A Model Citizen

One of my many creative talents, other than writing and talking is modelling – the scale variety, not the catwalk variety.

Although I did do that in high school. Once.

My interest in modelling started off many years ago.

Like generations of kiwi children, I grew up with Toro and Lego blocks, making cars, buildings, planes, trains, space ships and all sorts of things – They were a great introduction to creativity and creation.

But after going to a model show at a local school with my Dad in the 80’s and seeing the dioramas and detail that went into scale models, I was hooked!

Dad had been a bit of a modeller himself in his younger days. But rather than planes or trains, Dad made buildings.
He was so good he made it into Napier’s Daily Telegraph with a model of the city’s new St John’s Cathedral.

He was even offered a job with the Ministry of Works in Wellington making scale models of proposed buildings, bridges and structures, but turned it down.

The first two kits we ever got and made together were a WWII Mk 1 Spitfire and a Cold War Mig-27 Flogger jet fighter.

We put them together in the garage, glued them and even painted the Spitfire. It was a wonderful bonding experience and a cherished memory.

I started making more and more models.

The closest model shop to our house was also a bike shop, so ever since those days a part of me has associated model kits with the smell of rubber (and glue and paint..).

I even won a prize for the Skyhawk diorama I made in a local toy shop’s modelling competition.

The prize? Another model kit!

I believe this was what they called a “gateway drug“…

It was around this time that Japanese model giants, Tamiya were really taking off in New Zealand, especially with their radio controlled cars (the “Lunchbox”, “Bigwig” and “Hotshot” are still my all-time favourites) and 1/35 scale model tanks and soldiers.

These military models became a real interest of mine (what would modelling today be without the rather magnificent engineering and design that was so unfortunately dedicated to the death and destruction of war?) because the size of these 1/35 scale models leant themselves very well to becoming the basis for highly detailed dioramas – little scenes of frozen time, usually in the heat of battle, or sometimes candid moments of rest from the fray.

The (often immense) level of detail involved in making scale model dioramas led nicely into another branch of modelling – TRAINS!

A shot of Mike Danneman’s exquisite N scale Colorado layout.
Made even more amazing by the fact those locomotives are all less than 10cm long, and the entire layout is an L shape measuring only 5’x7′ and 3’wide

In the 90’s I discovered model trains through a cousin who collected HO scale steam locomotives.

In 1992 I found a Model Railroader magazine at the bookshop a couple doors down from the bike shop / model dealer and was henceforth hooked on that too!

Whole basement, nay, HOUSE-SIZED train layouts!

Model diesel locomotives towing dozens of ore car hoppers and log cars!

Railroads weaving over, around and through Colorado mountain ranges, valleys and rivers, shrunken down and represented in miniature, exquisite detail in the space of a six foot by six foot corner layout!

There was only one problem – Model railroading is rather (read “VERY”) expensive, so my tiny train ventures have largely been much smaller and slower, as time and finances permitted, than with the planes and tanks.

I branched out even more, diversifying into making model cars and trucks. When I started working for a forestry company I built a model logging truck!

The problem with using European models to replicate New Zealand logging trucks, is that the original European “rigs” usually only have single steering and driving axles – perfect for the largely flat, straight motorways and Autobahn of Western Europe, while their New Zealand equivalents have to negotiate steep terrain and sharp corners, requiring twin drive and twin steer axles. This meant buying two of the same kitset and “Kitbashing” them – Cutting the front and real axles off one kitset’s chassis and glueing them “seamlessly” onto the front and rear of the other complete chassis, so i wemt from having two kitsets that looked like THIS to one finished model that looked like THIS:

Like many modellers family takes over for a while and while the production line slows or ceases, the kitset collection continues to grow exponentially.

For me that was when our daughter came along and we bought our first home – What little free time I had evaporated for a while.

When I did have time to model I started putting a lot more work, concentration and detail into the models I made. They became specialised projects, like the Valentine tank I built to honour my Dad driving them during his Compulsory Military Training service.

This is a 1/48 scale Valentine tank I built earlier this year.
My Dad drove them as part of his Compulsory Military Training in the 1950’s, so I built it to honour his memory and service.

As our daughter got older it gave me more time to go back into this more detailed modelling.

But before long the pitter-patter of little feet followed me out to the shed to see what I was doing and ask if she could help.

How could I refuse?

Another generation of modeller might just have been created! 🙂

Gooooooood Morning, Napier!

We have some visitors in Napier this week!

(TV) Three’s “The AM Show” is gracing our fair city as part of a tour they are doing with telecommunication infrastructure providers Chorus.

They have already visited Queenstown and Nelson, with a final stop in Rotorua following their last show here tomorrow (Wednesday, 11 July).

It’s been quite exciting for the city, which is usually only on the receiving end of simulcast media networks and completely ignored by some “nationwide tours”, having the show and Napier itself broadcast live to television screens around New Zealand from 6-9am each morning, as well as being simulcast on radio and across the internet.

