Tuesday, 31 March 2015

Black Caps: I can point to you and say to my sons, 'live like that'

CWC final  

OVER: Black Caps captain Brendon McCullum hugs Michael Clarke after Australia win the Cricket World Cup.

To Brendon McCullum, the Black Caps and their coaching staff, I want to say thank you.
My wife and I moved from New Zealand to Africa just under three years ago to be the directors of an orphanage. While it was never our plan (my idea was to devote several years to something good and then come home and get on with my own life plan), because of the need where we are, we ended up taking a baby into our home.
Over 14 months, one became three, three became four and four became five. We now have five sons - two toddlers and three teenagers and for the next decade or two we will call this red earth home.
Prior to being our sons, none of them had ever seen a game of cricket let alone understood what an LBW was. They had never held a cricket ball or bat in their hands or tried to, "throw the ball all funny". You would call this bowling.

I only met Brendon once on New Year's eve 2011 in Queenstown, and came out at the end of the game to talk to children and was happy to be photographed with my son. Photo: Bob McKerrow

As the World Cup has played out, my eldest sons and I have gathered around a computer screen and watched some rather fuzzy images of games together. They now understand the game, kind of.
While I live my life believing that all things are possible, I also believe it is wise to seek to understand what is probable.
While it is possible, it is also highly improbable that my sons will ever represent their nation in sports. It is unlikely that they will become famous. It is unlikely that they will stand on a world stage in their lifetime to showcase world class skills in, well, anything.
They are amazing young men with much promise but they have also come from horrific backgrounds and tell stories of personal pain that no person should ever be able to tell.
Whatever they do in life, my hope for them is that they grow up to be men of character. I hope my sons grow up to be men of integrity. I hope they become men who stop for those in need; men full of compassion; men who share what they have even at great personal expense.

I pray that they become men who live constantly in honour, respect, generosity and perhaps most of all, humility. I hope they grow up preferring others above themselves and live in such a way that brings hope to the messed up nation we live in.
And this is why I wish to say thank you.
Brendon, my sons will never swing a cricket bat like you. Trent, they will never move the ball through the air like you. Dan, they will never defy gravity and leap high with an outstretched hand to bag an incredible catchKane and Grant, they will never hit a six to win a World Cup game.
But as each of you played your game over the past few weeks, you played in such a way that I could point to you and, as a father struggling to bridge many gaps for my sons, say to them: "Look, whatever you do in life, live like that.
"If you find yourself winning, don't gloat over those around you who may have lost. Be free to play life hard my sons, but play fair. Play with respect and play with honour.
"Don't let the pursuit of winning rob you of the ability to truly see the heart of another person. For when you come to die, those who gather around you will be the ones whose hearts you have chosen to see."

TACTICS: David Warner has a reputation for goading the opposition. PHOTO: Getty Images

The Australian team showed they have incredible skill, and I honour them for the choices they have made and the commitment and hard work they have shown to achieve what they have. It is a wonderful thing to be a World Cup champion.
However, I don't want my sons to be like them.
I don't want them to walk past somebody else and pull on the fear of being harmed by saying, "Get ready for a ****** broken arm."
I don't ever want them to be censured by any governing body for the poor ways in which they treat people or speak to people. I never want them to use demeaning and harmful words to, "achieve" something in life.
Quite honestly, if they grew up to display the character and attitudes of David Warner or Mitchell Johnson, as skillful as those men are, I would feel that I have failed as a father.

The simple reality is that fame is a cheating lover. Give it a generation or two and very few people will recall your names or your achievements.
Perhaps the cricket die-hards will, there will no doubt be a plaque or two somewhere acknowledging what you have achieved. But the world is too small a place to remember the sporting deeds of many and each generation moves on to its own heroes.
What will live on is character passed from parent to child, honour imparted and stewarded into maturity by a community to a young one. What will live on are the qualities that can exist in a human heart that steward the very life of humanity.
And so I say thank you.
Thank you for taking your global stage and as a unified team, displaying something more valuable than holding aloft a trophy.
To New Zealand cricket, keep walking the path that you have started on. While you did not win the game, where honour and integrity are evident, you can never fail. I believe if you continue on in this manner, the trophies will come.
I know that given the hopes you had as a team, a letter from an unknown nobody will probably mean very little right now. However, life has a funny way of taking what we once thought was an incredible achievement, and with expanded and matured sight, life proves what we thought to be incredible is actually fairly insignificant.
It is for that reason that I hope each of you go forward to live the kind of lives where one day, perhaps months, years or decades from now, you read this letter again and recognise how invaluable it is to display honour, humility, character and compassion for the world to see.
As a father seeking to reveal to them the beauty of his sons, thank you. JONNY GILLING

Friday, 27 March 2015

Almost killed by a herd of Musk Oxen and discovering white wolves

Ellesmere Island is a vast, lonely land whose inhabitants must struggle to make out a living. Wolves are tireless travelers who roam the thousands of square miles of their territory in search of prey. Photo: Jim Brandenburg

Tuesday, 17 March 2015

"Bainne na mbó ar na gamhna" and Happy St. Patrick's day.

