Tuesday, January 24, 2006


Huge saving on these peaches at Foodtown, Lynnmall.

By Ana Samways

Notice outside the Mokoia Rd Dental Centre in Birkenhead: "We cater well for cowards" ... which is good to know.

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A post on the Trade Me community boards has a warning for nose-pickers on the move (you know who you are): "I was happily driving down the road picking my nose the other day, when I saw a police car. I quickly checked the speedo, as you do, to see that all was within legal limits, and carried on assured that I was not a law-breaker. To my surprise, in the rear-vision mirror I see a re-run of Starsky and Hutch as the police car with lights flashing tries to run me off the road. After coming to a halt, the officer asks me for my licence and asks why I was trying to conceal my identity by covering my face when he approached. I explained with embarrassment that I was merely picking a big bogey out of my nose. He said that he should ticket me for not being in full control of the vehicle while driving, but let me off with a warning and drove off."

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Neville C. Guy is relieved to read about a re-branding of Lion Red away from the red-blooded image. He writes: "I consider myself a mature, normally very sober Auckland businessman whose beer of choice for many years has been Lion Red. When in company recently I've had to resort to quietly pouring the beer from the can into a glass, or ensuring that my hand covers the label if I have a bottle. I can't put the cardboard packaging out with the paper recycling in case a neighbour sees it, and have tried burning it or slipping it into the neighbour's recycling late a night. I always make sure the 12-pack is my first purchase at the supermarket so I can bury it under other stuff. So bring on the new image."

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During the 1980s, senior British Government officials spent quite a bit of time debating how best to protect the Loch Ness Monster from poachers, according to recently released memos. "Unfortunately, Nessie is not a salmon and would not appear to qualify as a freshwater fish under the Salmon and Fisheries Protection (Scotland) Act 1951," wrote an official with the Department of Agriculture and Fisheries. Officials ultimately determined that Nessie is protected under the 1981 Wildlife and Countryside Act and would not require special legislation. (Source: Reason.com)

Editorial: Safeguard against injustice

Innocent until proven guilty, beyond reasonable doubt and "it is better that 10 guilty persons escape than one innocent suffer" are all well-known legal aphorisms that make the same fundamental point. The system should do everything in its power to get it right and, if anything, the benefit of the doubt should go to the accused.

Despite a handful of public controversies over miscarriages of justice, the general verdict on the legal system in New Zealand has always been that it works pretty well. However, a detailed investigation by retired High Court judge Sir Thomas Thorp, which was reported in the Weekend Herald, gives reason to question whether this attitude might be a little too complacent for comfort. Sir Thomas points out that the number of people complaining about miscarriages in the past decade has increased from two or three a year to 10 or more, and he estimates that as many as 20 people could be wrongly held behind bars.

When this estimate is measured against the prison muster - which at times reaches 7000 - it may seem insignificant. And yet there is real cause for disquiet. Sir Thomas compared the New Zealand experience with systems overseas and studied 53 claims of miscarriage in this country between 1995 and 2000. Of these, 16 per cent had no merit but he considered the rest had potential to investigate or clearly required investigation.

Adding to the sense of disquiet is that few of those who lodged complaints were Maori or Pacific Islanders, even though these people comprised 60 per cent of the prison population at the time of the study. It would seem that for every prisoner protesting innocence who captures the headlines, there are many who go quietly for a number of reasons, including, in the case of Polynesians, a lack of confidence in the system.

The solution, according to Sir Thomas, is to follow the English and Scottish examples and set up an independent authority to identify miscarriages of justice and to actively notify prisoners of their rights. Critics will question whether such a body would be taking over some of the functions of the Court of Appeal but its role would be different. Sir Thomas argues that in New Zealand, as in Britain, the Court of Appeal is unsuited and reluctant to engage in the investigation and resolution of factual controversy. He points out that during the Ellis appeals the court, on more than one occasion, said the issues that Peter Ellis wanted to address were more suitable to be heard by a commission of inquiry.

If it is impossible for the appeal courts to deal with such issues, then having a separate authority to investigate may be the best solution. At least it would have the virtue of addressing claims of miscarriage systematically and everyone would get a fair hearing.

A second criticism is likely to be that the process will just encourage more unsustainable claims of innocence, as it did when introduced in Britain. No doubt this is right, but Sir Thomas has anticipated the argument by pointing out that the British experience also exposed a rising number of unsafe convictions.

Sir Thomas' report gives good grounds to believe that miscarriages in New Zealand are much more common that most people supposed, even though they are still a minute proportion of convictions. His solution is worthy of serious consideration if the system is to achieve its goal of getting it right beyond reasonable doubt.

