Sunday, 24 August 2014

Whineray's 1963-64 All Blacks

Memory is a powerful drug, and during the week mine focused on a team I worshipped as a schoolboy, the 1963-64 All Blacks who toured Britain, Ireland, France, and Canada. A terrific New Zealand photographer, Morrie Hill, published a glossy booklet after the tour, and in one shot pictured half a dozen of the players gathered around the plaque at Rugby School which commemorates William Webb Ellis who, "with a fine disregard for the rules of football as played in his time", ran with the ball in his arms in 1823, which, if the legend is true, started the sport of rugby.
One of the All Blacks in that shot was Kevin Barry, a hero of mine when I was a kid. By melancholy coincidence, I learned of his passing on the same day I stood before the Webb Ellis plaque for the first time.
Heroes are tricky beasts. They can let you down with a thump that sickens you for days afterwards.
But Kevin never did. All Blacks were never thick on the ground in Thames Valley, but he was our man. He started playing senior rugby as a teenager in the Valley when his father, Ned, also an All Black, was a cop stationed at Whitianga.

In 1962 Kevin Barry (right) led a Valley team reduced to 14 men when wing Jim Mita broke his arm early in the game to a sensational two-point win over the Wallabies in Te Aroha.
He never played a test for the All Blacks, but started 23 games on tour, and he was good enough to once steal two lineout throws from Colin Meads when the Valley played King Country in Paeroa.
Strangely, after going for his third ball on a King Country throw, he was injured, and needed extensive bandaging to get back on the field. I think in those more primal times they called it a badge of honour.
After he'd retired from rugby, and was working in Auckland, I got to know him, and discovered what a modest, likeable, all round good bugger he was.
And here's the thing. Having been lucky enough to make a living in the media since 1965, I discovered something about that 1963-64 side: If there was ever a team that had a "no dickhead" policy this was it.
You could start with the coach, Neil McPhail. A former soldier, he was so modest he told reporters seeking quotes after a game, "Don't ask me, I wasn't out there. You need to talk to the players."
I doubt there's ever been a more astute man in our rugby than captain Wilson Whineray, later Sir Wilson. He was charming, too.

A few years before he died in 2012, I bumped into him at the Hard To Find Bookshop in Onehunga. In his hand was a copy of Terry McLean's book on the 63-64 tour, Willie Away, named after Whineray. There was a pregnant pause before he said, "This is not what it looks like."
Whenever he saw the book he bought a copy, he explained, and then, when grandchildren were old enough to wonder what Granddad had done in his youth, he could simply hand it over.
Whineray's All Blacks of 63 were a hell of a team.
They played 36 games, won 34, lost to Newport in their third match, and only lost out on a Grand Slam tour because Scotland held them to a scoreless draw.
But what the players offered to the sport, and to their country, in future years is even more extraordinary.

 Colin Meads, one of our greatest All Blacks ever, was a key player in Whineray's 1963-64 team

 Four, Whineray, Brian Lochore, John Graham and Colin Meads, would be knighted.
Lochore coached the first All Blacks side to win the World Cup in 1987. Graham, for years the headmaster of Auckland Grammar, remains a passionate advocate for excellence in education. A young Polynesian friend met him this year and said, "He wasn't what I expected. I thought he'd be stern and cold, but he's got a terrific sense of humour."
And what would any story about this team be without a mention of possibly the sweetest natured man to ever pull on a rugby jersey, Waka Nathan? (pictured below)
In the 1970s, when Maori rugby had almost crashed and burned in the wake of some awful results, he took over as coach, and got the team back on its feet.
But don't think the sweet smile signalled a man you could push around. Terry McLean records that at the end of the tour he said to Nathan, "I've reached a point, Waka, where I think I might have to take that guitar you play all the time and stamp it into little pieces."
Replied Nathan, "Sure. And I might have to do the same to your typewriter."
Thanks to the Sunday Star Times for permission to run this article written by Phil Gifford

My memories of the All Black team from 1959 to 1965 centred around R.J. (Red) or Dick Conway.
Conway was small for a loose forward, standing at 1.75m and weighing only 85 kg, and he was known for his dynamic tackling.

 Some people would give their right arm to play for the All Blacks, but instead Dick Conway gave his finger to play for them. I was 11 years of age when Red (R.J.) or Dick Conway played for the All Blacks. We played in the same club and occasionally he would come and watch our Zingari-Richmond under 7 stone team play at Monticello ground in Dunedin. Dick had the choice of not being medically fit to play for the All Blacks or getting rid of a finger. Conway got his finger amputated and went on to play for the All Blacks again. Here are the facts from NZ Rugby archives.
"A persistent finger injury incurred from playing as a softball catcher put Conway's 1960 tour of South Africa in doubt. The damage occurred to his third finger on his right hand after it was broken while trying to catch a foul ball. After the break mended the finger retained a kink and he was told by a specialist that if he kept playing rugby the finger would keep breaking. To keep his spot on the tour Conway decided to amputate the finger after the final selection trial."