As I go out  tonight,  with Jimmy the Bo'sun an Irish seaman plying ports of the new world, to celebrate St. Patrick day, I think of the photo of an old school house I discovered in my collection this time last year and.the words "Bainne na mbó ar na gamhna" came into my head. I think it means "Cows' milk for the calves". The verse from an old Irish drinking song about the school goes like this:

    Then when I was a young lad of six years or so,
    With me book and my pencil to school I did go,
    To a dirty old school house without any door,

I have sung this song countless times in all parts of the world and still enjoy hearing it sung by the   Clancy brothers and other Irish singers.

Coincidentally, the shot was taken at Okariti  New Zealand where Te Ara (NZ Encyclopedia) records "there were ‘shindies’ between Irish Catholics and Orangemen (a Protestant group) at Ōkarito in 1865." Okarito is on the west Coast of NZs South Island where many Irish people settled.  In 1868  when news reached the West Coast that three Fenians had been hanged in Manchester, there were funeral processions in Charleston and in Hokitika, where 1,000 people broke into the cemetery and planted a wooden Celtic cross.

Soon after, the attempted assassination in Australia of Queen Victoria’s son Prince Alfred, by a suspected Fenian, triggered a minor panic on the West Coast of NZ. Eight hundred special constables were sworn in, the 18th Regiment was sent south, and Larkin, Manning and five others were arrested. Both men received one month in jail and a fine of ₤20 for seditious libel.

 The lyrics to the Juice of the Barley are: 
In the sweet county Lim'rick, one cold winter's night
All the turf fires were burning when I first saw the light;
And a drunken old midwife went tipsy with joy,
As she danced round the floor with her slip of a boy,
Singing bainne na mbó is an gamhna
And the juice of the barley for me.
Then when I was a young lad of six years or so,
With me book and my pencil to school I did go,
To a dirty old school house without any door,
Where lay the school master blind drunk on the floor,
At the learning I wasn't such a genius I'm thinking,
But I soon bet the master entirely at drinking,
Not a wake or a wedding for five miles around,
But meself in the corner was sure to be found.
Then one Sunday the priest read me out from the altar,
Saying you'll end your days with your neck in a halter;
And you'll dance a fine jig betwix heaven and hell,
And his words they did haunt me the truth for to tell,
So the very next morn as the dawn it did break,
I went down to the priest house the pledge for to take,
And in there in the room sat the priests in a bunch,
Round a big roaring fire drinking tumblers of punch,
Well from that day to this I have wandered alone,
I'm a jack of all trades and a master of none,
With the sky for me roof and the earth for me floor,
And I'll dance out my days drinking whiskey galore,

 It is interesting to study how and why the Irish came to New Zealand in large numbers.

Conditions in Ireland

In the 19th century Ireland’s rural people were landless labourers, or peasants renting a few acres with limited productivity. Their misery was intensified by other factors, including:
  • land division by inheritance
  • the transfer of land used for crops into sheep and cattle farming (which reduced work opportunities)
  • industrialisation (which destroyed the supplementary income from domestic spinning and weaving).
In the late 1840s there was a devastating potato famine, in which over a million people died.

Scale of Irish migration

Throughout the 1800s, and particularly after the famine, the Irish streamed away from their homeland to seek a better life. Often younger sons went first and were followed by other family members in a chain migration.
In the 70 years after 1850 about a million Irish crossed the Irish Sea to England or Scotland. Over four million sailed for the new worlds of America and Australasia. As a result, Ireland’s population almost halved.

Immigration to New Zealand

In 1845 the Dublin University Magazine described New Zealand as ‘the most recent, remotest, and least civilised of our colonies’. It was the most expensive to reach – over four times the cost of crossing the Atlantic to America.
The majority of Irish emigrants went to North America; Australasia took no more than about one in 13. For the first half-century of European settlement in New Zealand the number of migrants from Ireland was small. Almost none came direct from the potato famine. Until 1852 they comprised less than 15% of immigrants from the United Kingdom.

