Tuesday, December 26, 2006


I dialed 111 for the first time in my life on Christmas Eve. Arriving home from a moving children's carol service at St James, I looked up to see smoke billowing in a valley of regenerating forest close by. The amount of smoke was not huge, though definitely more than a backyard barbecue could cause. I might have hesitated - I have my share of the common disinclination to be caught over-reacting - but there have been five scrub fires in the eastern hills of the Hutt Valley in recent months. My sadness and frustration at the setback this means for regeneration sent me racing inside to the phone. Within a reassuringly short time, two fire engines could be seen speeding up the hill. I don't know what they discovered but they stayed only a few minutes. They were gone again before the last of the smoke had dissipated into the sky.

I spent the next couple of hours feeling anxious, hoping I hadn't wasted the Fire Service's time but I guess I did the right thing. Fire is the number one threat to native forest regeneration where there is gorse mixed with young native forest plants as there is in the hills here. Gorse, a weed in New Zealand, recovers quickly from fire but if it can be protected from fire, provides native manuka and kanuka with the shade they require to establish. Once established they outgrow the gorse, shading it from the sun it needs to survive. The currently flowering manuka shows grey against the dark green gorse in this photo. Fire would set the process back to the beginning. I believe it's been 20 years since there was a fire on this particular hill.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Sometimes the news hits harder

Not surprisingly perhaps, I have been unable to think of much other than our sad family news this week. As they always do in times of trouble, items in the news are hitting me more personally than usual. It's frustrating and very sad what is happening in Fiji, the country of my birth. Interesting that Bainimarama's criticisms of the government, which received some sympathetic coverage a week ago, appear to have been almost entirely forgotten by the media now that he has carried out his coup. Of course, regardless of the validity of his concerns, ousting an elected government by force is not okay. He must be peeved, though, that his actions appear to have increased support for the government he's removed.

Susan Wood's
resignation from TVNZ was poignant for me, given she announced her illness the day I heard of my mother in law's. I confess annoyance was added to my sympathy when I read Susan's comment explaining her intention to continue working: "I'm not a tennis mum; I'm not going to be staying at home." Doesn't she realise it is easier for working mums to play tennis than for stay-at-home mums to? Working mums have regular childcare in place.

And in any case, whether you are a working mum or a stay-at-home mum, it is better for you, for your children, and for the taxpayer who pays for your health care, if you do play tennis (or exercise in some way). (Not that I suppose the taxpayer pays for Susan Wood's health care necessarily.) I wish Susan a fast and full recovery from her illness and from her stereotyped perception of stay-at-home parenting.