From “All of Us” to “Us vs. Them”?

It’s America’s Cup time in New Zealand, but I’m just not feeling it.Aside from all the global pandemic problems taking focus and fans away it’s just not the same any more.

Whether it’s simply that these sailing boats no longer “sail”, but rather “fly” on hydrofoils;

Or that the billions of dollars involved in a single competitor’s campaign would make any Auckland real estate agent’s commission look like loose change;

Or that Team New Zealand’s funding was allegedly caught up in some sort of online scam (Do charming Nigerian princes even sail?).

Or the childish squabbling between billionaire backers makes school-yard squabbles look civil and mature.

It’s just not what it used to be.

Set Sail for Nostalgia!

Cast your mind back to 1986-87 in Freemantle, Western Australia and how it seemed our entire nation got behind KZ7, made of fiberglass & Kiwi innovation – “The Plastic Fantastic”!

“Dirty” Dennis Conner saying “You’re a loser, now get off the stage” to NZ designer Bruce Farr.

Conner storming off the set of the first ever episode of “Holmes” – A set up, sure, but what drama! “Dirty Dennis”, a vaudeville villain of international sailing if ever there was one!

In the vein of Band Aid’s “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” and USA for Africa’s “We are the World” New Zealand icons, TV and music stars even came together under the name “All of Us” to sing “Sailing Away” (I still have the vinyl record) – The only true New Zealand America’s Cup song. Listening to it 35 years later still brings a bit of a proud tear to the eye.

The New York Yacht Squadron could stick their Manhattan millionaires where the sun didn’t shine – We’ve had Barry bloody Crump SINGING A SONG!!

(Special musical mention goes to Dave Dobbyn’s “Loyal” for the 2003 America’s Cup campaign but, from memory, I think it got hijacked into a Lotto advert, sadly).

Even I got into the spirit of things – I would put my bike upside down on the deck of our trailer in the back yard.

The front wheel, turned side on, was KZ7’s steering wheel; The up-turned pedals were the grinders’ cranks.

The trailer’s triangular draw bar was the bow and the jockey wheel handle at its end cranked the sails up and down.

I raced for nautical miles and miles never leaving our grassy backyard in suburban Napier.

KZ7, of course, didn’t win.

Core samples, cries of bad sportsmanship and a yacht race that became billionaire backers racing lawyers.

Then came big boats, catamarans and bow sprits. The yachts may have floated on top of the water, but the tactics and mood would have given Davy Jones vertigo.

Fast forward to Peter Blake on NZL32, “Black Magic”

A nation of feet in red socks! 

The America’s Cup, is now NEW ZEALAND’S Cup!“, and three years later “The America’s Cup, is STILL New Zealand’s Cup!”
Great, patriotic times (even if still today most New Zealanders couldn’t tell their spinnaker from their forestay and think that a “Grinder” is a dating app on their phone)!

 

 

“All of Us” to “Us vs. Them”?

 

New Zealand last won The America’s Cup in 2017 after snatching defeat from the jaws of victory in San Francisco in 2013. But something just didn’t feel the same.

The races were held in Bermuda, and the coverage and time difference meant it wasn’t as wall-to-wall as it had been in previous years.

There were even indications that our team, Team New Zealand, the ingenious kiwi battlers of the 80s were becoming.more and more like the rest of the syndicates and focused on money and power.

So was it becoming a case of “All of Us” becoming “Us vs. Them”? 

Perhaps.

In times of Global Financial Crisis and austerity the NZ government and Auckland City Council together granted the 2021 America’s Cup tournament around $250 million in funding.

In a time when the country was facing up to profound levels of inequality and housing unaffordability so much being spent on something so unrelatable to average New Zealanders, or seemingly frivolous given the overarching societal circumstances rankled with lots of people.

Even the fact the race seemed preordained to be hosted in Auckland no matter what riled a few.

Imagine the benefits it could have had for regional centers like Tauranga, or Napier – both sea-side cities with strong marine cultures and industry. 

But no. Like everything else over the past 20+ years it was sucked in by Auckaland’s grandiose gravitational pull.

Shame.

Imagine America’s Cup races on Hawke Bay, with the starting signal being a Rocket Lab launch from Mahia!

Possibly the greatest indication of how distant we are from those heady days of KZ7 and “All of Us” (history showed us that perhaps Barry Crump probably wasn’t such a heroic icon after all) rather than remix, or revitalize “Sailing Away”, or create another nationally-backed sailing anthem 2021 America’s Cup organizers are apparently atrenpting to target the “Boomer” market by streaming in Rod Stewart in some demented attempt at a nation-wide karaoke sing-along of his hit “Sailing” to somehow support Team New Zealand?

This isn’t the bloody Mission Concert, people!

Like so many of New Zealand’s sports since the dawn of professionalism, it has become far more about the money than the mana. And that really sucks.

I haven’t seen any of the races in this years competition and don’t plan to.

I don’t really care if the billionaires go Sailing Away with Rod Stewart, or the America’s Cup.

I’d much prefer to watch youngsters learning to sail Optimist Class yachts on Napier’s Ahuriri Estuary.

It actually looks like sailing and is far more relatable – something for “All of Us”!

2020: A Pain in the Annus!

2020 – It’s been a year and ah half, hasn’t it?

From plagues, to floods it has been an interesting 12 months. For me it’s been tiring and painful, but we’ve made it and I still feel like I have some fuel left in the tank, unlike 2019 which couldn’t have gone on for a week longer.

The year started off simply enough: Jokes about “2020 vision”, looking forward to an extra day tagged onto the end of February thanks to it being a leap year, Oh and Australian bush fire smoke turning our skies all shades of yellow and brown and almost blotting out the summer sun!

(We really should have taken than as an indicator!)

Over the space of one January weekend our neighbor and I drastically changed the landscaping of our properties’ border, cutting down several trees and clearing a ton of dirt and green waste in anticipation of building a new border fence (due to 2020 in general we hope to get around to STARTING this fence in January 2021..).

It was one of those very hard, manual jobs that you sit back and admire once completed with a real sense of satisfaction of a job well done!