Conway, above,  debuted for the All Blacks in 1959, playing the second test against the touring lions. The first test had resulted in a New Zealand win, but was described as "New Zealand's saddest victory" by the press due to the Lions outscoring the home team four tries to none.

He was not selected for the All Blacks for five years following the tour until 1965, when he was recalled for four tests against South Africa. He played an important role in securing a 3-1 series victory. That was his last game for the All Blacks, although he did play in a "The Rest" team against them the next year.

Now getting back to Sir Wilson Whineray's accessible approach,  made him a captain who could "waft between the farmers and the smart-arse students", former team-mates say.
Tributes have flowed for the former All Blacks captain, who died in Auckland Hospital yesterday, aged 77. He was surrounded by family and had been in hospital for the past month.
Judged by renowned rugby writer Terry McLean as the greatest of All Black captains, Sir Wilson was a mobile prop with the handling skills of a back who played in a much-feared pack alongside Colin Meads, Kel Tremain and Ken Gray.
He was the country's longest-serving All Blacks captain, and played 77 games for the team as a prop, including 32 tests, after debuting against Australia in May 1957 - a remarkable feat in the days when only two or three tests were played each year.
New Zealand lost just four of the 30 tests played when he was captain.
But his dominance was not restricted to the rugby field.

After gaining an MBA from Harvard University, he went on to spend 34 years with forest products conglomerate Carter Holt
Harvey, including as deputy managing director, and 10 years as chairman. He was also chairman of the National Bank.
He was knighted in 1998 for services to sport and business.
Sir Wilson is survived by his wife, Lady Elisabeth, a son, two daughters and five grandchildren.
In a statement, his family thanked the staff at Auckland Hospital's critical care unit and said he would leave a large gap in their lives. "Our father led a rich life filled to the brim with family, sport, business and the community we are blessed with many wonderful memories of him.
"We will always remember his energy and passion for everything he did and we remember one of his favourite comments was that he didn't regret a single day in his life."
Stalwarts of the rugby and business worlds paid tribute to Sir Wilson yesterday. "We have lost one of New Zealand's great heroes and for the rugby community we have lost a much-loved patron and champion of rugby," New Zealand Rugby Union chairman Mike Eagle said.

Extraordinary Grace
Sir Wilson Whineray was not always an easy captain, but he was a fair one, says ex-All Black Chris Laidlaw, who played under him for more than two years.
"It wasn't easy playing under him. I had to learn the hard way. But to his enormous credit, Wilson was an accessible person.

"He was very smart and able to waft between the farmers, those who formed that hardcore of the team and the smart-arse students who formed half the backline.
"He had an extraordinary amount of grace. Whenever I think of Wilson I think of that word."
Rugby great Sir Brian Lochore said he would remember his friend and former team-mate as a leader and man of great mana.
"He was a very successful captain and natural leader. He did really well, then did outstandingly well in business after retiring from the All Blacks.

"He had a lot of mana and was a very wise person."
Sir Brian recalled fond memories of his 1963 tour with Whineray.
"My great memory would be when he scored a try against the Barbarians at Cardiff Arms Park and put in a great dummy. They got sucked in and he went under the sticks. That was something special."
The pair got to know each other during the five-month tour, but even after their respective retirements from rugby they remained in touch, with Lochore following Whineray's lead to chair the Hillary Commission.
Whineray was 21 when he made his debut for the All Blacks and as captain from the age of 23 he led the country to 41 wins from 50 games.
Through his career, he played for Wairarapa, Mid Canterbury, Manawatu, Canterbury, Waikato and Auckland.

He was named New Zealand Sportsman of the Year in 1965 and in 2003 he was named patron of the New Zealand Rugby Union. Four years later he became the fourth person to be inducted into the International Rugby Board Hall of Fame.
Whineray won a Harkness Scholarship to Harvard University where he studied for an MBA in 1967 and 1968.
He went on to work in the business world for the likes of Carter Holt Harvey, National Bank of New Zealand and Auckland International Airport.

In the early 1990s he was appointed the Colonel-Commandant of the New Zealand SAS Regiment - a position he held for five years.

