson (Hamilton City) in the Free FM studio

It’s been just over a month since the election which saw both Jennifer Nickel and Sarah Thomson elected to council for the first time. I invited them into the Free FM studio (in what we hope is a regular thing) to hear about how they’ve found the first month on the job… what’s induction like and what roles have they been given?

Jen is chair of the Climate action committee at the Waikato Regional Council and Sarah is deputy of the Environment committee at Hamilton City Council. These are both new committees – set up due to calls during the election for these issues to be a priority. They talk about the opportunities to work together and what is on the cards for 2020.

Listen to my interview with Jennifer during the election period here or my interview with Sarah on Free Choice here if you want to know more about their background and priorities if elected.

Listen to the Podcast

Episode #158 – Day of climate action

Latest Free FM podcast – also available on Spotify / Apple Podcasts

Hannah Huggan is a local climate activist who I met in July after she (and other students) presented to Hamilton City Council on why they should declare a climate emergency. The HCC decided they knew better, and didn’t – but it hasn’t deterred Hannah and other Student Enviroleaders from mobilising both other students and Hamiltonians to take action on climate, through climate strikes and next in a Day of Climate Action.

We talked about why she is motivated to ‘do something’ about our climate emergency; the actions she’s been involved in to date – and what next…

Here’s a message from Student Enviroleaders about the Day of Action!

In this podcast I share some NEW tracks – “Take me from here” from Rubita from her upcoming album “Distinctive Thrill” and “Kanikani kiwi” a track off the new album “Awa” by Maciek Hrybowicz. #localmusic

I also share “Green Room Scuffle” – a cover of a Glass Shards song, by Camoria – whose album I’m calling “Best album from the Tron in 2019”. Just saying… have a listen if you don’t believe me. #localmusic

Jake and Tess are Camoria!

Finally, I wrap up some upcoming events;

Kids Eco Festival – Waipa / Timmy Dee’s Birthday Bash! / Hamilton Crown Lynn Market / Music Swap Market / White Ribbon Hikoi Hamilton

Thanks for listening!! Latest Free FM podcast – also available on Spotify / Apple Podcasts

The youth, gender and climate quake hits Hamilton

First published in the Hamilton News on 18 October 2019

Well if that wasn’t a disruption to the status quo I don’t know what is.  With such a big shake up to our elected council let’s look at the winners and losers.  To start with, the winners were women and those who wanted a better gender balance around the council table.  Regular readers will know this is something I’ve been working behind the scenes on for over a year, so it’s been hugely satisfying for that mahi to come to fruition.  In 2016 we had eight female candidates stand for council with only three elected.  Fast forward to 2019 – there were sixteen women campaigning and six (possibly seven) elected.  That’s phenomenal.  A mihi to the YWCA of Hamilton who did some great work in that space too.  The millenials are celebrating!  In 2016 we had no councillors under 35, and now we have two (possibly three).  I was fortunate to have been involved with Seed Waikato who have championed the work to support candidates and get more people enrolled to vote – ka pai to mahi e hoa maa.  The decreased average age of the council is great for representation and advocacy for issues young people care about.  Another winner was the environment and those pushing hard for climate action.  This is a far more progressive council than we’ve seen in the past with many campaigning for cycleways, restorative planting / green spaces and public transport.  Finally, democracy wins.  Yes our voter turnout is still far too low, but a 5% increase, and being the highest since 2004 is certainly something to celebrate.  The losers? I’ll keep it short.  The candidates who pushed for keeping rates down with no other platforms or vision…  Climate change deniers, racists and anti-vaxxers.  This election result is off the chart!  Thank you Hamilton.

The election results – in short

Well that’s a wrap. Another election pretty much done and dusted and thankfully without the huge disappointment experienced in 2016 – in terms of participation and diversity.

If you haven’t been keeping up… Paula Southgate is our new Mayor elect beating incumbent Andrew King. She’ll be joined in the council chamber by…

East Ward
Mark Bunting
Kesh Naidoo-Rauf
Maxine van Oosten
Margaret Forsyth
Ryan Hamilton
Rob Pascoe

West Ward
Angela O’Leary
Martin Gallagher
Geoff Taylor
Sarah Thomson
Dave Macpherson
Ewan Wilson

Those following the voter returns for the weeks leading to election day know we were tracking to beat turnout for 2016 and 2013, and with special votes still to be counted we’re at 38.78% a 5 % increase. The highest turnout since 2004. Still painfully low but an encouraging increase nonetheless.

I’m celebrating – improved gender balance in our elected council, going from three women to six.

I’m celebrating because in 2016, none of our councillors were under 40, this time we have two – and an overall younger council.

I’m celebrating – councillors elected who advocated for the environment, climate action and cycleways.

I’m celebrating because we unseated four incumbents, which is basically unheard of – we traditionally like the status quo. Consequently we got rid of climate change deniers / racists and an anti-vaxxer.

