Friday, 28 October 2011

What a week! A world cup and a trip with two engineers.


What a week it has been for me. On Sunday I watched the Rugby World Cup final and was so proud our All Blacks won. Within 30 miniutes of the game finishing I headed off with my boss Azmat Ulla and Wardell (Woody) Eastwood, both Chartered British Engineers. We have many  risks, liabilities and defects remaining after constructing over US$ 800 million of construction and community programmes s itwas good to have two highly trained engineers with me to advise.. So as I travelled four four days monitoring many of our projects, these pictures were constantly floating around in my head.




Tony Woodcock scores the only try.
Brad Thorne down on his kneews as it sinks in they have won the RWC.
Estacy, the All Blacks the moment after the full time whistle was glown
The injured Daniel Carter is overjoyed with the win.

Two cheeky monkeys gloat over the win, and why not?

Mils Muliaina giving Graham Henry a kiss.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

New Zealand win Rugby World Cup but let's not forget our racist rugby past !

I am so proud of the All Blacks win but full marks to France who played out of their skins and made it a real Rugby World Cup final of old style rugby.

I watched the 1956 Springboks play New Zealand at Carisbrook and the British Lions play New Zealand in 1959 on the same ground when Don Clarke kicked 6 penalties to give NZ an 18-17 win. But it was the All Blacks tour of South Africa that left the greatest impression on me. Why? Because there were no Maoris in the team.

It was a cold, crisp winter's morning at Montecillo Ground, Dunedin, in mid-July 1960. A heavy frost covered the ground. I was playing for Zingari Richmond under 7 stone schoolboys and as I pushed my way through the opposition, I hit a wall of players and fell to the ground, landing arkwardly. The pain was excruciating as I writhed on the ground. I broke my collarbone.

Waka Nathan the greates New Zealand loose forward? Barred from playing in South Africa in 1960.


I was in considerable pain for three months as I walked and bused between the Dunedin hospital, physiotherapy department and doctors. It had just been announced that an all white All Black rugby team would tour South Africa. It was a bombshell to a young rugby player who had watched Waka Nathan, Mac Heriwini, Phillip Tautarangi, Ron Rangi and other Maori All Black hopefuls play Otago at Carisbrook a few weeks earlier. These guys ran like quicksilver, and cut through teams like swords. Legends such as Manga Emery, Alby Pryor, Muru Walters, the Maniapoto brothers and other were also not going to be given;the chance to wear the All Black jersey either in 1960. I was grestfallen and confused.

I pleaded to my Father and shopkeepers I knew in central Dunedin whose shops I walked past on my way to the hospital. Their shop windows had posters of the touring All Black team, but without Maori. I asked respected shop owners who had played rugby and cricket such as Charlie Saxton, Vin Cusack, Walter Findlay and even Bert Sutcliffe, why there were no Maoris in the All Black team. They had similar answers, " That is what the South Africans want,"

As a 12 year old I felt there was no justice in this world, yet on ANZAC day, we were told the Maori and Pakeha had fought side by side.

Well they weren't going to be playing side by side in the 1960 tour of South Africa.

So as we celebrate today's victory of the All Blacks where over 50% are Polynesian, let's remeber thoses NZer of Polynesian descent who were barred from touring South Africa in 1960 - Waka Nathan, Mac Heriwini, Phillip Tautarangi, Ron Rangi, Manga Emery, Alby Pryor, Muru Walters, the Maniapoto brothers and many more who should have been in that 1960 team.

Tribute to Graham Henry
The best tribute to coach Graham Henry is from the 1987 RWC captain David Kirk. , I moved to Auckland from Otago in 1985. My first coach at the Auckland University Rugby Club was Graham Henry.


Ted, as he was then, and is now to all his players, was a well-established and successful club coach. A month or two into the season I had a problem. I needed to travel out of Auckland at the weekend to resolve some personal (ie girlfriend) issues.

I broke the news to Ted at training that I would not be available for selection that weekend. His response to me was blunt: "Well you're no bloody good to me then, are you? Bugger off and muck around over there."

I didn't really mind, I was getting my weekend off after all, but I did think the response was a bit uncaring.