Barry Dineen, a former fellow National Bank director who also played rugby with Sir Wilson, described him as a man of many great strengths.
"He was the Richie McCaw of his day. He was a very good front-row prop - an excellent rugby player ... a good man's man and a good leader with a great ability to communicate with his colleagues. If he set out to do something, then he did it ... in business."

But let's reflect more on Wilson Whineray, one of New Zealand's great leaders.

 Man For All Seasons
His friend of about 60 years Mick Bremner, 82, was All Black vice-captain under Whineray but they were already friends from their time at Massey College in Palmerston North.
"Socially, he was always calm and great company. He worked hard at anything he put his mind to, and was always unruffled."
A "man for all seasons", Whineray took his leadership on the rugby field seriously.
"He had a good mind on how rugby should be played. He was a very good captain and well liked by all the players.
"He was a good example for all of us really."
Bremner and Whineray went on to together coach an Onslow senior rugby team to victory in about 1979.
Through all his successes, Whineray always had his feet firmly on the ground - even when he was knighted, Bremner said.
His death was so unexpected, and he would miss him, Bremner said.
"You get a bit of a shock because you think those chaps will go on forever."
Bob Howitt wrote Whineray's biography, A Perfect Gentleman, and said getting the "humble, genuine" rugby legend to share his life story was characteristically difficult.
"Sir Wilson being Wilson, he wasn't going to do a book.
"I played my last card, I said that given what you achieved in rugby and business there deserves to be a book written about you and I am going to write it with or without you. In those circumstances he said 'we better get on with the bloody thing'."
But it was another book rugby writer Phil Gifford will remember Whineray for.
Gifford first met him off the rugby field when the All Black was working at the NZ Wool Marketing Corporation, and said a chance meeting a few years ago summed up the nature of the man.
"I was in a secondhand book shop in Auckland, in the sports section and I turned the corner and what do you know, there's Sir Wilson."
In his hand was a copy of Terry McLean's book, Willie Away, named in Whineray's honour.
"He said, 'it's not what it looks like' he would hunt down a copy of the book for his grandkids, and he would say to them 'if you want to know what your granddad did as a young man, this kind of tells it'."

Leadership Demonstrated In Loyalty
The young Sir Wilson was a leader who was loyal to his mates - even the ex-bodgies.
A man who led the rugby great through his Compulsory Military Training (CMT) in 1953 remembers the 18-year-old sticking his neck out for his fellow balloted comrades.
It all began when a handful of bodgies - 1950s louts turned freshly shaven soldiers - got into a fight in Palmerston North during their first Friday night leave.
Their Linton Army Camp platoon commander, Ian Launder, now 83, recalls the group returning with black eyes and signs of being "knocked around a bit".
"Obviously they weren't particularly appreciated by their past associates. It was obvious they had been beaten up."
Two weeks later during their next leave night, Mr Launder got a call from police to say there had been another "fracas" between soldiers.
This time it was a dozen of them who had confronted the "bodgies and widgies (female bodgies)" down a dark street to "square the books".
Lining them up next morning, Mr Launder was unable to get a word of explanation out of the men, even though "it was reasonably evident from their knuckles they had been involved".
Then one man stepped up, took the blame and said, "Yes, I arranged it". It was Sir Wilson.
"It just showed he had bloody good leadership potential, even back then."
He was a loyal and supportive mate.
"Whether to rugby players or even ex-bodgies who had been beaten up."

Saturday, 23 August 2014

Rugby’s Hardest Men

Colin Meads – broken arm

rugby hardasses5 - Colin Meads
The legendary Colin Meads played lock for New Zealand between 1957-1971.  He was known as “pinetree” and became the quintessential All Black and longest serving of his day.  He dominated the field and protected his team mates, becoming one of the great enforcers of the team.  During the 1970 All Blacks tour of South Africa, only 6 minutes into playing Eastern Transvaal, Meads emerged from a ruck with a broken arm.  He taped the arm up and played on for the rest of the match!  “Though he recovered and appeared in the final two tests he was not quite the force of old.”

 Dick Conway – amputated finger

 rugby hardasses1 - dick conway

 Dick Conway played Number 8 for the All Blacks between 1959 and 1965.  “A softball catcher (he represented Rotorua at that sport in 1956) Dick Conway broke his finger during a game. The finger set very badly and was obviously going to suffer further damage at work, Dick Conway was a carpenter, or play, either softball or rugby. So, to avoid a problem whilst with the All Blacks in South Africa Conway had the finger amputated. “ He went on play an important role in the All Blacks 3-1 series victory during the 1965 tour of South Africa.


