Saturday, December 31, 2011
The abiding memory of 2011 will be the Christchurch earthquake. We spent Christmas/New Year down there last year, and certainly felt the Boxing Day quake. We were out of town for New Year's Eve, but were back in Christchurch by lunchtime on 1 January, and even then, we'd barely sat down at the restaurant in Riccarton Road when the earth moved again. The next day we sat in the cafe at Christchurch Cathedral, then lunched at a hotel overlooking the square. Little did we know what was to follow.
We were out of town on Tuesday 22 February when we got a txt about the earthquake in Christchurch. The next few hours were a blur, even an island away as we worked the phones accounting for family, staff and contractors. We didn't get home until 10pm that night, and it was then that we first saw the devastation in central Christchurch. As we drove home, Ohakea was fully lit; we later learned that it was to fly the North Island USAR team south.
We've had numerous visits to Christchurch since, and as we've said before, the resilience of the folk down there is commendable. A new Christchurch will emerge from the rubble of 22/2/11, and those who tough it out now will be rewarded with a wonderful new city.
The dust had barely settled on Christchurch when, one Friday night we saw Twitter accounts of a magnitude 9 earthquake in Japan. We switched the TV to the news channels, and watched transfixed as a wall of water washed inland. We've since heard first-hand accounts of the tragedu from a USAR member who was deployed to both Christchurch and Japan, and the pictures we saw on the television don't even begin to describe the horror in Japan.
The General Election was a major focus, given that we are primarily a political blog. We were delighted that John Key was able to form a government post-26 November; the mere thought of a tax-borrow-and-spend Labour/Greens government, propped up by Winston Peters would have been too much to bear!
It's been a huge sporting year. The Black Caps defied the odds reaching the semi-finals of the ICC World Cup, and ended the year on a high by beating Australia in a test match in Hobart. Both the men's and women's hockey teams performed strongly in the Champions Trophy tournaments, and both are medal chances for London 2012. Valerie Adams retained her world shotput title, and our rowers won a bunch of medals at the world championships; hopefully a portent of Olympic success. The NZ Breakers won the Australian NBL title; a first for a professional team in this country. The Warriors marched to the NRL Grand Final, but fell to Manly, although the Junior Warriors won a second consecutive Toyota Cup, and have become a fantastic nursery for the top side.
But the undoubted highlight of the sporting year was the Rugby World Cup. For six weeks, rugby reigned supreme, and the country was on a high. Who could ever have predicted that 18,000 would pack out Arena Manawatu to watch Georgia play Romania on a Wednesday evening, and that over 5000 of them would be bedecked with either red or yellow buckets! And it all came down to that tension-filled final few minutes at Eden Park one Sunday night late in October as the All Blacks won a second Webb Ellis Cup. The naysayers were silenced, tournament sales targets were exceeded, and the All Blacks got the monkey off their back; it was a wonderful and unforgettable tournament.
On a personal level, it's been an interesting year. We made a decision that this would be a year where we consolidated our businesses after several years of exponential growth that we could never catch up with. It was a necessary decision, and it's proved to be a good one as we have focused on systems and processes, whilst reducing our own workloads somewhat. In the New Year however we'll be moving into Auckland business-wise through an opportunity which landed in our laps a couple of months ago. That will certainly present some new challenges along with new opportunities, and we'll be visiting Auckland more often. We also joined a service club in the early part of the year, and that has been a pleasant and welcome diversion from mundane things such as work! But we didn't get out to golf anywhere near as often as we would have liked, and that will be a priority for 2012, along with getting fit and losing some weight.
That's our brief take on the year that ends at midnight tonight. Feel free to give us your own perspective via the comments. And however you celebrate tonight, stay safe; the weather here is foul; it can only improve in 2012!
In possibly the least suprising New Years Honours award of all time, Graham Henry has been recognised; the Herald reports:
Sir Graham Henry has walked a fine line between glory and failure to reach the pinnacle of rugby - and to today receive one of the country's highest honours.
Sir Graham is being made a Knight Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit, a recognition of his service to the national sport.
The New Year Honour comes after his triumph at the Rugby World Cup in October, a victory won by the narrowest of margins.
"We went through some shit, didn't we? Richie [McCaw] is playing on one leg, Daniel [Carter] had broken his abductor muscle, Colin Slade has done his abductor, Aaron Cruden crocked his knee.
"And we have the whitebaiter [Stephen Donald] kicking the goals.
"There was a fair bit of tension in that last game," said Sir Graham this week, visibly relaxed and full of jovial understatement two months after the 8-7 nail-biter over France.
Sir Graham said he was no "looker-backer" - no sitting around reflecting on accomplishments.
But he admitted that at times his "gut" remembered the lofty goals he had set as a young man in 1970, and he could appreciate how far he had come.
The knighthood was humbling, a little bit embarrassing, and anyway everyone would still just call him Ted - or "the old prick", he said.
"They will just call me whatever they want to call me. Things won't change."
This is a richly deserved honour in our ever-humble opinion. We had serious reservations over the reappointment of Sir Graham after the 2007 RWC failure. But he proved the NZRU right and the critics wrong, for which we will be eternally appreciative!
And it's not just the RWC triumph for which Sir Graham has been recognised; read on:
Former All Black Grant Fox, who played for Sir Graham in Auckland, said his former coach deserved the recognition. "He's given a lifetime service to rugby. For me, it's not about winning the World Cup - that's just a culmination of decades of service to the game."
Sir Graham said the honour - which came four years after bitter defeat at the previous World Cup - had been earned collectively by the All Black players, staff, management and families.
