Posts filed under ‘New Zealand’

We’re under attack

Listen up New Zealanders. Just imagine this news story appearing in the New Zealand Herald:

A pensioner from Oxford has been arrested by Food Safety officers for growing carrots in his backyard and sharing his produce with neighbours in exchange for silverbeet and cabbage. Officers raided the pensioner’s premises without a warrant and were armed. Agribusiness company employees, backed by the armed Food Safety officers, were also in attendance and will be prosecuting the pensioner.

Do you think I’m writing an Orwellian-style novel? Nope. I’m simply projecting forward based on a nasty proposed Act out there – the New Zealand Food Bill 160-2 (2010)and should it pass its second reading in early 2012, it could make the basic human right to grow food, save seeds, and share the produce with friends and family, a quaint relic of the past.

Under the rhetoric of “food safety”, the NZ Government is about to hand over control of food production to mega-corporations like Monsanto, who want full control of the global food supply chain from field to table. Everything from farmer’s markets to heritage seed banks, community and individual vegetable gardens could be affected. Frankly, it’s Monsanto trying to get their genetically-modified seeds into every country on the planet and stitching up a monopoly on world food.

Honestly, I can’t believe this. People around the world will either be laughing at New Zealand or….they will be shuddering to think that we are about to lead the way into a future where global companies and Government can control what we eat.

Go ahead and read the Bill. I’ll wait. As currently drafted, you could interpret that saving seeds will be an illegal activity; or sharing excess backyard produce with your neighbours will be an illegal activity; or selling your produce at your local farmer’s market will be an illegal activity. If you want a detailed overview of the Bill, go here.

I’ve read a lot on this, including the tin-foil hat wearing conspiracy theorists who say this is all part of the one world government future we’ll be facing. I don’t believe it will affect my right to grow a bunch of carrots in my backyard but it certainly could affect seed saving and heirloom, endangered plants and plants with medicinal properties. And that for me is the scary bit. Because it means that – if seed saving or heritage seed banks become illegal –  all we’ll be able to get hold of is genetically-modified seeds (like Monsanto’s Round Up Ready soy beans) or seeds from a Big Food company like Monsanto. And if you want to learn about what Monsanto could do to you or me should we save a seed from a Monsanto crop or unwittingly grow a Monsanto-patented crop because some honey bee pollinated our land, just read this. Or this. Or this. It will scare the bejesus out of you.

If, like me, you have a small herb garden and use say mint leaves in your salad or brew a hot cup of mint leaf tea – well, your human right to do this could well be under threat. Why? Because the Big Food companies currently don’t have patents over mint or ginger or lemon or sage. So they can’t make mega-profits. The Bill is part of NZ’s obligations to the World Trade Organization’s (WTO) Codex Alimentarius scheme for global food control.

Go off and search Codex Alimentarius – this is even more scary if you ask me. The Codex Alimentarius (or Food Code) basically limits health freedom. Because the more natural health products we use, the less profits Big Pharma, Big Food companies get. And that applies to the mint growing in the backyard. The Vitamin and Mineral Guideline of the Codex can ban all clinically effective vitamins, minerals and herbs. This means stuff you buy from your local health food. Don’t believe me? Then read this. Or this. Or this.

The natural health industry could disappear and our level of nutrition will decline whilst Big Companies and Big Pharma push GM foods and synthetically-made drugs on us.

If you are concerned about the NZ Food Bill, you can sign an online petition. Do your own research on the Food Bill and Codex Alimentarius. There is some alarmist stuff out there – such as Big Companies and Big Pharma wanting to get rid of organic and homegrown food because we would then face ill-health and be forced to buy highly-priced prescription medicines. But when you read up about Codex Alimentarius, you have to wonder. So the NZ Food Bill could be one fatal step towards global corporations and Governments telling us what we can and can’t eat.

You can watch a video about the NZ Food Bill and how it might affect you on the Campbell Live website. Meanwhile, I’ll be defending my right to grow carrots in my own backyard.


December 16, 2011 at 6:47 am 7 comments

Living in peace

Dear reader. I continue to settle into my new country, New Zealand. I’ve been battling it out on a couple of fronts since arriving a few weeks ago, mainly with the removalist company that managed to damage or destroy quite a few of our items, including my grandmother’s 1920s dining room table. You can expect a long, ranting (and possibly incoherent) blog post soon on what happened. I am still incensed by the whole situation. I’ll be back to regular posts soon.