When not using big, brutal tools, I also made a couple of delicate 1/72 scale models that had been sitting in my garage for too long: A Bristol Beaufighter and a North American Sabre. I had only built one kit in 2019, almost as an after-thought and really fancied making more, as my stash of kits was surpassing “sizeable” and heading into “hoarding” territory, so decided I’d better keep building while the flame was lit (possibly not the best metaphor for a hobby that involves flammable paints and glue..).

I commentated double-header Supersmash T20 games at McLean Park on the second of January – The Central Hinds and Central Stags played the Otago Sparks and Volts respectively in back-to-back matches. I got to go out to the central block and watch the coin toss for the Stags’ game – a bit of a dream come true.

As I’ve written before, I enjoyed the commentating – It was a great new, unexpected broadcasting opportunity that arose for me. Then it sadly evaporated even more quickly when, a month or so later, NZ Cricket announced it was not continuing with Radiosport as its radio broadcast partner and then, as if to plunge the dagger in even further NZME closed down Radiosport altogether as the wider effects of Covid 19 took their toll on gatherings, including team sports.

This wouldn’t be my only media let-down of the year.

After being invited onto Radio New Zealand National’s The Panel three times each year in 2018 and 2019 I didn’t get invited on at all in 2020.

I don’t know what I did, or didn’t do, to deserve this snub, as they never replied to my tweets enquiring why. But given they had Michelle Boag on three times in almost as many months in the early part of the year (and look how that ended up) it might have been a bullet best dodged after all.

I played my one and only game of cricket for the 2019/20 season in February and took two catches – A new personal best!

Then along came Covid 19

There had been stories in the news since late 2019 about a respiratory disease that had started spreading across the globe after ravaging China, Iran, Italy and a number of other countries. With the nature of international travel it was only a matter of time before it reached us here. On March 26th New Zealand went into a nation-wide isolation Lockdown.

The lead-up to Lockdown, for me, was madness.

For the last sixteen years I have worked in the same office as my father-in-law, splitting 5am starts between the two of us on alternating weeks. But my FiL has chronic asthma issues and has been sick off and on for elongated periods over recent years. He had gotten sick after returning from a trip to Australia in February (non-Covid related despite it involving a cruise too!), So I was on early starts, working solo for almost a month at the start of the year. 

I was still tired and worn out from 2019 and covering this February holiday when the Covid lockdown levels were announced. With his health issues putting him in one of the at-risk categories, he had to work from home from level 3, which meant I was working solo then, too. But with the added impending doom of a looming pandemic, in a job that involved interacting with hundreds of people each day (either personally, or via documents others had handled, so having to wear masks and gloves) I ended up having what turned out to be an anxiety attack one evening (I only realised this the next day when, using a work bathroom, a aptly-placed mental well being poster just happened to list all the things I had felt the night before).

The stress of getting everything ready for lockdown didn’t abate until the lockdown itself took effect. I wasn’t given a work computer or phone, so couldn’t work from home giving me, essentially, an enforced four week holiday.      

For the month of Marpril 2020 (yes, I do consider that a viable month) New Zealand stayed at home, in our bubbles.

We shopped sparingly for food, keeping personal distances at all times. Our children learned via the internet and “Zoom”, while adults primarily used the internet for social media and ordering alcohol for home delivery.

While I would have loved to have written more during lockdown I only managed to write one thing:

A Tale of Two Countdowns

Explaining the mystery of why Napier has two Countdown supermarkets across the road from each other.

Amazingly it has had over 4,000 views since then – By far the most viewed thing I have written on Napier in Frame!

Otherwise, we read lots, played games with our family, tweeted lots, I made some more models and, as a nation, we made a metric $hit-tonne of sourdough and other baked goods (because those 20kg bags of flour that were the only available purchasing option weren’t going to bake themselves!).

Personally, I got to sleep in more often than I ever had in the past decade and a half, and have more concurrent time with my family (and snuggles with my daughter) than in a long, long time.

By and large we survived!

I describe my lockdown as “the eye of the storm”.

Just like tropical hurricanes in the Caribbean the storm builds and builds, until you get to the “Eye Wall” – where the wind and rain are at their strongest and the worst.

Then you get into “the eye of the storm”. The sky is clear – often blue, calm and sunny. But with the worst part still on every horizon.

That is what lockdown was like for our family. The weather was warm and summery (despite it being Autumn) and things were quiet and calm, yet we knew there was danger all around.

Then, as the country went down to level three, I went back to work (still sans father in law), and the other side of the hurricane’s eye wall hit in the OPPOSITE direction as we played catch-up.

All up I worked solo for about three whole months this year. It pretty well buggered me. It took up lots of my time that would otherwise have been “spare” and, when I did have “spare time” I didn’t have the energy, or the motivation to do anything!

The day after it was announced we were going down to level two and I could relax a bit with father in law and others returning to work I got a call from the hospital asking to operate on me.

Late last year I had been in for a check-up on my BCCs (Basal Cell Carcinomas) and they had identified some more that needed removal. Covid and the lockdown had put any work on hold, so at the first opportunity I was one of the first people they called and a week later I was in getting seven BCCs removed in one fell swoop (more than on my previous trips down to Lower Hutt) at the Napier Health Centre.

Maybe it was the sheer scale of the procedure (I ended up with at least one significant scar from where one BCC which hadn’t been fully removed the first time years ago had grown back and needed removing again), or the overarching stress of the year, but my recovery was longer, and felt more physically and psychologically painful than any of those that preceded this year’s surgery and a few minor complications did not help matters.

I had only just recovered from the first round when a second lot of surgery removed some more BCCs a month later.

I felt ugly.

That didn’t seem like a regular thing for a kiwi guy to say or think, but I did. And I was annoyed at myself for feeling like that.

It was what had done so much psychological damage to my mum after her surgery over a decade ago and I had sworn to never fall into that trap myself.

I didn’t hide away like she did, but I still felt it.

Fortunately around the same time, as we headed into winter, I managed to get some new clothes, either on sale, or from vouchers I had earned from online Nielsen surveys and the like.

After months of nothing but fluro hi-viz, polar fleece and bandages I was able to treat myself to new jeans, a new shirt and a merino jersey. I felt like I looked better and at least one of my sartorial superheroes agreed.

After lockdown and surgery issues had abated I had some time to write, which was good, because Bay Buzz magazine would end up commissioning me to write three 1,500+ word pieces this year – another personal best!