Broadcasting from outside of Auckland allows the show to feature special items, news and people unique to each region.

So far in Napier they have featured an obligatory touristy Art Deco piece and mayoral interview, but also Hawke’s Bay success stories, like celebrating Flaxmere College’s educational excellence.

As of their second show they had yet to touch on thornier issues like the War Memorial and the city’s water woes, or asking for ratepayers’ opinions, then ignoring them, which I still feel deserve wider attention than they have gotten (“sunlight is the best disinfectant” they say..), but promoting Napier, Hawke’s Bay and all the awesome things we do and can offer and represent is a great way of promoting the region and attracting people here (the weather has been pretty stunning while they are here, too!).

And at least they haven’t (as far as I’m aware) committed the cardinal sin of adding a “the” to the front of our region’s name

I had promoted the idea of hosting such breakfast television shows in Napier, along with 30 other ideas to attract attention to the city five years ago in my “Month of Fun Days” post. I even used the post in a couple of applications for jobs promoting Napier.

I never got so much as an interview for the jobs, but I have seen a number of the ideas come to fruition in recent years, which while great to see, is also a bit of salt in old wounds (I haven’t received any credit for the ideas, nor assistance in making them happen myself).

Hopefully it’s just the first of many occasions where Napier and Hawke’s Bay take centre stage for all the right reasons!

Alas, They Forgot

Is it still burning? The Eternal Flame?

Napier’s Mayor claiming the cost to ratepayers of re-rebranding the Napier War Memorial would be $142,600 is disingenuous.

The facility had been the “Napier War Memorial” from its opening and dedication in 1957, until its 1995 refurbishment put the Roll of Honour and Eternal Flame inside the facility’s entrance foyer and added the word “Centre” onto the end of the title –To better indicate how it had been a multi-use facility for decades – hosting Napier social events like weddings and school balls – even the odd conference, while still maintaining its original purpose – a memorial to locals lost in conflicts around the world.

So when council management decided, without any public mandate, that the War Memorial name, Roll of Honour and Eternal flame elements all needed to go from their home of almost 60 years and be replaced by the rather bland and single-themed (but “marketing friendly”) title of “Napier Conference Centre” who paid for that rebranding?

The mayor himself?

The CEO’s morning tea fund?

No. More like the ratepayers – none of whom had requested the change.

The mayor now also claims councillors might not have had “all that information” on how returning the War Memorial name to the facility might damage it’s “marketability” and potential conference income at a recent committee meeting where restoration of the War Memorial name to all or part of the site was proposed and supported by all attending councillors, excluding the mayor.

Napier’s elected representatives voted UNANIMOUSLY in favour of the decision to remove the name and sacred elements from the Napier War Memorial at a council meeting on April 6 2016.

Since then several Napier councillors have admitted to not understanding the gravity of their decision, the history of the War Memorial, or the strength of public feeling that followed, despite some even having relatives commemorated on the memorial’s plaques!

Were councillors provided with “all the information” they needed then, too?

It would appear not.

As for “marketability”, having the name “War Memorial” in the title of a building does not preclude it from having other uses.

That would be like saying the Sydney Opera House can only host operas!

I’m sure if he’d asked his recent “Big Apple” visitors, Napier’s mayor might have learned about the “War Memorial Arena” in Syracuse, New York, which just happens to be roughly the same age as Napier’s War Memorial Centre!

It is not just a war memorial, but also a concert venue, hosts ice hockey, indoor football and lacrosse games, trade shows and maybe even a conference or two!

In a last ditch effort to try and sway councillors at the next council meeting and naming vote on Monday April 9 (It’s being held at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Chambers, 159 Dalton Street Napier from 3pm If you’d like to go along) Napier City Council management even hired a marketing consultant.

I wonder who footed the bill for that?

I hope it was less than $142,600…

The consultant said the words “War Memorial” had “little relevance to today’s highly competitive conference market”.

This completely misses the point.

The Marine Parade site is a War Memorial first and foremost.

That’s why it was built.

That’s why the Napier public’s donations for it were so forthcoming and how local and central government funding was guaranteed. That was its prime purpose for almost sixty years.

This insistence by a small group of council hierarchy that the War Memorial Centre can ONLY be a commercial activity OR a community venue lacks both credibility and any form of medium to long-term memory.

During those years between 1957 and 2016 the memorial and its community and commercial venue aspects have coexisted quite happily.

If the conference market is suddenly so competitive, then Napier’s conference promoters just need to up their game.

There are numerous ways “Napier War Memorial Centre” can be put to the forefront of Google search engine optimisation results for “Napier”, “New Zealand”, “Events” and “Conferences” while still maintaining the dignity and respect of a War Memorial.

