Saturday, November 30, 2013

Back From The Dead?

A native New Zealand bird, declared extinct in 2007...may still be alive!
An apparent sighting of a South Island Kokako has been accepted by the NZ Ornithological Society's records appraisal committee, which monitors the status of rare and endangered birds.
Artist's impression of North (blue)
and South (orange) Island kokako
The sighting was made near Reefton, in the same year the bird was declared extinct. A total of 11 sightings of the Sth Island Kokako between 1990 and 2008 were submitted, but the committee considered the others to be "probable" or "possible" sightings.
An expert panel, convened to manage the Department of Conservation-run NZ Threat Classification System earlier this month, changed the Sth Island Kokako's classification from "extinct" to "data deficient" based on the 11 claimed sightings.
"We can't say that the Sth Island Kokako IS still alive. But this is the best sign yet that it is," Forest+Bird advocacy manager Kevin Hackwell says. "Because of the re-classification, there needs to be more pest control work in the Sth Island than ever before. If the birds are still out there, they'll be only just hanging on, and their biggest threats will be rats, stoats and possums."
Before the Reefton sighting, the last accepted sighting of a Sth Island
North Island kokako:
photo Matt Binns
Kokako was in 1967.
The Sth Island Kokako is a dark bluish-grey wattlebird (about the size of a crow) with a long tail, short wings and orange wattles on its face. The endangered Nth Island Kokako has blue wattles. The bird is not particularly good at flying and prefers to use its powerful legs to leap and run through the forest.

Friday, November 29, 2013

Lewis Collins Hands In His Gun

CI5's finest: Shaw, Jackson, Collins
When I was a teenager in the late '70s, there were only two questions about tv series The Professionals that needed answers:
(1) "Who's the Coolest Pro on the show?" and
(2) "How can I save enough to buy that car?" (a 3L Ford Capri).
For me, The Coolest Pro was always 'Bodie'. No disrespect to Martin Shaw, but his character 'Doyle' was more like a ponse trying to be staunch, especially with that bubble perm hairstyle. No, Da Man was only ever 'Bodie', played by Lewis Collins (though ironically, before he began acting, Collins was a hairdresser!).
UK action series The Professionals ran 1977-1983, and followed Bodie and Doyle, top agents for Britain's CI5, and their controller, George Cowley (played by Gordon Jackson). Their mandate was to fight terrorism and similar high-profile crimes. Bodie was a cynical ex-SAS paratrooper/mercenary whose nature ran to controlled violence, while Doyle came from the regular police force and was more of an open minded liberal. Tough, funny, a hit with the ladies and, more often than not, the man who came to the rescue if things looked in danger of going belly-up.
Yeup, Bodie was Da Man.
Sad thing is: post-Professionals, it was Shaw who went on to considerable success in his career, while Lewis all but disappeared (aside from a starring role in the SAS movie Who Dares Wins).
Still...remember him as Bodie, Da Man, smashing his Capri through stacks of cardboard boxes and saving Britain from the bad guys.
[Collins has died of cancer, at 67.]

Thursday, November 28, 2013

NZ Navy About To Get Cold Feet

A New Zealand Defence Force ship is en route to Antarctica, on a summer-long patrol of the Southern Ocean.
But this has nothing to do with whaling. reports the 85m HMNZS Otago will be monitoring fishing activities. Inspectors from the Ministry for Primary Industries are aboard to conduct compliance checks on the Southern Ocean's legal fishing fleet.
Foreign Affairs Minister Murray Muddling McCully: "NZ takes its commitment to Sthrn Ocean conservation seriously. It's vital that we play our part in tackling illegal fishing activities." It's a tragedy that McCully won't extend this commitment to whales!
HMNZS Otago, having patrolled in the Sthrn Ocean for the last three seasons, has sound operational experience of the extremely challenging and bitter weather conditions. The surface patrols will be complemented by RNZAF Orions.
The licenced fishing season in NZ's area of responsibility is from 01 Dec.2013 until the agreed limits are reached (usually Jan./early Feb.)...which coincidentally is about the same as Japan's illegal whaling activities in the same region. And we await the start of Sea Shepherd's Operation Relentless, its 10th defence of whales in the Sthrn Ocean.
Muddling McCully has in the part mumbled about supporting Australia against Nippon Antarctic whaling, but has done nothing realistic about it - despite a huge amount of NZ voters wanting a physical deterrent down there. Even a 'drive-by' of Otago past the whaling factory ship Nisshan Maru would make a point...
Platitudes don't count when the harpoons fire.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Anadarko's NZ Deep-Sea Drilling Begins