One of the things I love about writing (other than getting paid occasionally) is all the new stuff you get to learn. This year I learned about Hawke’s Bay’s tourism sector recovery, council online communications, and those lesser known companies who help produce, provide and present our local foods to HB, New Zealand, and the world. All of which makes me even prouder of my home!

Rocket Lab’s continued launches from Mahia provided a regular reminder of how awesome our region can be.

Also making me proud of Hawke’s Bay was our local NPC team the Hawke’s Bay Magpies!

After last holding the Ranfurly Shield six years ago they beat Otago to reclaim it again this year, and successfully defended it throughout the rest of the season, with Hawke’s Bay now holding it over the summer months (and almost every single person in the region who hasn’t already had their photo taken with it pretty well guaranteed of the opportunity now)!

The Magpies also won the Championship title to cap off a great season.

There’s Something About those Magpies. It’s not just a rugby thing, either. When Hawke’s Bay’s rugby team do well it seems to lift the mood and spirit of the region.

We needed to recover from the lockdown economically, commercially, and socially and by most indications it looks like Hawke’s Bay is recovering better than other regions. It just so happened to be at the same time as the Magpies were collecting all the silverware!

I know.. “correlation does not imply causation blah, blah, blah…” but it’s worked for us so far, so there!

Although, perhaps it was more “pride coming before a fall”, because just before the end of the rugby season 2020 had another go at us.

On the 9th of November Napier, and in particular the city’s CBD and suburb of Marewa suffered significant flooding and related rain damage after one of the longest, most contunually persistent downpours in an afternoon than most locals had ever experienced.

We were caught on the edge of events, getting drenched picking our daughter up from school, then coming home via main roads that would soon be impassable to watch our front and back yards get slowly inundated with rainfall and yanking out our downpipes from the roof gutters as they had begun to overflow.

We stood at the window watching the creek we live across the road from rise and rise (about 15 meters across for every one meter up, just to give you an idea of just how much water this event involved.) The next day a “high tide mark” of leaves, sticks and so on would reveal the creek was a mere meter away from breaching its bank opposite us and overflowing into the street!

A kilometer or so down the same road from us people were not so lucky. Streets, and almost the entirety of Whitmore Park (the big, rectangular lake in the aerial shots of the area) were inundated, houses flooded, possessions lost and people displaced. Many have still yet to return to their homes, which still require repair as I write this on New Year’s Eve.

I must thank Alex Braae for giving an article I wrote about Napier’s drainage problems the last time we had similar issues a few years ago a boost when reviewing the November downpour. Getting a shout-out in The Spinoff was another unexpected turn that 2020 took!

With all the craziness going on, perhaps the best move for 2020 might have been taking the advice of David Slack, who wrote about stoicism on Stuff in early January:

“Concentrate on what is within your power to do. Disregard the hysteria and wrongness around you. Preoccupy yourself with doing what is in your power to be done.”

It’s just what David did, too, as Stuff (still under Australian ownership at the time) let him and several other womderful wordsmiths go around the same time other NZ media were being closed down or severely cut back by their owners in the face of Covid’s financial fallout.

David “preoccupied himself with what was in his power to be done” and started his own page “More Than a Feilding“. It has gone gangbusters!

He is a lovely, literarly inspirational man!

I needed stoicism for one of my new ventures this year, too: I became a Hawke’s Bay Cricket Umpire!

After about 15 years of playing and player-umpiring I was invited to join and have spent the first half of this season umpiring T20 matches, including two weekends of HB’s famous Kilbirnie T20 tournament.

It’s a lot easier and more enjoyable than player-umpiring I must say. As, rather than having to worry about what the score is, who is batting next and do I need to go and pad up, all I have to be concerned with is counting to six and deciding if the ball that just hit the batsman on the pads would have hit the stumps if their leg wasn’t there. Plus you occasionally get lunch and beer!

It has been a tough year. Lots of ups and downs, with lots of unexpected twists and turns, but we’ve survived!

For now.

New Zealand’s “Tyranny of Distance” turned out to be quite beneficial in some respects. But it will also provide lots of challenges in the coming months – just look at the backlog of cargo ships waiting to unload out off most of New Zealand’s ports right now.

I am, as always, thankful for my friends (online and real life) and family this year.

I am grateful for the opportunities I have been given this year (does that mean I get to be UNgrateful for those I wasn’t given?).

And I am most inspired, humbled and amazed by my wife, and my daughter who turned seven this year and completing her second year at primary school.

The care, compassion, intelligence and love she shows continually amazes me.

On her end of year school report her teacher closed it out with the phrase:

I had to Google what that line was and I have to say I teared up a bit because:

I hope your 2020 wasn’t too disturbed, wet, or worrisome and your 2021 will be steadier and more illuminated.

As always, thanks for reading and all the best for next year!

AF

Come On, The Bay!

The Ranfurly Shield is the Hawke’s Bay Magpies’ for the summer again!

It really seems that when our provincial rugby team do well (especially holding “The Shield”), Hawke’s Bay as a whole do well (and vice versa)!

This is another great boost for our region that is already on the path to great things post Covid 19 lockdown and recovery this year!

I go on about Hawke’s Bay lots, but it’s because I believe in it & it believes in me!

It has been my life-long home, has allowed me to grow, live and raise a family.

It has given me an income, a home, and security in uncertain financial times, and wonderful friends!

It has a gorgeous climate, central location AND ULTRA-FAST BROADBAND!

I’m vocal because I feel we’re often ignored and looked down on because we’re not a cliquey Auckland corporate, or the Wellington “beltway”.

A new news website boss recently said nothing newsworthy happens in regional NZ.

Then his newsroom won an award for a story they did on the Oranga Tamariki child uplifts here in Hastings!

Our horticultural sector is world-leading, our wines, beers and coffees, restaurants and cafes national award winning.

The quality of our produce is only matched by the quality of the people we produce, hence one of our regional taglines: “Great Things Grow Here!

We work well with others:

We launch rockets into space in conjunction with Auckland-based Rocket Lab, which still amazes me 15 launches later:

We provide Tech hub support bases for Kiwibank, Xero and the home of Hawke’s Bay’s own award winning ISP: Now! 

Which is why I think the Magpies are such a great allegory for the region:

We punch way above our weight.