Assisted immigrants

The New Zealand Company offered assisted passages to organised settlements in New Zealand. However, the company did not consider illiterate Irish peasants to be ‘desirable emigrants’. Under 2% of the company’s settlers were born in Ireland, despite the fact that a few of the early New Zealand Company settlement leaders, such as John Robert Godley in Canterbury and Edward Stafford in Nelson, were of Anglo-Irish background. This group were members of the Anglican élite who saw their situation weakened at home by Catholic emancipation and the emergence of Irish nationalism. Few of the Irish joined them. In 1848 the province of New Munster (Wellington and the South Island) had a mere 175 Irish inhabitants.

New Ireland?

Despite the small numbers of Irish in New Zealand in the 1840s, the islands were given Irish names. In a Royal Charter of 1840 the ‘Northern Island’ became New Ulster, the ‘Middle Island’ New Munster, and ‘Stewart’s Island’ New Leinster.
In 1846 two provinces were also named New Ulster and New Munster. New Ulster extended north and east of the Patea River mouth, while New Munster consisted of the rest of the North Island and all of the South Island and Stewart Island.
These provinces were abolished in 1852.

Irish in Auckland

By 1851, in contrast to Wellington and the South Island, a larger proportion of Auckland’s population (2,871 out of 8,840) were of Irish background. Few had come direct from the homeland; many had arrived via Australia. (The convict settlement in New South Wales included large numbers from Ireland, and over a third of the United Kingdom migrants to both Victoria and New South Wales during the 19th century were Irish.)
Men of Irish heritage such as Jacky Marmon and Frederick Maning were to be found among the early gangs of traders, whalers and sealers, and in the 1840s numbers in Auckland slowly grew.
There were also significant numbers of ex-soldiers. Some of these were discharged from British regiments brought to New Zealand in 1845–46. Others came with the largely Irish Royal New Zealand Fencibles. Arriving in 1847 with wives and children, they provided protection for the area south of Auckland town. This military influence helps explain the large representation at that time of Auckland immigrants from County Dublin, a common recruiting ground.

 The numbers of Irish immigrants began to rise sharply during the 1860s, and by 1871 they comprised over one-fifth of New Zealand’s immigrant population.


There were three main reasons why the Irish immigrated during this period:
  • The discovery of gold attracted many who had previously migrated to Australia. They came first to Otago from 1861, and then in more pronounced numbers to the West Coast from 1865.
  • Irish were significantly represented among the soldiers who were discharged during the New Zealand Wars, and there was a continuing migration into Auckland.
  • Despite the fact that Canterbury’s emigration agent John Marshman was advised, ‘Irish emigrants should be refused altogether’, about a quarter of the immigrants assisted by Canterbury province were Irish, many of them nominated by family members already there. 1

Catholics and Protestants

There were significant differences among these groups. On the West Coast there were twice as many men from Ireland as women, they were commonly from Munster in the south-west of Ireland, and most were Catholic.
Elsewhere, in Auckland or among Canterbury’s assisted migrants, Ulster in the north-east of Ireland was well represented, with a majority of Protestants. There were several significant settlements of Ulster people near Pukekohe and Kawakawa. About 850 of the Pukekohe settlers came from Ulster in 1865 and 1866 as part of the Waikato immigration scheme, which aimed to provide a buffer between Auckland and the King Movement Māori further south. They were joined by about 500 Irish who came after a sojourn in South Africa and were predominantly Catholics from the south-west of Ireland.


Compared with other immigrants in this period (and with Irish migrants to other places), the New Zealand Irish were slightly older and rather more prosperous. This partly reflected the fact that they had often spent time elsewhere, particularly in Australia. There were also on average more Protestant Irish immigrants than in other parts of the world.

 Bias against Irish migrants

During the great immigrations of the 1870s and early 1880s the Irish were well represented. They comprised over one-fifth of New Zealand’s settlers during those years. More than a quarter of those assisted by the New Zealand government were Irish.
This seems surprising, as in the early 1870s there was controversy in New Zealand about alleged bias against Irish immigrants. It was true that many regarded the Irish as less desirable because of their Catholicism and their reputation as drunken and disorderly. Also, in October 1872 only eight (of 116) government recruiting agents were based in Ireland. Of 124 advertisements for immigrants, only 15 had been placed in Irish newspapers and then only around Belfast and Londonderry in Ulster.

Assisted immigrants

Despite the alleged bias, the Irish took advantage of assisted passages in two ways:
  • Catholic families who had migrated to New Zealand in the 1860s used the system of nomination to bring out other members of their families. A high proportion of these came from Munster, especially from counties Kerry and Cork.
  • Others responded to the special efforts made to attract Protestant families and single women (as domestic servants) from the north. Indeed during the 1870s more Irish women than men migrated to New Zealand.