Texan oil company Anadarko begun deep-sea drilling off the Raglan coast this morning, despite protests.
Six "green" vessels have spent a week circling the exploration ship Noble Bob Douglas, trying to stop the drilling. Veteran campaign vessel Vega remains inside the ship's 500m safety exclusion zone - the flotilla members will discuss today whether to stay there and what their next move will be.
Noble Bob Douglas had been due to put its 4600m drill down in 1500m of water last week after arriving on-site on 20 November, in an operation costing $1m a day. Greenpeace claims Anadarko can not drill because Vega was there, but Anadarko NZ spokesman Alan Seay says he's "...not aware of (any law) that says drilling must not take place if there is a vessel within 500m. We've laid a complaint with the police (about Vega within the safety zone) - we're not seeking any particular response from them; that's their call to make."
Prime Minister John Key says the govt has options to handle protesters who might try to delay drilling, but he's refused to elaborate on them, or say whether the navy would be called in.
Anadarko's licence runs 15 Nov.-14 Feb. It's an offence for any vessel to be within 500m of the drillship... and that's a bit different from the protesters' interpretation of the law...

[Note: Anadarko owns 25% of BP's Macondo well, which caused the 2010 Gulf Of Mexico oil disaster - considered the largest accidental marine oil spill in history.]

PS: 20 Dec.2013 - Greenpeace's legal challenge fails on technical grounds.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Guys Don’t Stand A Chance!

Ladies, ever woken with the urge to hit your spouse after dreaming about his infidelity…when in reality he's done nothing more offensive than snore? You're not alone!
More than half of women wake up in a mood with their partner - because he annoyed them in a dream. A new study shows that wives frequently dream their men have done things like being unfaithful, having a row or even fathering a secret child.
Nearly two thirds of 2,000 UK adults polled said they're regularly in a bad mood with people who've upset them in a dream. One in 20 regularly give their boss the cold shoulder, because they dreamed they were sacked the night before.
It's not surprising then that four in ten adults say their moods are affected by the dreams they had the previous night. The research shows that dreams impact heavily on the next day's moods. It found a third dream more when they're stressed, with work issues being the biggest contributor. The poll also found that 43% experience reoccurring dreams of running away from something, flying and teeth falling out the most common. A further one in five keep dreaming that they fall over. 44% often dream about an ex-partner while a third have even had a romantic dream about a workmate!
One in five adults said their dreams are affected by what they eat before bedtime, and 20% said they have more vivid dreams when they are staying away from home.
So, the solution to a good night's sleep? DON'T stay away from home. DON'T eat before bed. DON'T get stressed.
Er…how about…just don't dream at all!!!

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Kaiapoi's Got Mail!

Abandoned letterboxes in various Canterbury "Red Zones" have recently become prized property, as several artists wanted to turn them into artworks.
The Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority (CERA) allowed two groups to collect the boxes: the Avon-Otakaro Network, and Kaiapoi's Rubble Rousers.
The Rubble Rousers have recently erected a 5m-high totem made of letterboxes collected in Kaiapoi's earthquake-blitzed Golden Grove area.
Artist Mark Larsen made copies of the road signs from the streets where the letterboxes came from. They, and the letterboxes, were secured to a pole and the whole creation was coloured red with black numbers. The red stands for the Red Zone, black for the region's blackest day...and of course red and black are Canterbury's sporting colours.
The sculpture is prominently located on an empty lot at the corner of Williams and Charles Sts., where it will stay until that land is redeveloped. It's ultimately planned to form part of a new sculpture park for Kaiapoi, along the River Bank Walkway.
Meanwhile the Avon-Otakaro Network is still gathering letterboxes for its project to build about ten sculptures.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Luck Doesn't Come Into It