On top of the Syracuse War Memorial Arena’s stage are the words, “In memory of our service veterans.”

At least the Syracuse custodians have remembered the true purpose of their facility.

Napier, its ratepayers, veterans and families of the fallen deserve better!

Don’t You Forget About HB

DFAHB

Kermit the Frog once sang “It’s Not Easy Being Green”.

Over recent years it’s also not been easy being regional New Zealand after almost a decade of neglect and lack of economic development from central government.

Just like in New Zealand’s media, main centres, especially Auckland, ruled supreme and sucked up all the infrastructure, attention and economic prosperity, whilst regional centres just didn’t matter.

In 2014 then Finance Minister, Bill English, was visiting Hawke’s Bay and was quoted saying:

“Hawke’s Bay’s seasonal low-wage economy “isn’t going to change in a hurry, so let’s get good at it.”

What a pathetic cop-out by the person supposedly tasked with looking after the whole country’s prosperity and economy!

Fortunately, (depending on your political stripes) we have just had a change in government and the incoming Labour / New Zealand First / Greens coalition campaigned on platforms of regional development.

Hopefully places like Hawke’s Bay will soon start to see the benefits of such policy.

Because, over recent years, Hawke’s Bay has been all too easily forgotten.

Non-Nation-Wide Tours

When I saw the headline that New Zealand’s own native songbird Lorde had announced a “New Zealand Tour” I thought “This would be cool – I hope she comes to Hawke’s Bay!”

Imagine a Mission Concert headlined by New Zealand’s latest great songstress!

Lordey2

But it wasn’t to be.

She was barely even scratching the surface of potential venues and destinations – more “whistle-stop” than nation-wide tour.

Lordey1

Media Misses the Mark

As you may have perceived, I have developed a growing lack of faith in New Zealand’s simulcast network media.

This was only deepened a year or so ago, when one such network held a “Provincial Pick Up” promotion.

Starting in Invercargill and taking the “path less travelled”, by visiting regional centres like Timaru, Ashburton and Blenheim it started reasonably well.

But having crossed Cook Strait and stopped in one of Wellington’s biggest suburban areas of Porirua, its next stop was… Taupo.

Not Levin, not Palmerston North, and CERTAINLY NOT Hawke’s Bay where, you would think bigger population bases would have provided more coverage, attention and contestants.

To rub salt into the wound the “map” that accompanied the competition’s page featured a rather clear indication that the Provincial Pick Up would be heading to New Plymouth, when this wasn’t the case.

Provincial

As part of its final leg, the tour would make at least four stops in (as far as you can get from provincial New Zealand)” Auckland.

We Even Get Left Out of Memes!

Coldaf

During a recent winter cold-snap the entire country shivered through some very bracing temperatures.

In true wise-cracking kiwi fashion someone made up an alternative weather map of New Zealand to illustrate just how cold we all were.

The majority of regions labelled “Cold AF” (or “Cold as F***” for those who took English class Pre-2010).

All but Hawke’s Bay!

Now, we are known for enjoying a far more temperate climate than the rest of New Zealand in Hawke’s Bay, but I was here during that time and I can confirm to being one VERY “Cold AF” (the far more “G” rated, name-related acronym, that is) during that time!

Hawke’s Bay – A Technological, Astronomical Region!

Many may have perceived “Regional Development” as “Rural Development” – focusing on farming and other primary industries.

This is not necessarily the case.

The combined population of Napier and Hastings is around 130,500 – making us the 5th largest population base in New Zealand (Hamilton = 150,000 Tauranga = 128,200) – far from the sort of small, rural town that gets ignored more often than not.

Fortunately Hawke’s Bay has a lot of smart, adaptable and ingenious people, so while we were ignored by external assistance, we took the words of Napier’s Douglas MacLean:

“A country made progress despite of its politicians”.

A prime example of this has been the creation of a “Tech Hub”, with anchor tenants Now and Xero opening in Napier’s seaside suburb of Ahuriri.

This has been something I’ve been passionate about and pushing for years – even since one of my first Napier in Frame posts.I would love to think I had some form of influence over such developments, but no one has told me so and I haven’t received any medals, certificates or knighthoods as a result, so I guess not 

But the fact Hawke’s Bay has still been able to make these technical and economic advances as a region is still great to hear.

And how many other New Zealand cities or regions have their own rocket launch facility?

So slap that old John Hughes classic in the VCR, crank some Simple Minds on the stereo and pump that fist in the air.

Because this region has just started going from strength to strength, so Don’t You Forget About HB!

jZgre

People At The End Of Glass Viewing Platforms Shouldn’t Throw Stones

Exclusive footage of what may actually be the "vandal" in action.

Exclusive footage of what may actually be the “vandal” in action.

On, or around the night of the 27th / morning of the 28th of June “vandals” are alleged to have broken one of the three glass panels on the end of Napier’s Marine Parade viewing platform.

