Framed in light
The Māori portraits of John McGarrigle.
The Māori portraits of John McGarrigle.
Whales in mass strandings are often not closely related.
The value of looking backwards
As climate change alters the balance of life on Earth, some species will benefit
Your native language may dictate whether you retire in luxury or do so poor, obese and smoking
New Zealand storm petrels were presumed extinct, then rediscovered in 2003, more than a century after the last sighting. But their breeding site—the focus of conservation efforts for any seabird—remained a mystery. Researchers went out to prove the old adage that a bird in the hand is worth two in the bush. Would a radio-tagged storm petrel lead them to the breeding site of New Zealand’s most elusive seabird?
The mountains beckon, even from the city
Warren Williams is always looking for greener pastures
As well as being the first leg of Te Araroa’s South Island route, the Queen Charlotte Track is one of New Zealand’s most popular standalone hikes. You’ll walk alongside, or often high above, the pretty fingers and bays of the Marlborough Sounds. Geologically this is a drowned landscape, that’s sinking, millimetre by millimetre, each year, about as fast as the land east of Wellington is rising. A water taxi takes you from Picton to the track start at Ship Cove, and the Captain Cook Monument there. Ship Cove became a favoured anchorage for Cook. who first visited here in 1770 and returned another four times during his three Pacific voyages. It has historical cred—Cook first saw Cook Strait from Arapawa Island near here. Its latitude is slightly north of Te Araroa’s North Island terminus at Island Bay, Wellington, an overlap that preserves the trail’s north-south continuity. The track offers a range of accommodation and services that’s unusual for New Zealand’s Department of Conservation tracks. A tramper can choose the comfort of sheets at privately owned lodges, but they also usually offer back-packer accommodation. And there are also DOC campgrounds. Whatever you choose, there’s the option to have your pack ferried forward each day by launch. The first day is a steepish climb, with lots of bird-song, then a descent to Furneaux Lodge. A flat walk follows around to Camp Bay, with the choice of a restaurant meal at Punga Cove. The track then climbs to a high central ridge and stays there for 22 kilometres. At Torea Saddle trampers usually take the one-kilometre side road to the Portage Resort Hotel, which has backpacker as well as more refined accommodation. The track then climbs steeply to its highest point (407metres) then undulates away to its ending at Anakiwa.
The disappointing gift of a king
The pacific supports the last great stock of highly migratory blue sharks, the endurance athletes of the oceans. But it's also the location of the world's largest longline fishery, which lands as many blue sharks as some species of tuna. what will become of the blue shark?
Cycles in solar radiation can’t explain current warming
The Moa were perhaps the most unusual family of birds that ever lived. Some boasted legs built like an elephant, others laid eggs the size of rugby balls, and the giant moa was the tallest bird ever to walk the planet. They evolved in isolation over millions of years, roaming the forests of New Zealand, but were ill-prepared for humans. By the time European explorers arrived, moa were ghosts of the past. “First we killed them, then we ate them, and then we forgot about them. Human beings have not been kind to the moa,” writes Quinn Berentson, author of Moa: The Life and Death of New Zealand’s Legendary Bird. The 200-page book recounts how for 180 years or so, the moa fascinated and mystified the finest minds in natural history. It was rediscovered in the 1840s, when an unusual bone was presented to the ambitious English biologist, anatomist and palaeontologist Richard Owen. He puzzled over the bone, eventually declaring it to be from a giant extinct bird. To build a more complete picture of this bird, however, would take another two centuries. “The moa had simply refused to be pinned down by science, and each effort to categorise it seemed to blur the picture even further,” writes Berentson. The identity of the feathered bird was built bone by bone, as land was colonised and cultivated, mined and explored. Maori traded bones for money, settlers bartered with bones, and Julius von Haast traded a surplus of moa skeletons to establish the Canterbury Museum with a world-class collection of elephant, alligator and gorilla specimens. In 1938, a century after the moa was rediscovered, farmer Joseph Hodgen and his son Rob found a huge trove of moa bones in Pyramid Valley, North Canterbury, while disposing of a dead horse in a swamp. The remains were immaculately preserved under a layer of “yellow quivering jelly” writes Berentson, a limey alkaline gel made of billions of freshwater crustaceans. The pit was the first large find of complete skeletons. And from it, the then director of Canterbury Museum extracted the bones of more than 180 birds, which contained clues as to what the moa ate and how they bred and behaved, allowing scientists to begin to understand moa ecology. “The moa did not exist in isolation—it evolved as part of a complex ecosystem and over millions of years it shaped, and was shaped by, the plants and animals around it,” writes Berentson. “And as it turns out, if we look closely at the precious fragments of the moa’s lost world which are all that we are left with today, there are still visible traces of the moa in the New Zealand wilderness that have outlived the birds themselves, like ripples from a sunken stone.”