That was Ted then and so it remained for many years after. Through most of his coaching career he has been driven, blunt, not quite surly, but not far off. He is now nothing like that and, at least in part, a great All Black team is his and our reward.

Ted tells the story against himself that earlier in his All Black coaching career he gave one of his typically detailed and definitive team talks before a match. He made it clear to players what was expected of them, what was required and what they would be judged on.

After the team talk, it is not clear exactly when, but let us assume not on the way to the bus and the ground, but at some later time, his captain, Tana Umaga, came up to Ted and asked him a question. He said,

"Why do you give all those team talks?"
Ted replied something to the effect,

"To prepare the team. To make sure everyone is focused on what we have to do."

Tana burst his bubble with his reply, "No one listens to them you know. They are a waste of time. I reckon you should just stop."

Ted doesn't say if he did stop completely but I am sure he took the advice on board and adjusted his style and approach. It is fashionable to say that Generation Y or Generation Z, or whatever letter-label we use today, are different, that they can't be treated the same as earlier generations, that motivating them is more difficult.

Of course this is true, every generation is different from the last, but in truth All Blacks as people with a mission are not that different from decade to decade. They all have the same job to do, they all have the same tools with which to do it, they all have the same legacy to uphold and the same fear of failure and the same need to be remembered as a great All Black.

It is not the essential nature of the players that has changed, but the essential nature of Ted.

I edited the World magazine's recent rugby edition and ran a feature on the showdown between Robbie Deans and Graham Henry.

Sybille Hetet, the wonderful photo editor at Fairfax magazines, dug out a whole lot of photos of the two coaches. As we were poring through them, selecting the ones we would use in the magazine, Sybille said to me: "You know what I really notice in these photos of Graham Henry? How close he is to his players. Here's one with a player with his arm around him, here's another in which he is ruffling a player's hair and another where the players are picking him up."

It was true. Through the photos it was obvious that the players had great affection for their coach and he for them. This was something much more than the stand-offish respect and good-natured camaraderie of team and coach, this was a deeper connection.

Graham Henry, and it has to be said his assistant coaches, have built a truly great All Black team and they have developed courageous, thoughtful and caring men. This could not have been done by the Ted I knew in 1985. But it has been done by the Ted of the last few years and of 2011.

I salute Ted, the man who has prepared his team to be the best in the world and set them free to do it. I bet that somewhere in the motivation of every All Black that runs out tonight will be a part reserved for their coach.

This team wants to win the World Cup for themselves and for the country, but they also desperately want to do it for Ted. And that is a testament to the man, not the coach, and the greatest gift his players can give him.





Wednesday, 19 October 2011

THE END OF CHEAP FOOD?


Colombo, Sri Lanka 20/10/2011 - The world’s poorest people are at serious risk from rocketing food prices and volatile global markets, warns a new report by the Red Cross Movement.

The ONAHA is planning to develop a rice sorter machine which avoids the loss of 10% of production compared to traditional techniques. Farmers working with the traditional method in the Saga paddy field. Julien Goldstein/IFRC

A new round of food inflation and severe hikes in the price of basic foodstuffs such as rice, maize, wheat, oil, sugar and salt is plunging many of the world’s poorest people, including millions across the Horn of Africa, into deeper poverty and into situations of severe hunger and malnourishment. This is one of the findings of the annual World Disasters Report 2011 launched today in Colombo, Sri Lanka. The worst hit are poor people who typically spend between 50 and 80 per cent of their incomes on food.
A panel discussions of experts at the IFRC World Disasters Report 2011  launch in Colombo 20 October 2011. The topic was ob hunger and malnutrition. Photo: Bob McKerrow
“Food prices are hitting the alarming highs of the 2008 crisis, with the poorest of the poor being hit the hardest,” said President of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society Jagath Abeysinghe. “It’s profoundly concerning that we seem to be going backwards in terms of ensuring basic food is available and affordable” he added.

Speculative commodity trading, rapidly growing populations, climate change and a sharp decrease in domestic agricultural production due to lack of appropriate investment and ineffective governance, are just some of the leading causes fuelling a new round of food inflation concludes the report.

More investment in agriculture is essential, but the reports questions whether this investment should target smallholders and pastoralists or encourage capital-intensive, large-scale farming. There is increasingly widespread agreement that smallholder farming could be the best way forward in Africa.