This is the fourth time the glass has been broken since the platform was opened in 2015.

In the 30th of June edition of the local paper, Hawke’s Bay Today, Napier’s mayor said it was “soul destroying for council staff” and even the paper’s editor later chimed in vilifying the acts of, as yet, unidentified villains.

Posters on local Facebook pages alleged (without proof) the damage was caused by Napier’s current easy target – Homeless / Beggars / Rough Sleepers.

But there’s a problem with pointing the finger on this matter:

There’s no proof!

Pictures of the damage in the local paper showed, while the extra-strength glass had “shattered”, it appeared to have held its shape, like a car windscreen, meaning the end of the platform wasn’t exposed to a drop of several meters into the waterline below, but it also didn’t give an indication which direction the glass panel was struck from.

As far as I’m aware there are no CCTV cameras on the platform, or located in such a position to get an unobstructed view down to the end of the platform, especially during the middle of the night.

The council officially reopened the platform yesterday, and the paper accordingly reported:

Mayor Bill Dalton said it was the fourth time vandals had smashed the glass, which was initially installed in a single piece but later separated into three panels to minimise the cost of vandalism. He said that any repeats of the vandalism could lead to a decision not to use a see-through barrier in the future.

Council chief executive Wayne Jack said no one had been identified as a culprit for the latest damage..”

In other words they had no idea what may have caused the glass to break?

So why blindly point fingers?

I think I may have a lead on the culprit. But it may not be a “who”, rather a WHAT.

I just happened to be on Marine Parade the afternoon before the “vandalism” took place.

The sea was very rough that day:

rough

The same newspaper picture that showed the broken glass panel also showed a fair amount of water on the platform and some very damp looking concrete and glass – Not unusual, given the platform’s location.

The day before news of the damaged panel featured, coverage of Clifton Beach (south of Napier near Cape Kidnappers) further eroding away after high seas on Tuesday night – the same timeframe as the platform damage – was front and centre on Hawke’s Bay Today’s front page.

Yet no one could make a correlation?

Exactly one week later Hawke Bay put on almost identical conditions, resulting in this stunning footage by local photographer Tim Whittaker of Haumoana Beach (just north of Clifton) taking a battering. So I went for a wander down to the platform to have a look.

This is what I saw:

20170704_162444

The driftwood in the foreground denotes the height the sea was getting to at high tide – It is almost level with the Marine Parade Walkway and entrance to the viewing platform – Some 40-50 meters from the shoreline.

20170704_162651

The wash from some of the swells was still making it around half way to the high tide mark at times.

Given the homeless people blamed on social media have been occasionally seen residing under the viewing platform, the most accessible parts well within this wash zone, it is highly unlikely they were anywhere near it during these large swells. That puts a dampener on claims they were potential culprits.

And of course:

Exclusive footage of what may actually be the "vandal" in action.

Being a beach of big breakers and rough surf, the platform is a popular venue for photographers to get snaps of waves smashing into the base of the viewing platform and spray leaping high into the air and onto, and over the platform and any thrill-seeking viewers who happen to be on it at the time.

High tide on the night of Tuesday June 27 was at 8:20pm – Well after dark, and with high tide exacerbating the already wild seas very few people would have considered venturing out onto the platform in the dark.

With these high, rough seas and, given water weighs one ton per cubic meter (this is what makes tsunamis so destructive) it wouldn’t take too many waves to break even toughened glass after enough of a battering.

Factor in the chance of a hunk of driftwood, or a large stone being hoisted up by the force of the water and there’s plenty of extra ammunition to barrage and potentially break a glass panel on the end of the viewing platform with.

The viewing platform is in a very exposed position on Marine Parade and takes a battering from the elements. It had already come under early criticism for how it was holding up, particularly to tidal shingle deposits building up in the storm-water outfall pipe underneath.

It must be expected that the platform will be damaged by the elements at some stage. Good design and correct building materials should minimise these effects. But given the unpredictable nature of, um, Mother Nature some level of damage must be anticipated.

So why was the potential of a natural cause not considered or opined along with the chance of it being some miscreant human?

Given Napier City Council’s current strike rate with their ratepayers’ trust, it seems fool-hardy to just blame phantom “vandals”.

People at the end of glass viewing platforms shouldn’t throw stones!

The Truth Shall Make ye Fret

Napier ratepayers' fuses are running down over their council's treatment of the city's war memorial eternal flame.

Napier ratepayers’ fuses are running down over their council’s treatment of the city’s war memorial eternal flame.

“The truth shall make ye fret” Terry Pratchett “The Truth”

Albert Einstein once said “Whoever is careless with the truth in small matters cannot be trusted with important matters.”

It certainly appears that public trust in what Napier City Council says is the truth is fading fast.