"I will just have to carry that title for this group of people - though my mother is very pleased. She loves the Queen so she's very proud."
Sir Graham's pursuit of rugby's highest echelons began more than 40 years ago as a teacher, when he set a series of goals to one day coach the All Blacks.
"I was a young kid, really, coaching at a high school. But I had a passion for it and I have always worked hard. I have always tried to make sure the goals you set come true."
The journey took several turns: he failed to get the coaching job for Auckland in 1987 but got there in 1992.
He missed out on the All Blacks job in 1998 but returned in 2003, after a tough time in Wales.
In each case, the delays put him among the right people to go further; without them he would just be at a school somewhere, he said.
"I could have been coaching North Harbour - heaven forbid - and I would have died," he joked.
"So you are just fortunate to be in the right place in the right time with people who are motivated to do something special.
"The dice rolled well."
Sir Graham said his goal now, having attained the ultimate prize, was to "die gracefully".
"I'm getting close to late middle age now," the 65-year-old said, his tongue in cheek.
Congratulations Sir Graham Henry; but if you're going to "die gracefully", please don't do it for a little while yet!
Friday, December 30, 2011
Anyway, you know the drill; the Friday Forum is your space to have a rant, to get something off your chest, or to generate discussion on a pet topic. It might be sports, it might be politics, it might be something off the wall; but you choose the subject. All we ask is for a modicum of respect for one another's opinions, even when there's disagreement.
That's all from us; as always, the floor is yours...
The youth accused of the attack on a young child in Turangi last week appeared in the Taupo Youth Court yesterday. Given the intense public interest in the case, it's no surprise that an angry crowd turned up, as the Herald reports:
Public fury at a teenager charged with sexually violating a 5-year-old girl in a Turangi campground threatened to erupt into violence as he was escorted from court.
One man shouted at the boy, a 16-year-old from Turangi, to show his face as he was led between the police station and courthouse and called him a "scumbag".
Family members, some whom told the boy they loved him as he walked past, had to be held apart from angry members of the public.
The boy's father was heard to lay the blame on alcohol.
The family, some of whom arrived with young children, refused to talk to reporters outside the courthouse and at times hid their faces with their hoods and hands to avoid being filmed or photographed.
They filled one side of the public gallery, with reporters on the other, as the teenager was led into the dock at Taupo Youth Court, facing charges of sexual violation, aggravated wounding and burglary.
Dressed in baggy jeans and a white T-shirt, he trembled and fought back tears as he pointed out family members to Judge Jocelyn Munro and later clasped his hands behind his back, at times sobbing loudly.
Judge Munro remanded the youth in custody for two weeks, suppressing details. The accused did not seek bail.
Let's make one thing clear from the outset. One of the key features of our criminal justice system is the presumption of innocence. As galling as these crimes against a defenceless toddler may have been, this youth is entitled to be regarded as innocent until such time as he is proven guilty. He is also entitled by law to be represented by Counsel who will provide him with the best defence that they are able to conduct.
As sickened and as angry as we may be by the attack on the five-year-old, we must acknowledge that it is the obligation of the Crown via the Police to prove the charges against this youth. That notwithstanding, the outpouring of anger is entirely normal, and it shouldn't be unexpected. If he is subsequently found to be guilty of these crimes, the youth will be on the receiving end of plenty more of it; there's a distinct pecking order behind bars, and those who offend against children are right at the bottom of it.
Rather than having a night out with his mates to see the coming-in of 2012, we suspect that this youth will be in for a very sobering time until his next Court appearance. If the Police have got the right man (the presumption of innocence again), this youth will be learning a very stark lesson about consequences.
Thursday, December 29, 2011
The story also includes the photograph below, and given that we haven't had a Caption Contest for a while, it was irresistable!
Anyway, you know the rules; keep 'em short, pithy and amusing, and don't get unnecessarily personal...
In case you haven't, here's the video, followed by a most entertaining case of history repeating, when the Channel Nine team talked about it yesterday before the start of play:
Well done Ian Healy; it couldn't have happened to a nicer bloke. Someone should have mentioned to Healy that the key to riding a Segway is balance; something that is lacking in Heal's notoriously Aussie-eyed commentaries!
A 16-year-old Turangi boy will appear in court today charged with the sexual violation of a 5-year-old girl in a holiday park - an attack described by her parents as a "random act of evil".
Police last night announced the arrest exactly one week after the attack on the young tourist that horrified locals and the rest of the country.
Up to 30 officers worked on the Operation Turangi investigation and inquiry chief Detective Inspector Mark Loper said they became "interested" in the local boy and interviewed him yesterday afternoon.
The 16-year-old will appear in the Taupo Youth Court this afternoon to face charges of sexual violation, aggravated wounding and burglary.
The family of the girl, on holiday from Europe, said last night that they were "very relieved" after hearing of the arrest.
In a statement, they expressed their gratitude to the police and praised the generosity of the Turangi community, which raised $13,000 for them.
"We can't thank [the police] enough. They were meticulous, thorough and caring. They are a credit to New Zealand.
We join with the family of the young girl in congratulating the police on having hopefully locked up the offender in this dreadful crime against a defenceless young girl. We hope that some of their faith in the goodness of New Zealanders has been restored after what has been a terrible ordeal for them.
But using the term "boy" to describe the alleged offender? Sorry; that sends entirely the wrong message. "Youth" would be acceptable (and we can think of plenty of stronger words, but the presumption of innocence applies), but describing him as a boy implies a naive, carefree youngster, which someone committing this kind of offence is anything but.