Leaving from Ireland

During the 1870s and early 1880s the vast majority of Irish immigrants boarded their ships at Glasgow or London. There were two exceptions – Caroline Howard’s recruits and the Katikati settlers.
New Zealand’s agent general, Isaac Featherston, had responded to accusations of anti-Irish prejudice by appointing Mrs Caroline Howard as an immigration agent. She proceeded to recruit young women from a workhouse in Cork. When they arrived in Dunedin aboard the Asia in 1874, there was an outcry about this importation of ‘certified scum’. Mrs Howard was able to arrange for two further sailings before being dismissed.
A second group of vessels sailed direct from Ireland carrying a more acceptable class of passenger. Protestant families from Ulster came to Katikati in the Bay of Plenty, aboard the Carisbrooke Castle in 1875 and the Lady Jocelyn in 1878. They were part of George Vesey Stewart’s settlement. Stewart was a gentleman entrepreneur from County Tyrone who hoped to repair his fortune by land speculation in New Zealand. Through political contacts he obtained 10,000 acres (4,000 hectares), and eventually attracted four groups of settlers from Ulster.

Catholics and Protestants

Catholics from the south-west and Protestants from Ulster formed two distinct streams of Irish immigrants to New Zealand in the great migration of the 1870s and early 1880s. But as in the 1860s, only about 60% of the Irish migrants were Catholic, compared with over 80% in the homeland.

Declining numbers

As the century came to an end the number of Irish immigrants fell to under 10% of those coming from the United Kingdom. Also, among the Irish there was a clear dominance of people from Ulster.
In 1921 Ireland’s three predominantly Catholic provinces and three counties of Ulster achieved independence from the United Kingdom. This left only six counties of Ulster in the north, where there was a majority of Protestants. After this, few came from the south, but there was a steady trickle of Protestants from Northern Ireland in the 1920s and again after the Second World War.
During the 1970s the violence of the ‘Troubles’ in Northern Ireland induced some to escape to New Zealand, although the numbers were never large.


A visible community How far did the Irish in New Zealand remain a visible community, clustered together in common activity? While they did initially go to particular places in New Zealand, this was partly because they were attracted to specific occupations such as goldmining, and partly because of the importance of family nomination and chain migration in settling. It is possible, too, that among the Irish Catholic community there was a desire to seek mutual support against the generally held suspicion that the Irish were drunken and disorderly.

Provincial differences

In the early years of settlement there were distinct variations between provinces in the numbers of Irish. The census of 1871 revealed that Auckland, and more notably the South Island’s West Coast, had more Irish-born than the country as a whole. By 1881, after the great migration, Canterbury had joined them.
In Nelson province there was a striking difference between the areas around Nelson city, where the numbers of Irish were low, and the areas north of the Grey River given over to goldmining. Here the numbers of Irish were very high.
Particular centres had strong Irish populations – Onehunga in Auckland, Charleston in Nelson, Greymouth in Westland – and there was a notable Irish Catholic farming community in south Canterbury.
Within the cities it seems that Irish Catholic neighbourhoods arose around the church. In Christchurch, for example, there was a disproportionate number of Catholics in the streets near the Barbadoes Street cathedral and the church in Addington. East Hamilton was known as ‘Irishtown’. But these neighbourhoods were never exclusively Irish Catholic – they were not ghettoes, nor ethnic enclaves as in North America. The geographical segregation of the Irish rapidly declined, and by 1916 their distribution was not significantly different from overall population patterns.


Initially the Irish congregated in certain occupations – single women as domestic servants, single men on the goldfields. But these occupations were unlikely to be long-term pursuits. The Irish slavey quickly became the colonial spouse, and dreams of large gold nuggets were replaced by more realistic hopes.
As in other new worlds, they worked as navvies building railways and roads, and the itinerant character of these jobs was one factor which encouraged dispersal.
The Irish were also attracted to the police force. At the turn of the 20th century over 40% of New Zealand’s police were Catholic. Men of Irish Catholic background were among New Zealand’s most influential police commissioners (St John Branigan, John Cullen and John O’Donovan).

The community in the 1930s

By the 1930s Irish Catholics were still well represented in government service, in transport and in occupations associated with gambling and drink. They were more likely to be in unskilled jobs, and they were spectacularly over-represented among prisoners.
But elsewhere the differences were marginal. By 1936 the proportion of Catholics in the police force was 22%. Marked clustering of place and occupation had lasted little more than one generation.

Irish identity

In culture as in settlement a separate Irish identity was most evident in New Zealand during and immediately after the major Irish migration of the 1860s and 1870s. (One aspect, however, remained distinct for many years – the culture of the Irish Catholic Church.)

