Surf Nazis in the Naki

Somehow you just don’t expect those spiritual swell searchers – the average modern surfer - to be such macho territorial dickheads. It just doesn’t seem to go with all that hemp and natural food. You’d expect more love and equality a little respect even: a deeply shared masochistic passion for a stretch of water that can either take you for a very good ride or give you the thrashing of your life. Not so. I guess the ocean is a little hard to go around marking territory by peeing on your turf but the Coastal Boardriders of Taranaki have gone and given it a bloody good go. The Association of Surfing Professionals Top women surfers are competing in Taranaki this week – home town to one of New Zealand’s most promising young female surfers Paige Hareb. It must be fairly embarrassing to invite the top international professionals in your field back to your place to compete and then have your guests called ‘rapists’ by the boys back home. My heart would go out to Paige if I weren’t already convinced that somewhere in her recent history she’d outclassed some of the perturbed protestors in the water and that they might still be smarting. Worried about their surf break becoming popular on the international circuit and thereby losing some of its exclusivity, some surf Nazis have gone about sabotaging billboards and pouring chemicals on the grass in a very eco unfriendly attempt at drawing attention to the possible damage to the environment that could be caused by Taranaki becoming an international surf mecca. I guess logic is not a surfer’s strong point. I find it interesting though that it’s the women’s international competition that has caused such a reaction. I don’t recall any Raglan surfers getting upset when Ben Harper and Jack Johnson started surfing at their local beach, even reportedly buying land there - and I’m wondering if it was perhaps that they are just intrinsically cool - or because they had willies. Hard to say. If the surf punks were really worried about the possible environmental degradation that could potentially happen then surely they should be taking their concerns over infrastructure and the provision of adequate toilets etc to the council rather than taking it out on the girls and threatening to wreck the show. They should also have been protesting about events like Womad too – but I bet they weren’t.

It’s not like the girls, as professional athletes, really get a decent bite at the big apples of advertising deals and sponsorship like the blokes do. Except that is, in the glamour sports like surfing. Surfing is one of those areas in which young kiwi women could do really well internationally but we have traditionally lacked the role models and scaffolding of world class events where young athletes get to see the pros doing their stuff and become inspired. Lets face it – it’s pretty hard to be a professional woman athlete in New Zealand. Become an All Black – get paid millions – become a Silver Fern, hold on to your retainer of 12K collect 50K if you’re really special and go and get a part time job. Susan Devoy had to win 4 World Opens and they were only held biannually. Then she went and took out 8 British Opens and only then did she get the backing of a vitamin company. I didn’t see Susan carousing with taxi boys or madly texting Texan strippers and Nike still didn’t come calling. How many world cups did Daniel Carter bring home before that undie company was after him? You don’t even have to be pretty like Danny. That French rugby player who looks like the 4th figure on those high school evolutionary theory charts that go from fish to man in 7 easy steps – has managed to score himself a pretty tight deal with Rebel Sports for his shaggy style.

Surfing is one area where for women the sport and the big money combine. All I’m saying to the surf Nazis in the ‘naki is this : loosen the board shorts and live a little. Let the girls have a go.

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We are gathered here to question...