Buck Shelford – torn scrotum

Buck Shelford
Playing at Number 8 from 1985-1990, Buck Shelford went on to be one of the most successful All Black captains.  He is also known for redefining the pre-game haka and giving it bite.  Buck was controversially dropped after his 1990 Test series against Scotland.  The public movement to “Bring Back Buck” which began in 1990 survives, albeit jokingly, to this day.  
During the 1986 All Blacks vs France test, Shelford was kicked by a French boot.  Not only did he lose four teeth, but his scrotum was famously ripped open.  He had his manhood sewn back up on the sidelines and returned to the field to see out the match!

Richie McCaw – broken foot

Richie McCaw limps off the field. He'll be back!
Playing for the All Blacks since late 2001, Richie McCaw has remained the incumbent Number 7 since 2003, and captain since 2006.  One of New Zealand’s greatest rugby players, McCaw has been a talisman for victory during his tenure with the team.  The chart below lists the mounting injuries McCaw had acquired prior to his six month sabbatical in 2012/2013.  The chart does not include the knee to the face and headbutt from Scott Higginbotham in the subsequent test!
McCaws Injury Sept 12What makes McCaw’s longevity so amazing is the fact he plays Openside Flanker.  “As scavengers for possession in and around the rucks and mauls, they are often faced with 50-50 balls and therefore need to put their bodies on the line with little thought for the consequences.”  He played through the later stages of the 2011 Rugby World Cup tournament with a broken foot, refusing to allow it to be X-rayed.  The nation was already in panic after vice captain Dan Carter’s tournament ending injury and McCaw was determined not to pull out.  He contented himself with painkillers and kept the extent of the injury from his coaches.  In the presence of the team and the media he grit his teeth and tried to walk normally.  The seriousness of the injury was made all the more amazing after the final whistle blew and Richie’s All Blacks were once again world champions!

Sam Cane – blood loss

Debuting for the All Blacks in 2012, Sam Cane has had to wait his turn to get game time as Richie McCaw still owns the Number 7 jersey.  However, with Richie’s well deserved six month sabbatical, Cane got three starts against France in 2013 as well as covering when McCaw has been injured.  His bloodiest battle so far has been at Eden Park against the Springboks where his forehead was cut open and he was sent to the blood bin by the referee.  After getting stitched up at half time, Cane returned to the fray in the second half and finished out the game!  McCaw acknowledged his understudy’s efforts with a handshake at the end of the match.  His efforts against the Springboks in South Africa and against Australia in Dunedin the following week have given him good claim to be the heir to Number 7.

Thanks to Rugby Frontier for permission to run this article.

Friday, 22 August 2014

Pride among Vietnam veterans

Pride among Vietnam veterans

Willie Walker is matter-of-fact when he talks about the battle of Long Tan, nothing in his demeanour suggesting the peril he faced in that monsoon-drenched Vietnamese rubber plantation 48 years ago.
Yesterday, the anniversary of the battle, was Vietnam Veterans Day and it was chosen for the launch of an account of the war from the perspective of those New Zealanders who took part.
 based on 150 interviews carried out by a dozen interviewers over four years.
At the launch in Parliament, Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister Christopher Finlayson referred to Long Tan and the role played by Walker and two other Kiwis - Morrie Stanley and Murray Broomhall.

The trio were the forward observation team directing artillery fire as about 100 members of Australia's D Company tried to hold off an estimated 1500 to 2500 Viet Cong and North Vietnamese soldiers.
Conditions had been terrible with torrential rain, low visibility, and thunder and lightning, Finlayson said.
"As they crouched in the red mud between rubber trees, shrapnel flew in all directions, and wave after wave of Viet Cong soldiers surged towards them."
At one point the battle had seemed lost, but thanks in part to the tenacity and skill of the New Zealanders it turned into a decisive victory for the Anzacs.
"We were right at the front. We could see them coming," Walker, a 21-year-old lance corporal at the time, and the team's radio operator, recalled.
At one point in the four-hour battle, Viet Cong soldiers had been just 10 metres away.
"They knew there were people there all right, but fortunately the artillery kept them out," Wallker, of Dunedin, said.
"Even though it was falling dangerously close, that's how we kept the Viet Cong out.
"Our one thought was to keep the shells coming, falling in the right place. We didn't have one mistake," he said.
"It was just nonstop bedlam. Tracers, machine gun fire, mortar fire, artillery fire."
At one point the company had been dangerously low on ammunition, but fortunately an air drop from Australian helicopters landed in the right place.
A relief column was on the way, but the fighters needed to hang on. "If no reinforcements came in half an hour we were going to be overrun," Walker said.

