King's tour

Poukai, a calendar of itinerant gatherings throughout the country where food and fellowship is shared, is the travelling court of the Maori King Tuheitia. A legacy of warfare and welfare, the first poukai was held as solace for Waikato Maori during a period of land confiscations. Now, as Tainui celebrate 150 years of the Kingitanga movement, the poukai tradition unites Maori again: to feast together, grieve together, disseminate news and bring people’s concerns to the attention of the King. And nowhere does this have more significance than in the King Country where it all began.



July - Aug 2008




Sport and politics

Sauvignon Blanc




The world according to Roger Smith

Roger Smith banks hard, circling the spires of the Pinnacles, and rockets up the Whaka­papa Glacier, just metres off the ground. Sit­ting in the seat next to him, I feel a rush of adrenaline as we rise over the saddle and look down upon the crater lake, shimmer­ing like a dropped jewel. Turning now, we follow the path of last year’s lahar over the tephra dam on the eastern shore of the lake, sweeping down the mighty Whangaehu Gla­cier, gathering speed until we reach Tangi­wai and the Rangipo Desert. Then, as con­centration creases his brow, we climb again, straight up this time, defying gravity entirely, until we stall to look down upon Ruapehu’s turrets and the rolling foothills of Tongariro. The view is breathtaking.Smith is an accomplished pilot, to be sure. He used to fly commercially, but that’s beside the point, because we’re not in a plane. We’re sitting side-by-side in front of his computer using a radical new piece of software developed by a Kiwi company called K2Vi to visualise Smith’s vast dataset of digital land information. Cartography is not what it used to be. Now land information is stored as digital points and elevations, a wireframe model that can be read at any scale, can be textured with water, snow, deserts and forests with a dozen species of trees. Smith can change the time of day, the shadows falling exactly as they would on that date, at any given minute. Even the stars are in the right place. It’s another world, independent of space and time. At one moment we enjoy the per­spective of an observer on the moon, the next we are deep within the corrugations of the Southern Alps. Every knoll, ravine and plateau is resolved to survey accuracy. In Smith’s various incarnations as a geol­ogy graduate, pilot and farmer he has always relied on the verity of maps, sometimes with his life at stake. “I grew up with a map in my hand,” he says, “and when GIS technol­ogy became available in the late 90s I saw an opportunity.” Smith rushed out and reg­istered a company, bought some software, then sat down to figure out how to use it. “In hindsight it was a pretty dopey move; I had no data, no clients, no experience and I couldn’t even figure out how to start the software up.” When land Information New Zealand made their 1:50,000 topographic data avail­able, Smith (under the guise of his freshly fledged GeographX) began work on New Zealand digital elevation models and a bold new collaboration with K2Vi, a company that emerged from forestry planning and had the means to view his data in three dimensions. The result is a photo-realistic view of New Zealand, with peaks that tower above he viewer, riverbeds that reflect the sky and verdant forest canopies. Google Earth looks pan-flat by comparison. “The trouble is,” Smith admits with genuine angst, “it looks so realistic that nobody realises it’s actually a map”. Welcome to the fresh anxieties facing cartography’s avant-garde. Smith is blazing a trail, taking the an­cient discipline of cartography to the giddy extremes that technology now makes possi­ble and envisioning our world in an entirely new way. And that’s the whole world. His latest project is contributing to an atlas to end them all. It’s rather audaciously entitled Earth (published by Millennium) and is a tome of similarly extravagant dimensions weighing in at 18 kilograms. While it’s a collaborative project in­volving some 40 organisations from around the world, Smith has supplied the hill-shad­ed terrain for every detail plate, and cartog­raphy on North and South America, as well as New Zealand. The collector’s edition will cost a mere $6000 per copy. It’s a world that he clearly revels in. His eyes light up upon explaining some hid­den gem of New Zealand geography, and a droll smirk accompanies his recollection of odd Kiwi place names like Cannibal Gorge, Devastation Creek, Heartbreak Spur and Snuffle Nose. But the technical challenges he faces are the same that have always faced cartogra­phers; how to represent the physical world at 1/50,000th-reality in a way that is both convenient and meaningful for people. “I think cartographers have consistently over­estimated most people’s ability to interpret maps,” he says, but sees an obvious solution in 3D technologies. “It gives many people new insights into the shape of the country and more ways to interact with a map than was possible in just two dimensions.” In the world according to Roger Smith, geography becomes as malleable as play-dough, a thing to be examined from every angle, the world in the palm of your hand.


Something about Sauvignon

It has taken only three decades for New Zealand to build its reputation as a winemaking country worth taking seriously. Much of this can be attributed to the success of Marlborough sauvignon blanc, one of the few new wines the world has been offered in the past century. What is it about Marlborough that makes its Sauvignon Blanc so unique?


Tainted Games

For 10 years, from 1975 to 1985, sport and politics collided in New Zealand, and as with this year’s Beijing Olympics, political agendas, national pride and people’s lives were on the line. In 1976, the eyes of the world were on the 21st Olympic Games: an opening ceremony in Montreal’s Olympic Stadium was marred by the withdrawal of 24 African nations, a figure that grew to 28 during the games, in protest against the All Blacks tour of apartheid South Africa. Five years later the Springboks were to tour New Zealand, an event that led to social division and civil disobedience on a scale never seen before or since in this country.

Living World

In Harm's Way

Though justly famous for its flightless birds, New Zealand has also been called the seabird capital of the world. More species of albatross (and petrel and cormorant and penguin) are found in its waters than in those of any other country. Despite declines in albatross numbers worldwide, blamed largely on commercial fishing, Kiwi research, innovation and example is helping secure a brighter future for these iconic birds.


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