Brian Harris was sitting on his front porch last Sunday evening, sipping a coffee, when suddenly bullets flew around him.
The neighbourhood in Washington DC, USA echoed to the sound of several randomly-fired shots - one shattered a house window, another a car windscreen, still another struck the side of a second car. The fourth round hit Brian...
It pierced the pocket of his sweatshirt and bored into his wallet, going through his driver's licence, a bank card, medical card and some money. It broke through the wallet cover, and shattered the front of his cellphone. And then the .380-calibre round stopped, a few millimetres from his stomach. His wallet and cellphone had saved his life.
"That's what people tell me," says Harris, unwilling to admit how close a call it was. Others aren't as shy.
His boss at Catholic Charities, where Harris has worked for three years delivering meals, calls it a miracle. Supervisor Eric Curry says that Brian "is a true witness that God lives."
Even cops who've seen everything hadn't seen this. Washington DC Police Cmdr. Andrew Solberg, a 26yr veteran: "I'm not a religious man, but this guy is blessed. I think somebody was watching out for him. The only time you hear about this happening is in a John Wayne western." Cops believe Harris was an innocent bystander. In fact, the bullet's trajectory was so lucky that even police are citing divine intervention.
Spin the story any way you like - it's still a bloody close call! I hope Brian buys a Lotto ticket!

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Penny for Your Loss

The post-earthquake demolitions around Christchurch have turned up a vast array of interesting artifacts.
Last week, a WW1 memorial plaque was rescued from a mountain of rubble at Burwood Resource Recovery Park. It was a Next-of-Kin Memorial Plaque, also known as a Dead Man's Penny, engraved with the name Ernest Wright and the inscription "He died for Freedom and Honour".
These commemorative plaques were given to the relatives of men and women whose deaths were caused by the Great War of 1914-18. In addition to the bronze plaque, a commemorative scroll was also given to next-of-kin.
As the giant shredding machine at the Burwood park processes than 40 tonnes of debris per hour, it was pure luck that this palm-sized item was found.
It's understood the penny was given to Ernest Wright's wife, Gladys Henrietta Wright (nee Mansfield), after he was killed in action in France on 23 Nov.1916. (His death was listed in the Auckland Star, 05 Dec.1916, "Heroes Of The War"). He is one of many "who lie in foreign fields", buried in the Rue-David Military Cemetery, Fleurbaix, France.
An ex-millhand, Rifleman Wright (serial no.25/374) was a member of the 3rd Battalion, C Company, NZ Rifle Brigade. He was born in Christchurch on 01 July 1887, and was survived by his wife and their two children - Ella Kathleen Wright b.03 April 1913 and Gladys Evelyn Wright b.27 Jan.1914.
Park Operations manager Rob Wilson says he'd like to reunite the penny with its owner, presumably a relative of Ernest Wright, as it's value is not in its metal, but in what it means to someone...

Sunday, November 17, 2013

You're Terminated, Clifford Bay!

NZ Transport Minister Brownlee announced on Thursday that Picton would remain as the southern terminal for the interisland ferries.
There'd been talk about shifting the service to Clifford Bay, 35km south of Blenheim. This would've reduced the road-ferry journey between Wgtn and Chch by almost 1½hrs and the rail trip by nearly 2hrs.
Gerry "Who Ate All The Pies?" Brownlee says the new report shows an upgrade of the Picton terminal would be significantly more cost-effective: "(The) report... clearly shows Clifford Bay is not commercially viable...and the level of investment required at Picton over the next decade to extend its life would be substantially less than previously estimated.'' The Clifford Bay terminal was estimated at $530 million.
The study showed Picton's facilities were not expected to become constrained over the next 30yrs. Further, the level of investment required at Picton by its owner Port Marlborough over the next decade, to extend its life and adapt its facilities, was much lower than previously thought.
This announcement must be a huge relief for the Picton/Marlborough communities (for whom the move would have spelt financial disaster). Quite frankly, it's a big *phew* for the rest of NZ too. When you remember that the epicentre of the 6.5 Seddon earthquake (July 2013) was right off Clifford Bay, and that the area immediately inland from the bay is low and flat (ideal for tsunami-flooding), it would have been ludicrous to have proceeded with the suggestion.
Wonder how much it cost, to investigate this irresponsible idea...?