"Fortunately for us they arrived at the right time. They killed hundreds (of Viet Cong) when they came in on their ... armoured personnel carriers."
Walker was calm and straightforward as he recalled the battle.
"At the time you are just there doing your job," he said. "We managed to put into place what we trained for."
After returning to New Zealand, he had been paid at the airport and told to report back to camp in six weeks.
He was aware there was anti-war feeling in the country but it had not bothered him.
"I had six weeks' leave and a pocket full of money."
Hall, who wrote the book for the Ministry for Culture and Heritage, said many of the Vietnam veterans talked about the war with the same sort of attitude as Walker.
"That's based on the fact they were all professional soldiers. They were all there to do their job, and they were all doing it the best they could," she said.
"A lot of them would have gone back and done it again, irrespective of the politics ... and they were incredibly proud of what they did."
The veterans did not want to be seen as victims. "That would have really jarred with the pride they felt."
It was the children and grandchildren who were seen as the victims, particularly with the issues of ill-health many had experienced.

Bright future for Banda Aceh post tsunami

Banda Aceh Post-Tsunami
ROOM WITH A VIEW: Watching the sunset from our balcony was stunning.
Banda Aceh Post-Tsunami
ACTUAL SIZE: This statue is the same height as the wave was when it hit the area, 5km inland.
Banda Aceh Post-Tsunami
POWER OF THE WAVES: This massive ship crossed the city in the tsunami and now sits as a memorial site inland.

For many people across the globe, the name Banda Aceh would have only been heard for the first time following the Boxing Day Tsunami in 2004.
Broadcast around the world as a place of mass destruction with casualties in the tens of thousands, Banda Aceh has probably never crossed the minds of many as a place of paradise, a place of culture or even a place to holiday.
In late 2013, after finishing up my job in Kuala Lumpur working for an NGO providing free education to the poor, I decided to travel back to a country which I once lived in, but to a place even I knew very little about other than the traumatic graphic photos online from the tsunami.
For me, it was only one hour away on a 'cheap as chips' AirAsia flight to the city of Banda Aceh, which is located at the northern point of Sumatra, Indonesia.
Ten years on from the Boxing Day tsunami and it was quite impressive to see how a city could rebuild itself. Although not so sure at first how destroyed the city was, our driver took us to some memorial sites; the first being a gallery of photos from the event, conveniently located in an ex-house which still has a ship beached on the roof.
This gallery of horrific photos was not for the faint-hearted. I got about halfway through before my stomach started to turn, and my eyes began to water.
The images were not shy to show the victims, or parts of the victims as they laid scattered across a flattened city. 
You couldn't help but look around and see the people who lived there and realise that they were here on that day, they ran from the surging water, they themselves lost most of their family that day and you couldn't help but think how haunted their dreams/nightmares must be.
I have experienced my share of horrific experiences in my lifetime, such as the 2008 earthquake in China and the 2010/11 earthquakes in Christchurch, but I couldn't imagine experiencing anything as terrifying as these people did.
Next we moved on to the biggest memorial which was a massive ship. It must have been about 100m long, yet it stood upright on land, about 5km in land from the harbor.
This massive construction of metal had been lifted out of the sea and travelled over top of, or perhaps straight through, people's homes, shopping malls and whatever else stood in its way. It was there that I started to understand that this wave the Japanese call a tsunami is truly powerful.
They have built a statue of the wave in that same location. It is the same height as the wave was when it hit that area, 5km inland!! I stood beside it and looked straight up. No way could I touch the top, even if I jumped, and I'm not a short guy.
Banda Aceh, like many areas of Indonesia, is Muslim and everyone we met had so much faith because the main mosque was not flattened by the wall of water. I couldn't help but question the fact that they, as a community, invested a lot more money into the construction of the mosque(s) therefore it wasn't washed away like the thousands of fragile homes.
People took this as a sign that Allah was present, and that Allah was reminding them of their purpose. It was a bit hard to hear again and again, as the feeling of propaganda was too evident, but this is no place to debate others lifestyles or religions. It is what it is.
If I am to be honest now, my trip there was not so much to visit Banda Aceh but more to go to an island that can simply be described as paradise, the island Pulau Weh - a 40 minute boat ride from Banda Aceh.
Just before boarding our boat, we were met by Freddie, the owner of the hotel/villas we were going to stay at, and I must say this guy was amazing, friendly, helpful and a down to earth great guy.
As we got closer, we could see why Freddie had made the big move to this island in 2006 to start Freddie's Santai Sumurtiga. The clear blue waters were full of tropical fish as we got off the boat and into our van to drive to the other side of the island.
Life on the island was very chilled, people said hello to strangers and smiled just for the sake of smiling. 
The roads were typical of Indonesia, with plenty of potholes and wild animals walking across as if there were no crazy drivers around the next corner. It was clean, green and there were coconut palm trees everywhere.
We arrived at our villa which no words can truly describe. It was completely made from local materials such as wood from the palm trees and leaves from them too. It stood on the steep bank with the most amazing view of the ocean. Just a few metres below us was the long, clean, white sandy beach which was our home for the next few days.
Our villa had the best balcony, which overlooked the ocean and the coconut trees; sunset was spectacular.
Freddie can also cook, and by cook I mean he could easily win Masterchef. Every night, he put on a buffet spread for his guests, with a different theme each night. The thought and the time put into every meal was truly amazing, and he did it all for his guests, bringing them all together for a great meal to talk about their day and give others ideas about what to see on the island.
Did I mention he knew every guest's name, and it didn't matter where or when you saw him, he would address anybody by their name; he made every guest feel like family instantly.
We truly enjoyed our time here. The days were filled with relaxing times on the beach, working on our tans, swimming with millions of fish, socialising with other guests, visiting the natural beauty of the island and best of all, meeting the locals. For once this was a place that had it all, except the invasion of tourists.
Both Banda Aceh and Pulau Weh have rebuilt themselves since the Boxing Day tsunami and now look to a bright future.
This is a place that has a unique charm and a presence that makes you really appreciate your home and your safety, but reminds you that change is inevitable so have faith, enjoy each and every moment and remember there is always light at the end of the tunnel.