Wednesday, December 28, 2011
We blogged yesterday about Father Time catching up with Michael Hussey and Ricky Ponting. Then yesterday afternoon we had the pleasure of watching a gem of an innings from a man who is older than both of them.
Students of the game will remember that Sachin Tendulkar almost scored a maiden test hundred against New Zealand at Napier in 1990. He was dismissed for 88, caught by John Wright from Danny Morrison's bowling, and Tendulkar was aged just 16 years at the time, having debuted against Pakistan in November 1989. 22 years on, he is still piling on the runs.
But he won't get his 100th international century today. As stumps approached last night, his innings was ended by an absolute jaffa of a delivery from Peter Siddle which nipped back through the gate to hit the top of Tendulkar's off stump. Prior to that, he had played shots all around the MCG on his way to 73 including eight fours and a six. It was a masterful knock from the Little Master, but sadly one that will end without that milestone that he so keenly seeks.
Sachin Tendulkar is far and away the best batsmen of the modern era. With more than 15,000 test runs to his credit (including 51 test match centuries) he has set records that may never be broken. His longevity is exceptional, and his status as one of the all-time greats is assured.
But is Tendulkar better than Don Bradman? That, dear readers, is the $64,000 question; whaddya reckon?
Tuesday, December 27, 2011
And the acid must really be coming on two of the team's stalwarts. Ricky Ponting hasn't scored a test century since 14 January 2010; that's a long time between drinks for a player with 39 test hundreds under his belt. Ponting has been a fantastic servant of Australian cricket, but his continued inability to covert starts into the kind of scores that win test matches and that are expected by top-order players must be giving the Australian selectors cause for concern. At 37, Ponting's future with the Australian team must now be under scrutiny. His feet no longer move as they did in his prime, and he seems to lose sight of the ball at times. He looked to be batting himself back into form yesterday, but was again undone by a back-of-a-length ball from Yadav which he edged to slip.
And Michael "Mr Cricket" Hussy is in a deep slump. After averaging close to a hundred for the first half of his test career, his average and his reputation are slipping. His last seven test innings have produced only 82 runs, 59 of which came in the Johannesburg test match against South Africa. His last two test innings have lasted a sum total of two balls, for no runs at all; the kind of batting more usually associated with the likes of Chris Martin! He might have been a touch unlucky yesterday; given out to a ball which flicked his sleeve, not his glove, but when you're out of form, those kinds of decisions just seem to happen.
And Cricinfo notes another parrallel between Hussey and Martin; they both have 12 test match ducks since 1/1/2008. Only Mitchell Johnson (14) has failed to trouble the scorers with greater frequency over that period!
After New Zealand's magnificent win over the Aussies in Hobart, one of the Australian press suggested that both Ponting and Hussey are nearing the point where the selectors might decide their futures, rather than the players choosing their time to depart the scene. That would be unfortunate; both players have been wonderful servants of the game, and goodness knows, they've broken Kiwi hearts often enough. To be dropped midway through a series would be an indignity that neither deserves.
I hope you had a wonderful time with family and friends yesterday.
This is hardly the season for deep political analysis, not that you got too much of that from me during 2011.
Given that this is my last column of the year, and we are in the midst of the awards season, may I present the Basil Awards.
You'll just have to imagine me handing out the prizes in my best Newtown basil-growing outfit, Mrs Armstrong at my side in her sequinned off-the-shoulder number, and Jolene, our fox terrier, excitedly wagging her tail as recipients come to the stage to eagerly collect their award.
Budding Basil best comeback of the year: First equal: Stephen Donald and Winston Peters. It was some people's worst nightmare, others said it couldn't possibly happen, but when Stephen Donald landed that penalty you could hear the nation sigh with relief.
Basil Fawlty worst comeback of the year: First equal: Don Brash and Martin Crowe. While Crowe briefly filled every unfit middle-aged Kiwi bloke with hope, Brash showed us why we should never listen to a politician who says he has done his own private polling.
Basil politician of the year: John Key: Hard to go past a politician who increased his party's vote and held up the Centre-Right share despite tough times.
Basil local MP of the Year: Annette King: from bowling clubs to school prize-givings to theatre events, she seems to attend everything.
Pruned Basil best losing local election candidates: First equal: Paul Foster-Bell and James Shaw. The Wellington Central campaign was dominated by policies not personalities. Nice.
Great stuff Dave; but you forgot to self-award for best caustic comments on Twitter; Armstrong's tweets, even when we disagree with them are always worth a read.
Monday, December 26, 2011
More than 18,000 unwanted Christmas presents have already shown up on Trade Me.
Reject gifts started appearing at lunchtime yesterday.
Trade Me reports a surge in listings between seven and eleven o'clock last night.
Presents most likely to be on-sold include linen, stationery, electric shavers, DVDs, ties, chocolates and kitchen appliances.Items intended as thoughtful gifts for women are popular...with clothing, sunglasses and handbags are being listed in reasonable numbers.
Now in our years on this earth, we've received a few gifts that we wouldn't really classify as must-haves. But we've never thought about on-selling them.
Still, those who propose to invest in TradeMe will be pleased; just think of all those success fees!
Booker has provided countless earthquake-related stories in the fifteen months since then. And in Saturday's Herald he reflected on the feelings of Cantabrians when the earth moved again on Friday afternoon. It's an excellent piece (one which he hadn't seen until this morning), so we are reproducing it in full:
I was sure these damn earthquakes had finally run their course. I had let my guard down. Even though living in Christchurch this year had taught me not to.