We are in the game for the full 80+ minutes.

If others drop the ball you’d better believe we’ll be there to pick it up and be over the try line before they’ve even noticed!

So please come to Hawke’s Bay!

Visit, stay, relocate!

After the Covid lockdown, even Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s first domestic holiday destination was a #Baycation!

You’ll be amazed at just how diverse & wonderful we are!

With international travel currently off limits I know many social media friends who have only just visited Hawke’s Bay for the first time recently and loved it!

We may even let you have your photo taken with the Ranfurly Shield! 😉

Radio Silence

 

Listen.

Can you hear that?

Its the sound of waves breaking on Napier’s Marine Parade.

And that?

It’s a magpie calling on a fence in Waipukrau.

Then there is the roar as hundreds of cricket fans cheer when Ross Taylor sends the ball soaring over the boundary for six at McLean Park!

These are all familiar sounds to Hawke’s Bay locals, but may not be so well known to those outside the region.

Recently the chances of Hawke’s Bay locals and others further afield hearing Hawke’s Bay over the airwaves became slimmer and slimmer and one of New Zealand’s biggest media organisations, NZME (“New Zealand Media and Entertainment”), was at the centre of both.

One affected me indirectly, while the other had a more personal impact.

I wish this was a new problem, but it has been going on for as long as I’ve been a curmudgeon! 😉

“Larakin Lads? Local’s Loss!”

In February NZME announced plans to potentially replace their “The Hits” network’s remaining regional breakfast shows with the Auckland-based “comedy duo” of Jono and Ben, who they had head-hunted from rival network, Mediaworks, last year.

As I’ve written before there is already, in my opinion, far too little local input and regional relevance in networked stations like “The Hits” where, in 2015 I estimated around “158 announcing positions across the country are covered by the same 8 people in Auckland.”

New Zealand commercial media’s regional markets have been continuously written off and downgraded for years now.

It’s a self fulfilling prophecy – The media outlet cuts back on local content or relevance, so the local market switches off and / or turns to social media, so the media outlet loses money, so they cut back even further…

They just keep doing the same thing again and again while, somehow, expecting a different result!

Hawke’s Bay had been fortunate to retain at least some local content during this time via NZME’s “The Hits” and Mediaworks’ “The Breeze” breakfast shows remaining local, broadcast from Napier and Hastings studios respectively, but this Jono and Ben announcement certainly seemed to threaten that status.

New Zealand media’s talent pool is shallow enough as it is without just swapping the same people around and simulcasting them on yet another network.

We’ve already had that here: The current Breeze Hawke’s Bay breakfast hosts used to do The Hits’ Hawke’s Bay breakfast show, while one of The Hits’ current hosts used to do The Breeze’s breakfast show, and the other used to do The Hit’s local breakfast show in Taranaki, but moved to Napier to take over from the announcer who moved to The Breeze.

Their Taranaki show became simulcast from Auckland soon after they left.

Confused? I can’t blame you!

Imagine how frustrating it must be for new talent wanting to break onto the airwaves in Hawke’s Bay, or whatever region they may hail from!

To be honest, I’m not a big fan of either network’s local breakfast show, but at least they are Hawke’s Bay content on Hawke’s Bay airwaves.

As I write this NZME’s plan had been downgraded to see the Auckland duo replace only Canterbury’s The Hits breakfast show.

For now.

It’s a lucky escape for Hawke’s Bay and the other regions who narrowly avoided yet more locally-irrelivent media content taking over.

Telling staunchly proud and self-sufficient Cantabrians that:

“You’re getting Jono and Ben for Breakfast!”

“But, we don’t want Jono and Ben, we want relevant local content and talent!”

“Too bad, you’re getting Jono and Ben for breakfast!”

Is just dooming their operations there to failure, isn’t it?

When will media management ever learn?

 

“Chew For Chwenty Chew After Chew”

Not long after the Jono and Ben move was revealed NZME’s Radiosport and New Zealand Cricket announced they would be going seperate ways after broadcasting cricket across New Zealand’s airwaves for over 20 years.

NZ Cricket didn’t want to commit to Radiosport’s five year offer, citing advances in technology and a changing media landscape discouraging them from tying themselves into broadcasting on radio for that length of time.

(This opinion apparently failed to take into account that Radiosport has also been broadcasting over NZME’s online streaming service “iHeartRadio” for some time now)

So, from the end of this domestic and international cricket season the dulcet tones of Brian Waddle, Jeremy Coney and their cricket commentating colleagues were out of jobs and will no longer keep summertime gardeners company.

New Zealand Gothic:

Transistor radio playing test cricket,

Freshly mown lawn,

Reel mower quietly pinking in the background.

Ladders, planks & tin of paint set up

For a fresh summer coat on the weatherboards..

Cricket commentary from McLean Park, Bay Oval, Seddon Park, University Oval and all the other grounds around New Zealand will fall silent on the airwaves from April.

Personally, it meant an opportunity I never thought I would have was lost.

Because for three domestic Supersmash T20 cricket matches at my beloved McLean Park, I was one of those Radiosport commentators!

Late last year I got a phone call.

I had mentioned on Twitter earlier in the year about wanting to do cricket commentary, or had been doing my usual social media promotion of McLean Park / Napier / Hawke’s Bay, when I got an email from someone at RadioSport asking if I’d like to send in an “audition tape”, as they were looking to expand their regional roster, and Hawke’s Bay was somewhere they felt they were a bit thin on the ground in.

I was taken aback – Knowing what media in NZ is like (see above), this was not just something that comes along every week.

Unlike The Hits, cutting back regional resources, Radiosport was trying to expand – Having local voices at the likes of Hagley Oval and McLean Park.

So I recorded an ad-libbed over of commentary on my phone one evening after my daughter had gone to bed and emailed it off.

I didn’t hear anything back, so thought I must have sucked and forgot about it.

Until I got a call one afternoon in November.

It was Malcolm Jordan from Radiosport. “Did I get back to you about your audition tape?” he asked.

I replied “No.”

“Oh, sorry, we liked it! We’ve got some Supersmash T20 games coming up at McLean Park in December and January, would you like to commentate them?”

And so began what would unfortunately turn out to be one of the shorter careers I have had.

Which is a shame. Because it was great fun!