That NCC, normally so obliging for a positive-spin photo op, was not quickly forthcoming with access to the stored-away flame and Roll of Honour plaques (note – we haven’t seen a photo of them yet) erodes what little public trust they may still have even further.

Long-term, seat-warming councillors can express their regret, hindsight and sympathy all they want. But it doesn’t hide the fact that those same publically elected councillors voted to remove the “War Memorial” name from the Marine Parade conference venue (on the basis of marketing jargon from unelected council staff) and in doing so, consigned a sacred memorial to a council yard and the Eternal Flame to being sheltered by what appears to be a rubbish bin cover.

This is hardly new, though.

The likes of “Spin-Doctoring”, “Fake News”, “Alternative Facts” and “Dirty Politics” have been around long before #Hashtags made them fashionable on social media and American politics somehow made them standard operating procedure.

In recent years Napier ratepayers were told Art Deco Busses would be a great tourism attraction and money spinner. They weren’t.

We were told 680,000 people would visit the city’s new Museum, Theatre and Gallery. They didn’t.

The same facility was meant to be able to house the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust’s $44 million, 100,000 object collection. It still can’t.

Napier Skating Club was told that “SK8 Zone” would remain open and in place until the new, Council operated “Bay Skate” facility was opened. It didn’t.

When the council demolished Sk8 Zone ahead of what was previously stated, we were told they had found a temporary facility for the club. The week it was supposed to open we discovered that wouldn’t happen either.

Watchdog! claimed there were serious issues with the Napier Pound. Napier’s mayor called it a “pathetic crusade”. The Ministry of Primary Industries found otherwise.

Following a positive E.coli test and subsequent chlorination of Napier’s normally pure water supply in February this year, another positive test was returned in late May.

To ensure the waterborne bugs were killed off the council chose to chlorinate the whole system for “up to a month”.

That was still on track in mid-June when Napier’s water was due to return to normal “by the end of the month”.

Yet, here we are in July – six weeks later and it still smells like a swimming pool whenever I turn a tap on and our annual rates are up 4.9{3919f50c199a8627c147b24d329ff0de8aa05e3a462fa3330e11cd9ea56ed948} for something that never used to be a problem.

And, of course, we’ve been told Napier “needs” a multi-million dollar velodrome, in fact it’s the “number one priority” for some in council and is sneaking back into agendas.

We don’t.

I’ve read through the “O’Connor Sinclair Participation Report 2014” and “Hawkes Bay Sports Regional Facilities Plan Feb 2015” reports which were being used as a basis for justifying this “need” and for the life on me, all I can find about a velodrome is that, Under “State of the Sport” for Cycling, quote: “There is no track cycling venue in HB” and under “Development Options”: “Explore future opportunities for a velodrome”. That’s it!

The same report stated that ”No additional development is required” for “Aquatics” (Swimming), despite “an increasing trend” in participation , current facilities closing due to earthquake strength issues, and lane pool demand outstripping supply.

During the last election the public very clearly voiced their opinion that what the city needed a public swimming pool like the old Onekawa Olympic Pool. Those running for re/election voiced almost universal approval for a pool and dismissal of the velodrome.

Even the mayor said the Velodrome/Public Pool issue was “not an either/or situation”.

Yet thousands of ratepayer dollars have been spent on viability reports for and promotion of a velodrome concept wanted by a very small minority, while there’s no sign of a new, publicly supported, competition / Olympic-sized swimming pool under construction and silence from its freshly elected ‘supporters’?

More recently, many a “Yeah, right!” has been muttered at revelations NCC’s offices were dangerously earthquake-prone, despite 2010/11 reports saying they were more than 100% up to code.

Many consider this timing all too auspicious, given NCC management were looking at selling the site off to hotel developers, relocating NCC HQ into the neighbouring library building and somehow squeezing Napier’s library into a much smaller space amidst Clive Square and yet more war memorials – Napier’s Women’s Rest building and the city’s cenotaph!

Throughout this, the senior, unelected, Napier City Council management behind many of these decisions have remained silent, while the city’s mayor attacks public, press and online questioning and criticism of his council’s decisions and actions, lambasting critics as “nay-sayers”, as if the rate-paying public who fund his salary were responsible for the problems.

It used to be that public servants took great pride in doing just that – serving the public.

More recently, and locally, it feels like there is an expectation that the public should be serving them.

The people of Napier want answers.

The people of Napier want the truth!

The people of Napier deserve better!

A Priceless Home

FB_20151022_12_48_58_Saved_Picture

You’ve heard the term “A month of Sundays”, right?

Well, having finally gotten Mum into the care of a rest home, it’s taken me two months of Saturdays, plus any available time outside of that to clear out her and Dad’s old place.

It’s meant less time spent with my wife and daughter and even less time still spent on myself, which has been wearing me down faster than anything else.

It’s been very hard, dusty, heart-breaking, priceless and vastly under-valued work.