We get the final final final results on Thursday – I’ll post again then. I’m still keeping my fingers crossed for Louise Hutt to take the sixth seat for the West.

Using local government to get what you want – start by voting

Ae, e hoa. This is another opinion piece encouraging you to vote in the local elections. But, stick around – I’m not going to tell you to vote because it’s ‘your civic duty‘ or because people have literally – literally, died for this democratic right. I’m not going to use those reasons because to be honest, they didn’t work for me.

This is me voting… super easy!

I’m also not going to tell you to vote because what local government does impacts on our day to day life; from clean water to your tap, how you get around the city, the parks and community facilities in your neighbourhood to how much your rates bill is as a result.

FInally, I’m not going to pretend that the sky will fall in if certain people are elected, or not elected. We elect a mayor and twelve councillors across the city, who have equal votes – so by nature of it – nothing drastic will happen because they need a majority. In fact, local government is painfully slow and conservative – probably more due to the ties and requirements of central government than anything else- but it means ‘things tick by’ regardless of who we vote for.

So, why bother? Well, I bother – by way of voting last week, and spending the last three years committed to sharing information and encouragement to you via Politics in the Tron because I’m rethinking the role of local government and how we use it to get what we want. I want you to join me in this movement.

I want us to use local government to get more for our city. How so? Vote for the candidates who are talking about the issues you care about. Then, stick with them… support those candidates / elected councillors to get those issues across the line with their peers. Here’s an easy example…

We all care about the climate emergency right? (Okay, so we have at least three Hamilton City Councillors who still don’t get it – so I’ll rephrase). Most of us care about the climate emergency and damage to papatuuaanuku. We know that one of the biggest things we can do (right after having one less kid) is to address our obsession with cars. At a getting around town level, this inevitably leads to cycle-ways.

Choose candidates who bang on about cycleways. Easy. You wouldn’t choose a candidate who continually talks about ‘loving their car’ because they are clearly stuck in 2005 and aren’t looking to what our climate / environment needs; and aren’t considering the impact of congestion as our population grows, or heck even our increasing obesity rates which require us to get more active.

After finding out which candidates care about that issue; vote for them. Then, keep an eye on the local news, heck be proactive and message them and ask them to keep you (in fact all residents) up to date with when decisions are being made about cycleways. (I think Councillors are really bad at asking us for support on issues sometimes, but this might change if enough of us try to change things).

Funding decisions are usually during the 10 year plan or annual plan but you’d be surprised how often it pops up during the rest of the term. Once you know a decision is about to be made, get involved. Ask the councillor what they need and mobilise others to support you.

Look, I’m not so completely out of touch, that I think everyone has the time or inclination to get involved in these sorts of decisions, what I’m trying to highlight is that we can get more of what we want, and less of what we don’t – if we choose candidates who look or sound like us, and if we pay attention to the issues we care about throughout the three year term.

This includes, asking questions – or ‘holding the buggers to account’ if they vote differently to what they said they would. Accountability is a huge part of a better system.

So, this was a longer post than I expected – and I may not have articulated it well, but what I’m trying to say is – we can get more for the city we love if we choose the candidates who ‘care about what we care about’ and support them once elected. We need less of the ‘us and them’.

If you don’t like ‘them’… don’t vote for them … vote for someone else. There are a heap of new candidates standing this year who deserve your vote.

If that envelope is still on your kitchen table – here are some links to help you choose and vote.

🧐 Information on candidates
📫 Post/ballot boxes

If the voting papers didn’t turn up call the Electoral office on ☎ 0800 922 822. (Tell your boss you have permission from us to make the call on work time). #votethetron

Core council business, wellbeing

In 2019, legislation was passed which put the people back into council business.  Until then, we’d become familiar with hearing council’s role was pipes, roads and rubbish.  Local government must now “promote the social, economic, environmental, and cultural well-being of communities”.  That might mean more funding for arts, or community organisations.  It might mean making sure any decisions made consider the four well-beings.  Regardless, I wanted to highlight an issue that is important for youth and how council has a role to play in addressing it. 

If you ask young people what is important to them, climate and mental health will be at the top of the list.  So, what role does our city council play in addressing mental health?  It’s here that we consider the second of the two options outlined above, no-one is suggesting council fund mental health initiatives, but they can make sure that all decisions made consider what we know to be good for mental health.  That means make sure that we protect and restore green spaces and make getting around the city safer and easierNature and physical activity are good for mental health.  Councils can support community wellbeing by funding and promoting community work, events and organisations. Connectivity, a sense of belonging and identity are good for mental health.  Finally, affordable housing – can be enabled by council by coming up with innovative solutions like the community land trust, or making sure developers offer “affordable” options.  Financial pressure impacts on mental health. Council has a role to play in promoting wellbeing, I hope that we use this election to make sure that candidates know that this is a priority for not just youth, but all of us.