For a few seconds, I couldn't quite believe it was happening again as my two-storey flat shook violently in the 5.8-magnitude quake and I struggled to stay on my feet.
Judging by other people's reactions in this quake-ravaged city yesterday, many thought the same way.
After a year in which big quakes ripped the heart out of the city, surely we had suffered enough. Surely it would not strike again in the holiday season.
But it did. Just as people were starting holidays, finishing their Christmas shopping, or winding down with a drink on the last day of work. The physical damage may not be as bad this time round, but it is another psychological hammer blow.
People are not just shocked, as they were when the previous big quakes hit.
They are angry. They had started to return to normality, begun repairing homes and restarting businesses, were looking ahead to a relaxing break - then abruptly they were snatched back to the hellish days of February and June.
People were again spilling out of buildings, fighting through traffic gridlock, frantically trying to reach loved ones on overloaded phone networks, crying and embracing each other in the streets - and all while the aftershocks continued throughout the afternoon.
Suddenly liquefaction was the buzz word again - small fountains spewing out more of the water and sludge that became so familiar in the previous quakes, deluging streets and properties.
Robin Thompson summed it up as he trudged around his sodden section: "No one wanted this for Christmas."
Of course, many will again be questioning whether they can stay in Christchurch. Especially those families coping with terrified children. And who can blame them?
But most of us will stay, knowing that eventually there must be an end to it all. Even amid yesterday's shakes there were signs of the resilience that defined the city's people after the previous disasters.
Pensioner Norma McKenna, 85, could still manage a smile as she showed the Weekend Herald around her liquefaction-hit property yesterday.
She had just walked back from the local supermarket where, during one of the quakes, "my trolley moved and another lady helped me so I wouldn't fall down".
Her home is still under repair from the previous quakes; now her driveway is flooded and she has fresh patches of sludge across her section.
Mrs McKenna won't let it ruin her Christmas, and I'm sure others won't either. But once again, we will have to be on guard.
Jarrod Booker is right on the money when he talks about the resilience of the folk of Canterbury. In all probability, those that have stuck it out this far will stay, and those that stay will see Christchurch rebuilt into a vibrant, modern city.
Their resilience will have its reward; of that we have no doubt whatsoever.
Very soon the morning quiet will be shattered by the noise of finely-tuned motorcycle engines. If we squint hard enough from our semi-rural location, we can see the pits in Taupo Quay, adjacent to the famous Cemetery Circuit. The Boxing Day meeting has been a regular fixture on the calendar, and a crowd of around 15,000 is likely to descend on the city today from all parts. If you're on the road in this area, you'll notice far more motorcycles than usual; it's two-wheel Mecca here today!
We won't be going down; there's more than enough food and beverage at our whare to last the occupants several days. And having just helped out in the retail world in the lead-up to Christmas, the last place we need to be is anywhere near a Boxing Day sale; we're peopled out!
It's far more likely though that we'll be near the telly from 12.30pm for the build-up to the Boxing Day test in Melbourne. Can Sachin Tendulkar register his 100th international century at the most iconic test match of them all? We certainly wouldn't bet against it. Until then, breakfast and a book sounds like a plan.
That's our day in a nutshell; what about you?
Sunday, December 25, 2011
The BBQ will be well used today; there's a large piece of pork in the fridge to be slowly rotisseried, and while that's happening, we'll head down to the vege garden and dig another root of new spuds; they'll be in the pot and on the table within a couple of hours of emerging from the ground; fresh is best!
However you celebrate Christmas today, have a wonderful and blessed day. We went to church last night to remember the miracle of Christmas, and church was packed to the rafters. Jesus is still the reason for the season. So in that vein, here's another song from our current favourite Christian band, Kutless:
This will be our sole contribution to the blogosphere today, barring anything earth-shattering; we'll see you tomorrow. Have a wonderful and joy-filled day.
Saturday, December 24, 2011
But that's digressing; caught up in the general feelings of frustration after the Canterbury Alarm Clock went off this morning at 6.37am (just another 5.1!), she took the words of a well-known Christmas song (featured on Keeping Stock this week) and changed them around a bit. Here's the result, with apologies to Shane McGowan:
It was Christmas Eve, babe
In the quake zone
Bob Parker said to me, "this year's a munted one".
And then we shovelled silt
'Cause there's nothing else to do
I turned to Geonet
And pulled on my gumboots
There was a rolling one
Came in near 5.1
I've got a feeling, this year's fucked me and you
So Happy Christmas
I love ya, Christchurch
But we need a better time
When the aftershocks are through
We've got cars in sinkholes
We've got rivers down roads
When the quakes vibrate through you
You think your head might explode
When we first did this dance
On a cold September eve
We never dreamed that this is where we would be
You were violent, you were shitty
You woke up the city
When the ground finished shaking we yelled out "no more!"
The lightshades were swinging
Seismographs they were pinging
We kissed our own arses
a fond smooch goodbye
And the boys in the Farmy Army say
"everyone's on holiday"
And we're expecting aftershocks
On Christmas Day
We'll let you find verse two four yourselves; if you're familiar with the original, you'll be aware of the insults that flow. But we commend Moata on bringing a bit of seasonal levity to what is for many a very stressful situation with 70 earthquakes having been recorded since the 5.8 shake at 1.58pm yesterday. And sometimes, you've just got to laugh.
New Zealanders are being asked to stop donating gifts for the 5-year-old girl who was brutally violated in Turangi.
The parents of the tourist girl, believed to from Belgium, have been inundated with Christmas gifts and messages of support as their daughter recovers in Waikato Hospital.