Friday, November 15, 2013

Foreign Films Can Be The Death Of You!

Eighty people have been executed by firing squad in North Korea (DPRK) this month...simply for viewing foreign films.
In one case, 10,000 locals including children were forced to watch... the executions, NOT the films!
"Now...who's NEXT??!!!"
Those put to death were found guilty of minor things like watching videos of South Korean tv programmes or possessing a Bible. Some corpses were so riddled by machinegun fire that they were hard to identify afterwards.
The mass executions signal a broader crackdown on any hints of discontent against the rule of Kim "May the sun always shine from his butt" Jong-un, who came to power after Daddy's death in Dec.2011.
South Korean intelligence says a faction within the DPRK army had made an attempt on Kim's life in Nov.2012, and that his personal security has since stepped up dramatically.
This would explain a purge of members of the military or party who threatened the fledgling regime. Kim has reportedly been behind the 'removal' of at least 31 senior officials. In one example, a DPRK army minister was executed with a mortar round for reportedly drinking and carousing. On the orders of the junior dictator to leave "no trace of him behind, down to his hair," the man was forced to stand on a spot that had been zeroed in for a mortar round and quite literally obliterated.
Kim even had his ex-girlfriend shot last August, and her entire family sent to labour camps!
For such a wonderful leader of the people of North Korea to glorious prosperity and joyful happiness...he really is The Chief Arsehole!!!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Orca Captured...For Whom?

Over the past few months, seven orca have been captured off the eastern coast of Russia.
Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC) says this appears to be an effort to stock some overseas marine parks.
Researcher Erich Hoyt, with WDC and the author of Orca: The Whale Called Killer, says the animals are now being held near Vladivostok in SE Russia, along with a young female killer whale named Narnia which was captured last year. He says they were captured under permits obtained by a Russian company called White Sphere, which designs, builds and operates dolphinariums and other marine-life attractions. Rumours indicate two of the orca are going to a Chinese aquarium and two are going to Moscow.
These eight orca were taken from the same sea as 18 beluga whales that a consortium of US aquarium owners (incl.Seaworld) had been trying to import. A spokesman for SeaWorld, which 'owns' approx. half of the world's captive orca, says it has not provided any support for the Russian captures nor was it even aware of the activity beyond rumours.
Killer-whale captures are extremely rare, both because captures are very expensive and logistically difficult, and because they can trigger an international uproar. Before Narnia was captured in 2012, the last capture (as opposed to rescue) was 15yrs ago in the marine bloodbath town of Taiji, Japan.
At this stage, no-one knows the final destination of the orca, or indeed the fate of the 18 beluga whales either...WDC has organised a global petition to return them to the wild.

Monday, November 11, 2013

Mystery Maud Mice Cheese Off DOC

They're commonly thought of as prey but, on Maud Island, mice are predators - and they're not welcome.
The tiny rodents have been found on the wildlife sanctuary by the Department of Conservation (DOC). Their presence threatens some species of native insects, frogs and lizards living on the island, which normally holds predator-free status.
Rodent-detection dogs located some mice, but the total number has yet to be determined. It's not known how long they've been there, or how they arrived.
DOC is keen to eradicate the mice, but that won't happen until next year. DOC Sounds Conservation Services Manager Roy Grose: "To be sure of total success, we need to hold off an eradication operation until next winter, when food for mice will be scarce and they're more likely to eat the poison baits. In the meantime, we'll do all we can to limit the impact on endangered species."
DOC is most concerned about the welfare of the Maud Island frog and the Stephen's Island striped gecko - one of NZ's rarest. The lizards may need to be rehoused in an enclosure on the island, while some frogs may be moved to another island to breed a new back-up population.
Maud Island is in the Marlborough Sounds on the northern tip of the South Island. With a total area of 320 ha., it was ideal to clear pests from and establish a rodent-free environment in which to save our most endangered species. The public isn't allowed there without a permit, but DOC says the mice could have been introduced by someone docking a boat or kayak illegally.
Yeup, all it takes is one stupid brain-dead idiot thinking his little boat won't make a difference...