I love cricket.

I’ve played it for years, and followed it for even longer.

I also love my home town and McLean Park!

This was an opportunity to watch the game I love at a place I love and tell the nation (and anyone else listening online around the world) all about it!

And they paid me to do it!

But the money wasn’t the best part.

The best part was that they BELIEVED IN ME!

The day before my first match Malcolm phoned me and went through some pointers for commentating he had sent me.

“We didn’t pick you for no reason. We know you can do this!” he said (or words to that effect).

Self-belief is something I’ve struggled with for a while now.

Because while I believe I am capable of doing the things I want to do, that doesn’t mean a hell of a lot if no one else does, too.

I’d be a multi-media star broadcasting Hawke’s Bay to the world by now if it did!

It’s not even something I’m used to in my day-to-day, non-writing job of a decade and a half!

So to have someone believe in me, pretty much out of the blue was, well, unbelievable!

The games were played and I think I did a reasonable job for my few times in the commentary box.

A personal highlight was I got to step out onto the pitch block in the centre of McLean Park – the closest I would likely get to playing there!

My short stint was completed, pay was deposited, and I looked forward to possibly doing it again next season.

Except as it currently stands I won’t get to.

I know I’m no Richie Benaud, Ian Smith, Jeremy Coney, or Brian Waddle.

I was never going to be able to chuck in my current job and set off on an international cricket commentating career after a couple of T20 games.

But this was an opportunity – something that doesn’t come along very often.

It was a light at the end of the tunnel that said If I stuck at this and worked on it there was a chance, a possibility, AN OPPORTUNITY that somewhere down the track I MIGHT just be able to make a career of it.

With NZ Cricket and Radiosport parting ways that light at the end of the tunnel turned out to be a freight train coming the other way.

As I wrote in a tweet about the Provincial Growth Fund recently:

“Opportunity really is the thing.

It is hope, it is promise.

Opportunity gives people a chance.

Without opportunity there is no future.”

“There are others out there far worse off than you are.”

I lost an opportunity I never thought I’d have which is a real mind bender on its own.

But that made it a bit harder. Beause it wasn’t just a job gone – it was the opportunity.

An escape.

Gone before it ever really got started.

I saw an interview with Frank Zappa a while ago about how the music industry lost its cool:

 

He talks of “cigar chomping executives” in the 60s taking a chance – Giving something they didn’t understand an opportunity.

Where as the more modern execs had a “we know what’s best for you” opinion.

We’ve seen both of these cases in Hawke’s Bay media already this year.

We need more opportunity for regional media, and the people who can make that happen.

And far less of the Auckland-centric “we know what’s best for you” executive mindset.

There may not be another opportunity for them to change, or fix the current system.

Regional Rugby’s Lament

Listening to the talk of NZRU CEO, Steve Tew’s, resignation annocement on Radio New Zealand’s Morning Report the other morning I was irked by how much his / NZRU’s focus was on the international game & stage under his tenure, while it’s felt, like with so many other big New Zealand corporate organisations, regional / grassroots rugby has been ignored under his tenure.

How many Super Rugby, or even All Blacks games (Napier has hosted only two in 20yrs!) could have been played in sold-out, 15,000-20,000 capacity regional stadiums like McLean Park, rather than the regularly 1/2 – 3/4 empty Eden Parks, or (Wellington’s Westpac Trust Stadium) “Caketins”?

Main centre Super Rugby fixture crowds have been pitiful and/or declining for some time, and the whining about low attendances from rugby bosses has only gotten louder, yet do they change tack and spread the games around?

Hell no!

HOW MUCH??!!

Hawke’s Bay and their NPC team, The Magpies have been fortunate to have the local support, income and success over recent seasons to weather the storms Tew bemoaned.

Hawke’s Bay, its team and its fans have been regularly providing the talent, the turnout and the income for Tew’s organisation for years, so why haven’t NZRU returned the favor?

Or, under Mr Tew’s reign, has rugby in New Zealand become more about the money than the mana?

In Hawke’s Bay Hurricanes Hardly Ever Happen

It’s not often you can say your city suffered from a lack of Hurricanes AND had it’s stormwater and wastewater systems overwhelmed by torrential rain yet again on the same day.

But today Napier did just that.

The lack of Hurricanes doesn’t refer to the weather event, even though the rain was indeed periodically torrential throughout the day.

(We didn’t even have an international cricket match scheduled for today, either!)

All Blow and No Go

Hawke’s Bay’s “Home” Super Rugby team, the Wellington Hurricanes, announced their home game schedule for the 2019 season.

Only one game is being played outside of Wellington’s Westpac Trust Stadium next year and that one game is being played in…

Palmerston North.

Yup, one game in Palmy and SEVEN in Wellington.

Nothing else.

It really is rubbish.

I think the only NZ team to play less “Home” games at McLean Park are the All Blacks.

The Hurricanes have played 11 games at Napier’s McLean Park since Super Rugby began in 1996.

That equates to an average of one game every two years, with stadiums in three cities – Wellington, Palmerston North and Napier to potentially choose from.

Napier hosted absolutely no super rugby games for 6 years – SIX YEARS! – between 2004-2010.

McLean Park was, admittedly, undergoing a major upgrade and grandstand build from 2007-2009, but it didnt stop other codes, like cricket, playing there during that time.

2011-2013 saw only one Hurricanes game, but TWO Crusaders “home-away-from-home” games in 2011 and 2012, after their home ground was
damaged in the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

No wonder the Taranaki Rugby Football Union left the franchise to join the Waikato Chiefs

It’s Not Us, it’s Them

As I’ve written before, some find it easy to Forget About Hawke’s Bay, but recently, as our awesomeness has become more and more apparent, that is becoming far less of an excuse and we are harder to ignore.

In 2016 Newshub ranked New Zealand’s 21 Best Super Rugby Venues, with McLean Park coming in at number nine (technically sixth, as Christchurch’s Lancaster Park, Wellington’s Athletic Park & Dunedin’s Carisbrook no longer exist) citing:

“Usually hosting just one Super Rugby match a year the games are generally
packed to the rafters with the locals reveling in a brief taste of top-flight footy.”

When this year’s Hurricanes match against the Durban Sharks at Mclean Park was announced this time last year one newspaper item began:

“McLean Park’s status as the Hurricanes’ home away from home appears in no jeopardy.”