Monday, 18 August 2014

Red Cross scales up efforts to tackle growing disaster threats facing cities

August 19th, 2014, Manila – Starting today, a three day meeting in Manila convened by the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies, aims to develop a roadmap to address the rising humanitarian threat that disasters pose to urban populations.

More than 50 % of the world’s population is now living in urban areas and by 2020, the urban population in low-middle income countries is expected to rise to 80%. In many cities, this rapid growth has outpaced the ability of cities to absorb such numbers and provide essential infrastructure and services. Almost one third of the urban population in low-income countries are living in unregulated and overcrowded shelters with limited access to water, sanitation and drainage.

“We are seeing increased vulnerability, especially in the low social economic groups who often have no choice but to live in slums or informal settlements”, explains Gwen Pang, secretary general of the Philippine Red Cross - the  host of the meeting.   “Often these settlements are located in hazard-prone locations such as steep hillsides, industrial areas, and riverbanks subject to flooding. Here in the Philippines we suffer over 20 tropical storms each year and these communities are hit hardest when flooding affects Metro Manila”.

The IFRC meeting brings together disaster management specialists from the International Red Cross Movement in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East, together with representatives from Government authorities, the UN, NGOs and academic and private institutions. Discussions will be centred on a shared common purpose - to develop an effective approach to urban disaster management.

‘We are seeing an increase in the number and severity of extreme weather related disasters”, explains Nelson Castano, the IFRC’s head of disaster management for Asia Pacific, “cities will also feel the effects of climate change through increasing frequency of heat waves, air pollution, severe storms and infectious diseases. The Red Cross aims to help citizens prepare for, respond to, and recover from urban disasters but no single organisation can manage the urban disaster management agenda on its own”

Participants at the workshop will be discussing a range of themes including: urban risk assessment, disaster law in urban contexts, violence and protection, the impacts of climate change and technology and communication with at risk communities. The meeting will also reflect on lessons learnt from the response to Typhoon Haiyan which devastated central areas of Philippines in 2013. 

As country coordinator in the Philippines for the Swiss Red Cross it was a memorable occasion last night at the opening dinner where Chairman of the Philippine Red Cross, Dick Gordon gave a powerful keynote address outlining the increasing pressure on urban areas in the Philippines, especially Manila with its 14 million people and other parts of Asia, and how the Red Cross must scale up its efforts to assist the growing number of urban poor. Dick Gordon presented us a very bleak picture of what would happen if Manila was struck by a moderate to large earthquake. 

I am pleased the Swiss Red Cross tackles the issue of urbanization in its  Disaster management concept paper by "highlighting the rapid economic growth which is concentrated primarily in cities and the world is experiencing massive internal migration to urban areas. Most of the world's population now lives in urban settings, implying changing lifestyles and different patters of vulnerability. Some of these urban areas are particularly risk-prone (flood, earthquake, violence) as urban development has often outpaced smart and safe planning."

