Clemency Montelle reads mathematics and astronomy texts in ancient languages.
Clemency Montelle reads mathematics and astronomy texts in ancient languages.
Mānuka honey has exploded in value in recent years, and now it’s a high-stakes business, attracting hive thieves, counterfeit products, unscrupulous players—and triggering a race for the blossom every spring, wherever the trees are in flower.
Charlotte Graham used to live on the top floor of a wooden house in Wellington. On November 14, 2016, two minutes after midnight, it began shaking so badly that she struggled to make it to the doorway to shelter. When the earthquake finally subsided, and she heard her flatmates return to bed, she wondered: Do we all need to evacuate? Head up Mt Victoria? She couldn’t find anything online about tsunami risk. Someone on Twitter sent her a map of Wellington council evacuation zones. It didn’t have street names, but she knew the city well enough to place her house in one of the safe zones. It made her wonder: What about people who didn’t use social media? Or the internet? A longterm Radio New Zealand producer, freelance journalist and community volunteer, Graham was well versed in earthquake reporting. She wanted to know what provisions were in place for the vulnerable in disaster planning in New Zealand, and whether the organisations looking after them were getting the same kind of help as quake-stricken businesses. “It became clear that the picture in Wellington was a lot more interesting than I’d first realised,” she says, “but also in the way that Wellington’s most vulnerable were not included.” In early 2017, she won a Scoop Foundation grant that enabled her to do the legwork of finding out more: “I ended up putting in an Official Information Act request to every council in New Zealand to find out what they actually had in documentation to address the safety of vulnerable people.” Councils were, by and large, baffled. No one had asked this before. Some have yet to furnish Graham with answers to questions first posed beginning in April 2016. It’s information she believes is vital. “You can ring a government department and ask for the national picture, but you’re not necessarily going to get the minutiae of the challenges that different areas are facing,” she says. Sometimes the reporting process is time-consuming and boringly administrative—and sometimes the outcome is vitally important. The result of Graham’s research, which has spanned eight months and counting, is a national picture of our disaster readiness, more detailed than ever before.
How we perceive the world around us is determined by the language we speak. Language affects how we think of ourselves, how we relate to others, how we organise time and space, even the types of thoughts we’re able to formulate. Not all languages have a past, a present and a future. Not all languages can give the same directions or describe the same relationships. For native English speakers, Māori offers a very different way of looking at and arranging the world. Here’s just one example: English has one word for ‘you’, but Māori has five. It is much more concerned with who ‘you’ are—whether you’re one person, or two, or many, whether I consider myself part of your group or apart from it. The language is a treasure, a lens, a record of culture, a place where stories and poetry and wisdom live. It’s limited in translation by the narrower definitions of English words, and the fact that English takes ten words to explain an aspect of Māori culture which te reo can accomplish in one. To keep a language, though, you can’t just use it ceremonially. You have to be able to say hi, talk about the weather, order McDonald’s. Jeremy Tātere MacLeod of Ngāti Kahungunu is one of a group of people around the country working to create more opportunities to speak Māori in daily life. Despite recent and well publicised complaints about the use of te reo on Radio New Zealand, the vast majority of the New Zealand public want it spoken. Surveys of non-Māori people conducted between 2000 and 2009 showed a rapid upswing in support for the language to be taught in schools and used in public life. In 2009, 65 per cent of non-Māori believed the government should encourage the language’s use. (In 2000, it was 24 per cent.) The change in attitude has been rapid; letting the language soak into public life will take longer. It takes a generation to lose a language, says MacLeod, but three to get it back again. One of the first things you learn in any language class is how to introduce yourself, but in Māori an introduction requires more than your name: it also involves describing where you’re from. Perhaps, one day, we’ll all be able to locate our childhood not just with the name of a primary school but with mountains or rivers or harbours, the immutable geographical features that stood beside us as we learned about the world and our place in it. This different way of thinking came into focus for me during my research for the kauri dieback story. I look at rickers, young kauri, and my mind leaps to objects: lamp posts, masts. Others look at kauri and see members of their family. In Māori cosmology, kauri are our older siblings; we are simply the last-born child, and the living world is formed of our relatives. It is Māori and community groups that are driving action against kauri dieback. What communities can achieve has come to the foreground during New Zealand’s most recent natural disasters, and as a result, there’s been a shake-up in civil defence thinking, as Charlotte Graham has found. We’ve long depended on individuals to prepare for disasters on their own—which means the less able and less capable get left behind. Naomi Arnold also delved into future-planning for her story on robotics. Our population of retirees will overtake our youth at some point in the next 20 years—but how will we care for this contingent of elderly? This issue invites you to try on another view of the world: to see it from the time scale of a kauri, through the nose of a dog, and with the eyes of fellow humans who experience disasters on a daily basis.
For five years Richard Robinson has been heading out into the blue realm far beyond our shores to photograph the pelagic creatures that live there. It wasn’t an assignment as such, but the beginning of a body of work propelled only by curiosity. He began accruing images of events that occur so rarely that few have had the opportunity to photograph them—orca hunting, the birth and first breath of a pilot whale, feeding frenzies that included several hundred animals. Soon, he had the kernel of an idea that began to coalesce around a working title, ‘Where the Buffalo Roam’—a reference to the American West that matched Robinson’s vision of this vast ocean prairie and its cast of leviathans. The project received two big boosts. First, researcher Jochen Zaeschmar allowed Robinson to accompany him on his many trips offshore, where the photographer took up a spotting position high in the crow’s nest. Later, Robinson won the inaugural Canon Personal Project Grant, enabling the completion of the project with the new 5D Mark IV. The coincidence of vision, curiosity and good fortune are captured in the pages of this issue: “Some of the best work of my life,” says Robinson.
