Welcome to Swampville! Our roads are crap #FarmVoices #NorthlandNZ

Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, AWNS-19121024-3-1 24 October 1912

Yep me again moaning about the darned crappy weather we've been having. I think Mr Storm and his mates have been having a field day up my way for the last couple of weeks. Thanks to Mr Storm and company the main highway North has been brought to a stand still. I drove on it this morning south to Kaiwaka to drop off my brother-in-law's friend so he could take a bus back to Auckland. Usually he can catch it not so far away, but, because of the landslips and collapsing roads that option became a few more miles down the road to the next township. The road already is full of deep potholes which I had to avoid both ways. Northland's roads are crap and always have been. Anyone wanting to travel north this week will have to take the long way around through the rough as guts back roads (which I know all too well) to get to Whangarei. Craig Cooper the editor of the Northern Advocate in his editorial last Friday had this to say about Northland's roads:

"For a long time, I have wondered about the quality of Northland roads. It is a lay person's observation, as a motorist, but I think our roads are of a poorer quality than elsewhere in the North Island.
Drive south, and it is hard to not be impressed by the quality of the road surface, and its appearance.
The latter, I think, has more impact than people realise. It gives you a sense of the region.
Consider this - you're looking at buying a house, do you feel more positive about a home in a residential street with an asphalt-lined professionally curated driveway, or the one with a rough, metal driveway?
Sure, metal driveways have their appeal and charm, but you get the picture?
What does that driveway tell you about the home owner?
Much, I believe. I am a lay person, so I don't know what the answer is. But I think Northlanders have a right to ask some damn hard questions about why our roads aren't as flash as our southern cousins, putting aside the fact the hammering they get from the elements."
- Craig Cooper Editor Northern Advocate
Editorial "Why are our roads so bad?"
18 July 2014

Without a good roading network a regional economy can grind to a standstill. We've had the notion as well by our present government to either mothball or close down the Northland railway network. Which in the long term would be a very poor financial decision. Sooner or later, we are going to have to stop relying solely on road transport as the only option. I have to wonder when eventually the powers that be are going to wake up and realise that reliance on fossil fuels and roading network with a history of problems in adverse weather isn't going to solve a damned thing. Northland has always been on the bottom of the heap when it comes to government funding and still is. Take a look at the graphic below from The Transport Blog

Credit: Transport Blog Graphic Sourced: "Roading in Northland" 

While further south motorists enjoy well constructed roads we get potholes and collapsing roads, the graphic above speaks for itself. Spending on state highways increased then peaked in the 2008/09 period, decreasing with one small increase in 2010/11 before declining in the following subsequent years. The government recently added yet another excise tax onto the cost of petrol. A tax on the tax so far has only seen everything else rise along with that increase. Northland's entire regional economy is almost solely dependent on a reliable roading network. We do have a port at Whangarei and an airport as well as a decaying rail network. It's election year this year, and suddenly the MP for Northland Mike Sabin is promising to get the two one way bridges on State Highway 12 sorted out. Admittedly Mr Sabin has been gathering data on the two dangerous crossings which have hampered Kaipara District's economy due to transport hassles. Even so those bridges should have been replaced over 20 years ago, but instead we have to put up with them and the tourists who don't know what a give way sign is for. Enough bleating about our roads. That's life I guess.


You can't control Mother Nature #FarmVoices

The weekend before last we had a massive storm come in from the Tasman Sea. Most of Northland was inundated with heavy rainfall, high winds and thousands of hectares of farm land under water. It couldn't have come at a worse time for our dairy farmers. With calving commencing for the new dairying season, losing pasture to flooding wasn't a welcome sight. I've spend most of the week clearing up flood damage and fallen branches that had broken one of my electric fences. I had hoped we'd be over the worst of it all and then bang the next storm has come along today with the Metservice warning of more heavy rain and high winds. After two consecutive droughts and now an over kill of rain this rather miserable winter I wouldn't blame anyone for wanting to walk away. But like many rural communities globally, people stick it out, clear up the mess and move on. The photos above were published in the Dargaville News last Wednesday. It's not over yet. Until the winter abates no doubt we'll have more bad weather to come. No point complaining we just have to get on with it. On a more positive note....

Back at the end of February this year Mum asked me to take her to a place called Glinks Gully. It's a small coastal holiday settlement on the shores of the very long Ripiro Beach. All up the beach is about 66 miles (107km) long. It's been the scene for many a shipwreck over the last 150 or so years. It also has a lot of old Maori pa sites which are protected by law. Mum I think needed that day. I just stepped back and let Mum go and take it all in. She hasn't been very well for a while now. The radiant smile and the joy on her face was just something I won't ever forget. There she is, with shoes in hand walking barefoot towards the waves.

 I asked after she had finished her walk if she wanted to go anywhere else. She was so happy that I was asking and not treating her like someone to be locked up inside. She needed the sunshine and some time just to enjoy herself and the amazing landscape the region we live in has on our doorstep. I love the entire district it is just so beautiful. So after a thought or two I asked Mum if she wanted to see the gigantic Kauri Tree Tane Mahuta (discovered 1923/24). She was really keen to see it again. So off we went.

It didn't take too long to reach the Waipoua Forest where Tane Mahuta lives. I first saw this tree when I was just 9 years old. This was the second time I had seen it with Mum. I've been other times, but after 40 years it was so nice to have Mum with me gazing up at the massive truck and towering crown of a tree believed to be about 2000 years old. We spent a while there just taking in the stunning untouched forest, before Mum said she was feeling a little tired so we started to head back home.