St Patrick’s Day

From the 1860s, St Patrick’s Day was celebrated with sports, horse races, dances and drink on the West Coast. In the main centres this continued until after the First World War.
After parading in the streets, schoolchildren gathered at Newtown Park in Wellington or the Domain in Auckland for gymnastics and athletics. If the figures for Irish convictions for being drunk and disorderly are accepted as evidence, there was a clear propensity for them to carry to the new land their enjoyment of the pub.


Hibernian (the Latin word for Irish) societies were first established in Greymouth in 1869. They were dedicated to cherishing the memory of Ireland, promoting Catholicism and providing mutual aid to members. By 1921 there were 84 branches throughout the country. But the membership was always small (only 3,499 in that year) and the society hardly represented widespread Irish interests.


More significant expressions of Irish culture came in politics. The long struggles in Ireland for land reform, home rule rather than English rule, and eventually independence were a major concern of British politics throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries.
Many in New Zealand followed these debates and crises, and expressed their sympathies in a number of ways. Occasionally it came in the form of civil disorder. There were ‘shindies’ between Irish Catholics and Orangemen (a Protestant group) at Ōkarito in 1865. In Christchurch on Boxing Day 1879, 30 Irishmen attacked an Orange procession with pick-handles, and in Timaru 150 men from Thomas O’Driscoll’s Hibernian Hotel surrounded Orangemen and prevented their procession.

Free speech on trial

Three times, Irish Catholic New Zealanders have been brought before the court on charges of sedition.
In 1868 John Manning and Father W. J. Larkin spent a month in jail for expressing ‘Fenian’ sympathies in their Hokitika newspaper.
In July 1918 Thomas Cummins and Bert Ryan were sentenced to 11 months with hard labour for a ‘seditious’ article, commemorating the Easter Rising, in the Green Ray.
In 1922 Bishop James Liston went on trial in Auckland for alleged sedition in his St Patrick’s Day speech. Helped by the brilliant Irish nationalist lawyer P. J. O’Regan, Liston was found not guilty.

New Zealand Fenians

The most infamous disturbance occurred in Hokitika in 1868. The previous year John Manning had set up the New Zealand Celt newspaper. With Father W. J. Larkin he expressed support for a group of nationalists in Ireland known as Fenians. When news reached the West Coast that three Fenians had been hanged in Manchester, there were funeral processions in Charleston and in Hokitika, where 1,000 people broke into the cemetery and planted a wooden Celtic cross.
Soon after, the attempted assassination in Australia of Queen Victoria’s son Prince Alfred, by a suspected Fenian, triggered a minor panic on the West Coast. Eight hundred special constables were sworn in, the 18th Regiment was sent south, and Larkin, Manning and five others were arrested. Both men received one month in jail and a fine of ₤20 for seditious libel.

Visiting Irish politicians

These forms of civil disorder did not last beyond 1880. Thereafter Irish migrants’ sympathy for the nationalist cause was more commonly expressed through receptions and lectures for visiting Irish politicians.
One such event was the visit of John and William Redmond in 1883. This drew particular support from working-class Irish who had set up Land Leagues (later Irish National Leagues) in New Zealand.
British Prime Minister W. E. Gladstone’s conversion to the support of home rule for Ireland won over New Zealand’s middle-class Irish. The visit by nationalist politician John Dillon in 1889 became ‘little less than a great Irish carnival’. 1 There were successful visits by other nationalists: ex-land-leaguer Michael Davitt in 1895, Joseph Dillon and John Donovan in 1906, and William Redmond again in 1911, when 1,700 attended his Wellington meeting.
 Thanks to Te Ara for permission to run these segments.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Red Cross responds quickly in Vanuatu after Typhoon Pam

Children stand in front of debris on a street near their homes in Port Vila.The Vanuatu Red Cross Society has mobilized over 100 staff and volunteers who are working relentlessly to distribute aid and provide critical health care. A total of 40 volunteers are in Port Vila working alongside the authorities to assist in 26 evacuation centres. The National Society is working with the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) as well as the Australian Red Cross, French Red Cross and New Zealand Red Cross.
The New Zealand Red Cross supports telecommunication programmes across the region, including Vanuatu. An IT and telecommunications delegate has been deployed by the New Zealand Red Cross to Vanuatu and is arriving later on Monday 16 March 2015. The delegate has essential satellite communication equipment, including satellite phones and a BGAN needs on the ground are massive
The IFRC has chartered an aircraft to facilitate movement of supplies and human
resources from Port Villa to other affected island.
A five-member Field Assessment and Coordination Team (FACT) have been activated and some members are already on way to Vanuatu. The team comprises a team leader and members with expertise in shelter, emergency communications, information management and overall programme design and coordination. The team will also be augmented by specialists mobilized from the region, with expertise in sectors such as emergency health, logistics, information technology and water and sanitation.
Aid workers were particularly worried about the southern island of Tanna. An official with the Australian Red Cross told Reuters an aircraft had managed to land there and aid workers confirmed there was "widespread destruction".
The count of confirmed deaths was at eight with 30 people injured. But those numbers were almost certain to rise as rescuers reached the low-lying archipelago's outlying islands.
View image on Twitter