Peter Nowak: Gather round, kids, for a tale from Brother Grim

Once upon a time in the kingdom of Middle Narnia, there lived a humble man named Tom*.

He was a lowly serf in service to the Queen, working on an orchard growing plums for her subjects.

There wasn't anything special about Tom's plums, but he was the only one allowed to grow them. They soon became a necessary part of every peasant's meals, for Middle Narnia was a very isolated kingdom indeed and the people were tired of mutton.

For breakfast, they ate plum tarts, and for lunch it was plum pie, and for dinner, plum cake. The people were happy, and had good eyesight and high levels of iron.

It wasn't long before Tom's plums were noticed elsewhere. A group of nobles in the distant kingdom of Yankerania thought there was a future in plums, so they bought Tom's freedom - and a large stake in his business - from the Queen with many gold florins.

Tom was free and quickly grew rich from his plums, for he was still the only one allowed to grow them, and he repaid the nobles their florins many times over. Everyone was happy.

But Tom grew suspicious. He suspected other farmers would try to steal his plums, and perhaps sell them for less or somehow improve their flavour and juicyness. So he built a wall round his orchard so that no one could get at them.

Tom also noticed that farmers in neighbouring kingdoms were earning many florins from selling prunes.

"Alack! What an easy task," cried Tom, so he set upon drying his plums.

The Queen's subjects gobbled up the prunes, for they were smaller and more portable than plums, and even agreed to pay whatever Tom wanted for them. Tom grew even more rich, and the people were regular and had high levels of beta-carotene.

But again, Tom's prunes were noticed elsewhere. This time, the nobles in the faraway kingdom of Great Pommyland decided they could also make many florins from prunes in Middle Narnia. So they sent a man called Harry the Red to the kingdom with a boatful of them.

Harry spoke funny and wasn't very good at rugby, but the people were happy to see him because they thought he would sell his prunes for less than Tom. Tom was very worried.

But it didn't turn out that way. Harry's prunes were just as expensive as Tom's, and he became just as rich. He even built a wall round his own orchard.

Tom relaxed, and sometimes even had Harry over to feast and make merry, tippling tankards of mead all night. Drunkenly, they would laugh and talk about how they would keep other prune-growers away.

Tom began to grow fat and mean and ugly. He grew ever more suspicious and built the wall round his orchard higher and higher. Some of the peasants feared he was turning into an ogre.

Tom began growing nectarines, and the people loved them. They ate nectarine tarts, pies and cakes, and had good levels of vitamin A.

He also started growing peaches, which are bigger and juicier than nectarines, but the people didn't want them because they were too expensive and not quite juicy enough.

Some growers petitioned the Queen, saying they could sell the peaches for fewer florins, and so provide the people with better dietary fibre. All she had to do was order Tom to tear down his wall so they could bring their carts into his orchard.

The Queen agreed, but changed her mind after Tom sent her a secret parchment that said:

"Lo, your fair Highness - if thou offereth myne goods to myne competitors, I shall hath no choice but to stoppeth the growing of the fruit altogether. Plus, the nobles of Yankerania shall be quite cross with thee."

Tom tried many tricks to get the people to eat the fruit, but they weren't interested. All they wanted was the peaches to be juicier and cost fewer florins, but Tom would not hear of it. He was convinced they didn't want peaches because they were so happy with nectarines.

The Queen finally became frustrated with Tom - it was shameful, after all, that peasants in every other kingdom were enjoying peaches by the bushel.

So she sent dashing and baby-faced knight Sir Lanceliffe to knock down Tom's wall. Tom fought and fought, but Lanceliffe was determined and succeeded in destroying the wall.

The other growers rejoiced and brought their carts in. Before long, the land was full of cheap and juicy peaches and the people forgot all about plums and nectarines.

Tom had no new ideas, so the Yankerania nobles deserted him in favour of smarter growers. Tom was an ogre after all, and ogres aren't known for their creativity.

The peasants, relieved that they no longer had to buy fruit from an ogre, also deserted him.

Tom still had his prunes, because they were just too tasty for the people to give up, but the Queen wanted those for fewer florins as well.

In the end, Tom retreated to a damp and dark cave, where he spent his remaining days cold and alone.

The moral of this story, gentle reader, is that if you build a wall round your plums, someone is eventually going to kick you in them.

* Tom could be construed as an allegory for a large corporation, perhaps in the business of selling telecommunications.

Jim Eagles: Take this year in your stride

Don't just sit there worrying about the flab you put on over Christmas and feeling guilty about watching DVDs on a glorious sunny day. Put on your walking shoes, get outside and see this beautiful country.

And don't try the old excuse that you don't know where to go or what to do. An amazing array of publications advises on tracks to walk, sights to see, activities to enjoy, places to camp, and easy food to cook while you're on holiday.