On the way home we stopped in at the former Kauri timber settlement of Kaihu (formerly Opanake) where I photographed the old Kaihu Tavern (1899) and the beautiful old St Agnes Catholic church which was built by the local Maori people in 1896. It's still in use even today. It's a special place worthy of preservation.

A few weeks ago I was asked by the Farmon Foundation in Canada if they could include some of my images in an exhibition now on in Alberta Canada. What a huge honour and a positive way to get the stories of rural life from across the world out there. The exhibition is on now. Worth seeing if you're in Canada. I've been involved indirectly with the Foundation through theirr #FarmVoices feed on Twitter. Check out their website there's some awesome stuff on there for farmers. Hope you enjoy this video Farmon Foundation put together to promote the Born to Farm- #FarmVoices exhibition.

Well that's another blog post done and dusted. I need to get back to more regular blogging but it seems the words just haven't been there to write down. Today made a change for once I actually wrote something.!


Until the cows came home!

It was nice and quiet earlier today. This afternoon I heard the quad the boys use to shift the cattle on the farm next door. For weeks my two wayward Jersey cows have been running in with a group of other cows and some bulls. I'm not scared of bulls, but I would have been an idiot to go nto that paddock with a few mean looking jersy bulls and most likely get flattened. We just had to wait. Well the result is more than likely Terrorist and River will both be in calf and due next autumn. The first thing these two did was come straight down to the house and wouldn't stop mooing until I came to the door and gave them both some attention. Heck it's like having two bovine kids. I'm just glad they're home and okay. Very grateful to the boys for looking after them. Hopefully Ranger will not ram the fence and let them out again! Winter has very definitely set in. It's overcast most days and cold along with it. Not much really has gone on of late - guess we'll be back to the Terrorist and her comedy show. Hope she doesn't want to climb into our old bath tub again!


Back with a rattle and a small banger of a post

Oh lordie I haven't blogged in weeks. Way too much going on and each time I thought "I'll write a blog post" the words just weren't there to put down. I attempted to have a draft post on standby with little diary type notes and then that fell by the wayside as well. Bleeding my woes all over the internet just isn't how I do things. I've had challenges both family ones and farm ones. We've lost our two cows to next door again. The kids found them in with Terry's future autumn calvers and some bulls. Whoops guess we'll be seeing a couple of jersey calves next year. Any way this is just a quick post to say yes I am still here. When some more words come to me I'll write another post. One thing I can tell you - we have earlier than normal frosts this year. The rainfall hasn't been overly significant either. In a way I'm glad we haven't had huge volumes of rain otherwise by now I would be up to my eyeballs in mud! For some odd reason I looked up how many sheep there were per person in New Zealand. Rather trivial I know. Seven sheep for every person. It used to be 20 sheep per person which just shows you the numbers of woolly brethren have dropped significantly over the last few years. Still we're outnumbered seven to one by wool-wearing revolutionaries! Yes that's my sad humour coming through again I suppose. I was watching an interesting documentary just the other day about a farm in Devon in the UK, and the implications of what intensive scale farming can do to the land. It's worth watching because it's done by a young woman who took over the family farm from her father. It's quite an eye opener. Titled "Farm for the Future" We need our farms and our farmers, in syaing that we also all need to change how we do things to grow our food.


A "Moa" in the bush

Years ago when my Dad was still alive and I was still a kid, we had a special get-away place at Tramcar Bay on the Whangateau Harbour. It was high up on a hill overlooking the bay, and from there we could see out over to Omaha Peninisula, and further out to the point where Tarawhanui ended at the rocky edge of Takatu point. Dad loved to have us youngest kids on. Sometimes we would ask him what was for dinner, and he would say "Bees knees and potato bread". Took a while to click that bees knees were a little difficult to obtain, and making bread out of potatoes wouldn't really work that well.

One summer Dad mentioned there was a "moa" in the bush. We had a lovely stand of ancient native bush just down below, with a clay track lined with ancient pohutukawa trees, and a rope swing over the water at the end of the short journey down to the bay. A moa? A real live moa? Of course, kids will believe anything at such a tender age, as I was back then.

Just before Christmas, I had learned all about the gigantic moa birds that once walked New Zealand's forests. Typically, the imagination was running wild about finding a HUGE moa bird hiding in the bush.  Still, with faith that my dear dad wasn't kidding about that moa bird - off a couple of kids went in search of a long since-extinct monster.

Up the trees we looked and down the trees we looked. Through the tracks, under the ferns, there we hunted for the giant, that shouldn't be able to hide from a couple of keen eyed kids. All afternoon we hunted high and low, but alas, no moa was to be found anywhere in the bush. Crestfallen, we both headed back with heads down and frustration in our minds. That moa had to be somewhere, it had to be, because Dad said it was.

And thus we returned sad in our defeat, to tell our dad that no moa was to be found. It just had to hiding, because it knew we were looking  for it. Dad though, had a cheeky grin and a little chuckle. He just quietly led us kids back down the path, then slightly off to the left. Indeed there was a mower - a lawn mower that was. A rusty old lawn mower long ago left by someone in the bush. All dad could say as he laughed loudly "See? I told you there was a mower in the bush!".

And the lesson for us kids was to check our spelling!