It was never going to be an easy task, but with the help of my wife on a couple weekends when the “outlaws” looked after our daughter we managed to get the job done.

When I say “hard” I don’t necessarily mean physical.

While there was a fair bit of heavy lifting involved, the hardest part was the simple fact it was essentially emptying out and dismantling keystones of memory in the house I grew up in.

I’ve gotten in trouble with my wife for calling it “home” in recent months, as we now have our own piece of New Zealand. But you can’t help but refer to the place you lived the first twenty-plus years of your life as “my home”.

So much stuff that I grew up with was still there.

In a lot of cases I mean that literally – There were packets of herbs and spices in the back of cupboards that were as old as I am!

There were quite a few keepsakes – photos, family heirlooms, mementos and the like I couldn’t bear to part with, but there was also a lot of stuff that, while it had no major sentimental value, did have a commercial value. It’s just a crying shame it was such a small value.

Chairs, tables and vases. Books I learned from and developed my thirst for knowledge. The crockery and cutlery that had fed me for over twenty years – all things that had been around me my whole younger life and were now no use to me, having plenty of my own in our own home needed to be sold, so we called in antiques and second hand dealers.

While we made a reasonable amount of money to put back into mum’s bank account, and while most of the stuff was “retro” and “vintage”, rather than desirable, expensive “antique” it still felt like they were worth so much more than what we got for them.

While I would understand or more readily accept a “buy for $5, sell for $10” policy, the predominant tactic of “buy for $5, sell for $15 or $20” left a bit of a sour taste in my mouth.

It seems commerce has no sense of sentimentality.

Other stuff, like clothes and random chattels, we donated to the Cranford Hospice Shop and St Vincent DePaul.

But in the majority of cases, like those herbs and spices, it was a matter of “get rubbish bag, open cupboard / drawer, tip entire contents of cupboard / drawer into rubbish bag, chuck on trailer, repeat”.

That happened so much I’m now practically on first name basis with the security guard lady at the dump!

One of the tasks that unexpectedly cut the deepest was the simple act of getting the phone disconnected.

The phone number I had committed to memory my entire life, the means by which company, conversation, consolation, congratulation and FAMILY was only a few button presses away is now greeted with a blank, “beep, beep, beep” dial tone.

I can no longer “phone home”.

Going through old boxes of stuff, especially Dad’s things, yielded many great memories and items. A lot of them tinged with sadness that he is no longer here to tell me the stories behind them.

I found a metal cash box / deposit box under a chest of drawers and I guess it spoke volumes about what Mum and Dad valued most.

There were no share bonds for Apple or Microsoft from the early 1980’s or gold ingots in this little box. No papers linking me to royal lineage, untold wealth or some mysterious twin I had never known.

In this box were well-wishers’ cards from Mum and Dad’s wedding, the registration papers for my first car (a Ford Anglia Dad helped me buy and get running) and report cards from my first years at primary school.

Family memories – far more valuable than anything else.

Friends of ours are now renting Mum and Dad’s old house, my old home.

They are taking care of it – doing the gardens, cleaning up the remaining bits and pieces we didn’t get to.

My wife, daughter and I went over there for lunch the other day and it’s so heartening to see the place being LIVED in again, as opposed to being merely existed in, as Mum had done since Dad passed away.

We kept some of the furniture in parts of the house like the kitchen, where there isn’t much space and the chairs and table Mum and Dad had there fitted perfectly.

Out of sheer habit, I sat in the place I’ve always sat in at that table as we had our lunch. When the others went back outside I just sat there by myself for a while.

I could hear Dad tinkering in the garage.

I could hear Mum cleaning in the sitting room.

I smiled to myself and shed a tear.

Going, Going, Gone.

H1

Napier Hill’s skyline has started to change.

Since being closed down in 1998, the site of the city’s former hospital has been empty – slowly going derelict through inattention, intrusion and even armed and emergency service training exercises.

The hospital’s old wards were first to be demolished – Lower and Upper Robjohn are gone, Thomas Gilray has been swept away.

Now the hospital’s main block is coming down and like the building itself – the work is hard to miss – especially when large chunks seem to be carved out of it by the day.

Front 1

The site will be cleared and twin, high-rise apartment blocks will take the place of the main hospital block building, with lower-set housing spread around the site.

Long-term tenants will soon reside on the site where short term patients had recuperated since 1880.

WP_20150729_012

The closing of Napier’s hospital is still a sore point for many and having what appears to be high-end apartments – something out of reach for average Hawke’s Bay incomes built on the site may not help feelings – especially when there are still so many similar apartment complexes, with empty apartments, already around Napier.

But it must be said it is far better to have the site used, rather than going to waste as it had been for the last twenty years.

Napier Hill deserved better!

It even appears the Eye of Sauron joined in on demolishing Napier's old Hospital.

