Archive for November, 2015

Plant a tree, man

“Cocky, Cocky, the most exciting news…” spluttered Henny

“Tell me?” responded Cocky, eyes wide with anticipation.

“Its official! its from the most impeccable source; the Parliamentary Environment Commissioner’s Report no less. They have confirmed our astute predictions and it’s better than we could have ever hoped.” Henny was simply beside herself with excitement.

“What did they say?” Cocky leapt up and down on his perch with anticipation.

“Global warming is here to stay! South Dunedin is doomed, just as we predicted; over 2,600 homes, 116 businesses and 35 kilometres of road. Isn’t that simply the most wonderful news? Oh Cocky, I am so so excited I think I have just laid an egg, probably a double-yolker.” 

“So what do you think we do now Hen?

“Oh we will have so much to do Cocky it is hard to know where to start. Imagine it ! Imagine the meetings; the new committees set up; the new chairmanships allocated; all the reports, the consents hearings, the amendments to the District Plan. Just imagine Cocky!”

Yes another “official report” designed to spook the population about the impending doom for the planet has been produced by who knows who at who knows what cost. And, on cue, our City Council henhouse is all full of feathers, dust and squawking as announced on the front page of the ODT on 20 November with the mayor seeking government emergency handouts for a disaster that has not happened.

So is global warming happening? Of course it is; the climate is in its natural recovery phase from the last ice age. It would be really scary if the climate stopped changing because that would be unnatural. The question to ask is, is this current climate trend unusual? is it unnatural?

Temperature Trends

Global temperature 450,000BC to 2013

Screen Shot 2015-11-25 at 10.01.40 PM

Global mean temperature 1998 to 2013

The chart on the left trending global temperature trends over the past 425,000 years showing the natural cycle of ice ages and inter glacial periods. Clearly we are, today, in a predictable inter-glacial warming period. We are at the same level the planet was 410,000 years ago and again 240,000 years ago. But we but still well below the  earth’s temperature 340,000 years ago and again 135,000 years ago. As far as we know, there were no combustion engines back then.

And if we focus on the most recent 15 years, there is no apparent concern that anything is any different from previous centuries.

The question that we need to address is whether the analysis of these actual global temperature trends should give us any concern that areas of our city are on the brink of being inundated. Is it going to get significantly warmer in coming decades or will the little line drop back down as it has before?

The question is will the trend move upwards towards a burnt out planet or back towards our next ice age over the next couple of thousand years?

The answer is, quite simply, we don’t know. Just like we don’t know about life after death even though there are many religion merchants who preach the doomsday message and try to persuade us that they do have the exclusive agency and, for the very reasonable price of a 10% wage tithe, they can sell us an eternal home in paradise. But for a more generous bequest you can get an upgrade, its all location, location, location in paradise. So we can each place our bets wherever we choose, and for whatever motives, but nature will do what nature does; without consultation with us humans.

That is not to say we should carry on clearing the forests and jungles, polluting the air and fouling the waterways. That is just the global extension of people living in domestic squalor; an unhealthy concrete jungle with open sewers. The original greenies started off as being well meaning, relatively harmless, hippies; but that movement just became corporatised by the GreenPeace Organisation with its doomsday marketing strategy and its political ambitions for global economic and social policy control  through its Green Party division? Old school hippies are now replaced by High Street hipsters buying into the GreenPeace branding, merchandising and social tribalism.

The GreenPeace Geniuses don’t see the hypocrisy of flying all around the globe to knock on our doors to tell us that if we don’t reduce our carbon footprint the planet will die. They don’t see the irony of explaining their wind-power alternative for energy production on i-pads and smartphones that leave behind the legacy of lakes of toxic waste from the extraction of rare earth minerals required for the making of those very i-phones, i-pads and for the magnets required to make the wind generators work.

People just get overwhelmed with a constant, illogical squawking about the hopelessness of our situation and. as a result, the positive message of we humans having a bit of a clean up of our habitat and planting a few trees just gets missed. There are still some very good, positive ecologically minded citizens in our communities, grown-up hippies they may be, but the GreenPeace Corporation simply bulldozes over the top of them with their doomsday message, an age-old trick for making a buck without doing anything of use. And in our panic we agree to committing monthly direct debit contributions to their crusade and to tick a vote for their political division.