“Governments and donors should invest more in agriculture and give a helping hand to farmers,” says Bob McKerrow, the Head of Delegation of the IFRC in Sri Lanka. “It’s not just food that is becoming expensive, the price of new technologies, seeds, fertilizers and fuel needed to transport food is also going up. We need to boost the agricultural sector as a way of protecting people who find themselves at the mercy of inflation and the global stock markets.”

Meanwhile the Director General of the Sri Lanka Red Cross Society Tissa Abeywickrama also raised the need for adaptability amidst rising food prices. “It seems the global volatility of food prices is here to stay, and the era of cheap food is over, “ said Abeywickrama urging governments and donors to ensure that the most vulnerable people are better prepared to cope with unstable agricultural markets and volatile food prices.

Friday, 14 October 2011

Rob Hall's daughter Sarah climbs Kilimanjaro at 15.


MOUNTAINEERS: Jan Arnold and her daughter, Sarah Arnold-Hall, are back from a trip to Africa, which included climbing Mt Kilimanjaro.

Sarah Arnold-Hall, 15, the daughter of New Zealand mountaineer Rob Hall, has climbed the highest peak in Africa, Mt Kilimanjaro, with her mother, Jan Arnold.

The mother and daughter took eight days to climb the 5895-metre peak as part of a three-week trip to Africa last month.

Kilimanjaro is the tallest free-standing mountain in the world and every year an estimated 30,000 people make the arduous, but not technically challenging climb. By comparison, Mt Cook is 3754m.

Sarah, an engaging, confident year 10 student at Waimea College, said the last day of the climb where they climbed through the night was especially tiring and the altitude was tough.

She said she was glad of the help of her Tanzanian guide, Michael, who had sung to her to encourage her to keep going.

Mt. Kilimanjaro: Photo: Bob McKerrow


"I was very tired, I practically sleep-walked up. He was a really big help.

"Someone said the last day is like trying to climb three Empire State Buildings on a 16-degree angle, and on one lung," she said.

When she was 10 she visited Mt Everest's base camp at 5364m, but said she found the extra 500m altitude on Mt Kilimanjaro much harder.

Sarah's father died on Mt Everest nine weeks before she was born. An expedition leader, he was trapped 200m from the south summit of Mt Everest in a deadly storm with a client.

Eight climbers died in that storm and before he died Mr Hall called Dr Arnold in Christchurch via satellite phone telling her not too worry too much and to "sleep well, my sweetheart".

Rob Hall right, with fellow climbers Peter Hillary left, and Gary Ball centre, after their successful ascent of Mt. Everest in 1990. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Sarah's father and his climbing partner, Gary Ball, also climbed Kilimanjaro in 1990 when they climbed the Seven Summits in seven months.

But, as Sarah and Dr Arnold gently imply, the fact she completed the climb is not a cue for reporters to write, as some have done in the past, that Sarah is following in her famous father's footsteps.

Dr Arnold, who climbed Mt Everest in 1993 with Mr Hall, is keen to continue climbing. But Sarah is up-front in that she doesn't necessarily share her parents' love of climbing.

She has her eyes on Paris as her next overseas destination, and among other things would like to see the Eiffel Tower.

"We could climb that," she suggests to her mum, laughing.


Sunrise from the crater rim of Mt. Kilimanjaro. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Sarah says she is interested in fashion and design, but at 15 is still unsure what career she wants to pursue.

 "When I was younger I was really into making things. I always wanted to make robots, I used to make things out of cardboard."
Dr Arnold says Sarah's father was much more than a climber.

"He was a designer and entrepreneur and by age 23 he had 12 people working for him manufacturing tents and packs. He had quite another side to him."


I was delighted to read this story in the Nelson mail as I knew Rob Hall well and admired his feats in the mountains and as a designer of mountain equipment. I also climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro in 1978 and above is a summit shot of Valerian, a Chagga farmer who accompanied me.

Rob Hall's death was tragic but it is such a pleasure seeing his daughter Sarah, who Robb never knew, and her Mother Jan, climbing Kilimanjaro and enjoying life.