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Vintage Wine Years Ahead?

Profitability is returning to the wine industry after several years of grape oversupply.
Fabian Partigliani, NZ boss of Paris-based Pernod Ricard Winemakers says supply and demand are finally back in balance.
Problem was - 2008's bumper vintage caused a 27 million-litre glut that eroded wine, land and grape prices and led to a surge in exports of cheaper bulk wine…but the new-found balance means good news for the whole supply chain.
It's crucial however that local winemakers keep innovating and don't take the international success of NZ wine for granted. For its part, Pernod has sold off North Island assets to focus on the Marlborough region. Partigliani: "It's all about reshaping our footprint to meet the export potential which we believe is Marlborough-centric... based around sauvignon blanc."
One of the company's recent innovations is Flight (a low-alcohol sauvignon blanc), pinot gris and riesling sold under the Brancott Estate label.
NZ is well-placed to take advantage of a global shortage in wine. Global wine production peaked in 2004 and has been steadily falling since, with international demand outstripping supply by 300m cases last year. This has resulted in the deepest shortfall in over 40 years, which is expected to result in a significant increase in export demand, and higher prices for exports globally.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Eye For The Main Chance

Australia is about to witness first-hand the maori way of doing "volunteer" work.
Last weekend, the Victoria Maori Wardens in Australia officially launched. It was established mid-2012 as a not-for-profit organisation (note that!), after concerns about the number of maori youth involved in petty crimes in Oz. Since then 82 Maori Wardens have been sworn in, and local businesses have provided equipment for their use.
Now the group is appealing to NZ's High Commissioner in Canberra for financial support! Branch chairman James Hohepa Smith says it is important the High Commissioner knows about the benefits of having the wardens patrol the streets with the Victoria police on Friday and Saturday nights, watching out for wayward youth.
I doubt there's anyone in NZ, or representing this country overseas, who does NOT know the value of Maori Wardens. These volunteers have considerable success in bringing wayward bro teens to heel.
But note: they ARE volunteers. By their very title, they do it for love. Nothing more. No dosh, no moolah, no folding, no money. They volunteer.
So why is the Victoria branch of these "volunteers" putting its hand out for financial support?
And furthermore, if they're keeping troubled maori out of Australian courts and jails, then why is New Zealand expected to pay for that?
What benefits do we back home gain from their "volunteer" service abroad?
+ Meanwhile the Maori Council in NZ is bickering that technically, the Ozzie group can't call itself Maori Wardens, because it's not covered by the same laws as back home.
+ And there're even some mutterings from Ocker rednecks about brownskinned vigilantes... 
Ahhhh, feel the love...

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Watson On Solid Ground

Sea Shepherd founder Paul Watson has spent months in exile at sea since a Red Notice was issued by Interpol on behalf of Costa Rica and Japan. Watson fled Germany in order to avoid extradition.
Now he's back on dry land. He returned to the US about a week ago and was greeted by a group of excited SS members, as well as high-profile supporter Robert Kennedy Jr.
Director of SS Australia, Jeff Hansen: "I can confirm that after many months at sea and a life in exile, Captain Paul Watson is now safely back on land in the States. I am sure we can all raise a glass to Paul in saying, welcome back mate."
While Costa Rica's Interpol Red Notice has been lifted, Watson and SS are set to defend themselves in court against charges brought by Japan. Hansen: "Paul was not arrested upon entry into the US and is there to testify in defence of his name in the contempt-of-court proceedings against himself from the illegal whale poachers from Japan. (Former Australian Greens leader) Bob Brown and myself will also be testifying."
SS has called last year's Antarctic anti-whaling campaign Operation Zero Tolerance its most dangerous but most successful campaign to date, saving 932 whales. SS will return to the Southern Ocean in December, in this year's Operation Relentless.