Hidden Trails: Private walking tracks in New Zealand
By Wally Hirsch
New Holland, $24.95

One of the great developments in recent years is the boom in private walking tracks.

These are tracks, mostly on private land, where you pay to walk the route and use the accommodation, and usually have the option of extra services such as meals and having your pack transported.

No doubt some may dislike the idea of private tracks but notable conservationists like Fergus Sutherland, who has developed a range of walking options in the Catlins, see it as a way of giving landowners a financial incentive to preserve bush and landscapes, as well as opening up special places to outsiders.

I have walked a couple of these tracks and thought they were well worth the money, plus it was great to see the effort farmers were putting into preserving the landscape, fencing off bush, planting trees and maintaining the tracks.

Hirsch has enjoyed 21 of these wonderful walks and his book provides mouthwatering descriptions of the places they take you, as well as practical information on cost, location and how to get in touch.

Walking Auckland
By Helen Vause
New Holland, $24.99

There's no need to head for the mountains to enjoy a good walk. There's plenty of great walking opportunities can be had in the cities as well as beautiful seascapes, lovely gardens, majestic volcanic cones and historic sites.

This book, part of a series which also includes walks around Wellington and Christchurch, outlines 25 interesting walks around some of the most interesting parts of the Queen City.

Vause suggests a good range of routes - from yuppie-watching at the Viaduct Harbour to bird watching at Glendowie Spit - plus useful hints on how to get there and what to take.

If anything, it would be nice to see a bit more information, for instance, her walk around Devonport would be even more interesting if it identified the houses where notable authors and poets have lived, but you can get that from North Shore City's leaflet on literary walks.

Walking the Hauraki Gulf
By Sue Hall
Walking the Waitakere Ranges
By Alison Dench and Lee-Anne Parore
New Holland, $24.99

One of the great joys of living in Auckland is the easy access to the forested hills of the Waitakere Ranges on the west coast, and the marvellous coastline of the Hauraki Gulf on the east.

If you haven't yet discovered the joys of the Waitakeres, with their wonderful mix of bush and beaches, creeks and waterfalls, lakes and dams, then Dench and Parore's book is a great starting point.

Similarly, if you know all about the waters of the gulf, but haven't experienced the equal beauty of the land around its shores - the spectacular climb up Rangitoto, for instance, or the fascinating mix of nature, history and views in Tapapakanga Regional Park - then Hall's background information will make them even more pleasurable.

Day Walks of Taranaki; Day Walks of Wanganui, Manawatu & Horowhenua; Day Walks of Gisborne, Eastland & Waikaremoana; Day Walks of Hawkes Bay
All by Marios Gavalas
Day Walks of Central Otago & the Queenstown Lakes District
By Peter Dymock
Reed Outdoors, $19.99

These are great books for people who enjoy a good walk but aren't into serious hiking or overnight camping.

These are a part of a series that covers the country, so next time you are on holiday in Napier, or Gisborne or Hawera, if you take one of these along you'll be sure to find some interesting places to stretch the legs.

I was a bit disappointed with the maps which show where the walks start but not the route followed. But they do all have good information about where to find them, how long they'll take, degree of difficulty, what you'll see and lots of great background material about history, wildlife and forest type.

A Visitor's Guide to New Zealand National Parks
By Kathy Ombler
New Holland, $29.99

Our network of 14 national parks are among the country's greatest treasures, yet they're more likely to be appreciated by tourists than locals.

How many Kiwis, for instance, have done the Tongariro Crossing, surely one of the world's most spectacular one-day walks, or the glorious Abel Tasman Track, with its mix of peaceful bush and golden beaches?

Ombler has provided a useful introduction to the parks but I was a little disappointed at the lack of detailed information and the small scale of the maps.

Flicking through the pages is bound to give you an appetite to see these treasures for yourself but I suspect you will need something more detailed if you want to complete one of the walks.

Blue Sky Kitchen: Creative cookery for kiwi campers
By Nicola Saker
New Holland, $19.99

Many years ago I did a week-long hike where pretty well every night dinner consisted of tinned corned beef, freeze-dried peas and mashed potato powder. Thank goodness we have moved beyond that.

This little book offers some delicious recipes that can be produced with relatively little equipment, the sort of ingredients you'll either find - fish, tuatua, mussels, sea lettuce (yes, really!) - or that are easy to take with you - corn, cheese, salami, zucchini, flour - and which don't need a lot of work.

Some are fairly basic but there's several that look very interesting which I'll try out myself this summer ... especially the sea lettuce fritters.

Sights, Sites and Sunday Drives: Images of West Franklin
By Helen Danes and Jim Reardon
Waiuku Information Office, $19.95

Most Aucklanders, at least, will have seen the southern head of the Manukau Harbour but how many have been there? How many, for that matter, will have taken the opportunity to explore the rich history, landscape and industry of the area.