Saturday, 14 March 2015

Japan launches US$4 billion Sendai Cooperation Initiative

Japan launches US$4 billion Sendai Cooperation Initiative as Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction opens

14 Mar 2015
14 March 2015, SENDAI – The Japanese Prime Minister, Mr. Shinzo Abe, today pledged $US 4 billion to support implementation of the “Sendai Cooperation Initiative for Disaster Risk Reduction” over the next four years.

Speaking at the opening of the Third UN World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction, Mr. Abe said: “Disaster risk reduction is the most important challenge for both developed and developing countries. For developing countries in particular, where 90% of disaster victims are concentrated.”

The package will focus on the development of disaster-proof infrastructure, the promotion of global and regional cooperation and the training of 40,000 government officials and local leaders to play a leading role in national efforts for disaster risk reduction. Japan will make its expertise and knowledge available.

The French Foreign Minister, Laurent Fabius, made an appeal at the Conference opening for the creation of a worldwide early warning system for Climate Disasters - “Climate Disaster Warning” - as he stated that 70% of disasters are now linked to climate change, double the number of twenty years ago.

He said the objective was to provide the most vulnerable countries, including small island developing states, with access to real-time weather and climate updates, information and communications technology and to support a SMS-based alert system.

Mr. Fabius is incoming President of COP21, the 21st session of the Conference of the Parties on Climate Change which will take place December in Paris. He said that disaster risk reduction and the struggle against climate change are totally linked. He said: “It is necessary to tackle these problems together and not separately.”

The Conference attended by 186 governments will adopt a new post-2015 framework for disaster risk reduction on March 18 in place of the current Hyogo Framework for Action adopted ten years ago at the last World Conference on Disaster Risk Reduction held in Kobe, Japan. For more information

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

New Zealand's Urban Search and Rescue team has gained a United Nations classification

In 1979-80 I was the Regional Commissioner for the Ministry of Civil Defence based in Palmerston North covering the very earthquake-prone Wellington province and all of the central and lower North Island. Having worked 8 years in major disasters overseas, and knowing how disaster-prone the region was,  I was very concerned about the search and rescue capabilities of professional and volunteers teams. I expressed my concern to General Holloway the Director of CD, and we held a number of meetings and workshops to look at how we could strengthen urban search and rescue.
Therefore, I was delighted to read today of New Zealand's Urban Search and Rescue team gaining a United Nations classification.

The decision was made on Wednesday after a 71-member team was put through a gruelling 36-hour exercise simulating the aftermath of a 8.3 magnitude earthquake in the Fijian city of Suva at a former freezing works in Palmerston North

GOOD WORK: The UN classification team was "extremely pleased" with New Zealand's performance.
.A panel of eight UN classifiers said the team had "demonstrated strong competency" across all aspects of urban search and rescue – from logistical and management expertise through to reconnaissance, use of search dogs, technical rescue skills and medical treatment of victims.
Classifiers graded the team in 136 categories, giving a green – the highest rating – in all but seven areas. The second category, yellow, signifies some room for improvement. A single "red" or fail, would have disqualified them.
Classification team leader, Arjan Stam, of the Netherlands, said they were "extremely pleased" with the New Zealand team's performance.
"In fact, if there had been a gold rating, they would have received some of them instead," he said.
New Zealand is the 41st USAR team in the world to have either a medium or heavy-capacity classification.
As a heavy-capacity team, it meets the requirement to carry out incident management, search, rescue, medical and logistics activities at two disaster sites simultaneously for up to 10 days.
It also satisfies the requirement to be able to identify hazardous substances, to have a dog search capability and a technical rescue capability, and to be self-sufficient for all power, water, supplies and equipment needs.
Paul Baxter, Chief Executive & National Commander of the New Zealand Fire Service, which led the exercise, said the UN decision was a vindication of many years of hard work to raise the country's USAR capability to world-class standards.
As a member of the UN's International Search and Rescue Advisory Group, New Zealand would now increase its commitment to training and mentoring work with other countries in the Asia-Pacific region, he said.
USAR has more than 200 search and rescue personnel at bases in Auckland, Palmerston North and Christchurch.
  Thanks to the Manawatu Standard for permission to run this article.