Thursday, 13 October 2011

Will Oz try an underarm again as Kiwi-Aussie sporting rivalry hots up



We know the Swiss are born on skiis, well New Zealanders of my generation were born with a rugby ball in one hand. I remember being laughed at as a high school student getting on a workers bus with my rugby togs under one arm and a cello in the other. " Forget the cello my boy" said a plumber from my neighbourhood, "it is rugby that will get you out of working class," he said. Then he added, "look at Tony O'Reilly, rugby has got him where he is today." I had seen O'Reilly's  (photo right) dazzling display at Carisbrook in 1959 and he was ou Irish  hero, alongside Colin Meads. So this Sunday is an important day for me and all Kiwis.

Sporting rivalries don’t come more prickly than the one between trans-Tasman neighbours Australia and New Zealand.

Whether it’s rugby union, rugby league, football, cricket, horseracing or netball, the oneupmanship can dominate the national conversation and sideline other issues of the day.

It’s on again in Sunday’s Rugby World Cup semi-final between the feisty rivals.

New Zealand, with a population of 4.4 million, has been tagged a small country with a huge inferiority complex, while Australia, a larger nation of 22.7 million, is seen as cocky and brash.

Australia is an over-achiever on the world sporting stage: among the top six nations in medals at the last three Olympic Summer Games, producing champions in rugby, swimming, athletics, tennis, golf, motorcycling, field hockey and cricket in recent times.

‘Little brother’ New Zealand has also aspired to have its place under the sporting sun and celebrates its achievements as a source of national pride.

Richie McCaw's pipe dream, to win the 2011 RWC.


New Zealanders jealously guard their own and often accuse Australia of trying to take the credit for Phar Lap, the champion racehorse of the Great Depression era, Oscar-winning actor Russell Crowe, international rock band Crowded House, even the meringue-like pavlova dessert.

The sporting rivalry can spill over with some nasty consequences, none more so than the infamous underarm bowling incident of 1981.

Australia captain Greg Chappell instructed his brother, Trevor, to roll the last delivery of the match along the ground to prevent New Zealand from hitting a six which they needed to tie a one-day cricket international in Melbourne.

New Zealand’s then Prime Minister, Robert Muldoon, said at the time the Chappell brothers were responsible for “the most disgusting incident I can recall in the history of cricket”.

He added: “It was an act of true cowardice and I consider it appropriate that the Australian team were wearing yellow.”

More recently, the Aussies cheekily even claimed a part of New Zealand’s unbeaten yet fruitless run at last year’s football World Cup with a newspaper headline: “Australasia 1 Slovakia 1″ as the Socceroos crashed to Germany 4-0.

Yet the light-hearted sentiment was lost on this side of the Tasman, with one paper replying: “Dirty Aussies lay claim to NZ’s World Cup glory.”

The Kiwis took special delight when they upset the Socceroos 2-0 in Sydney to grab their place at the 1982 World Cup finals in Spain and plunge Australia into despair.

Nowhere though is the rivalry more pronounced than on the rugby field, with the top-two ranked nations, New Zealand’s All Blacks and Australia’s Wallabies, facing each other at Eden Park on Sunday for a place in the World Cup final.

Since 1903, the All Blacks have had the upper hand over the Wallabies.

This weekend will be their 168th international meeting, with the All Blacks winning 115 times, the Wallabies 47 and five matches drawn.

But the Wallabies, who have not won at Eden Park for 25 years, have had some significant victories along the way.

John Eales kicked an extra time penalty goal to claim a 24-23 victory and the Bledisloe Cup in Wellington in 2000 and scrum-half George Gregan brought off a famous try-saving tackle on All Blacks wing Jeff Wilson to win the 1994 Cup in Sydney.

Only a month before this World Cup, the Wallabies downed the All Blacks 25-20 in Brisbane to claim their first Tri-Nations crown in a decade.

And as the Wallabies keep reminding the Kiwis they have won both their two World Cup games against the All Blacks, in the 1991 and 2003 semi-finals.

“Whilst the All Blacks have dominated Australia in the last couple of years on the scoreboard as far as statistics go, there’s no doubt the team will know you’ve never beaten us in a World Cup, you’ve lost in two-semi finals to us,” Australia’s former World Cup-winning skipper Nick Farr-Jones crowed.