I’ve also been battling it out with THE bureaucracy here. All countries have bureaucracy but I must say New Zealand is pretty good at it. If it’s not something that can be ticked off from some checklist, then authorities here don’t want to know about it.

Having said all this, I can tell you that Christchurch is a lovely place and New Zealanders are a very friendly bunch. Some people seem to be having trouble with my accent. Mind you, I would not say that my accent is broad Aussie, since both my parents were from New Zealand. But I do get blank looks occasionally and a request to repeat what I just said. Note to self: work harder at cultivating the Kiwi accent.

Things here are far more laid back than Oz. The odd cultural thing I’ve noticed is – hardly anyone seems to reply to emails. With the odd exception, you either get no reply at all or a reply weeks later. Obviously, I pick up the phone too but the lack of email exchange is curious. And then there’s customer service: it’s either exceptionally good or exceptionally lousy.

But I’m glad to be living in the most peaceful country in the world. Yep, that’s right folks: New Zealand has been named the most peaceful country in the world for the second consecutive year, according to the 2010 Global Peace Index (produced by the Institute for Economics and Peace (IEP). Iceland, Japan and Austria also rank highly (mmm…Australia isn’t in the Top 10). The 2010 map above shows countries ranked from most peaceful (in green) to least peaceful (in red). New Zealand was one of only three countries in the top ten to improve in peacefulness in the 2010 Index.


Globally, however, the world has been less peaceful in 2010, with violence impacting the global economy by US $7 trillion annually. Following the GFC and the faltering economies of many countries, there has been an intensification of conflicts on many levels from homicides to violent demonstrations and civil unrest. Interestingly, a 25% reduction in global violence would free up US $1.8 trillion annually. The good news for my American readers is that the United States has improved its 2010 score by showing the biggest improvement since 2007.

The top five countries have a number of things in common: stables governments and business environments, respect for human rights, low levels of corruption, high rates of participation in education and freedom of information.

So good news for me living here in peaceful New Zealand. And just to show you how peaceful and beautiful this country is, here’s a photo I took yesterday of our property covered in snow and another I took the day before (a sunny day) showing the beautiful Southern Alps and the gorgeous landscape that you encounter so often here. Woot!

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June 13, 2010 at 10:54 pm 4 comments

NZ Spy Bill

I’m trying to find out exactly how many CCTV cams are here in Christchurch, New Zealand. I’ve been told it’s 44. Certainly, 25 new cams were added to the CCTV network in 2009. In Oxford, where I’ll be living, I’ve yet to spot one. I will do a thorough check as there’s bound to be one, probably at the town’s only ATM. But it’s a relief to be in a town where you and the streets aren’t watched day in day out by a lot of unblinking eyes.

What has me more alarmed though is an NZ Bill I’ve blogged about before – the Search and Surveillance Bill 45-1 (2009). Skim that blog post first before reading on. The Bill is currently before the Justice and Electoral Committee which is due to report back in late 2010.

I was watching Sunday last week and there was a report on just how intrusive this Bill could be into the every day lives of New Zealanders. Why don’t you watch the session – it’s pretty damn frightening. I was pleased to see a partner from NZ law firm, Bell Gully, being interviewed about concerns that Government agencies will have increased surveillance powers and you can read that law firm’s submission here.

As I understand it, over 70 “non-police” NZ agencies (such as Fisheries Ministry, Inland Revenue Department, Commerce Commission, the Reserve Bank and the Pork Industry Board) already have the power to obtain a search warrant (as long as it is deemed “role appropriate) but the Bill is a step beyond this – it gives these agencies the power to enter private property and covertly install a listening or recording device, set up hidden cameras or plant tracking devices on cars without someone’s knowledge.  At the moment, when one of these agencies obtains a warrant, it’s for the production of documents or to answer questions. If there is reasonable cause, a search of physical property might take place.