Monday, 9 March 2015

When you are in the outdoors, you have to manage risk.

I applaud this editorial in the Otago Daily Times this morning (10 march) about the personal challenges in being in the outdoors and this statement in particular: ''there's a certain element of adventure in mountain-based events and it's always a fine balance in retaining some sense of that but keeping everyone safe, which is the top priority''. 

In an increasingly risk averse world, it is refreshing to see an Editor taking a balanced view on adventure and risk.

Balancing adventure and risk

New Zealand's fabulous outdoors are a playground for fun and adventure.
This can range from participation in various extreme sports to track-walking, from relatively sedate fishing to deep-sea diving, to hunting on steep slopes.
The mountains, bush, hills, valleys, rivers, lakes and ocean afford endless different opportunities.
For some, simply being outdoors is enough. But many also crave a personal challenge and a sense of excitement.
Something in the human psyche thrives on such experience.
It stimulates fulfillment, confidence, satisfaction and a sense of achievement.
Each person finds their level.
A majority might discover the ''Great Walks''- guided or ''freedom'' - stretch them physically and mentally.
There is sufficient danger in walking near precipitous bluffs, enough discomfort in sandflies, hours of tramping and communal huts and perhaps driving rain.
Good on them for seeking out what for others is low risk but, for them, high adventure in rugged country.
Then there is someone like wingsuit flyer David Walden, from Wanaka, who climbs demanding peaks and then jumps off, swooping across glaciers to the valley floor.
He leapt off Mt Avalanche in Mt Aspiring National Park in January and this month followed it up - with two French base jumpers - by flying from the top of Rob Roy Low Peak.
Clearly, wingsuit flying has inherent dangers well beyond a walk on a well-marked and constructed track in Fiordland National Park.
It is high adventure - and high risk.
Even the Great Walks, however, are not without hazards.
An Auckland man was killed after he slipped down a sloping rock face and went over a drop-off last Friday on the Milford Track near Mackinnon Pass.
While there are spectacular cliffs in the area, both the siting and quality of the track makes the chances of a fall remote.
Nonetheless, somehow, it did happen.
More dangerous are the risks of exposure and rivers.
An Indonesian was swept down Pomplona Creek on the track last May.
She was not part of a guided group and it was outside the main season.
When the season closes, avalanche danger increases and many of the smaller bridges are taken out.
It was rivers which were the issue at the Motatapu adventure race on Saturday.
A Christchurch competitor, aged 17, was pulled under by a strong current on one of the crossings of the Arrow River and had to be rescued by other riders.
Marshals later rerouted the 47km mountain race to a different finishing point, avoiding the final river crossings.
The competitor believed there should have been marshals on every crossing and the course change should been made earlier.
Organisers, for their part, said this was the first year in 11 there had been any issues with crossing rivers and appropriate action was taken.
River levels were being monitored and ''there's a certain element of adventure in mountain-based events and it's always a fine balance in retaining some sense of that but keeping everyone safe, which is the top priority''.
While some might argue that in this particular case the organisers were too slow to act in atrocious conditions, the point is taken.
To be adventurous, almost by definition, cannot be wholly sanitised.
The point of adventure is not knowing exactly what is going to happen and how you are going to react.
It is impossible to eliminate risk entirely.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Brendon McCullum, honorary Aussie

The New Zealand captain's attitude and approach have rubbed off on his team-mates, and they are now firm favourites for the title

McCullum's belligerent batting has won him admirers from across the ditch © Getty Images
Brendon McCullum has been a revelation for New Zealand. His no-nonsense brand of the game has captured the imagination of the cricket world.
I saw him crack that record 302 against India a while back. In 2010 I was amazed by his physical strength and resilience. On the eve of the New Zealand-Australia Test match at the Basin Reserve, I was at a centre-wicket training session with the New Zealand team, a practice called by then coach Mark Greatbatch. I was there to have a look at Daniel Vettori and spinner Jeetan Patel, and everyone, including batting coach Martin Crowe, was rugged up with sweaters and jackets against the prevailing Wellington wind, which nearly always blows up a storm.
This day it was positively chilly. Everyone was struggling to keep warm, except the bloke padded up and waiting to go in; everyone on the ground except Brendon McCullum. There he was, leaning against the net upright, his shirt rolled up high on his arm, exposing muscles that would have delighted the likes of Eddie Barlow and John Reid: tough blokes both, hard cricketers with a penchant for taking the fight to the enemy with no holds barred. On that cold, blustery day I'm sure everyone wanted to head indoors to the warmth of the dressing room, but not McCullum. Despite this being simulated match play on a centre wicket in positively Antarctic conditions, he stood with a glint in his eye like a warrior about to go to battle.
He began his career as a wicketkeeper-batsman, but it has always been his brash, crash-bang batting that has endeared him to fans. Australians don't always doff their hat to Kiwi cricketers - the Trans-Tasman rivalry has endured since Don Bradman was a boy. Perhaps it is simply big brother knowing by sheer weight of numbers they should always beat New Zealand at anything, anywhere, at any time. But what Australians do know, and don't always tell their cross-sea cousins, is that we have always admired the Kiwi spirit, and the way New Zealand always punch above their weight.
McCullum has brought great belief to New Zealand. He leads from the front, but as a captain, and we've seen it in spades this World Cup. He is like the great Australian captains such as Ian Chappell, Mark Taylor and Michael Clarke: he tries to make things happen. He works his bowlers well and is always thinking wickets. Logic demands that we seek wickets in any form of the game. Now that New Zealand have some classy quick bowlers in the form of Trent Boult and Tim Southee, it has given Daniel Vettori a new lease of life. For years opposition teams "sat" on Vettori and scored at will at the other end. Now because of Boult and Southee's other-end pressure, the veteran left-arm spinner can weave his craft more menacingly because teams will have to try and score more readily off his bowling. That will open up more opportunities for him to take wickets.