Helen Danes and Jim Reardon, who live in Waiuku, have produced a delightful guide to some of the highlights, including windswept Manukau Heads, beautiful Awhitu Regional Park, surf-lashed Karioitahi Beach, the marvellous Glenbrook Vintage Railway and the venerable settlement of Waiuku itself.

The book would have benefited from a better map, and I wouldn't have minded a few itineraries for a Sunday drive, but it's still a fine guide to an area which is worthy of greater attention than it gets.

New Zealand Encounter: Outdoor activities directory; Exploring New Zealand: Routeplanners for Auckland & Northland, Central & Eastern North Island, Lower North Island, Top & Central South Island, Southern South Island; Holiday Parks and Campgrounds
All published by Jasons, free.

Jasons' free maps, guides and directories are getting increasingly sophisticated and useful.

The outdoor activities directory provides a remarkably full list of things to do - ranging from horseriding and diving to kayaking and bungy jumping - and the contact details of hundreds of operators.

The little pocket route planner maps are a good resource for finding your way around when visiting an unfamiliar part of the country.

And the directory of holiday parks and campgrounds is probably the most complete list available of places to pitch your tent, hook up your caravan or unroll your sleeping bag.

The Best of Tauranga
By Grant Dyson
Sarah Bennett Publishing, $24.99.

Veteran journalist Grant Dyson returned home after touring Europe with the aid of guidebooks and decided someone should do something similar for his home patch.

The result is a pocket-sized book jam-packed with information about Tauranga, Mt Maunganui, Katikati and Te Puke.

I lived in Tauranga for a few years, and I still visit regularly, but I wasn't able to find anything missing, though I do think it could usefully go a little further into the countryside. And the maps are quite useful.

Denis Edwards: Laughter the best drawcard

Terence, a Roman playwright, once suffered the humiliation of being the only person at his play's opening night. A devastated Terence found he was abandoned for the gladiator contests and bear-baiting.

It was an early example of the dominance of sport over theatre. The struggle continues.

In New Zealand the contest between sport and theatre is clear-cut: Daniel Carter and Daniel Vettori v Romeo and Hamlet, or in retailing terms, The Warehouse against Smith and Caughey's.

While theatre administrators must sweat on attracting a nod in Creative New Zealand's annual funding round, sports administrators glow in the Beehive's love - generous funding for rugby and the America's Cup.

It is not all gloom for theatre. It has its successes - galvanising the ethnic market, particularly the Polynesian and Indian communities, and capturing the loyalty of enormously influential middle and upper-middle class 40-plus females.

However, faced with a steamrolling sports industry, these are but brave flowers in a desert's rocky soil.

Yet sports and theatre could be more equal, given each delivers more or less the same product: a collective experience requiring wit, intelligence, physical skill and showmanship.

Both have intensity, emotion and conflict in a relatively small space. Both have prospered by presenting young men in the best possible light, with theatre willing to go a fraction further.

The casts of Ladies Night andForeskin's Lament baring, among other things, their souls was much appreciated by that largely female audience.

Both sport and theatre are accessible to anyone wanting to try them, which sometimes regrettably they do.

Sport manages its lesser talents rather better, easing them on to the back courts and distant fields, safe from the sensitive eyes of the purist and connoisseur and well away from anyone being asked to pay to watch.

Theatre has had its moments of being close to the centre of leisure. Shakespeare pulled a cross-section of the population, including the workers, into the Globe, although the actors didn't always appreciate their reviews - hurled eggs and tomatoes.

Shakespeare competed with other entertainment options, some of them extraordinarily popular, including public executions.

Some time in the early 20th century, during George Bernard Shaw's reign, theatre was colonised by the intelligentsia, who decided it was too good and too powerful for the uncomprehending masses. It became about, rather than for, the common man.

The common man took the hint, shrugged and wandered off back to sports, although there had never been a real break.

But no one should call the undertakers for live theatre just yet. A recent study discovered the most compelling reason for people to head for the theatre was the opportunity to laugh.

Comedy is what's wanted, something sport does not do particularly well. Theatre can be brilliant at it, and there is a big audience for it - take the one-liner studded plays of Roger Hall and David Williamson, Alan Ayckbourn's comedy of awkwardness and manners, the hard blackness of Tom Scott's The Daylight Atheist.

Setting up a comedy-only theatre, as distinct from stand-up comedy, might not be a laughing matter.

It worked for Terence. He became a comedy writer and spent his years basking in comfortingly packed houses.

* Denis Edwards is a novelist, playwright and past president of the New Zealand Writers Guild.