“Do you think we should sweep up the autumn leaves in South Dunedin a bit earlier and more frequently next year Hen?”

“What on earth for Cocky?”

“Well, to reduce the risk of more flooding, Hen.”

Are you serious, Cocky? How can people take global warming seriously if we interfere with nature by sweeping up leaves? Leaves are part of nature; the fall of leaves is a natural cycle. We cannot interfere. We must reinforce to the fools that flooding is the result of our car emissions. Cycling is the only alternative. Cycleways are essential. How many times do I have to repeat this before you get it into your silly little cocky brain? 

“But what if the water level does not actually rise above ground level in South Dunedin while we are still on Council Hen?”

“Precisely Cocky, that is why we must not hinder the natural process by sweeping up leaves, nature’s little autumn blanket. One more decent sized flood and we will have an open cheque-book for cycleways.”

And so we just get overwhelmed by the hopelessness and we keep paying the money. But why not start with planting a tree or three? Start a movement. Maybe we cannot prevent Indonesia cutting and burning their forests, but we can easily double or treble the number of trees growing here. Plenty of land available for that. And if New Zealand can do it how many other countries would follow suit to replace the destruction in Indonesia and the Amazon regions?

And we cannot force people out of cars and onto bicycles, but we can promote a trend of walking a bit more. I recently decided to give up on the frustration of driving around and around a block to park my car within a few short paces of my destination. Now I deliberately stop about half a kilometre or more away and spend five or ten minutes walking to my destination. The parking cost is either free or cheap; the exercise is absolutely the most beneficial thing I can do for my health and general well-being; I see many very interesting things along the way that I used to miss; I meet up with people whom I haven’t seen in a while; and I reduce my fuel consumption and carbon emissions by about 10%. A minimal amount of time management has quickly become an enjoyable pattern that I just would never go back from. Imagine that simple practice getting some social-media global traction?

The GreenPeace doomsday industry is not part of the solution. They peddle the same snake oil as so many religions. We just need to deal with the challenges. The solutions are there and life is beautiful. Plant a tree, take a walk; and stop your cow shitting in the creek. Its not socket rinse, man.


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Fleetwood Mac: we love you man.

It almost seemed that the Stadium was built for this night.

Almost 50 years after Fleetwood Mac was formed and forty years after the “Rumours”  era that really launched them, we could have been forgiven for expecting that this was just another ‘final last gasp tour’ that seems to typify music-legend visits to this part of the world.

But it was hard to reconcile that these people who were absolutely rocking the stadium were now in their late sixties and early seventies. For a few hours we felt that our cropped grey scalps were again shoulder length locks blowing in the summer of breeze ’77. Once again we were wearing denim jacket and denim jeans flaring over tasseled suede boots.

But this performance also clearly demonstrated the difference in the experience of a band against that of a solo artist. Lindsey Buckingham expressed it when he talked about their music being the exposure of themselves; an invitation to their fans to understand them, both individually and collectively, in a very personal way. These band members were living the rock and roll lifestyle which came with its two ugly sisters, sex and drugs. During the seventies the McVie’s had been married and divorced; Lindsay and Stevie had been long-term partners and had split up and Mick Fleetwood who was married to Jenny Boyd, sister of Pattie, divorced, remarried and re-divorced and, during the reconciliation period, had a two year affair with Stevie; yet still the music played on. It was during this period of acrimony that their greatest album and greatest hits were written and performed. This was the aptly named “Rumours” album.

Lindsay Buckingham wrote his iconic “Go your own way”.