Meanwhile an extra, and intriguing, sub-plot this weekend will be the tactical jousting between All Blacks coach Graham Henry and the Wallabies’ Kiwi boss Robbie Deans.

In July last year I wrote :


It's on the lips of most New Zealanders`. "Will NZ win the 2011 Rugby World Cup ?" To find the answer, I spent last Saturday at Pareora, a small farming community in South Canterbury seeing if I could come up with an accurate prediction.

At Pareora I observed how strong 'grassroots' NZ rugby is and through a constant stream of talented players coming from small communituies like Pareora which has contributed hugely to our current strength at many levels of national rugby. The rules have allowed the All Blacks to play exciting, well constructed and fast running rugby which is our natural game. We've beaten South Africa twice in 3 weeks and Australia beat the Boks on Saturday night which that proves the dour Springbok and English kicking game does not win rugby in 2010.

Rugby is strong at grass roots in rural New Zealand and it was from small communities like this that Richie McCaw, Daniel Carter and andrew Hore came.
The NZ Maoris have beaten Wales, Ireland and England this year and the NZ under 20s recently won the world cup. Never before a year out from the Rugby World Cup have we had this depth.But the depth is from north to south. Southland took the coveted Ranfurly Shield from Canterbury last year and has pumped new life into provincial rugby.

That was over a year ago, and although we have been beaten recently by South Africa and Australia, these are factors which makes coaches and players dig deep, to strive for perfection. This is the full details of this posting.

I am quietly confident New Zealand will win, but it is not going to be easy. England, Australia and France are all in with a chance, and South Africa, Ireland and Samoa lurking round the edges.. Rather than go in to fine detail on my prediction, I would like to quote David Kirk, Captain of the winning rugby world Cup All Black team in 1987.

"It seemed so easy in 1987. We went into the tournament with an inexperienced team after a difficult time. We had a squad of 26 players, two hookers were all we could afford, and before the tournament even started we were down to one.

Three of the 15 that would play and win the final had not played a single test match before the tournament started. Six more had played no more than five tests.

It seems incredible now but two-thirds of the players in the only All Blacks team ever to win the Rugby World Cup had played less than six tests each before the tournament started. Our preparation was ordinary. And yet it seemed so easy back then.

It wasn't easy of course but it was rare. A quirk of timing. The old stagers, who had served New Zealand so well since the late 1970s, finally gave way and onto the stage strode some of the best players that the best rugby-playing nation in the world has ever produced.

We may have made it look easy but it wasn't. All we really did was the basics well but we did them so well and for so long that we were irresistible.

The chemistry of 1987 was rare indeed, as we were to learn. In 1991 we hoped the glories of the past would be enough. They weren't. In 1995 we were good enough to win, but we didn't. In 1999 we fell foul of freakish rugby. In 2003 we learned that good, unlike brilliant teams, can't afford to make any mistakes. In 2007 we showed that enough mistakes will stop any team.

For the first time ever in the history of New Zealand rugby the captain and coach of a team that failed at a World Cup are back. If we, the supporters, have been on a long journey, picking ourselves up and going on after every unexpected defeat, cursing the useless buggers for a week and cheering them on again as the years roll by, think what the journey has been like for Richie and Ted. The waiting is over, the hour has come round again, but will it be our hour? Will we finally put to rest 24 years of disappointmen

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Who will win the Rugby World Cup Finals ?

So now we have three New Zealand coaches in the semifinals and unbelievably, the same final four sides as in 1987.

What we have seen is that it is mindsets that wins quarter final rugby, not game plans. The young Australian team believed they could do it, and they did. Not pretty rugby though. Many rugby writers are saying "South Africa absolutely did not deserve to lose to Australia, but the Diggers deserved to win because they dug deep and refused to surrender."  South Africa did not have someone with the game-breaking talents and skills of  James O'Connor or a player that tackled and defended like Pocock, nor the genius of Genia.

The Welsh seemed to have a stronger mental attitude on the day and you could see and feel Gatlin's tenacious attitude coming through in every aspect of the Welsh game, as they tackled early before the irish could gather speed, and defended in such an instinctive manner.