Wednesday, November 6, 2013

Bloodletting Continues In Faroes

Another grindadrap has occurred in the Faroe Islands.
Last Friday 01 Hvannasund on the Island of Vidoy, 85 pilot whales were butchered.
This is the first hunt of this season to have taken place in the killing bay of Hvannasund. The biggest hunt of pilot whales was on 30 July in Fuglafjordur, Esturoy where an exceptionally large pod of 267 pilot whales were killed. Another hunt occurred in August - 430 white-sided dolphins killed in Hvalba (yes, you read that right: dolphins!). This was the largest single kill of dolphins since 1994. 1,069 pilot whales have now been killed in the 2013 season - far more than the 713 pilot whales killed in 2012. This must rate as one of the bloodiest years for the Faroes in living memory.
Over 3,500 pilot whales have been killed since the beginning of 2010, raising serious human health, animal welfare and conservation concerns. The magnitude of these numbers is staggering when considering the cetacean families lost to these cruel hunts.
The global conservation group WDC (Whale and Dolphin Conservation), along with other organisations, are urging the Faroe Islanders to bring a permanent end to the hunting of pilot whales and other species of whales and dolphins, and have recently written to the Faroese authorities in coalition with other groups concerned about the humaneness of these horrible hunts.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Follow The Yellow-Lit Road, Toto

No traffic lights in Christchurch CBD after dark?
It’s a proposal from the Automobile Association: city centre traffic lights to be changed from phased signals to flashing amber. The AA wants a "give-way rule" to apply late at night and at off-peak times. This means motorists won’t have to wait for a green light on near-empty streets.
Canterbury/West Coast Automobile Association chairman John Skevington says the proposal was submitted for Christchurch’s draft transport plan in Nov.2012. He says the concept could be rolled out nationwide if it was successful in Christchurch. However Christchurch City Council is unaware of this submission, or even if it would be considered...
I have serious doubts about the validity of this proposal, especially as it seems the only reason is so drivers will not be 'inconvenienced' by red lights at potentially empty intersections! By following this logic, there's the danger that two motorists could cruise through amber lights from intersecting directions into each other's paths.
Lights controlling an intersection are there for a purpose, and should not be modified simply because they are perceived as 'inconvenient' at off-peak times.
And God knows - Christchurch motorists' driving manners are bad enough in broad daylight! Don't encourage them to be any worse.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

Top Tweeter

It wasn't Andrea from Auckland, Betty from Brockville or Shady Sally from Shag Point.
New Zealand's Top Bird Of The Year is of the feathered variety.
photo: Stephen Jaquiery
The yellowhead (or mohua) has topped Forest and Bird's annual poll. The yellowhead is an endangered bird found in Otago, Fiordland and Southland, and features on the reverse of our NZ$100 note. The yellowhead has the status of a 'protected threatened endemic species'. Conservation efforts are being made to ensure its survival and populations have been established on several predator-free offshore islands.
Using the tagline "Vote mohua, not monorail", Green Party co-leader Metiria Turei drove the campaign to get people to vote for it. (This was a reference to a proposed monorail which would carry tourists from Queenstown to Te Anau.)
Forest and Bird's Kevin Hackwell says this year's poll, the ninth, was a great success:
"It's the biggest number ever - we had just over 10,000 votes last year and we've had closer to 13,000 so there's been a lot of interest."
In second place was the morepork (the native owl also known as a ruru), followed by the southern rockhopper penguin.

Friday, November 1, 2013

Christchurch Rail Station and Moohan's Rocket

Christchurch railway station opened on Moorhouse Avenue, today in history, 1st.November 1960.
The move to replace an 1887 station had begun in 1914, with architect's drawings published in the Dept of Railways' 1938 annual report. WWII delayed construction until 1953...
At the time it was the largest building to be erected in Christchurch for some years, apart from the Princess Margaret Hospital: "The new Christchurch station is a magnificent symbol of the steady modernisation of NZ's railway system, planned to meet the needs of a dynamic and vigorous community." However, by opening day, the railways were in serious decline nationally, and the station was never fully utilised.
Locals remember the old building as a rail station, and later as a movie theatre complex and the home of 'Science Alive!'. Earthquake damage forced demolition in 2012.
Looking through my photos of that event, I came across this: a station entrance surrounded by rubble - the plaque on the side reads:
"This building was opened
by the
Hon.Michael Moohan
Minister of Railways
on the 1st day of November 1960."
So who was this ribbon-cutter?