If I could, maybe I’d give you my world
How can I, when you won’t take it from me
You can go your own way
Go your own way
You can call it another lonely day
You can go your own way
Go your own way

An unmistakable message to Stevie that resonated with a massive audience. Stevie responded straight back at him with one of her greatest songs, Dreams:

Now here you go again
You say you want your freedom
Well, who am I to keep you down?
It’s only right that you should
Play the way you feel it
But listen carefully to the sound
Of your loneliness

Like a heartbeat.. drives you mad
In the stillness of remembering what you had
And what you lost…
And what you had…
And what you lost

Thunder only happens when it’s raining
Players only love you when they’re playing
Say… Women… they will come and they will go
When the rain washes you clean… you’ll know, you’ll know

Now here I go again, I see the crystal visions
I keep my visions to myself
It’s only me
Who wants to wrap around your dreams and…
Have you any dreams you’d like to sell?
Dreams of loneliness…

Like a heartbeat… drives you mad…
In the stillness of remembering what you had…
And what you lost…
And what you had…
And what you lost

Christy McVie, reflecting on her emotions following her separation from John, wrote her equally successful “Don’t stop (thinking about tomorrow)” and on the same Rumours album she wrote “You make lovin’ fun’ openly declaring her affair with the band’s lighting director.

And, while drugs were no stranger in this group, Stevie developed a massive cocaine habit, later confessing to be the worst drug addict in the group. She wrote a song, Gold dust woman, on the Rumours album, which is assumed by fans to be about her cocaine addiction. Christy McVie said she had no idea what Stevie was writing about and Buckingham assumed it included some acrimony directed towards him. But Stevie said she just could not remember what she was writing about.

Rock on gold dust woman.
Take your silver spoon, dig your grave …….
Lousy lovers pick their prey,
but they never cry out loud.
Did she make you cry, make you break down,
shatter your illusion of love…….
she’s a dragon, gold dust woman.

You can make up your own mind about what she was saying, but it seems to demonstrate the old saying that if you can remember everything about the seventies, you probably weren’t there. So when we watched and listened to Fleetwood Mac last night, it was more than listening to a collection of old pop songs, we were sharing intimately the lives of five people, 3 men and two women, and their forty plus years of Rock ‘n’ Roll lifestyle. And ultimately the triumph of respect and deep love over acrimony. You just don’t get all that human drama with a solo artist.

Despite the reality that this concert was the second last venue of a fourteen month global tour, this was no tired old group going through the motions to prop up the retirement fund. This group was seriously good, amazingly energetic and engagingly open. They did not sing to us, they embraced us with their music and their lyrics and, for a few hours, they made us feel that we really were part of this rock and roll life of theirs. They seemed to genuinely project that the journey they began together in the seventies was as organic today as it was forty years ago. That they were reconciled and reunited in 2014 for this world tour, makes the words of the Rumours song ‘Chain’, which was the only record on the album jointly credited to all five of them, very prophetic:

I can still hear you saying
You would never break the chain. 
Chain, keep us together
Running in the shadows

But the underlying feeling that came out of the concert was not that they were glorifying the excesses of a rock and roll life nor regretting their choices; but rather that they were rejoicing in the fact that they had overcome all the personal dramas that are amplified in such a lifestyle; that they had overcome the acrimonious reactions to rejection and betrayal and have emerged as a group full of love and respect for each other. And so it was appropriate that they ended the concert with Christy McVie singing the beautiful “Songbird.”

And the songbirds are singing, like they know the score.
And I love you, I love you, I love you, like never before.

This event at our stadium was the penultimate episode of an epic 50 year rock and roll reality show and it was a privilege to be part of it. Rock on Fleetwood Mac. We love you man.


its only money

“Just slip it in when no-one is watching.” purred Henny.

“Do you  really think no one will notice a four hundred percent increase in the cost of your cycleway?” queried Cocky.

“Our cycleway, Cocky, ours. And our legacy for generations to come, always remember that during the unpleasantness ahead.”

“Of course Henny, of course you are right as always; its just….. well.. it is an awful lot of money.”

Listen to me. We will put it in the agenda for the meeting during the rugby world cup finals and most people will be too distracted to give it too much attention.  There will be the odd stirrer but if we just present the facts honestly then they will quieten down. Trust me, Cocky I have studied these people.

“So, we just say, ‘sorry but there will be a four hundred percent budget blowout’?”

“No, no no, no, you silly thing……..

firstly we soften it to a three to four hundred percent increase. Have you got that?”

Cocky nodded sheepishly.

“Then we tell them it is because they have changed the parameters of the project. We are simply responding to their feedback, as a truly democratic council. Yes?”

“Yes” Cocky whispered

“And finally we say it is not an actual increase yet, but we are just alerting them that if they want us to proceed to the standards they demand, then this is what it will cost; but only if that budget is approved; sometime in the future. And that, little Cocky, is what these rugby people would call a slam dunk.”