It even appears the Eye of Sauron joined in on demolishing Napier’s old Hospital.

New York, New Zealand, Same Old Problems!

Spot the difference – it’s not as obvious as you’d think…

Spot the difference – it’s not as obvious as you’d think…

Split Enz were wrong – History repeats all the time.

Most gallingly, it always seems to be the worst aspects that repeat most often.

Scientists have spent centuries testing the attentions spans of dogs, goldfish and other animals, but the species that does the testing seems to have such a deficit of mental storage that we keep doing the same stupid things over and over again.

Of course, it doesn’t always repeat in the same place. But the advancement of communication technology now allows us to see what has happened – and indeed IS happening, AS it happens – across the globe, so you would think our new global awareness would lessen the chances of bad aspects of history repeating.

But it doesn’t.

Over summer, Mrs in Frame and I spent several evenings watching a quite remarkable documentary series on the history of New York City. From its discovery and settlement, through to the 2001 terrorist attacks it covered wondrous highs, terrible lows, heroes, villains, and all the flotsam and jetsam that make up what has become one of the greatest cities in the world.

Throughout the series – 17 ½ hours viewing in total – I kept having a form of Deja-vu – that I had seen or been through all this before. I had – just not in New York City, but here in New Zealand and in Napier.

Because at the same time as we were watching this HISTORICAL series similar scenarios were being played out daily in out papers, news programmes and online.

Of particular current topical interest in the documentary was New York’s development in the early to mid-1800’s

Immigration was a massive issue as millions of Europeans flooded into New York City seeking a new life in the “New World” of America. They were not always welcome and faced injustice, persecution, racism and were often forced to live in terrible conditions.

It wasn’t until the turn of the 20th century that Emma Lazarus’ “The New Colossus” (“Give me your tired, your poor, Your huddled masses..”) was inscribed upon the base of the Statue of Liberty that stood as a beacon of hope and a slightly warmer welcome to those entering New York Harbour.

210 years later and little has changed.

Racism is still prevalent across the globe and here in New Zealand we still face the same problems New York faced two centuries ago.

Debates over refugee quotas and boat loads of poor foreigners seeking asylum and a new, better life in our own country feature in the news often. As do attacks on working immigrants and claim Auckland’s appalling house prices are the result of foreigners, apparently, buying them all.

From the mid-1800’s until the turn of the century, the gap between New York’s rich and poor exploded as industrialist “Robber Barons” made millions, while those working for them on the lowest levels struggled to make ends meet.

Corruption became rife, especially at government levels, where graft, cronyism and all sorts of un-sporting political and social nastiness exacerbated the plight of those with the least, while feathering the nests of those with the most.

In New Zealand today the wealth gap continues to exist and indeed grow – making us one of the least equal countries in the western world. This not only harms our economy, but also social structure.

And while it may not seem as obviously prevalent as back then, skulduggery amongst those in power certainly still seems to exist, while the poor public pay for their power struggles and multi-million dollar follies.

Jump forward 50-plus years and New York is almost unrecognisable post-World War Two. The city had literally and figuratively reached for the sky. The city’s landscape goes vertical with the development of skyscrapers, while new bridges, tunnels and a new-fangled invention called the “highway” cross the city and open up between Manhattan Island and the surrounding mainland.

The point of these highways was to ease congestion on New York’s city streets, but all it did was encourage more people to buy and use cars, further clogging an already jam-packed system.

That certainly sounds very familiar to present day Auckland traffic congestion and our government’s rather short-sighted transport policy, doesn’t it?

Leading the charge on most of New York’s civil projects was city planner Robert Moses. While many of his early works were lauded and welcomed, he started to lose favour with the city’s citizens when he started ploughing great swathes – usually through the heart of poorer urban neighbourhoods for more of his expressways. But because he was not an elected official, the public could do essentially nothing to unseat him.

Don’t you think that sounds similar to the creation and project management of a grand, artistic Napier edifice in recent years?

Around the 1940’s and 50’s housing New York’s poor – especially those uprooted from neighbourhoods demolished for highways and other features – became a pressing issue. While local and national governments assisted with the creation of “Projects” – they also attempted to encourage the private sector to construct affordable homes. This was not always successful and New York real estate prices reached staggeringly high levels – “affordability” suddenly becoming “utterly unobtainable”.

Today in New Zealand “affordable housing” – especially in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch is becoming a thing of the past with prices reaching up to and beyond New York levels.

And while in New York they BUILT housing for the poor, in New Zealand, our government SELLS OFF EXISTING STATE HOUSING TO PRIVATE DEVELOPERS!

When will the madness end?

When will we learn?

When will history stop repeating?

We deserve much better than to go through this all over again!

Palmed Off and Blocked Off on Prebensen Drive

Prebensen Drive's Phoenix palms - gone, but not forgotten!