We are gathered here today for the inaugural assembly for those who have been legally mugged, however lovingly and professionally, by a lawyer. Put your hands up those of you for whom this is a first meeting – having formerly been too shy, disaffected or confused to question the legal beagle’s billing system. Yes – quite a few singed fingers out there – goodness sir! Those look like third degree burns – I’d get those looked at if I were you. Now if you are a recipient of legal aid – then I’m afraid this meeting is not for you – we pick up your tabs one way or another as tax-payers and in most cases we’re all quite happy with that – although that may have to be looked at given the last few months of merry madness with the invoice slips by Chris Chomesky. But then Chris’s own lawyer said that everyone was doing it so he was hardly defending the moral high ground for his colleagues. The allegation that many lawyers were rorting the system upset the Lawyers’ Disciplinary Tribunal too – having suspended Mr. Chomesky they noted that his aspersions were ‘unsavoury’. I thought it interesting that they didn’t say that they were also incorrect. Still, we’re here to share your stories on the garden variety excesses you’ve experienced from the legal profession. Now I think it’s important to note right here that there are two lawyers whose advice I seek because they have a strong ethical base and are basically really good people. Having said that I’ve probably crossed about 10 lawyers in my life and so it is therefore safe to say based on extremely unscientific reasoning that it is only 80% of the profession that are giving the rest a bad name. Even Warren Brookbanks, a professor of Law at Auckland University said recently; “These days the law is seen more as a business, where the bottom line is that the firm should make a profit and operate as a business and with business ethics.” Now there’s an oxymoron - but what a business! I think what Warren was trying to say was that nowadays that the ranks of those practising law are less likely to be filled with seekers of social justice and far more likely to be occupied by greedy little hustlers but I could have got that wrong – sometimes it’s so hard to understand lawyers. Right. I think it’s only fair that I share first: Recently I got a bill for $1300 from a law firm for a very standard agreement. I had anticipated it would cost less than half of that so naturally I questioned it. “Does this invoice include the cocaine and dancing girls?” I asked. There was laughter. Then silence. ‘No. No cocaine or dancing girls.’ Mmm “Then can you break it down for me?” “I have. There was $10 for photocopying and $1300 for other stuff.” I see I said wincing. “So how much do you charge an hour?” “$350.00” he said. I gasped. ‘Is there a problem?’ he said. ‘No – no problem” I said, but thought privately: It’s just that no one has had me by my short and girlies in such a vice-like grip nor thrown me over a barrel quite so unapologetically in a while – this was just like being back in South America – just without the charm or good looks. I was scared to go and see him – what would a handshake cost? Without paying there was no paperwork –without the paperwork I could lose thousands. So I paid up. But the thing is, I actually do know a lawyer who charges $350 an hour and earns every bit of it. Apart from the flash office in Auckland and the high maintenance secretaries with the even higher skirts, he works for an oil company and does lightning fast legal footwork that’d make the Riverdance company look leaden footed. The risks and skill are huge. But a standard agreement? In Whangarei? Really? So hands up all you nurses, forestry workers and farmers - while you’re waiting to share your stories of your experiences of the legal profession – work out how long it takes you to earn $350 and see if you think that the excuse ‘everyone is doing it’ is not just a little bit rich?

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You are not in Waimoana now Dr. Ropata