Australians don't always tell their cross-sea cousins that we have always admired the Kiwi spirit and the way in which New Zealand punch above their weight
When New Zealand beat Australia in Auckland in the much-awaited World Cup clash it was McCullum who made the brave call to introduce Vettori early in the game with Clarke's men threatening to run riot. The spinner stopped Australia in their tracks with tight, clever changes of pace bowling, proving that a slow bowler doesn't need a minefield to beat any opposition. Vettori used all the artifices of subtle change of pace. He used the crease and he wove a spell over the Australians, similar to how Sri Lanka's Rangana Herath perplexes some of Australia's leaden-footed batsmen.
Make no mistake, New Zealand are an exciting team in all forms of the game. They can thank McCullum for his belligerence and skill, his never-say-die attitude and his strength of leadership in the main. Don't forget Kane Williamson. He's all class, and is today one of the best batsmen in world cricket. His batting to steer New Zealand home the other day revealed a batsman at the top of his craft on the world stage.
New Zealand are going to be the side to beat in this competition. The way they are playing they deserve every accolade, and I can visualise McCullum raising the World Cup aloft at the end of the proceedings.
Ashley Mallett took 132 wickets in 38 Tests for Australia. He has written biographies of Clarrie Grimmett, Doug Walters, Jeff Thomson, Ian Chappell, and most recently of Dr Donald Beard, The Diggers' Doctor

Friday, 6 March 2015

Most important match in the History of Cricket. Afghanistan vs New Zealand.

Where can I start to describe the joy I feel at the World Cup cricket match between Afghanistan and New Zealand tomorrow?
I would say that for me it is the most important match in the whole history of World Cup Cricket since I first heard the first ever WC ODI in Kathmadu, listening with a Kashmiri carpet merchant,  in 1975. 

 A David Warner push manages to evade Samiullah Shenwari, Australia v Afghanistan, World Cup 2015, Group A, Perth, March 4, 2015

I first travelled to the then fabled Afghanistan in 1976 and I journeyed through  that peaceful country for 6 months working for the Red Cross on an earthquake and later, a flood relief operation at a time when it was such a peaceful country. Then I lived there for 3 years from 1993-96, during a period of anarchy and bloodshed.  I saw so much suffering and death, and over four million people displaced to neighbouring countries.

This was the time the Taliban was born and came to power. The Taliban’s never liked sport, but eventually agreed that cricket was an acceptable game. Then from 2000 to 2006, I visited Afghanistan on a regular basis and saw cricket becoming an important game in the country.
Who wins today is not important. For a country that has been penalised and picked on,  by its geographical location for many centuries, Afghanistan cricketers and nearly the whole nation, are celebrating this opportunity to be competing for the first time in  the ICC Cricket World Cup. Afghanistan also competes at a top level in handball, football, wrestling  and water polo.

 Over the past decades most photographs coming out of Afghanistan are of soldiers holding semiautomatic weapons, but in recent weeks, we are seeing delightful photographs of Afghan cricketer holding cricket bats, or going for spectacular catches, or bowling.
With a new Government in Afghanistan, and a cricket team that are doing well, let’s hope and pray Afghanistan is on the cusp on a new, positive era in its history, where sport will replace the Kalashnikov culture
Nowroz Mangal hits out, Australia v Afghanistan, World Cup 2015, Group A, Perth, March 4, 2015
I attach a documentary made by Ross Stevens for TVNZ in 1996. This shows why I love Afghanistan.