The girl was asleep with her three-year-old brother in a caravan at Club Habitat holiday park when she was attacked between 10.10pm and 10.40pm on Wednesday.
She needed four hours of surgery after receiving "heart-wrenching" injuries to her face and body in the sexually-motivated attack, Detective Inspector Mark Loper said.
Hundreds of people dropped off presents at the hospital yesterday and thousands more emailed or phoned with messages of support.
Police today said family were incredibly appreciative of the generosity, but there was no capacity to take any more presents.
The family would only be able to take so much back to Europe and the surplus would help put smiles on the faces of a lot of sick children at the hospital.
Police said the family were reading all of the cards and messages being sent through the Waikato DHB email and they have been a huge support.
"We are very touched by the reactions of New Zealanders," the parents said in a statement.
"Physically she is doing better and better. She started playing and drawing in her bed.
"This will still be a long journey for us and it will be made that much easier by the loving care and messages we've received from throughout New Zealand."
Police said Kiwis still wanting to help could donate to the Trust fund, which has been set up with two independent trustees.
We can now only hope that the Police find the assailant. This was an abhorrent crime.
In the meantime our thoughts, prayers and aroha are with her and her family as they collectively recover from an horrific ordeal. At least they are now seeing the decency of New Zealanders, and we hope that they understand that Kiwis are shocked and disgusted as well.
Which is why, when we saw a story in yesterday's Dom-Post about Occupy Wellington, a name stuck out; check this out:
Occupy Wellington protesters have been served an eviction notice by the council but say they will have to be physically removed.
The remaining protesters were given the notice yesterday, signed off by Wellington City Council chief executive Garry Poole. It give the camp until 4pm on January 4 to leave Civic Square.
"The Wellington City Council has continued open dialogue with you but always on the basis that your occupation contravenes our by laws and is illegal and interferes with the rights of others to use and enjoy this land," the letter says.
"We have been consistent in our communication with you - you can not occupy this land indefinitely....this letter is to formally give you notice to leave the land in Civic Square owned by Wellington City Council on behalf of the people of Wellington."
Occupy Wellington spokesman Benjamin Easton said this morning that protesters had no intention of leaving the site by the deadline set by the council.
"If the police arrive then they would need to remove us physically. I am not going to make it easy for them to remove me. I am going to make it as difficult as possible.
"But am I going to assault or lash out at any authority that is trying to remove me? The answer is no, categorically.''
A Wellington City Council spokesman declined to comment on what action the council would take should the protesters defy the deadline.
Benjamin Easton; we knew the name was familiar, so we quickly searched our archives, and this is what we came up with:
It would seem that Paula Bennet's promise to crack down on those rorting the welfare system is happening. The Dom-Post reports:
An unemployed Wellington man who boasted he was living on the dole to run court crusades on social issues has been told to report for an immediate work test.
Benjamin Easton, who has lodged an Environment Court appeal to stop Manners Mall being turned into a buses-only road, told The Dominion Post on Tuesday he was "deliberately and directly" on the dole so he could bring "the people's challenge to the courts".
"It is a sacrifice, really. I am perfectly capable of earning."
Social Development Minister Paula Bennett said she was "appalled" by the comments, and Work and Income officials had called Mr Easton in for an immediate work test after reading them.
She would not comment on what that would involve in his specific case, but said his views indicated he was in the category of beneficiaries to be targeted under a new regime of work tests due this year.
"It's exactly the type of person that our welfare changes are meant to identify and actually move off a benefit and into work. There will be obligations on people like him that they must meet."
Yes indeed dear readers; Benjamin Easton is a long-time, work-shy activist. And his challenge to Paula Bennett had immediate consequences, as we reported at the time:
WINZ has wasted no time at all in giving Benjamin Easton (whom we blogged about yesterday) the message - the Dom-Post reports:
A unemployed man trying to stop Manners Mall from becoming a bus-only road says his dole has been cut after he admitted he had no intention of getting a job.
Activist Benjamin Easton, 49, also revealed he had not had a job interview since he went on the dole nearly three years ago.
He met Work and Income for a work test yesterday after telling The Dominion Post he was on the benefit deliberately so he could bring the "people's challenge to the courts" and that he was "perfectly capable of earning".
Mr Easton said last night he had received a letter from Work and Income telling him he did not meet eligibility criteria and his benefit had been stopped as of yesterday.
His $70 weekly accommodation supplement would continue.
The Social Security Act states that anyone receiving the dole has an obligation to look for work and be available to work.
Mr Easton said after the meeting that he had no intention of looking for paid work and had not applied for any jobs since going on the dole in 2007. "I am not going to stop doing what I'm doing."
Work and Income deputy chief executive Patricia Reade said all beneficiaries knew of their job-seeking obligations.
That now makes us wonder what Benjamin Easton's current status is. Are you, and we continuing to support him via our taxes? Whilst he's occupying Wellington, is he meeting any obligations that he has to the MSD in respect of any benefit he might be receiving? Or is he trotting off to work each day like a good, productive Kiwi, and returning to occupy Wellington at the end of each day? We're sure that Paula Bennett will be asking those questions of her officials, given Easton's history, and his love of the limelight into which he propels himself.
We can't help but wonder just how Easton and his like are able to devote themselves so wholeheartedly to an occupation for more than two months. Most of us have jobs, families and responsibilities. They claim to represent the 99% but in reality they represent far less than 1%, whilst the 99-point-something go about their lives as productive members of society.