“Why don’t you come and live up here in Whangarei?” I said. “It’s a great little town – out of the rat-race but close enough to a big city – great beaches and huge helpings of nature – plenty of sea-food – it’s really a great place to live.” I stopped myself as I had started to sound like the Grey Lynn type ‘morena ’ spouting folk of Waimoana – in the new series ‘This is not My Life’. I was freaking myself out. Any moment now I might remove a tracking device from my carefully coiffed hairpiece and attach it to him. “Why then is Whangarei so badly planned, so ugly it could make Soviet Kazakhstan look cherry and, well (he wasn’t pulling any punches now) such a hole?” I was devastated. “But it’s not – the people are amazing… it has a great heart… there are beautiful rock formations…” I stammered but I was no longer making sense even to myself. I stared at him in baleful disbelief – he’d ripped off my taped on rose coloured glasses and stomped all over them. “The people might have great hearts,” he sallied on, ‘but the town just doesn’t.” Which was why, he and his partner had set their sights on Taranaki. Great coastal walkways – the town made sense from a design perspective and therefore worked in terms of sufficient population density and cohesion to allow all the great networking to take place that eventually makes a place hum – which in turn creates great job and business opportunities. Until now I hadn’t known how deep and fascinating the science of town planning and urban design actually is and how little I know about it. I also hadn’t realised, being an ‘outsider’ how much I actually love this town in the same way that you love a dear but slightly deranged relative and can see all their faults in the privacy of your own home but will defend their honour to the death if anyone else points them out. If I was going to be brutally honest however I had to admit he had a point. I also felt the need to point out that Taranaki didn’t get a fantastic Coastal walkway or great international events or even fabulous botanical gardens by accident. It was only a few decades ago that New Plymouth was the last place anyone went for a holiday and was known more for its incessant freezing rain and gumboots than for its scintillating cultural activities which now draw thousands to the region who then end up staying longer and enjoying all the natural attractions once they get there. Taranaki’s fabulosity was planned. There was a vision for it and subsequent Mayors and councils have acted on that vision to bring it to fruition. In contrast the North has suffered from the cowboy frontier syndrome experienced in places like Townsville and Florida where there has been development by default. Councils – rather than steadily paddling their own waka towards some pre-agreed destination, have been given 5 different outboard motors by a handful of property developers and the result has been a lot of smoke and noise and a decidedly random route where the crew seem intent on abandoning ship and the rest of the rate-payers who end up subsidising the ride, finish feeling fleeced and seasick. Such things as coastal and wetland protection – sources of great potential tourist income if they are managed well, end up washed up and abandoned on some sandbank along with all the other cultural and artistic attractions that are of no immediate or inherent use to big, quick turnaround property developers. Whangarei rate-payers have public land that could be used for great community initiatives that would make the North an even better place to live rather than the short sighted use of flicking them off to balance the ledger a little. We have one job to do this week and that is: Vote. Vote now. Vote for someone who is going to have a great vision for your part of Northland. Oh. And if someone could take a crow bar to the outboard motors on the back so that the elected navigator can have a go for once, I’ll shout them a round at the pub.

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Fathers Day

If being a bloke can be tricky in the new millennium – then being a Dad at times must feel like mission impossible. Before I get angry emails from women who are juggling 2 jobs, teleporting themselves between ballet and soccer and still manage to make something vaguely edible in 20 minutes – I have a hunch that on Sunday morning in Canterbury the bloke in the house would still have been the one who was handed the shovel. I know it’s sexist and someone doing a PHD in post feminist studies at Vic will say I’m part of some 50’s retro backlash but being a Dad in 2010 requires skills which I suspect might extend our evolutionary pace. Blokes have to be ‘positive male role models’ to their kids but once you’ve taken away the heavy drinking and rugby, standard positive role modelling only a few generations ago - most blokes are not too keen to play dress ups or tiddly winks with their offspring. In my father’s case – this left him with water activities. In some warped homophobic bid to prevent any ‘gayness’ in my brother – some of Dad’s fishing trips took on an epic scale of ‘70’s machismo in which I, being a girl, was always an unwitting tag along. The time that Dad thought it necessary for my brother, age 8, to water-ski over the Matarangi Bar – a harbour opening which has lost countless hobby boats and 2 commercial fishing vessels was a case in point. To begin his run at the channel with the words yelled over a screaming engine; ‘Don’t fall in! I can’t come back and get you’, was particularly harsh rather than character building as it was also the summer that the movie ‘Jaws’ came out, yet Dad still recalls this as a special ‘quality time’ moment because it was really fun for him. Dads now – the ones that have stuck around and are doing their best to raise good kids, pay the mortgage, support their partner’s careers and find out what manscaping is, are also expected to make a Lego dinosaur before dinner and teach their kids all the names of the bones. Dads can now attend parenting courses to help their daughters gain confidence and be assertive in the world. My own Dad achieved the same result in a far less time consuming or expensive manner. As a teenager I babysat for a bloke down the road who was known as a bit of a hard man and when he refused to pay me I was too shy to insist but made the mistake of mentioning this to Dad. He thought it important I go and ask him again and learn how to negotiate pay in a reasonable and mature fashion. I screwed up the courage and went and asked for the money and was amazed that he gave me almost double what I was owed. So easy. “Astounding” said Dad nonchalantly when I told him the news. Over 20 years later, out fishing with Dad, and remembering how much confidence this one small success had given me I learnt that it was not due to my powerful negotiating technique but more to the fact that Dad had gone round to his house and threatened to give him a hiding the night before if he didn’t cough up. There was no ‘parenting style’ then it was all just raw instinct. These days Generation X Dads are expected to share a cappuccino with their teenage daughters and new boyfriends and rationally discuss their plans to move in together. In the good old days they could wait patiently until the boyfriend left the premises and then hunt him down on a back road. The conversation could then go as follows: “Hey You.” Ya? “Gotta job?” “Nope.” “Then bugger off.” So enviably easy. Bad and Mad Dads get a bit of a bumcrack rap in the press – but lets face it – being a good Dad in today’s world is a really tough job so Happy Belated Fathers Day all you great dads out there – especially if you’re in Canterbury and spent the day on the end of a shovel.