The devastating earthquakes have forced a re-evaluation of Christchurch’s heritage buildings. What should be demolished, what should remain? And what can bricks and mortar contribute to a city’s sense of place?
On a late spring morning in 1868, Henry Brett rushed down to Auckland’s Queen Street Wharf, where he quickly hired a waterman to row him out to the steamer Lord Ashley, newly arrived from the East Coast. Brett, the New Zealand Herald’s shipping reporter, had a formidable reputation for gathering newspapers and reports from such newcomers—“skinning the ship”, it was called—and getting news of distant happenings into print faster than his Evening News and Daily Southern Cross rivals. When he was at home in Parnell, his eyes seldom strayed from the Mount Victoria flagpole across the harbour, where a flag was run up to signal a newly sighted vessel. On this day, the ever-vigilant Brett was to get the scoop of his life. When he drew alongside the Lord Ashley, the ship’s purser appeared at the rail and tossed a parcel of papers down to him with the cry: “Catch this and pull for your life.” As the straining waterman made for shore, Brett opened the parcel and learned of a massacre in Poverty Bay just days earlier in which Te Kooti had killed some 50 settlers and local Maori in retribution for land crimes and false imprisonment. When Brett’s rival journalists reached the city—having been obliged to laboriously interview the ship’s passengers—it was to find a special edition of the Herald already trumpeting the sensational news on the streets. Brett embodied the verve and cut-throat competitiveness of early colonial news gathering. The young English printer had arrived with other immigrants aboard the Hanover in September 1862, intending to make for the nonconformist Albertland settlement north of Auckland, but instead he was snatched up by the short-staffed Daily Southern Cross. The Cross had gone daily just months earlier and, like all papers, was finding skilled workers hard to come by. Its generous pay offer could not keep him long, though, and three years later, the Herald lured him away. Extra! Extra!, David Hastings’ highly readable account of early Auckland’s pioneering newspapers, rightly makes much of Brett, whose career followed the evolution of the industry. Mid-19th century colonial papers had been meagre affairs—usually a page of advertisements, followed by the all-important shipping news, an editorial, a scattering of court reports, transcripts of public meetings, and a collection of news items gleaned from overseas papers. But by century’s end, the two that survived the New Zealand Herald and the Auckland Evening Star (which Brett put money into in 1870)—had become recognisably modern: globally connected papers printed in large numbers on high-speed presses and carrying a broad range of domestic and international news. Though personalities loom large in Extra! Extra!, Hastings is keen also to correct what he sees as a widespread fallacy: that newspapers were instruments used by a ruling elite to shape and control public opinion. Admittedly, adopting a pro-government stance could secure valuable printing contracts, says Hastings, but the reality is that papers survived only if they were adept at giving the public what it wanted. In 1856, four new Auckland papers were launched but none survived long, says Hastings, because they all neglected the news. One seemingly existed to voice James Busby’s land grievances and all were “more like political pamphlets aiming to change the world” than satisfy public curiosity. If papers were instruments of control, then the Cross should have prospered mightily when soon-to-be colonial treasurer Julius Vogel became owner-editor in 1869. The newspaper loudly supported all of Vogel’s great—and popular—financial schemes, yet its size and circulation fell. Hastings puts that down to Vogel’s ignorance about what made papers viable. “As much as he was a man of the future in politics, Vogel was a man of the past in newspapers.” In the early 1860s, as part of his fight against the rival New Zealander, Robert Creighton had transformed the Cross into something of a news-gathering machine with an extensive and widespread network of correspondents—among them the Prussian adventurer Gustavus von Tempsky—who fed readers with every rumour and scrap of news on the deteriorating relations between settler and Maori. But by the 1890s, ‘the Maori question’ that had been at the heart of Brett’s dash to the Lord Ashley just 20 years earlier had faded from the printed page. Even the death of King Tawhiao in 1894 was seen as being of merely historical interest. New issues were to the fore, thrown up by the social and economic changes then sweeping the world; among them changes in the status of women and the intensifying struggle between labour and capital. What didn’t change, says Hastings, was the imperative for newspapers to serve readers’ interests. It was the readers who decided what was news and whether a paper would live or die. This fact makes them more valuable as historical documents than researchers schooled in the “instruments of social control” model may have realised. Television viewers could take this lesson: a society gets the news it deserves.