But as we fight off customers today, it'll be hard not to think of our many friends and family in Christchurch who have been shaken by 61 earthquakes in the last 24 hours. We especially spare a thought for those businesses who were relying on yesterday and today's trade to keep their heads above water after what has been an exceptionally difficult year. We understand that Northlands Mall won't reopen today; that's a big blow for the shop-owners there.
And we'll also be thinking of a friend. Chris Ponniah is the Senior Pastor at Parklands Baptist Church in Christchurch's eastern suburbs. And today, instead of preparing for Christmas services, he'll be mobilising a team of volunteers to do whatever has to be done in his area; cleaning up liquefaction, providing food, and being a shoulder to cry on for those who can't take any more. Chris, and many other like him have stepped up to the plate in a big way in 2011; they are the unsung heroes of Christchurch.
And because we know that Chris loves Kutless, here's their version of a well-known Christmas song all about tonight; we hope the ground stops shaking for a truly Holy night tonight:
Christchurch will rebuild, better than ever; of that we have no doubt. That must be the case, because regular commenter Tinman keeps telling us so, and we're believers! In the meantime, kia kaha Christchurch, and kia kaha Chris and his team...
Friday, December 23, 2011
Yep; it's happened again; a 5.8 magnitude earthquake struck just before 2pm, with a number of aftershocks since. This one was centred just out to sea off the New Brighton coast, at a depth of 8.1km, and it's got everyone on edge again.
Kia kaha Christchurch. We'd hoped that phrase had been put to bed, but apparently not. Our thoughts and prayers are with you again.
UPDATE: And they keep on coming; a 6.0 magnitude quake hit at 3.18pm centred under South New Brighton and at a depth of just 5.8km. TVNZ's Christchurch newsroom had a camera running at that moment; check it out.
A leader of the Aotea Square occupation Joe Carolin says the world will be watching Auckland tomorrow afternoon as protestors refuse to accept a court ruling giving the city council the right to evict them.
Mr Carolyn says he believes the council has deliberately chosen Christmas Eve when people will not want to spend the holiday period in prison.
"It's a calculated move on behalf of the authorities. Strike at the camp where we won't be able to gather much support as we could after Christmas. Have no fear if there is pressure on the people, that we will galvanise and that we will be back in force, in massive force in early January".
Mr Carolin from the Mana party says Mayor Len Brown campaigned as being left wing and for the people but in this action he is very much acting as the oppressor.
Oh dear! Len Brown was only too happy to have the trade unions, and especially the Unite Union campaigning on his behalf 18 months ago, but now the worm has turned and he's oppressing them!
In the meantime, it's just one hour until the deadline for the occupiers to leave is reached; stay tuned; the fun's about to start, although we doubt that the whole world will be watching!
The mother of a 17-year-old youth jointly charged with murdering Wellington Radio New Zealand journalist Phillip Cottrell has got her son back after his release on bail, and says she is not letting him go.
Despite facing a murder charge, Manuel Penera Robinson was released yesterday into the care of his family, who say he is incapable of killing anyone. The teenager was wrapped up in his mother's arms and whisked away to a car.
Police opposed bail when Robinson appeared in Wellington District Court. But under the Bail Act, any alleged offender aged between 17 and 20 must be freed unless it is considered desirable to keep them in custody.
Robinson's uncle, Junior Kapene, a Black Power member from Masterton, received a text from Robinson's mother moments after his release.
"She's got her son back and she's not letting him go," he said.
"That's her baby. [His arrest] was like one of her nightmares came true. It was like losing a whole part of her."
Judge Stephen Harrop cleared the court for Robinson's bail hearing and suppressed details of it, but called relatives back for his decision. Family members called out "Thank you" and "Merry Christmas, Your Honour" as they left court.
Mr Kapene, who has also spent time behind bars, spoke to Robinson while the teenager was on remand in Rimutaka Prison in an "at-risk youth unit", giving him advice on how to survive on the inside.
He told him: "Think about all the wrong and the s... that you've done in your life. Your past, reflect on your future. It's really up to them."
It's lovely that Judge Stephen Harrop has allowed Robinson to go home to his mother for Christmas. But we wonder how the family of Phillip Cottrell, the man that Robinson is alleged to have mudered feels. They won't have their loved one home for Christmas; not this year, or any other. Their wounds must still be very raw, and they probably feel as though Judge Harrop has, in his infinite wisdom, poured a truckload of salt over them.
The National government has promised to toughen bail laws, and we hope that they make good on their promise, and soon. Those accused of murder should only be able to get bail in the rarest of circumstances, and we certainly don't believe that those apply in this case.
And the Dom-Post provides a final twist of the knife for Phillip Cottrell's friends and family:
He said the family planned to celebrate last night. "We're going to have a mean feed, bro. He wouldn't be liking that three toast and two Weet-Bix [in prison].
Our thoughts, our prayers and our aroha are with the Cottrell family as they contemplate Christmas with an empty place at the table; a seat that will never be filled again. We doubt that they will be celebrating in quite the same manner that Manuel Penera Robinson's whanau celebrates his release on bail.
FOOTNOTE: We may have a musical offering later in the day; at the moment we don't feel especially festive.
Now we're being tongue-in-cheek of course. We once (long ago) aspired to read law, but after a year of university we decided that further study was not for us; something we've long regretted. But stories like this don't help the legal profession; the Herald reports:
A criminal lawyer has appeared in court charged with delivering a cellphone, cigarettes and a lighter to a high-profile murderer serving a life sentence.
Suppression orders prevent the publication of the woman's name and age, the name of the prisoner and details of his crime, history and sentence.
