Coal on the coast: between a rock and a hard place

Claustrophobic burrows deep in the ground, dust, noise and danger of roof collapse and explosion—prising coal from the earth was never a task for the fainthearted. Ron "Sparrow" Sparks has been coaling on the West Coast for 32 years, living the hard life of the mine which still forms the heart of many Coast communities.



Apr - Jun 1995

West coast coal

Peacekeeping in Bosnia

Kaipara harbour


Paper wasps




Old man Kaipara

The sea is glassy now as a sand barge is towed down the northern Kaipara, but in another hour, who knows? Shoals, narrow channels, merciless currents and sweeping winds demand constant vigilance from those who ply the waters of New Zealand's largest harbour. A century ago, the Kaipara was one of the country's major waterways—a bustling conduit through which the vast kauri forests of the lower north were siphoned from the land. With the passing of the forest, the area became something of a backwater, the domain of farmer and fisherman. Little has changed; the harbour remains mighty in strength, meek in status.  I do not know much about gods; but I think that the river Is a strong brown god—sullen, untamed and intractable, Patient to some degree, at first recognised as a frontier; Useful, untrustworthy, as a conveyor of commerce; Then only a problem confronting the builder of bridges. The problem once solved, the brown god is almost forgotten By the dwellers in cities—ever, however, implacable, Keeping his seasons and rages, destroyer, reminder Of what men choose to forget.


Waging peace: the New Zealand army in Bosnia

After years of every sort of viciousness imaginable, years which have seen the killing of hundreds of thousands out of a population of only four-and-a-half million, perhaps hopscotch under the barrel of a protective machine-gun really is peace. New Zealand soldiers with the United Nations are trying to keep peace, and finding it is a lot tougher than waging war.

Living World

Paper wasps-guests or pests?

Adroit as a hummingbird, agile as a gymnast, these builders of elegant paper mansions are becoming a familiar sight in many northern areas. Can they be the same insects that savage some of our favourite garden residents and mete out painful stings to unwary gardeners?


The glory of clouds

Sometimes the "fair, frail palaces" of a poet's sunset, ephemeral as the rainbow's cache of gold; at other times lead grey tanks advancing to the accompaniment of artillery fire-clouds delight, intrigue, threaten, and periodically destroy. Seen in another way, they are the supertankers of the sky, ferrying billions of tonnes of water vapour around the atmosphere and making possible life on land.


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