“So the project may not actually proceed then?” asked Cocky

“Of course it will proceed; it is already proceeding. It is only necessary to tell them about the increase in advance so they cannot complain afterwards. But they don’t vote on the budgets, we do. And the money will follow the project as night follows day; because to stop would be to admit we should not have started and none of the councillors will admit to that. Please just trust me, Cocky.”

And so it came to pass. The notice of the budget blowout was presented to the Council Infrastructure and Networks Committee by Ruth Stokes, DCC General Manager of Infrastructure and Networks on the Thursday before the All Blacks’ semi final  with South Africa. It was duly noted by the Committee and the decision made to proceed with the more expensive designs. Whether further funds would be made available would be voted on in coming years, according to Mrs Stokes.

And when the Mayor was duly challenged through the press, he responded (letters to the Editor ODT Sat 7 Nov) that this was not a 3-400% budget blowout, it was simply that the project would cost 3 to 4 times more than they originally thought.

That is a response of which George Bush would be proud. If there is a difference between a blowout of 3-400% and an increase in cost of 3 to 4 times, then it lives only in the marshlands of a muddled mayoral mind.

To summarise: stage 1 of the project for South Dunedin was budgeted at $4.5 million for 25 km of cycleway. By the time it got to 12 kms the cost had reached $5.5 million. So they had to stop and have a think about how to spin that one. Then, because what they did do was such a cock-up, much of it still had to be dismantled and patched up. The transport manager responsible for the logistics of the roll-out suddenly resigned while on a three month holiday in Europe, sacrificial goat is a delicacy in Europe, and he has been replaced by someone from the NZTA, which organisation also appears hellbent on putting cycleways through state highways. Normally the buck stops with the GM, but the man is always wrong and Ruth Stokes, GM infrastructure and networks, lives to fight another day.

And the reason that the original budget of $24 million will rapidly head northwards to $100,000,000 and beyond, is officially noted in the council minutes as being that we, the ratepayers, have demanded the more expensive option. We the ratepayers are therefore responsible for the budget realignment with the new parameters.

Mayor Cull is now saying, “All of our original designs and budgets were based on being total cock-ups, just like the South Dunedin sector. But now you people are demanding the non-cock-up version! Well why didn’t you say so in the first place? But if you are now going to exercise your democratic rights to change the rules and demand a ‘non cock-up’ design, well then my rate-paying friends, that is going to cost you; and cost you big-time. Democracy does not come cheap you know. Let this be a lesson to you all.

But, at the same time, may I nonetheless acknowledge your courage in demanding that the Sir David Cull Cycleway is internationally applauded as the finest example of an urban cycleway on the planet. And we will certainly need this cycleway as, with the interest bill on our projected Council deficit, half of you won’t be able to afford to run a car in ten years time.

Then this cycleway will be seen as truly visionary. Fifty thousand brave citizens cheerfully cycling through rain, sleet and a brisk sou-sou-easterly, up misty hill and down frosty vale,  as I pontificate with self-satisfied smugness, that I am leading the good fight against pollution in our fair city. You, ruddy of cheek and riddled with pneumonia, will be doing this because nothing short of the finest non-cock-up cycleway on the planet is acceptable to you. $100 million? $200 million?  Who cares? It is just money. A vision such as ours should not be sullied by talk of money.

And then, all going according to plan, I, David Charles Cull, will bend my knee to Her Majesty’s sword and receive the appropriate royal recognition for my vision and leadership.”

And I for one will look forward to that. I hear the Rt. Hon. Sir Jerry has a rather tidy backhand.


an hour of glory

A French-sounding journaliste asked the question of Richie McCaw at the post-final news brief, ‘is it like they say? Victory has an hour of elation, then there is emptiness’.

It caused a little pause in Richie, I thought; in his eyes and response I think he knew exactly what she meant, but this was no time for that sort of downer to hit the headlines; Richie was too professional to fall into that trap and he assured us he still felt pretty warm inside and did not want this time to end. But in the answer he betrayed his heart. He did not want this time to end, but by the time he woke the next morning he would be facing the sobering thought that the tournament was over. The routine, organisation and sense of purpose would be over. The downer begins.

