Tuesday, September 08, 2009

How much land?

The Hutt City Council is considering allowing some residential development in the eastern hills of Lower Hutt. The area is a classic example of gorse providing a nursery for regenerating native bush. At different times walking and jogging in these hills I have seen tui, kereru, bell birds, fantails, grey warblers, tomtits and a freshwater crayfish (the latter and I gave each other a fright one day when I was crossing a creek). The area is popular for walking and mountain biking.

Of course, people need somewhere to live, but I hope better alternatives are feasible. New Zealand's natural areas have been shrinking ever since humans came to this country; my view is they have shrunk further than is necessary and it is right to let them increase again. I sent a letter to the Hutt News a few weeks ago expressing my opposition to development in the eastern hills. The following week, there was an interesting response from another letter writer disagreeing and saying that those of us opposed to development can't have it both ways: we don't like it when cities and towns grow outwards but neither do we like to lose small green areas within cities. The additional claim was made that severe restrictions on development force up the cost of housing.

I agree there is some validity to those arguments but I think the incentives in our tax system to invest in property hold a greater proportion of the responsibility for rising house prices than restrictions on development do. And I believe there are alternatives to building on reserve land, including building upwards, which of course has its own problems of creating shadow and invading neighbours' privacy but can be appropriate in some situations, building smaller (saves time on housework too :) ), and building on superfluous farmland.

Saturday, August 01, 2009

Josiah is going to the Climbing World Youth Champs!

A rare double post; my apologies to anyone who reads both my blogs. Josiah is heading off as part of the NZ Youth Climbing Team to the Climbing World Youth Championship in Valence, France, in August. We are all very excited! We have set up a blog to enable friends and family to follow Josiah's journey.

Monday, June 01, 2009

"Working" Mothers

A recent comment on Nine to Noon riled me. I have sent this email in response although it is a bit belated as I didn't listen to the interview till some time after it was broadcast:

Dear Nine to Noon

It is depressing to hear full-time parenting still being spoken of as inferior to other forms of work in 2009. I am referring to Gill South's casual assertion that "... there's just no way that [NZ Herald Senior Journalist] Karen [Shearer] would ever not work. It would be a crying waste of her brains." (Nine-to-Noon, 14 May 2009) and presenter Lynn Freeman's acceptance of Gill's comment. Statements like these, allowed to pass unchallenged, perpetuate the myth that parenting is not intellectual work.

When my children were younger, I once calculated that I worked eighty hours a week parenting them. The challenges of parenting have required me to exert every ounce of my intelligence, to continually strive to remedy my character flaws, to cultivate new skills, and to study new fields of knowledge. I don't claim to be doing superior work to that of mothers in paid employment: I imagine the challenges of combining paid employment with parenting are similarly extensive. It is past time, however, that mothers in paid employment acknowledge full-time parents as their equals.

Friday, May 29, 2009

Good News

There are a lot of things I would like the Government to spend hundreds of millions of dollars on every year. Second-rate software is not one of them, so it was great to wake up to the news on Wednesday that the State Services Commission's negotiations with Microsoft over software license fees for the next three year period have failed. I'm hopeful government agencies will be motivated to switch to free software.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Presumption of Innocence

Guilt Upon Accusation

New Zealand's new Copyright Law presumes 'Guilt Upon Accusation' and will Cut Off Internet Connections without a trial. CreativeFreedom.org.nz is against this unjust law - help us

I will try to black out on 23 February in protest against Section 92 of the Copyright Amendment Act. I'm not absolutely confident I know how to, but I will have a go.

Those who want to can sign the petition.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

On Holiday at Home

I am really enjoying being on holiday at home. My days are very relaxed but they feel full too. When I wake up, I check my email and potter around doing a bit of housework. Every second morning I go for a run. The rest of my day is a combination of gardening, getting jobs done around the house, listening to Radio NZ National, and reading and writing.

Tessa and Josiah mostly do their own thing: reading, writing, playing, baking, climbing, computer activities. Tessa has attached the garden hose to a pole, creating a sort of outdoor shower to play under when it gets hot. Some hot days, we go to the beach or the river in the late afternoon for a swim. The kids don't seem to be showing signs of boredom yet; I guess they are recharging too.

This is how I always imagine holidays at home will be, but usually the kids end up with a stream of social engagements and the holidays turn out to be as busy as term time. It's lovely that hasn't happened this time.

Don't know how I will fit homeschooling in come February!

Monday, January 19, 2009

New Year's Resolutions

Ride the bikes more. I think the way to do this is to plan errands and shopping trips in advance rather than waiting till we run out of fruit or till the library books are due back and having to fit the errand into an already busy day.

Work in the garden regularly. Regularly enough to make it feasible to have a vegie garden and more fruit trees and vines. Currently, our garden is overrun by weeds but I have already made some progress since getting back from holiday.