Prebensen Drive’s Phoenix palms – gone, but not forgotten!

They say “The road to hell is paved with good intentions”.

Well, in Napier’s case, the road to the port is paved with tree stumps and dodgy intersections.

A couple of months ago Napier City Council started a project 11 years in the making – the widening of Prebensen Drive from two lanes into four.

The intention is to ease congestion and hasten the trip of heavy vehicles to and from Napier’s Onekawa and Ahuriri industrial areas as well as the Port of Napier.

Built in 1990, Prebensen Drive (also known as “Tamatea Drive”) was created to help decongest Taradale Road and speed up the transit between central Napier and the suburb of Tamatea (hence the moniker). An extension linking it to Greenmeadows and Taradale came later on in 2005.

One of the first features added to Prebensen Drive was a line of Phoenix palm trees planted on either side of the road to give it a natural look not too dissimilar to Kennedy Road’s famous date palms and Marine Parades Norfolk Pines. From looking like tiny little pineapples, the Phoenix palms grew into big, wide, beautiful palm trees. Until earlier this year.

On a trip down the road, I noticed a few of the palms were missing, with the sawn-off remnants of other trees lying nearby. It wasn’t a good look and it even got some media attention, with international business visitors saddened by the destruction.

Napier City Council claimed they had tried to sell of, or move the palms, but there had been no takers and the palms had grown too big to economically re-plant elsewhere.

But it did raise the question – if four-laning Prebensen Drive had been in the works for at least 11 years (it’s not unreasonable to consider it was part of the larger plan upon creation of the road) could a solution, other than destruction of these majestic trees been incorporated earlier?

Despite lots of focus and advertising recently being put behind the constant creation and adjustments of council “Long Term Plans” the answer is evidently not.

But within the last few weeks the planning and traffic flow adjustments of Prebensen Drive and its’ surrounding industrial areas just got even stranger:

Some time ago, soon after Mitre 10 Mega moved onto its Prebensen Drive site, a roundabout was put outside the store on the corner with Ahuriri’s Severn Street.

For a time it appeared half the roundabout was there for the sole purpose of allowing easy access for Hawke’s Bay’s handy-men and women to the region’s largest hardware store. But other plans were afoot.

Ford Road, a minor side-street in the Onekawa industrial area was being extended over the creek that used to border it and past Mitre 10 Mega to join up with Prebensen Drive. This new extension opened only a few weeks ago.

But with the opening up of Ford Road, traffic flow into the Onekawa Industrial area via Austin Street – its main thoroughfare and entry / exit point was halted.

Where Austin Street used to have right-of-way from Taradale Road at one end all the way through to Prebensen Drive at the other, it suddenly had a stop sign planted at the Ford Road intersection, mere meters from the Taradale Road egress point.

While extensively publicised and signs on the road indicating the upcoming change for several months, it has been hard to break the traffic habit of decades and incidents at the new stop sign’s intersection have apparently been numerous.

But the news gets worse for Austin Street – From May 12th, due to the four-laning of Prebensen Drive, access into Austin Street from Prebensen Drive will cease permanently – essentially making Austin Street Napier’s biggest, busiest, most industrious cul-de-sac!

To enter the Onekawa Industrial area you will need to use the new Ford Road extension / Mitre 10 roundabout.

Once construction of the additional lanes on Prebensen Drive is complete, restoration of one-way, EXIT ONLY traffic from Austin Street onto Prebensen Drive (a tricky intersection at the best of times) is being considered.

But that doesn’t address a major issue this corner faces. Getting onto Prebensen Drive and heading towards Tamatea / Taradale at this intersection, particularly during morning and evening rush-hours accompanied with the rising / setting sun makes vision particularly difficult – especially with more heavy traffic set to thunder down the road at right-angles to merging traffic.

Ultimately the question for this whole project is:

“Is it necessary”?

“Does Prebensen Drive REALLY need to be four lanes?”

The prime focus of this expansion is to accommodate more heavy trucks and keep them off suburban roads and, of course, off Marine Parade.

But, while often busy, I must say I have never seen Prebensen Drive jam-packed with traffic (except when a particularly long train passes the level crossing at its central Napier.

We are a regional area, largely ignored by national economic development and internal immigration. So our suburban traffic along Prebensen Drive will likely never get to the levels of Auckland or Wellington rush-hour congestion.

And, to be honest, can Hawke’s Bay drivers really handle a four-laned road?

Many Hawke’s Bay auto pilots can’t even seem to fathom a two-lane roundabout without cutting across lanes, cutting other vehicles off, not indicating, or simply running into other vehicles? Is a four-lane road leading into a roundabout with four lanes just a few lanes too many?

I can’t help but think that, once again, there are bigger problems at play here which won’t be cured with the expensive, complicated projects that have been set in motion.

Napier, its road users, industries and palm trees deserve better!