University of Auckland professor Cather Simpson on solving problems with lasers.
Formerly the editor of Mana magazine, Leonie Hayden faced a unique set of challenges writing for a more mainstream audience in this magazine. “I was surprised by how many words and concepts common to Māori required definition,” she says. “I thought that ancestral maunga, the idea that a mountain can be more than mountain, was a concept that all New Zealanders understood. But despite hundreds of years of shared history, not everyone understands the physical and psychological connections to landmarks that are important to Māori.” This lack of understanding in language is also reflected in law, the ultimate construct of state. “But world views differ,” says Hayden. “Māori are unable to question it, and still have to play by the rules. We have to look to academic leaders to lead the conversation, to slowly translate and incorporate the Māori world view into the British legal system. But how do you even do that? It feels like a long and impossible task.” The SOUL protestors, profiled in her feature, are part of advancing that public discussion of difference, of redefining what it is to own land and what it is to belong to the land. “I’m not convinced that we’re very good at protecting our taonga,” she says. “In researching this I feel like Heritage New Zealand have let a lot of New Zealanders down. I don’t see how outcomes like this can protect special places. “Providing resources for people who are here right now is more important than what has gone before. You have to house and clothe people, and history won’t do that, but I hope that thinking of the past as a living thing will be a concept that’s relevant to more than only Māori.”
Ihumātao, a west-facing peninsula on the shore of Auckland’s Manukau Harbour, is the city’s oldest settlement. In 1863, the land was illegally confiscated from Māori. Sacred hills were quarried, 800-year-old burial sites were demolished, archaeological remains were destroyed, a sewage-treatment plant was built over traditional fishing grounds, and a dye spill killed the local creek. Now Ihumātao has been designated a Special Housing Area, without public consultation, and a development of nearly 500 houses is in progress. But for some tangata whenua, enough is enough.
Aerospace engineer Mana Vautier helps ensure the International Space Station runs smoothly. One day, he hopes to step aboard.
Language and kapa haka are likely reasons for low rates of dementia among Māori.
When a 400-year-old play was brought to life in Auckland with Pasifika costume, dance, language and actors, audience numbers broke records.
This issue’s cover posed a challenge: to present cannabis in a way that was recognisable, but that didn’t immediately call to mind a number of associations. An image of a cannabis leaf has layers of meaning attached to it. We wanted to make it possible for readers to take a fresh look. We are, as a nation, taking a fresh look at cannibis. Last year a survey found that nearly two-thirds of us didn’t have a problem with people using it for fun, and even more people thought it should be available for medical purposes. As with alcohol, we seem to be happy to leave the risk calculation up to the individual. (I think my dad summed up the views of those two-thirds of New Zealanders quite well: “You should be free to misuse your body however you like.”) In another survey, most people said that of all New Zealand’s environmental features, rivers and lakes were the worst-managed—and two-thirds of people believed dairy farming to be the culprit. In other words, we shouldn’t be free to misuse land however we like. We shouldn’t be allowed to spread certain substances on the nation’s pastures. Less management of cannabis, please, and more of freshwater. Our social views change slowly enough that the government ought to be able to keep up. On these issues, it hasn’t. As we begin to value things differently, the costs of them change, too. Since European settlers arrived in New Zealand, the nation’s waterways have been treated as a pre-fabricated sewage network—put it in the river, and the river carries it away. We don’t want to use our rivers in this manner anymore, but the primary sector has been caught by surprise at the change—not to mention the need to invent a brand-new nationwide nutrient-drainage system from scratch. As Kennedy Warne describes in his story on rivers, agriculture and environmental tipping points on page 36, a large group of scientists are working on this problem, but the solutions aren’t free or easy. Animal-derived foods cost more than the price we pay for them, and our waterways pay the difference. We can remove this cost from our lakes and rivers if we take it on ourselves, but the size of the issue means that it can’t be left to individual decision-making—regulation is required. Meanwhile, our other value change is looking better for the nation’s bottom line. Treasury has already done the maths on the revenue it stands to gain via GST and company taxes on legalised cannabis—and it’s in the hundreds of millions. Not to mention the potential savings to police of no longer enforcing prohibition. Costs, returns, values—it is a complex public equation, but I invite you to open this issue and make a fresh calculation with an open mind.
Photographing actors on the set of a Shakespeare play is a far cry from Peter Meecham’s last story for New Zealand Geographic. In 1992, he documented a 160-kilometre horseback journey through Central Otago for the magazine; 25 years later, he’s back, with the story of a four-month theatrical production in Auckland. Meecham, a photojournalist who works for a variety of newspapers, is more accustomed to spending time on the sidelines than in the wings, but the Pop-Up Globe and the passion of its cast and crew proved unexpectedly compelling. To his surprise, his 13-year-old son also took a liking to the plays, insisting on being his assistant in order to covertly watch the performances—and developing a brand-new interest in the arts. “He’s the captain of the open-weight under-13 rugby team in Auckland, he’s rugby-mad, he plays cricket, he watches basketball consistently on TV—it drives me nuts,” says Meecham. Meecham had a front-seat view of the evolution of the four plays, following them from previews through to closing nights. He saw jokes emerge and actors’ confidence grow, as the crew formed a tight-knit bond born of their marathon four months of shows. The plays may be 400 years old, but as Meecham and his son saw first-hand, they can still make an audience of a thousand people laugh.
We can’t decide what to call it—marijuana, dope, pot, grass, bud, green, hash, weed, devil’s lettuce, jazz cigarettes—or how to manage it. One thing is certain: cannabis is undergoing a radical image makeover.
Teenagers are stereotyped as being fiercely independent and rejecting the status quo, but having a sense of community belonging is in fact critical to their happiness.
Thanks, you're good to go!
Thanks, you're good to go!
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