The capacity for human violence is virtually unparalleled in the animal kingdom
What was the main issue in last year’s election in the United States? You may think it was employment (American unemployment runs two per cent higher than ours), the weak state of the economy (US house prices have fallen by 20–40 per cent) or the war on terrorism... but you’d be wrong. It’s something much more arcane: philosophies of government. Republicans stand for individual liberty and freedom from too much government control. Democrats believe more in the inclusive society, with better government welfare programmes, and regulations to protect workers and the environment. I spent almost a year camping in the United States recently and was amazed at the venom with which many Americans wanted to get the “oppressive federal government” off their backs. For them, freedom mainly meant freedom from their own government, a notion I found quite astonishing, especially in the bastion of democracy that is the United States. Here in New Zealand, we’re not much concerned with those ideas. Sure, we have a fading Act party and a Libertarianz party which espouse such ideas much more explicitly—though the latter won just 0.07 per cent of the vote in 2011, seven times less than even the Aotearoa Legalise Cannabis Party managed to win. While freedom is a big deal in America, in New Zealand we use the word but pay it little real heed. The thesis of Fairness and Freedom, by Boston history professor David Hackett Fischer, is that fairness has become our central creed, our guiding ideal, what freedom represents to the citizens of the United States. Fischer (who is aged 77 and has a number of well-regarded books and a Pulitzer prize to his credit) made several visits here in the mid-1990s and was struck by the similarities and differences between New Zealand and the United States. This scholarly volume is the fruit of his inquiries. Fischer attributes our differing national obsessions to our countries having been founded in distinct eras of the British Empire, when ideas in Britain about colonies were quite different. From the time Britons started going to the New World after 1630 right through to the War of Independence in 1775–83, Britain was concerned with keeping the new colonies in subjection. They were to benefit Britain. She sent oppressive governors, tried to mandate religion, and introduced restrictive laws and punishing taxes on groups of settlers who were struggling to establish themselves in a very different land. Fischer notes, “What is astonishing about the first British Empire is how many tyrants were dispatched to America and how incompetent were their tyrannies.” He quotes historian JR Seeley, “[Britain] claimed to rule the colonists because they were Englishmen and brothers, and yet it ruled them as if they were conquered Indians.” This maladministration established a yearning for freedom and liberty in America, and led to the United States Constitution, which enshrined freedoms in the new country and led to the establishment of myriad checks and balances in the American system of government. Why doesn’t the United States have a public health system? Many people I quizzed expressed fears about letting Washington into yet another realm. And most education in the United States is run and funded by local government. But what of New Zealand? By the late 1830s, the British Colonial Office was controlled by Sir James Stephen, a man of moral character who admired Maori. He wrote, “The two Cardinal points to be kept in view in establishing a regular colony in New Zealand are, first, the protection of the aborigines, and secondly the introduction among the colonists of the principle of self-government, to the utmost extent in which that principle can be reconciled with allegiance to the crown.” It was a perspective very different from that in the United States. We did not have to struggle much for freedom and liberty, but instead new ideals of social justice and fairness took root here. Fischer explores the development of freedom and fairness through detailed, expansive comparisons of American and New Zealand histories. Among subjects surveyed are treatment of Maori and Indians, land settlement practices, immigration policies, women’s rights, racist wrongs, progressive political movements, external relations, the Great Depression and reforms, military traditions, and the crises and challenges of the past 50 years. It’s vast in scope and surprisingly lively, but still a well-referenced history book with 70 pages of notes. His ideas explain how we have ended up with top-rating television shows such as Fair Go that celebrate the principle, an Ombudsman slogan that reads “Fairness for all” and the strapline for our Inland Revenue Department that once read “It’s our job to be fair”. And his digging has unearthed a central tenet of New Zealand society that we may be too close to really appreciate—that the principle of fairness remains at the core of our national identity. “Few Americans think of fairness as the organising principle of their open society,” writes Fischer. In fact, “Americans on the right believe the ideals of fairness and fairplay are hostile to capitalism, destructive of national security, and dangerous to liberty.” Fischer thinks that the world can learn something from us. Certainly we can learn something from him.
Farmer’s son finds South Pacific ‘paradise’
Riley Elliott at the sharp end of marine science
Ask your librarian to subscribe to this service next year. Alternatively, use a home network and buy a digital subscription—just $1/week...
Subscribe to our free newsletter for news and prizes