In this mornings rugby websites most are picking Wales to win the finals, but they forget France needed just the first 40 minutes to send the English home packing. My colleague in New Delhi  John Roche was writing before the quarter finals that Wales would be playing South Africa in the finals. A number of my Irish friends label the All Blacks as 'chokers' and I think it has to do with some village Irish team that beat the All Blacks on an off day way back in the last millenium. My neighbour and hotel manager Jerome who lives in my apartment block, told me after the All Blacks thrashed France by 20 points a few weeks nack, "we will see you in the finals." Jerome is half way right thus far.

Argientina are always tough and they gave the All Blacks the semi final workout they needed. Even with both Dan Carter and now second string five-eights Colin Slade out injured, the replacement Aaron Cruden played well for the 50 minutes he was on the ground. With man-of-the -match Piri Weepu playing inside him, I feel Cruden can outfox the mecurial Cooper. But one has to wonder why Henry didn't recall Nick Evans. The All Blacks have the talent and strength  in the pack to dominate the Australian scrum, and heaps of speed in the backs to outscore, but it won't be easy. I predict a close encounter.

Roll on this weekend for we are in for a feast of rugby where we'll see minds winning over games plans,  increasing injuries as weary bodies and bandages buckle under these bruising encounters, but we will all be on the edge of our seats hoping our teams will win. At least there will be one New Zealand coach in the final !   And, I am picking a NZ vs France final with NZ taking the WWE trophy.

Friday, 7 October 2011

A world of birds in Colombo


I love our new apartment as it is on a lake-like water way with lots of side creeks, wetlands and marshes, and is only 10 km west of the capital Colombo.I have spotted some amazing birds such as the endangered Spot Billed Pelican pictured above: Photo: Bob McKerrow

 The most common species seem to be egrets and herons such as the one pictured above. Photo: Bob McKerrow.


(Left, Layard parakeets)

This small island contains descriptions of 435 bird species including 110 migratory species. It has 26% of the total number of birds identified world wide.. During the Migratory period from November to February birds visit Sri Lanka. There are three main fly ways, Eastern, Western and via Andaman islands. Sri Lanka is a major migratory bird’s point because it is the last land mass of the world.


Common resident birds:
White Breasted kingfisher, Pied Kingfisher, Common Kingfisher, Lesser Whistling Teal, Stork Billed Kingfisher, White Breasted Moorhen, Purple Coot, Brahminy Kite, Pheasant Tailed Jacana, White Bellied Sea Eagle, Red-wattled Lapwings, Black Bittern, Little Cormorant,  Little Egret, Little Grebes (smallest duck in Sri Lanka), Pond Heron. Common Moorhen Cattle Egrets, Purple Heron, White Browed Prinia

The Common Garden birds include
Black Headed Oriole, Magpie, Robin, Yellow Billed Babbler, Tailor Bird, Purple Rumped Sunbird Red Backed Woodpecker, Brown Headed Barbet, Coppersmith Barbet

Winter migrants that are regularly sighted include
Blue tailed Bee-eaters, Brown Shrikes, Pintail Snipe Paradise Flycatchers
Garganey Black Winged Stilts, Gray Wagtails East Asian Swallow, Forest Wagtails Whiskered Tern

The marshes in this area are a stop over for migrating birds:
Common Sandpipers,  Booted Eagles
Marsh Sandpipers,  Common Coots
Lesser Sand Plovers,  Pintail Ducks
Common Snipe,  Black Tailed Godwits

The area also has a small population of mammals. Being nocturnal they are very hard to see. These include:
Indian otter Porcupine and the Fishing Cat

Conservation of Migratory Bird

Sri lanka’s Avifauna is one of the richest in the whole of Asia.
The Department of Wildlife Conservation(DWLC) has declaired many Protected Areas with special concerning of Birds such as Bundala National Park (BNP), Anaiwilundawa Sanctuary. Bellanwila –Aththidiya Sanctuary and Muthujajawela Sanctuary. Both Bundala National Park and Anaiwilundawa Sanctuary are Ramsar sites.National birds ringing programme.

The DWLC organizes a National Birds Ringing Programme in BNP in every year. During the

migratory period birds are ringed twice, one is on December and another is on February. 150 birds from different species are ringed at once. Field Ornithological Group of Sri Lanka assists to this.