The Swiss Red Cross looks forward to strengthening its partnership with the Philippine Red Cross in risk reduction and climate change adaption programmes in the chapters it is working with in the Philippines.
At the opening of the Red Cross Red Crescent Asia and Pacific Urban Disaster Management workshop. Right to left. Emily from China, Pavinee from Thailand, Gothami from Sri Lanka and Bob McKerrow Swiss Red Cross country coordinator.

Sunday, 10 August 2014

Fresh twist in 40-year-old USSR - NZ Cold War spy mystery

Forty years after he was acquitted of spying, electrifying new evidence has emerged showing that top government official Bill Sutch was a KGB recruit working under the codename "Maori".
The Dominion Post has obtained copies of official KGB records that show Sutch was a 24-year veteran recruit of the feared Soviet spy agency when he was arrested while meeting a KGB agent at an Aro Valley park, in Wellington, in 1974.

But his daughter says the evidence does not match her father and maintains he was not involved with the Soviets.
Sutch was acquitted of a charge obtaining information helpful to the enemy, following a sensational five-day trial.

Bill Sutch
UNDER ARREST: Detective Senior Sergeant Colin Lines leads Bill Sutch to a car in the Aro Valley sting, September 1974.
Bill Sutch, Dimitri Razgovorov
ON THE RUN: Dimitri Razgovorov, a KGB officer, sprints down Aro St in Wellington when he realises Sutch has been arrested.
Kit Bennetts
SPY GUY: Former SIS agent Kit Bennetts, about the time of the raid.

Forty years later, the records provide the KGB's answer to the enduring question from New Zealand's greatest spy scandal: Was Sutch, a brilliant and senior bureaucrat who influenced several prime ministers, a Soviet spy?
Smuggled out of Russia by a KGB defector, the papers also provide coded details of other Kiwis the KGB recruited during the Cold War.
They even reveal the KGB's New Zealand budget, showing that the year Sutch was arrested, their safe held a surplus $2504.64.
The documents don't name Sutch but the details clearly identify him and state he was recruited in 1950.
Given the codename "Maori", the records say Sutch was in contact with a KGB agent, Drozhzhin.
The former SIS agent who caught Sutch in a clandestine meeting with KGB agent Dmitri Razgovorov in Holloway Rd, said the documents vindicated SIS attention on Sutch.
"I'm delighted . . . not because I want to stick it to Bill Sutch, but because I always knew it to be true," former agent Kit Bennetts said. "It is important we don't run from our history, no matter how uncomfortable it might be."
It was regrettable Sutch refused to co-operate when confronted with evidence of his previous meetings with the KGB agent, Bennetts said.
"What we really wanted to know was what he'd done in the past. There was no desire to send him to prison. If he'd co-operated he would have got his knighthood and no-one would be any the wiser."

Sutch's daughter, Helen Sutch, said last night she did not agree that the files showed her father was a KGB recruit for 24 years before his arrest and acquittal.
"The idea is absurd. My father was a true New Zealander and his life was dedicated to New Zealand's interests as his whole career and his personal life and his books and lectures show," she said.
"My father was charged on the basis of a few meetings at the end of his life, long after his retirement, not on anything he had done in his career and even then the charges wouldn't stick."
The KGB files did not surprise her.
"It is well known that KGB agents in general were desperate to talk up any contacts they had because they were under pressure from their superiors," she said.
The new evidence comes from papers copied by former top KGB archivist Vasili Mitrokhin, who defected in 1992.
The papers have just been made public by Churchill College at Cambridge University in Britain. Only a few pages of the Mitrokhin records are devoted to New Zealand.
The file with New Zealand material in it says the KGB recruited an "ex-high ranking official in state machinery" who was born in 1907, obtained a PhD and retired in 1965.
That profile is a perfect match to Sutch who was born in June 1907, held a PhD and retired as the head of the Department of Industries and Commerce in 1965.
The KGB thumbnail sketch says the agent was "recruited in 1950," given the codename Maori and was "in contact with Drozhzhin".
Sutch therefore appears to have been recruited in New York as he was secretary-general of New Zealand's United Nations delegation there from 1947 to 1951.
Bennetts said Drozhzhin was a "seriously good KGB agent".
"He was so good he taught me my trade. When the new guy [Razgovorov] came along we'd got really good at what we were doing . . . we didn't set out to catch Sutch . . . they [KGB] led us to him."
Bennetts said even in the face of the new evidence some people will refuse to believe Sutch was a Soviet recruit.
Doubters should ask why the KGB were still meeting Sutch, he said.
"Why would they stuff around with someone for 25 years if he was no use to them?"
Thanks to the The Dominion Post for permission to run this article.