Go completely vegan. I'm not sure I'm ready for this. I still enjoy a sweet treat every few days. With the exception of dark chocolate, I haven't come across vegan sweet treats to buy. I get bored of dark chocolate and struggle to find time to cook meals, let alone bake treats. However, I was horrified when we visited Pupu Springs in Golden Bay, one of the most pristine freshwater environments in the world, to see that the neighbouring farmer has a cow paddock that comes within about five metres of the springs. My understanding is that despite extensive fencing on dairy farms, toxic run off into our water ways continues to increase. It might be time for me to choose between including dairy in my diet and taking my future grandchildren river swimming.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Summer Holiday

We are just back from two fabulous weeks climbing in Golden Bay. The kids really pushed themselves ... and their parents. I think Josiah was a bit bemused when he he succeeded at 1080 and the Letter G, one of Paynes Ford's classic climbs, about half way through the trip. Didn't take him long to set himself a bunch of new goals though; he spent his evenings pouring over the guide books. Here he is hanging from 1080 on his first attempt at the climb, during which he did all the moves but took some breaks hanging on the rope.

Tessa must have had a secret goal of improving her mother's endurance. She dragged me along for two marathon sessions: "nine climbs on the ninth" (of January) at Seagrass Wall, Pohara, and, on our final day, all the climbs on Little Lost Wall, Paynes Ford, except Lost Soul (too hard for now) and Knicknack Paddywack (too scary), which left eleven climbs! She didn't choose easy climbs either. The "nine on the ninth" included Tessa's hardest outdoor climb to date, a grade 19, and two or three grade 18s. I couldn't keep up, only attempting eight of the nine, and falling off climbs tired on our final day.

A bonus of staying longer in Golden Bay this trip than we did last summer was meeting other climbers and feeling like part of the transient but very friendly Golden Bay summer climbing community. One day, Tessa had a group of Germans cheering her on and giving her suggestions; on our last couple of days, she exchanged climbing tips with two Finnish climbers. Several groups of climbers stayed at our campground, including three lovely couples from Palmerston North, Christchurch and Korea, and Wellington. Here is a photo one of them took of Tessa.

We camped at Takaka Camping Ground which is far superior to Pohara Top Ten Holiday Park where we stayed last year. Takaka Camping Ground is small and therefore peaceful. We enjoyed sitting under the trees on hot afternoons when we returned from climbing or walking. They have the best campground showers ever! The facilities were clean and sufficient for the number of campers (in stark contrast to the situation at Pohara). And the managers were very friendly and helpful. We look forward to seeing them again next time.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Environmentally friendly presents

That time of year again :) This week, I have been choosing presents for my six nieces, aged from 10yrs to 19yrs. It has been fun but not easy. Last year, I gave up gift wrap; this year, I want the presents themselves not to contravene my values. That means they should not bolster a culture of materialism, which I believe is making a lot of people unhappy. They should be environmentally friendly. They should not add to surplus household clutter. They should suit the individual recipient.

Books are the best option I have come up with. On the down side, trees have been destroyed in their creation. But as long as I choose good books, I think their circulation is worthwhile. Hopefully when the books I give are no longer wanted, they will find their way to a Trade Me auction or a secondhand book shop or BookMooch.

Consumables might be a good choice. I like art and craft supplies as a present for young children. I thought about shopping at the Body Shop, but their products come in plastic and I don't know how environmentally friendly they are.

Over the years, I've received some lovely homemade presents. My only crafts are crochet and knitting. I would have to get a lot more motivated if I was going to crochet and knit gifts: I currently complete about one small project a year.

For my youngest two nieces, I have bought a beautiful little wooden box and an embroidered bag from Trade Aid. The shop is full of lovely things and it is comforting to know that all the products are fair trade, but even as I paid for them, I worried that after some initial appreciation, these gifts will just be more clutter in my nieces lives. New Zealanders (most of us) have so much stuff!

I was nervous of going with secondhand books, toys or clothes, worrying that they would not be well received. Until it occurred to me that because secondhand goods are cheaper than new, I could top-up a secondhand present with something small but new, or with cash. Kids of all ages seem to love being given cash but I like to give presents that I have chosen. This way I can do both :)

Matthew and Waveney at Rubbish Free Year recommend giving an experience: a great way to avoid clutter. I'm thinking movie tickets; event tickets; entry passes to museums, aquariums, climbing walls, swimming pools, etc; outdoor adventures like kayaking trips. For someone who lives in the same town it makes sense to share the experience: a picnic tea overlooking the lights of the city.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Water shortage

Just sent the following to the Hutt News in response to a series of articles in the last few weeks discussing the future of the Wellington water supply. Greater Wellington Regional Council would apparently like to take more water from the Hutt River, which is ironic to say the least considering that the second item featured on their homepage is about the need to improve river health, and taking more water would have the opposite effect because it increases the likelihood of conditions conducive to the growth of toxic algal mats. The Hutt City Council is opposed to any increase in water taken from the Hutt River. Here is my response ...

It is disturbing to see water conservation getting little mention in the discussion about the Wellington region's increasing demand for water. I appreciate the access we have throughout NZ to electricity and running water in our homes and I acknowledge that this has been made possible by damming rivers. But I wonder if we are reaching the limit of what is reasonable and sensible in terms of damming and taking water from NZ rivers. In my childhood, I played in the creek and swam in rivers every summer. My children do the same when not prevented by algal blooms which we are told occur when the river flow gets too low. I hope my future grandchildren will be able to swim and play in our rivers.

Smarter Homes lists ways to save water, several of which cost nothing at all. Maybe the Hutt News could get involved, calling for readers' suggestions. The Hutt City Council could play a role, for example providing home owners with information and expertise on how to collect roof water for use in the garden. Sourcing the small collection tanks and even subsidising them would probably be cost effective for councils when compared to the expense of new construction work on dams and reservoirs.