It appears that bit of spin might have been writren with tongue firmly in cheek.

Losing Puff

This almost utter lack of faith in their regional, grassroots supporters is hard to fathom.

They can’t really claim it’s for financial reasons, as ticket sales from a packed McLean Park would obviously far out-do recent poor Wellington ticket sales, and the main reason for the Crusaders selecting Napier over their own venues in Nelson and Timaru was the income from ticket sales and the local support!

The Hurricanes could either pack out Napier’s McLean Park, Palmerston North’s Central Energy Trust Arena, and elsewhere in their zone repeatedly..

Or just keep playing over 85% of their games at an almost empty “Cake Tin” (Westpac Trust Stadium’s nickname, given its circular, metalic outer cladding) in Wellington and stoke the headlines that say Super Rugby is dying or dead.

Hawke’s Bay certainly hopes the competition doesn’t die, because we are currently producing the top high school rugby talent in the Hurricanes region, maybe even New Zealand.

We are keeping up our end of the deal, why aren’t the Hurricanes?

Hawke’s Bay deserves better!

McLean Park’s Drainage Problems Need Plugging

kp

As a life-long cricket fan and player it breaks my heart to think that McLean Park may be struck off the international schedule after the recent farcical game abandonment.

As a sporting venue there are few more picturesque grounds in the world – Phoenix and Norfolk Pines surround with Hawke Bay sparkling in the background and Cape Kidnappers reaching out to the distance of any wide shot of the park.

It is a place of many fond cricket memories – From Danny Morrison’s hat-trick against India in 1994 to England and New Zealand scoring a combined total of 680 runs in an epic, TIED ODI in 2008, or even Scott Styris and Mitchell Johnson butting head and helmet in 2010 proves McLean Park’s pitch, at least, can deliver the goods.

The cricketing deities may smile upon the clay block out in the park’s middle, but when the skies (and ticket-buying fans) weep, it can be another story.

Drainage at McLean Park has long been an issue and while it may not affect the “mainly rugby” aspect of the ground, cricket’s red and white leather balls don’t take to moisture quite as well as their oval, synthetic rugby cousins.

In an interview for a pre-Cricket World Cup venue tour in 2014 former player and cricket ambassador Gavin Larsen noted before the World Cup “some maintenance work will occur, including drainage improvements on the outfield” (Bay Park in Cricket Spotlight March 26 2014).

The ground underwent improvements around that time with, I believe, a re-turf of the field and drainage improvements made.

Just before Napier’s World Cup games began it was declared the “Pitch is Cricket-perfect” (Napier Mail 4 March 2015). A groundsman was even quoted as saying:

“We have very good drainage out here on the park and we plan to keep it that way. Across the park we have drainage lines about 1.5meters apart, so it drains very quickly into the sump”

McLean Park’s World Cup games all went ahead without outfield issues (even when it rained the morning of the final game between West Indies and UAE).

Volunteering at McLean Park's Cricket World Cup games.  Photo c/o Steve Dykes

Volunteering at McLean Park’s Cricket World Cup games.
Photo c/o Steve Dykes

But since then things haven’t been so flash.

Last year’s Pakistan game being abandoned has been mentioned, but is quite different from the NZ Australia game in that about 40mm of rain fell the day before the Pakistan match with another 10mm on match day.

In other words “it hosed down”.

I doubt many venues would have been playable after such a deluge.

It similarly poured down when the All Blacks finally returned to McLean Park to play Argentina in 2014, but the game went ahead with great ticket sales and the city thrived with all the visitors.

IMAG2110

Yet, for whatever reason, one of the greenest pieces of grass in an otherwise bleached-dry region was “too wet” to play on.

That’s not good enough.

It’s even worse when you consider ratepayer money went into getting the game here.

I had naively thought New Zealand Cricket dispensed matches out in an egalitarian manner – West Indies will play here, India there etc., but this is not entirely the case.

Hosting venues (or rather the local councils behind them) “bid” to host bigger games like NZ v Australia.

Not only is there an expected, ratepayer-funded cost in the logistics of hosting of these games, but there’s also an added financial sweetener to attract them here?

So to have a big game like this Chappell-Hadlee match canned in such a ham-fisted manner with players, international media and worst of all the rate and ticket-paying public left in the lurch harms not only McLean Park’s reputation and reliability, but also Napier’s finances.

We want to see Hawke’s Bay promoted on the world sporting stage. We want people to visit and enjoy our wonderful region. We want to see international sports played here and as Napier and Hastings’ combined population is around 130,500 – the 5th largest population base in New Zealand (Hamilton = 150,000 and Tauranga = 128,200) we are in the box seat for hosting such events.

The March 1st ODI against cricketing greats South Africa has now been lost to Hamilton and Napier City Council have revealed that field and drainage upgrades at McLean Park had been put off prior these recent events that will now be done this year, but all too late for this cricket season, criticism and credibility.

There are two One Day Internationals against England and Pakistan scheduled to play in 2017/18. For the sake of one of New Zealand’s most popular international sporting grounds let’s hope things are sorted by then.

Mclean Park’s drainage problems need plugging.

Napier sporting events deserve better!

Good Riddance, 2016 (Time of your Life, 2017)

cyoa

“2016 is the year I shall fart rainbows and poop unicorns!”

That was the first line of the first entry in my diary for last year.

As it turned out there were a few rainbows, the odd, rare unicorn and a fair bit of poop.

Speaking of equines and poop, 2016 started with HB Ratepayers being asked to look their Gift Horse (of the Year) in the mouth, while mucking out the event’s financial stables.

"Where are we going, Wilbur?"

“Where are we going, Wilbur?”

In February I was feeling a little unloved and unappreciated as, even before #StuffMe merger hype and propaganda was ramping up, at least one of the proposed partners was proving they couldn’t even credit the right person when taking the mickey out of another media organisation’s portmanteau.

However, the power of social media showed that far more important people were listening to me when the Office of The Auditor General replied to I tweet I sent them over Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s on-going Ruataniwha Water Storage Scheme fiasco.

oag-2

Everything was plodding along happily until March came along and tried to wipe me off the face of the planet.