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Humpty Van

Whether it’s the Scottish gene or a latent eco-conscience – the fact remains that I find it difficult to throw things away. It could be inherited – as I watch the generation Yers off to the school ball in hired cars I remember my own entry into ‘society’ chaperoned by Dad driving something he had christened “ The Humpty Wagon’. An old ambulance, Dad had bolted half a fence post to the front on which he attached the license plate. Apparently the warrant of fitness technicians could find nothing in law to prevent him from doing this – a fact in which he revelled. It didn’t help that he had picked up 22 sheep the day before the ball at an auction and had transported the hapless victims in the Humpty and I was terrified I’d spend the evening emitting one of Dior’s lesser known fragrances; ‘eau de rouseabout’. A concession was made to my ball gown by placing a sheet on the solitary seat although he didn’t tell me that he had forgotten to rebolt it to the floor having removed it to fit in all the sheep. When I begged him to drop me off at the corner he chivalrously insisted on delivering me to the door where late model Mercs and Beamers stood to attention. Unfortunately the humpty had brake issues which involved a pumping action followed by a hand brake finish which resulted in all the doors flying open as we finally came to a halt right in front of the main entrance. “Automatic Airconditioning” said Dad looking pleased with himself. “Not many cars have that.” No argument there. It was a salutary lesson to my adolescent snobbishness and requisite shame that I was actually related to these people who insisted on calling themselves my family. Surely there had been a mix up at the hospital and I was in fact the offspring of some normal father who would throw away a broken down heap of rust and go and buy himself a new car. Conceptualising budget restraints isn’t a teenager’s strong point but I later grew to love the Humpty and it became a family source of pride in just how long Dad could keep it going for. The senselessness of throwing away perfectly good things is deeply ingrained which was why I was so affronted when told to throw both the TV and computer away last week. The mad Latin insists that being a kiwi technician or repair man is the easiest job in the world - Argentina being a developing nation people actually fix things there whereas here, you ring up a repair man and he charges you ninety bucks and tells you to chuck it in the rubbish. The mad Latin has fixed both a supposedly irreparable mobile phone and a washing machine after I had paid someone to tell me the only option was to buy a new one. In order to prevent the soccer obsessed one from roaming the streets of Whangarei and possibly breaking into pubs to watch football at 2am I have given in and got Sky TV. The technician came. He saw. He told me to throw my TV in the bin. Somewhere deep in my heart the Humpty Van rose up in resentful rebellion. Startled into action the techo made a call and fiddled with knobs and hey presto – our TV is magically working again and the picture is perfect. For some unfathomable reason this seemed to annoy him. When my broadband threw a hissy fit after a ‘cable switchover’ and has subsequently refused to work for the past month I was underwhelmed to be told that I would get a $24 credit for the joy of telling the technicians my birth date 400 times and for the sheer thrill of turning off my computer at least 260. The brilliant diagnosis? Chuck it. Despite the fact that everything else works perfectly. And just a thought: why do you need a password to get some help? So someone can secretly impersonate me and endlessly repeat the date I was sent into this world so that they too can share the joy of being told to throw a perfectly good computer in the bin? I don’t think so.

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