The Herald understands that she is alleged to have taken an iPhone, a packet of Marlboro cigarettes and a Bic lighter to the inmate on October 7 in Mt Eden Prison.
The date of the visit was about two months after a smoking ban was introduced in prison.
It is unclear how or when the pair first met but it is understood she was not representing him legally.
The lawyer has been charged under the Corrections Act, which deals with unauthorised deliveries, communications, recordings, and possession of unauthorised items to prisoners inside a jail.
She first appeared in court last month and pleaded not guilty to the charge. She was remanded on bail with conditions.
Thanks to our wonderful laws regarding name suppression, every female criminal lawyer in New Zealand is now under suspicion for what is a serious breach of trust. That state of affairs will remain until February at least; read on:
She was set to appear in front of a judge yesterday, but after he alerted the court to the fact that he knew her, her case was put before a community magistrate instead.
The magistrate refused to deal with the Herald's application, or to listen to the newspaper's argument for opposing name suppression, partially based on the fact that she had not had time to review the relevant documents.
She adjourned the case until February, and ruled that the tight suppression order - which was also opposed by police - remain in place until at least then.
Police refused to comment on the case as it is before the courts. The Department of Corrections said it did not comment on specific prisoners or go into detail about their individual visitation rights.
A source said the lawyer and the prisoner had essentially refused to speak to police about the alleged incident or the nature of their relationship.
If this lawyer is indeed found guilty of this offence, it ought to be career-ending. The only reason for smuggling a cellphone to a prisoner is to allow the prisoner to communicate with associates on the outside; and with the recent revelations of a P-ring being run from behind bars, one would be exceptionally naive to believe that such communications would be purely of a social nature.
This is a serious lapse of judgment, and until the suppression order is lifted it tars a large part of the legal profession unfairly. It's simply another case which shows the inadequacy of our laws surrounding name suppression. Let's hope that Judith Collins takes note.
Check this out, via Facebook:
This scumbag has just robbed our neighbour of all their xmas presents this afternoon at 12:30pm. Then was stupid enough to walk in front of our security camera. I am hoping to send this viral so we can track down who this is. Can everyone share this link on their homepage so we can nail this son of a bitch. If anyone can identify this person let me know and I will pass the information on to the police.
Christmas present thieves are among the most callous of all the dishonest types out there. When we saw this story on Whaleoil's blog a few minutes ago, we had no hesitation posting this image and the background story.
Social media and the blogosphere are very powerful tools. If you're into Twitter, Facebook or blogging, copy the link to Andrew Burns' Facebook page, and circulate this story to all your friends or followers, and urge them to do likewise. Let's get the internet saturated with the image of this alleged thief, and have her brought swiftly to justice before she and her cohorts cause misery to more families at Christmas time.
This is a call to action; we hope that you'll respond and let this image go viral today; it seems like a very Christmassy response!
Thursday, December 22, 2011
Occupy Auckland protesters are set to march on the town hall after having their legal bid to stay at their Aotea Square campground declined.
An Auckland District Court judge yesterday ordered Occupy Auckland protestors to pack up and leave Aotea Square within 48 hours.
The movement's request for a stay on that judgment was turned down this afternoon, meaning protestors have a day to leave the site.
As we type this, it's just 20 hours and 34 minutes until the witching hour for the occupiers. High Noon tomorrow cannot come soon enough.
They've issued a media release this morning; here 'tis:
Press Release from the General Assembly of Occupy Auckland Wednesday 21st December, 2011by Occupy Auckland on Thursday, 22 December 2011 at 01:08
As decided by consensus of the General Assembly of Occupy Auckland at Aotea Square, Auckland;
We reaffirm our unwavering position of non-violent protest in alignment with the greater Occupy movement worldwide; simultaneously protesting in over 3000 cities. Ours is a leaderless movement that uses peaceful methods to protest the inequities of our current political systems that serve only to disadvantage the majority, in favour of a small minority.
We find ourselves at a moment unprecedented in history. This week we have watched occupiers in Egypt, Syria and Bahrain, lose their lives fighting for the same reasons as those who currently protest across the Americas and Europe, Africa and the Middle East, here in Oceania and now into the heart of Asia and the Orient.
It is unacceptable to us, under the current legislative and socio-economic climate, to accept the position of those who are complicit to the widespread theft and atrocities.
We intend to pursue whatever legal recourse is available to us to protect our democratic right to protest as stipulated in the NZ Bill of Rights. If we allow these rights to be stripped from us, who will be the voice to highlight the injustices and corrupt practices which are destroying our planet?
At this time of crisis for the relationship between Auckland City Council, Len Brown, and Occupy Auckland, we appeal for the Mayor and elected representatives to instruct Meredith Connell NOT to oppose the stay of the Judgement pending an Appeal. It is clear that the potential damage to democracy is far greater than the purported damage to some grass. Furthermore, we call for anyone in Aotearoa, New Zealand who fears for their personal liberty and for our country; who wishes to have a say about what is going on in the world at the moment; to add their body, their mind, their skills and their time to making a real difference with us.
Our next public General Assembly is scheduled for 12 noon Thursday 22nd December, at Aotea Square. All are welcome, all hands on deck! At 1.30pm we will gather to march on the Auckland District Court, in support of our 2.15pm court hearing (in Chambers) for an application for a stay of the current judgement, pending appeal.
After the hearing we march on Auckland Town Hall with the intention of a symbolic occupation of this pillar of citizenship.
If you are unfamiliar with the Occupy movement, please You Tube, Google, Facebook or Twitter "Occupy" "Occupy Wall Street" "#OWS".