Sure the welcome home hoopla is a bit of a final upswing on the roller coaster ride, but really after that everyone will move on. The energy was in the battle; in the planning, preparations, training and in the game itself. Afterwards? And while New Zealand’s TV audience for the final no doubt numbered in the millions, the welcome home crowd will be well down on that.

There is a bit of a victim cry going up from some Dunedin quarters that the boys are not coming here for a parade. But realistically even on their first day home in Auckland only 2% of the population came to see them at the airport/ Victoria Park receptions. We would be lucky to get 10% of us in the Octagon for a welcome parade and if our city council’s planning and organisational efforts for the Highlanders welcome home earlier this year is anything to go by, we really have not got much of a drawcard to keep them on the road another day. Lets see what the City Council can do for Ben Smith who is our born and bred RWC15 hero; that should be a big enough event for us without the whole team turning up.

But in a week it will be just a trophy in the rugby union’s cabinet and from the moment it is placed there all anyone will think about is the next tournament. RWC2015 will be a a great piece of history, but history it is. RWC2019 is the only one that will be in our minds. Hanson only hinted that he might not be around after 2017 and the media were immediately (see what I did there?) full of profiles on our potential new coach. Sorry Shag, you are a legend but we are moving on already. Despite Richie being the heroic leader of the RWC11 and 15 campaigns, it seems that from the minute he stepped off the field on Saturday night all the media wants to know is the news of when he will retire. And the minute he makes that announcement he will join Shag in the history file while we speculate and get excited about who will be our new hero.

Maybe that is why the French can be a little blasé. a little shrug over something that we take so seriously. A trophy is not le Louvre nor la Tour Eiffel. The RWC final is not Waterloo.

But one thing I have decided after this tournament is to play to the whistle. Accept the referees’ calls without getting upset; without screaming ‘conspiracy’.  The anti-ref venom from the Australian media made me realise how unbecoming this practice is. In the old days of local referees we just accepted the South African referees were a tad biased and no doubt the New Zealand refs reciprocated. We all just accepted that was what home advantage meant. In the modern era of four professional, impartial referees and a plethora of cameras, if a referee wears an eye patch today you can be pretty sure it was officially supplied. And if the bookies ever influence a result, it will be through food poisoning not through referees. No doubt the RWC15 final was refereed much more leniently than the lead-up matches. But so it should be. This is a spectacle, this is entertainment. What a hollow result it would be if a team won a trophy while the opposition had lost one or more players to red cards. And so even though the TMO had eyes all over the place searching for fouls in all preliminary games, Kepu got away with one late and two high tackles, the second on Milner-Skudder included a neck roll and suspicious looking grab at the eye sockets, but this evaded notice as Nonu took off for his try from the recycle. Interestingly Nigel Owens was heard shortly after that asking Kepu if he was keeping his tackles down. The only justice in that incident is that Kepu was still only getting up off his fat arse when Nonu ghosted past him on his way to the line. Pocock also avoided a red card with his face stomp on McCaw; admittedly he was annoyed by Richie holding onto his boot, but in any other game that is a red card. The Aussie media also screamed that Smith’s yellow should have been a red (ridiculous) and Kaino’s high tackle should have been a card not just a penalty as called by Owens.

But neither the All Blacks nor the All Black fans would want a victory that had two Australian red cards.  What a hollow victory that would be. How flat would we feel ? (as the Aussies should have done when they could only score tries when we were down to 14 players). So even though the referees were not as strict and punitive as in the preliminary rounds, it was right to be more lenient in this final. And maybe there are other occasions that justify referees being given instructions for selective refereeing. In addition to such instructions from above, the referees cannot see everything in slo-mo replays as we do with MySky; so missing things is just part of the game. What a bore the game would be if refereeing was completely robotised by cameras.

So that is my RWC15 resolution; from now on to just accept the referees’ calls as part of the game, part of the unpredictability, part of the roller coaster excitement that draws us to these games. That is until that bloody Wayne Barnes ever refs another of our games or some other useless one-eyed bastard makes some ridiculous bloody decisions.

Anyway, that is a side issue, so will it be Kieran Read or Sam Cane to take over the captaincy from old whathisname ?


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