I have come to like crows in a more natural habitat. Photo: Bob McKerrow



Went out to photograph the globally threatened Spot Billed Pelican (pictured above) at 6 a.m two weeks back morning and as I zoomed in to take the shot, I saw something like a floating log; when I focussed. it was a crocodile, 30 metres from the base of my new apartment. But then, was it a crocodile? I showed the photos I took to friends and after much debating, it is a water monitor. Photo below:



Our youngest boy is taking a great interest in the birdlife in front of our apartment and I have been teaching him to photograph them on the big camera. Through the lens he sees frogs and spiders and finds them more interesting than the birds.


  I shot this heron feeding down a small side stream one very wet morning 1 km from where I live. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Tuesday, 4 October 2011

Land Rovers, landmines and fireworks in the field.

Land Rovers have changed little over the last 40 years and have been the work horses of our Red Cross field operations. My first Red Cross assignment was in Vietnam in 1971 and we had a trusty Landrover. Transportation may not have changed much, but the way we work has changed dramatically. I remember puttings sandbags under the seats and extra metal plating on the floor of our Land Rover, as land mines were prevalent in the remote highland areas we worked in.
The New Zealand Red Cross Refugee Welfare Team and their trusty Land Rover in South Vietnam 1971. From Left to right: Simon Evans agriculture, Bob McKerrow livelihoods and education, Adrian Lattimore nurse, John Gordon leader and agriculture, Peter Barnes mechanic and sanitation. Photo: Bob McKerrow

The next year, early 1972, we flew a short-wheel base Land Rover to Bangladesh by NZ Airforce C-130 to be part of an ICRC/IFRC joint operation where over 20 national societies sent socio-medical teams. Our current President Tadateru Konoe was leader of the Japanese Red Cross team, and I was leader of the NZ Red Cross team. With bridges blown up by the retreating army, Land Rovers got us across many rivers and roadless terrain to provide life-saving services to many of the ten million returning refugees from Bangladesh, who had been sheltering in India for over a year. Photo: Bob McKerrow

Iain Logan and I have discussed the merits of Land Rovers over the years, often over pints of beer.. The last of the Series 1, the  1958 SWB was a classic and when Iain was driving trucks of relief supplies as a Red Cross volunteer for the Biafran Red Cross operation, he mentioned to me how SWB Land Rovers were the backbone of medical and relief teams.

Our briefing in the New Zealand Red Cross headquarters in 1971 by Coimmander Maurice Ashdown. Left to right: Simon Evans, Adrian Lattimore, Bob McKerrow and Peter Barnes. Wow ! let's bring back the shorts as tropical attire for delegates.



The New Zealand Red Cross sent another refugee welfare team back to Vietnam in 1973 and I was appointed leader. We purchased a new LWB Land Rover. I drove the it from Wellington to the port of Tauranga, where it went by ship to Saigon, and drove it from there to Pleiku in the Central Highlands where we were running recovery programmes for IDPs. That is where I first met George Weber, who was a first-time delegate for the IFRC/ICRC joint Indo-China operation. George later went on to the the Secretary general of the IFRC.

Land Rovers again enabled the Federation to support the Ethiopian Red Cross with a massive drought relief operation in 1978-79. We would cram full our Land Rovers with grain and drive from 7,000 feet in Dessie (Wollo) up to over 12,000 feet in the highlands where over a million people were starving.

A photo of me left with a young Ethiopian Red Cross volunteers.

Photo: Ato Tsehayou Seyoum (who is now head of delegation for Canadian Red Cross in India.)





Forty years on, I still enjoy travelling in the trusty Land Rover, although it has many rivals. This was shot earlier this year while visiting a tsunami funded water supply in Ampara, Sri Lanka. Someone asked me the other day what I am going to do when I retire from Red Cross, and I said " I will probably end up in charge of fireworks and entertainment.in a red Cross branch somewhere."

(1) Astonishingly, at the Diplomatic Conference in August 1864, the man without whom the occasion would never have taken place was not an official delegate. Henry Dunant was designated chairman of the entertainments committee, charged with organising social gathering and firework displays.


(1)Quote from: C. Moorhead, Dunant’s Dream (New York, Harper Collins 1998 )p.44