The inclement weather that beset the country this month seemed to bring with it a season of misfortune for New Zealanders. When a routine callout in Tamahere ended in a fatal gas explosion, fire-fighting was thrown into the full glare of the media spotlight. Derek Lovell’s death on the eve of 25 years in the service was brutally ironic; a devastating loss, both for his family and the close-knit fire-fighting community.
Lovell was a professional fire-fighter, but what of those who do it all for nothing? Two years ago photographer Giora Dan began to document the work of these ordinary heroes, to understand what makes the call to fight fires so strong, and what makes the communities that develop around the hazardous commission so resilient. A cover image had been decided, and Derek Grzelewski delivered the copy on this feature just a fortnight before that deadly gas explosion.
Their feature reveals a community of men and women who do not seek accolades for the role they play. Rather, they carry out their duty cognisant of the associated risks involved. And they do it with the full support of their families, though it could be no other way. Beyond the headlines, this story examines the fire service at its front line and in its less formal moments.
Also in this issue we have an intimate portrait of Maori tattooing from photographer Aaron Smale who takes us inside Mark Kopua’s studio with the Hei family. We peer inside the small world of our dynamic fishing spiders, and we travel 200 years back in time to profile John Guard, one of New Zealand’s most notorious pioneers, who almost single-handedly set the course for the early pakeha history of the South Island. Anne Rimmer and Arno Gasteiger take us across the Hauraki Gulf to Tiritiri Matangi, one of DOC’s greatest conservation achievements —a model for island ecology recovery. Brimming with diversity, and surprises at the turn of every page, it’s everything you have come to expect from Geographic.
But some things change. The cover has had a makeover, as I’m sure you’ve realised, and there have been more subtle design changes in the departments, including some new features. Geographic has had a new coat of paint in places, but we still expect the same attention to detail from our contributors—many of whom have been writing and shooting for us for decades. Names like Warren Judd, Derek Grzelewski, Steve Sole and Arno Gasteiger—the usual suspects who have all contributed to this issue—will be familiar to Geo stalwarts. But there is still room for keen newcomers, such as 18-year-old Bryce McQuillan who submitted some stunning images of fishing spiders and found himself immediately employed.
We would like to hear more from you. Write to our letters department with your thoughts (firstname.lastname@example.org), enter our new reader competition on page 111, and think through nominations for our new patron—details opposite. Enjoy this issue, and please don’t be afraid to tell us what you think.