A month in Hawke’s Bay and Wellington hospitals changed perspectives and gave me a lot of spare time to write what has been some of my best stuff.

BizWire

Recovery and getting back into normal life meant not much time for writing posts.

The recent upheavals could have been the reason for some retrospective maudlin in June and lack of self confidence and loss of direction in August.

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

@Oatmeal Nails it once again :/

But Mediaworks scrapping what I still consider one of the finest and longest-running television shows EVER could not go unchastised in June.

Health issues and uncertain immediate future scuppered any plans I may have had to run for Napier City Council this term.

But there were other, more concerning democratic issues clouding those hopes too.

g

My concerns actually made the local paper just before the election and did effect some change. Though the biggest concern I had – the “gagging” Code of Conduct still remains.

In September, after months of what I and many others considered Napier’s 60+ year old skating club getting some unfair treatment from Napier City Council, I wrote another piece that proved very popular and once again featured in the local paper.

Skating Fish

Ultimately, though, the skate club’s facility is long since demolished. The club has not been reimbursed and the errors it had put upon it are unresolved.

Those posts and their other printed pieces received a lot of attention, however, which was very welcome. Because it showed that local people STILL care very deeply about local news and issues – Something media networks and #StuffMe proponents still seem utterly oblivious to.

Those local concerns, this time over Hawke’s Bay Regional Councillors’ behaviour and the debt the organisation was set to burden all its ratepayers with for the benefit of a few in the Ruataniwha area, did at least see some positive local government change, with the balance of power tipping from pro-dam to anti-dam in this year’s elections.

db

I finally got my cool cyborg parts in October and we closed out the year with our traditional “Twelve Days of Christmas Deliciousness” menu review.

I would love to say I helped democracy and righted wrongs this year, but that wasn’t the case. I helped shed light on what I considered were problems and wrongdoings, but those issues STILL exist.

That’s a real disappointment.

Though, given the interruption my life had in March-May, I guess it wasn’t a bad run for the rest of the year.

And, as I’ve written many times this year already: “There’s always someone out there worse off than you”.

There is still 2017 (and hopefully many more years) to come to get some good achieved and points on the board.

Now, does anyone know of a good unicorn dealer in Hawke’s Bay?

dgf

H.O.Y. A Gift Horse, or Trojan Horse?

"Where are we going, Wilbur?"

“Where are we going, Wilbur?”

The digital ink (?) on my previous post about volunteers being worth far more than they weren’t paid had barely dried over the Christmas break when I read that Hawke’s Bay’s multi-million dollar equine extravaganza – “Horse of the Year” was looking for around 400 volunteers to assist with the 2016 edition of the event.

Nothing too unusual there – as previously stated such big events rely on volunteers to make them successful – although it pushes the limits of credibility to claim anything requiring dozens or even hundreds of people working for free as a “success” – from a financial perspective at least.

BUT…

400 sounded a rather excessive amount of people working for free – the Rugby and Cricket World Cup games Napier hosted in 2011 and 2015 respectively required only around 150-200 by comparison.

And the last time I had read something about Horse of the Year they were asking local councils for money – LOTS of money:

Last year chairwoman of Horse of the Year’s board of directors and HDC Deputy Mayor, Cynthia Bowers, went around local councils asking the event’s hosts, Hastings District Council – to increase their funding of the event to $150,000 – more than quadrupling the $35,000 they put forward last year, and $100,000 from the Napier City Council – TEN TIMES last year’s amount of $10,000!

In 2012 Councillor Bowers was appointed by Hastings District Council to a board investigating the formation of what would become “Horse of the Year (Hawke’s Bay) Limited” – she was quoted as saying:

“The working capital expected from the council was not likely to be more than $100,000 and the money would be repaid from projected profits from the 2013 show, which would be the first event run under the new company.”

These requests for more funding may be looking a bit shaky as they come not long after the event posted equally big losses in recent years:

In February last year, the month before its 2015 event, Horse of the Year reported a $297,000 half-year loss:

“The accounts show the company received income of $554,000 during the six months to the end of November, $297,000 below the $851,000 it budgeted for and $62,000 below what it received during the same period a year earlier.

However, in a report to the committee, the council’s acting chief financial officer, Bruce Allan, said: “Given the nature of this organisation and the event that it runs, the first half of the year financials provide limited insight into the potential full-year result.”

The show sends out invoices for deposits for booked trade sites during the half-year covered by the report, with the bulk of its income generated in the following six months.
The company said trade site sales for this year’s show had been strong “and indications are that virtually all sites will be sold”.

In October 2014 Horse of the Year had recorded a $108,000 full-year loss.

Horse of the Year were reported as expecting 2015’s event to be a “no growth” show in an attempt to make up for previous losses.

Hastings District Council said the lost revenue in 2014 was “due to problems with security fencing which allowed non-payers into the show.”

But it’s a bit hard to believe such significant losses were due to people sneaking in for free, considering even if tickets were $50 each, that would mean over 2,000 attendees got away without paying.

A more likely cause was the “Further development of relationships with Chinese equestrians, who were funded to attend last year’s (2014) show, had been “put on hold until 2016”.”

In other words “An international equestrian group were PAID to attend two years ago, but didn’t turn up and it doesn’t look like anyone asked for the money back.”

So what was the extra $205,000 Horse of the Year was requesting supposed to be going to?

Certainly not paying up to 400 workers…

Perhaps is going towards debt consolidation?

Perhaps they are paying for even more international equestrians to not attend?

Or perhaps they are looking at diversifying – Just how much are Pegacorns these days?

Horse of the Year is a great event for Hawke’s Bay that brings in hundreds of visitors and millions of dollars – and not just from the Range Rover / Multimillion dollar horse float crowd – Because for every futuristic horse-float-come-campervan there are dozens of regular horse loving attendees who stay in tents and motels, scrimping and saving where they can.

Investments and outcomes need to match up.

This is certainly one gift horse Hawke’s Bay cannot afford to look in the mouth!

Pegacorn

Volunteers are Worth More!

uncle

Four years ago New Zealand was the hosts of what would become a legendary Rugby World Cup.

I volunteered as a “Flash Quote Reporter” at McLean Park’s two games and got to meet and interview All Black legends John Kirwan, Kieran Crowley and current international players.

Hundreds of others volunteered too.