We respectfully ask that all media enquiries from this point are directed to either firstname.lastname@example.org or for interview requests please contact the GA-approved Media team co-ordinator Redstar309z on 021-264-9152.
The antics and double standards of these people never cease to amuse and amaze. On one hand, corporates are greedy parasites, but when they want to disseminate a message to their troops, they are happy to avail themselves of the services provided by those same greedy corporates.
And we couldn't help but laugh this morning when one of the spokespeople was interviewed on Breakfast; wearing an All Black cap (New Zealand's biggest sporting corporate) bearing an adidas logo (one of the world's largest apparel corporates). He was probably blissfully unaware of the huge double-standard that was sitting atop his head, but it got our day off to a merry start!
The brow is furrowed; the lips are pursed; there's clearly a lot on Winston Peters' mind as he waits to be sworn in to the 50th Parliament.
So what's he worried about; keeping Andrew Williams out of the press? Stopping Richard Prosser from inciting Muslims? The thought that Brendon Horan in budgie-smugglers is a bit like himself in a pin-striped suit twenty years ago?
We're sure you'll have the answer. You know the rules; keep it short, pithy and amusing, and don't get unnecessarily personal.
Give it your best shot!
We made the mistake of going into town yesterday; even at 10am, it was bedlam. The retail sector is finally getting a much-needed boost after what's been a pretty tough year. We think we achieved everything we needed to on that visit; it's not going to be repeated!
We'll continue the musical vignettes this morning; today we feature the ugliest man in rock music, and a lovely woman who died far too young with a song that's considered by many to be the best contemporary Christmas song; here 'tis:
Have a great day, t'be sure!
Wednesday, December 21, 2011
The second thing that came through on that speech loud and clear was something that took me 25 minutes to cotton on what it was. It took a long time. It was slow but it was there. It was the quiet sound of David Cunliffe plotting.
David Shearer may have his hands on the leadership of the Labour caucus at the moment, but that won't stop Labour's opponents from stirring the pot.
Here, courtesy of In the House is Mr Ngaro's speech, and it was an outstanding contribution. He is the first MP of Cook Islands descent ot be elected to the New Zealand Parliament, and his maiden speech was warmly received right across the House.
We'll predict now that Alfred Ngaro will not become an invisible member of the National caucus. We especially agreed with his comments on fathers and fathering. We will follow his progress with much interest.
In the judgement released this afternoon Judge David Wilson gave the Occupy Auckland protesters 48 hours to leave their campsite.
Wilson said the group was breaching an Auckland Council bylaw governing the use of public places and had caused damage.
"I have found that damage financial and intangible which has been progressively caused since the occupation commenced on October 15, 2011. It is clear... that the loss and damage will only end when the occupation is over and repair work and restoration can take place.''
Wilson said the group also did not ''practice what they preached''.
"While Occupy Auckland proclaims its adherence to participatory democracy the evidence reveals that they do not practise what they preach. They did not do so when they decided to occupy Aotea Square. They did not ask those who live and work around Aotea Square... what they would think if Aotea Square... turned into a tent city.''
Wilson said although Aotea Square is used for protests, Occupy Auckland gave the council no notice of their intention to camp in the square. They began putting up their tents at 7pm on October 15, after an earlier march up Queen St.
Judge David Wilson has not pulled any punches in his decision, and that is commendable. Doubtless the likes of Penny Bright and her ilk will just see this as another attack on the 99% by the establishment.
But he also shows how untrustworthy the protesters have been; read on (our emphasis added):
The police have regarded the occupiers as a peaceful group, the judgement said.
Auckland Council recognised the group's right to protest and tried to talk to the group about ending the occupation.
The group initially said the occupation would last six weeks, then said they would depart after the Rugby World Cup final on October 23, and then after the general election on November 26.
The protesters have now been in-situ for over two months. They have three times indicated that they will move on, and yet they are still there. They quite simply cannot be trusted.
Roll on midday Friday. The Auckland Council now has legal justification to evict the protesters, and we look forward to them excercising the right that the District Court has given them.
We're taking this as an announcement that the Auckland Council has won its quest for an injunction to evict the Occupy Auckland protesters from Aotea Square. If that is the case, we are delighted that the District Court has ruled in the Council's favour.
Stay tuned for confirmation...
UPDATE: It has indeed been confirmed that the Occupy Auckland protesters are legally required to vacate Aotea Square within 48 hours. The Herald reports:
Occupy Auckland protestors have been given 48 hours to leave their campsite at Aotea Square.
An Auckland District Court judge this morning ordered the protestors to remove all their signs and banners and move out of the campsite by Friday.
The protestors have been camping in the city centre square since October 15.
Auckland Council said it welcomed the judge's decision to grant its request for a permanent injunction on the occupation.
But it doesn't seem as though the protesters are going to go without a further fight; read on:
Occupy Auckland spokesman Chris Glenn said the movement was in the process of lodging an appeal against the ruling.
Many in the camp were resolved to stay there through Christmas despite the eviction order, he said.
"As far as we're concerned it's business as usual. We're continuing to protest against corporate greed and gross inequality in our society."
Mr Glenn said the occupy protestors had always expected to face legal obstacles and were expecting to win their appeal."It's important we don't limit the rights of people to protest."
We have no problem whatsoever with the right to protest. However the people of Auckland have rights too, and are being prevented from using Aotea Square for its intended purpose by an occupation that has been declared illegal by the Courts in spite of the provisions of the Bill of Rights Act.
The Occupy Auckland protesters are actually showing a form of "corporate greed" by refusing to vacate Aotea Square; isn't that "gross inequality" too?