Indonesian girl swept away by 2004 tsunami reunited with family

Mother says Raudhatul Jannah was rescued from sea and taken in by islanders until an uncle spotted her in street
A child who went missing in the 2004 tsunami has been reunited with her family in Indonesia, nearly 10 years after they assumed she had been killed. Raudhatul Jannah, now 14, was carried out to sea with her brother, only to be rescued by fishermen. She was raised by the fisherman’s mother, Raudhatul’s mother said. More than 170,000 people were killed in Aceh province by the Boxing Day disaster

Tsunami Jannah grandmother
Raudhatul Jannah with her mother, Jamaliah, and grandmother. Jamaliah says her daughter was cared for by the mother of the fisherman who rescued her. Photographs: Achwa Nussa/AAP/Sijori
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Raudhatul, now 14, is kissed by her mother. The girl was swept out to sea along with her brother
Tsunami devastation
An aerial view of a devastated village in Aceh, Sumatra, after the 2004 tsunami. More than 170,000 people were killed in the province
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Raudhatul with her family after being reunited
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Jamaliah holds up a picture of her daughter and missing son, taken before the Boxing Day tsunami tore the family apart
Tsunami Jannah
Reports said Raudhatul was spotted walking home from school by her uncle
An Indonesian family claims to have found their missing daughter a full decade after she was swept away as a toddler by the 2004 tsunami and presumed dead.
“It’s a miracle from God,” mother Jamaliah, 42, told the Jakarta Globe. “When I saw her, my heart was beating really fast … We couldn’t hold back our tears.”
Fleeing huge waves as the tsunami pummelled their village in West Aceh on 26 December 2004, Jamaliah said she and her husband, Septi Rangkuti, 52, ran for safety but couldn’t escape the water. Her husband found a large wooden board and put the two youngest children on top of it — daughter Raudhatul Jannah, then 4, and her brother Arif Pratama Rangkuti, 7.
Septi was separated from his children in the mayhem and the parents spent a month looking for them after the tsunami receded, with no leads and, eventually, no hope.
More than 170,000 people in Aceh, and tens of thousands of others in other countries around the Indian Ocean, were killed by the Boxing Day tragedy.
The couple moved house with their one surviving son and carried on with their lives, expecting to never find their missing children — until in June Jamaliah’s brother spotted a girl who looked like missing daughter Raudhatul.
He asked local villagers about the girl and discovered that she had been orphaned by the tsunami. Swept from Aceh all the way out to a remote island south-west of the province, she was rescued by a local fisherman and taken back to the fisherman’s house, where he spent the last decade raising her as “Wenni” with his ageing mother.
“It’s a miracle from God,” Jamaliah told the paper, describing how she and her husband visited the girl in late June to confirm the rumour.
“The girl’s face resembles mine,” she added, claiming that she was willing to take a DNA test to confirm the girl’s identity. “Maybe because there was a strong connection, when I hugged her, she hugged me back and felt very comfortable in my embrace.”
Daughter Raudhatul returned home to live in West Aceh with her parents on Wednesday. After 10 years living apart, mother Jamaliah said she is building a strong relationship with the girl’s foster parents, who are very happy that she found her “supposed birth parents”.
But the arrival of Raudhatul may bring even more good news. The girl, now 14, says that she and her older brother Arif, who is still missing, both survived the tsunami and ended up together on Banyak Island. But the girl was taken away by one fisherman, and the brother by another man, leading the parents to believe their son – also presumed dead for the past decade – may be out there too.
“My instinct tells me he’s still alive,” she says of her son. “We’ll go there soon to find [him].”

Friday, 8 August 2014

Red Cross builds typhoon resistant homes in the Philippines

A step by step photographic guide to building typhoon resistant houses/shelters or homes as I prefer to call them, in the Philippines by the Philippine Red Cross Society for those who lost houses during Typhoon Haiyan (Yolande).  Photographs provided by Heike Kemper Shelter delegate Swiss Red Cross who is working with German Red Cross and PRC in Capiz.

                                                         Laying out the ground plan.

                                                             Shelter from the storm.

 Below, a critical design feature, affixing the typhoon strap which holds the roof structure to beams which are strongly cemented in the ground.

Heike Kemper above (left)
Heike Kemper from the Swiss Red Cross  (2nd from R) with the Philippine Red Cross construction team in Capiz. This is what she said, "You are wonderful people who in just 2 weeks learned how to manage a construction site on your own. I could not be more proud. :):):)" Great to see so many females in the team.