In return for our participation we got trained, clothed and fed. Being volunteers, naturally, we didn’t get paid, but we had fun experiencing something we usually didn’t get to do in our normal daily lives, which kind of made up for it.

This year New Zealand co-hosted and equally epic Cricket World Cup and once again I and hundreds of others, the majority of whom were the same ones who had taken part in 2011, took days off our regular jobs and lives.

Once again, got clothed, fed and for a few long days in March volunteered to help showcase McLean Park and Hawke’s Bay to the world.

But this time something felt a bit different.

Our shifts were much longer this time – often up to twelve hours at a time – so got quite arduous on occasions. But as cricket players and fans we got to watch some of the world’s best players in action which sped the time up a bit.

Maybe it was the longer shifts, or financial conditions being a bit tighter than four years ago, but some of the volunteers seemed less keen or able to be as involved as they would have liked, too.

Maybe it was because we had gotten past the “experience” buzz of doing the same sort of thing for the Rugby World Cup that took the shine off of volunteering in such roles for long “days off.”

Or maybe it was because the experience gained working at the 2011 World Cup meant we felt like there was more value to our taking part than doing it for free.

You see, the problem with volunteering is it doesn’t pay the bills.

I’m no stranger to volunteering. To date I have:

• Volunteered for the HB Cancer Society working as a Smokefree ambassador from 1996-1998.
• Been a volunteer radio announcer on Radio Kidnappers.
• Helped Stage Challenge really establish a foot-hold in Hawke’s Bay in 1998.
• Played for, managed teams and been secretary for Napier Old Boys’ Marist Cricket Club for almost a decade.
Dressed up as a Duck for the Georgie Pie #SuperSmash at McLean Park last year.
Written this blog – 127 posts of inspiring, (mainly) though and debate-provoking writing. Asking questions and shedding light on local issues.
• Promoting as many local events, ideas, products and thoughts as I can on social media.

But volunteering has worn a bit thin on me recently.

While most people will happily volunteer to do something for a charity, community group or the like for a few hours or days every once and a while, the feel-good factor of helping out can only last so long before the cold, hard realities of a modern, money-driven life creep back in.

There are bills to pay, mouths to feed and mortgages / rents to keep up with.

Working for free won’t help cover those realities.

Does thinking that make me a bad person? I don’t think so – I like to think it means I put the needs of my family above my own interests or those of others.

Recently I’ve become more and more concerned at how the good work of people volunteering seems to be getting taken for granted, taken advantage of, or even used so others can make a profit, while the volunteers are often left unrecognised, out of pocket for their work, or even worse.

Hawke’s Bay seems to have become a bit of a target for this type of thing.

There was an article in the newspaper just after Napier’s last Cricket World Cup match that stated the obvious – That while a small minority of the organisers and managers got paid for their roles

“The Cricket World Cup in Napier would have been impossible without the volunteers”

The article went on to outline the concept one of the event’s (surely not a voluntary position) coordinators had – a “Volunteer Army” to help run and attract such big events to Hawke’s Bay in the future.

I thought there were local government agencies that got paid to do that?

Two months later another article appeared in the paper. This time a Massey University professor (another non-voluntary role, we must assume) espousing his “educated” belief that:

“An ageing population is an opportunity if Hawke’s Bay can take advantage of its retirees’ wealth and skills.”

Translation: “Use retirees living on the pension as volunteer (i.e. “FREE“) labour to do tasks that younger generations would / could be paid to do, further deepening Hawke’s Bay’s economic and employment doldrums”.

Reading genius stuff like that really makes me glad I never went to university

Now volunteering is, well, a voluntary choice – you have to choose to do it and having worked, earned their money and paid their taxes for most of their lives HB’s elder generations are entitled to their retirement – to take it easier and to do what they want.

But merely using them as free labour? That’s just not right – especially when it also takes the opportunity for paid work away from others, like the younger generations struggling to get a foothold in our region’s depressed job market.

It’s not just the retired that are being taken advantage of when it comes to working for free.

Those in the final stages of tertiary education often face the increasing prospect of applying for the job they set out studying for, only to be told while they have the right qualification, their lack of real-world experience means they aren’t successful in getting the position.

Fortunately for a select well-heeled, or well-connected few, the chance of an unpaid internship during the university breaks mean they can get that much needed experience, but as the name suggests, it comes VERY cheaply for their “employer”.

Unless it is included as part of their curriculum, students aren’t eligible for the study / living allowance while on internships, so unless they or their parents are well-off enough to cover the living costs during this time many miss out on the opportunity.

Worse still are companies that get in multiple inters to “fight it out”, as it were, for one paid position. The “winning” intern being the one who puts in the longest hours, does the most work or makes the biggest profit for the company – all for FREE.

That is just not right.

Surely, if you’re good enough to do the job, you’re good enough to be PAID to do the job!

Even those already in work – particularly creative and design roles are expected to work for free for new clients – it’s called doing stuff “On Spec”.

Hours, days or weeks of time, effort and creativity to try and get a prospective client on board, only for them to say no, or just get ignored.

That’s gratitude for you.

It’s like going into a new café and asking the barista, having never had their coffee before, to make you a free sample in case you like it and come back again. See how far that gets you in real life.

And that’s not all!

Thanks to grey areas in perception and New Zealand laws, your rights and safety while volunteering often aren’t guaranteed, either!

When I put my earn-as-you-learn submission to the Napier City Council – trying to encourage Hawke’s Bay youth to stay in the region and be paid to learn, rather than working for free, or even worse, incurring crippling debt, one councillor chose to point out the number of local voluntary community groups in our community.

The irony of such a statement would have put any Alanis Morissette song to shame.

These VOLUNTARY groups get out in the community and do good stuff, while city councillors are PAID to sit around a table and gas-bag!

I believe the expression is “All Hui and no Do-ey!”

New Zealand NEEDS volunteers.

The likes of St John’s Ambulance, the Cancer Society and other life-saving and changing organisations couldn’t do the brilliant work they do without them.

But we must be careful not to abuse the good faith of volunteers – They need to be respected, recognised and often times they don’t actually need to be volunteers – they deserve to be paid, because working for free can do more economic harm than good.

Volunteers deserve better – They are more than worth it!

But what would I know – I only write voluntarily! 😉