Back Benches returned to our screens last week with a ‘What were the issues in 2011’ review show, which was a comfy memory jog when I finally caught up with it on Sunday morning. I’m still in holiday mode, what can I say. 04 Jan and 11 Jan 12 episodes for those who like links supplied.

There has been some very valid commentary in the Listener about the demise of Stratos, and the threat to TV7, made by Toby Manhire. There’s also a profile of Wallace in the issue that appeared 14th January, by the estimable Jane Tolerton, whose collective biographies have been very popular.

In case any of the rest of you are also travelling, you might want to coincide your travels with the itinerary of Back Benches as it takes to the road and hits the provinces, starting with Hamilton this Wednesday. The venue is House on Hood, 27 Hood St, Hamilton, for those who are locals. Be there around 7pm to get a meal, or 8pm to get a seat & a drink before filming begins (assuming ‘home rules’ apply in out of town venues, lol.) I can’t vouch for the place, haven’t been there despite rellies in the Waikato, but I’m sure Wallace and Damian have had it well-vetted by the Production Crew. Apparently Pam Corkery will be in attendance, along with the panel of MP’s Tim Macindoe (Nat) Catherine Delahunty (Greens) Sue Moroney (Lab) , Tracey Martin (NZ First).

Then the Tour continues to Rotorua on the 25th of January, at The Shed, 1166 Amohau Street, Rotorua, which will be broadcast live, and followed on the 26th in Taupo at The Shed, 18 Tuwharetoa Street, Taupo – which will be broadcast the following week as a pre-recorded show.
After a week off, they come down to Wanganui to Stellar, 2 Victoria Avenue, Wanganui, for the final live-to-air session on the 8th February. For more details on these sessions, see Wallace’s blog.
There may be continued presence of NORML/ALCP campaigners, they seem to be a tenacious bunch, and fond of pub politics. Might be a bit early in the year for the campus political groups, however. All the more reason to tune in & see what comes up.

Travel and relaxation

January 8, 2012

Well, that was an optimistic title, really.

I had some time on the West Coast over the New Year break, and while absolutely enjoying the hospitality of my various hosts, visiting friends and family of my son-in-law, I also had some opportunities to explore some of the less satisfactory side of life on the Coast.

But first: the good bits.

Here’s a lovely picture of natural beauty, the Hokitika Gorge (I’ll leave out the pix with people scattered through them, you’re just getting the unadulterated glacier-fed river and bush-clad gorge).

Hokitika Gorge from the swingbridge

Hokitika Gorge from the swingbridge

Then we wandered along towards Greymouth, and discovered Shantytown, which has gone up in price 500% since my son-in-law last visited a couple of years ago. As we weren’t a busload of asian tourists, we had a quick look, used the conveniences and left. It seemed like a good business, and the gift shop was doing a roaring trade in the smallest pieces of gold-flake I’ve ever seen in my life, but there you are, to each his or her own. The working small-guage gold-fields train from Kaitangata looked cute.

Kaitangata engine steaming towards the station, Shantytown

Kaitangata engine steaming towards the station, Shantytown

Further down the road, on our way to have a look at Lake Brunner, we stopped at the roadside info for the Brunner Mine disaster, the big news of 1896, and the reason we have any mining legislation at all, really. I popped across on the bridge that spans the Grey River, to check out the site remains and the memorial to the 65 miners who died in that incident, and found that there were also memorials to the 19 miners who died in the Strongman mine disaster in 1967, and the very recent Pike River disaster in November 2010.

Pike River Miners Memorial at Brunner Mine Disaster Memorial

Pike River Miners Memorial at Brunner Mine Disaster Memorial

In conversation with a local woman who was also by the memorial that day, I wondered whether the choice to work in the mines was not as real as she posited, due to the lack of other industry investment in the region. We discussed that one from opposing angles for a few minutes, before both coming to agreement on the fact that Pike River Coal had distinctly transgressed current mining legislation around safety, and that they would have to answer for that in Court in the remainder of the Commission of Inquiry. Meanwhile, there is at least one little boy born since the accident who has never met his dad, and many more family members who still grieve the loss of their brothers, sons, husbands and workmates and want an answer to why it was allowed to happen. Mr Whittall still has some actions to account for.

Greymouth is a pretty town, if prone to ground-level fog for much of the winter, according to my hosts. We had a late-afternoon lovo, the fijian version of hangi, but with a chilli-basted twist to satisfy the spicy palates of my relatives and their friends. With the afternoon sun glinting off the children’s paddling pool, and the surf crashing in the distance, I could fully appreciate why families would come to this part of New Zealand and relish the life it offers them. I left small-town New Zealand behind me when I moved to the city to study in my early adulthood, but I often find myself looking at provincial towns and seeing the beauty in their simplicity, their proximity to recreational areas, the unspoilt compact urban areas, and thinking ‘What if?’. Even the local newspaper had an attractive air to it!

Carpark wall mural at the Greymouth Evening Star

Carpark wall mural at the Greymouth Evening Star

Two days on the West Coast was hardly enough to satisfy me, and my traveller’s bug wants to be sated with a trip to Karamea, a look at Punakaiki Rocks, maybe an expedition to see the Denniston mine historic site before too much longer – there’s a lot to see in this area, and I can see myself coming back again.
Perhaps that is a fitting way to give some help to the Coasters, too – building tourism and art/craft enterprises, showing off the history without degrading the lives of those who remain engaged in local industries, making a sustainable future for those who live in this beautiful but often harsh environment.

Le Matt Juste

The right person in the right place

Chris Perley's Blog

Thoughtscapes - people, place, policy, potential. Realising our potential when we synthesise across yesterday's silos of people, economy and place. Think like the mountain, not the specialists who see what they have only come to see.

Cogpunk Steamscribe

One writer's journey into the world of Steampunk

streetsofcolombo

“The only truth is music.” ― Jack Kerouac

Michael Roberts Blog

blogging from a marxist economist

Warning:Curves Ahead

vintage style for the modern dame

WhaeaJo

Ōku whakaaro e pā ana ki te mahi ako

Kia Ora Gaza

KIWI AID TO GAZA --- Please donate generously

Hikurangi Enterprises

Naumai, haramai.

energyfutureslab.wordpress.com/

Multi-disciplinary research developing a sustainable energy supply

Flip That Script

We can always re-write the scripts we live by. If we aren't discussing them, then we aren't thinking.

Auckland Peace Action

Working to end NZ support for war and the global arms trade

Katherine Dewar

Ruby and the Blue Sky author site

Michael Tavares

@TheWildernerd

Bored with a record shop.

Ever wondered what goes on when the proprietor of secondhand record shop at the butt end of the world chucks in the towel and goes back to having a life??

Monkeywrenching

Nandor Tanczos on politics and culture in Aotearoa New Zealand