The S&S Bill extends investigatory powers and is trying to provide a homogeneous framework for regulators but….it is basically giving police powers to non-police Government agencies. Scary. Who will be overseeing exactly what these agencies can and can’t do? And under what circumstances will an agency be given the power to enter private property for secret squirrel operations? From my reading of the S&S Bill, it seems that non-police agencies would also be given the power to obtain a “residual warrant” that would allow them to legally hack into someone’s computer remotely and this would include asking an ISP to provide access to the person’s computer network.

Surely this Bill is contrary to the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act 1990, which gives New Zealanders the right to be free from unreasonable search and seizure?

What really, really scares me is that should the Bill become law, I can’t see how a person has the right to silence. It seems that under an Examination Order, a Government agency can haul you off for questioning and you have no right of refusal. I guess you could cite s60 of the Evidence Act and claim ‘privilege against self-incrimination’ – but I’m not sure how far that would get you.

Anyway, I plan to study this much more deeply. It’s very concerning that a democracy like New Zealand is considering such invasive powers (no doubt it’s being touted as an “anti-terrorism” measure). If you know anything, leave a comment.

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May 24, 2010 at 11:02 pm Leave a comment

Grappling with The Bureaucracy

There’s a lot of crap you have to deal with when moving countries. Top of the list has to be getting a driver’s licence and air-freighting some of your stuff as “unaccompanied luggage” so you actually have some fresh clothes to wear whilst you wait for the shipping container, which is chock full of your entire household of STUFF, to sail leisurely across the ocean. So a few handy hints for the unwary. I’ll call them Golden Rules.

Golden Rule #1how to deal with the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) of NSW Australia and the NZ Transport Agency. First take a valium or stiff drink. If you have an Australian driver’s license, you can convert to an NZ one after coughing up your entire life story – well, Australian passport along with proof of your NZ address. You don’t have to be subjected to a scary driving or knowledge test.

I have an NZ passport woot! easier….but …my surname is causing a hissy fit. My full surname is dos Santos Martins; but my New South Wales (NSW) driver’s license just says Martins. I don’t remember how this happened but I prefer to be called Kim Martins because the whole dos Santos thing is too much of a mouthful, exotic sounding though it may be. The RTA had no problems with plain old Martins. (Sbarcea is my former name and I use it for professional reasons only).

But NZ doesn’t like it. Nope. Despite my NSW driver’s license having a photo of my cheery face and despite that same face appearing on my NZ passport (with the longer surname), the NZ Transport Agency does not believe I am one and the same person.

So many phone calls later back to Sydney and the RTA, I’m kinda stuck. The RTA are sending over a Certificate of Particulars, the fancy name for something that will prove I’ve been driving for more than 2 years in NSW. But it will say Martins. To change this name to dos Santos Martins, I was told to hotfoot it back to Sydney and go through the whole change of name business. What the?

So a call to the NZ Transport Agency indicates they will probably have problems believing that Kim Martins is Kim dos Santos Martins, despite the two photos being of the same person.  So I’m desperately trying to find my old NZ passport that said Kim dos Santos Martins aka Kim Martins. Golden Rule #1 is therefore: make sure the surname on all your originating country documents matches that of your passport. Pretty simple I know but if you have an unusual surname like I do, you could run into The Bureaucracy. And The Bureaucracy is rigid.

Golden Rule #2 when shipping stuff by air freight make sure you understand the charges you will get lumped with at the other end. We used an air freight company in Sydney that fast-tracked some of our clothes and computers to Christchurch via some cargo plane and using DHL. 2 days it took and (we thought) we paid all costs before we left Oz. They said yep, you’ve paid airport to airport, so just go along and pick up your stuff.

Simple right? ah nope. What they didn’t mention was we’d be hit with (fairly high) costs at the airport in Christchurch for collecting the airfreight, paying the airline charges blah blah. So we merrily go along to pick up our stuff, praising the Airline Gods that my laptop did not go missing in action somewhere and found surprise…it’s your lucky day, cough up NZ$87.00 to get your stuff.

Oh and Golden Rule #3, try to avoid using DHL. There seems to be DHL Express, DHL Global and other DHLs. The DHL website is pretty crappy and it was an intelligence test trying to find the right DHL place to go to in Christchurch to pick up our airfreight. In all honesty, I can’t say they were all that helpful over the phone or in person.

I suspect I will soon have a post on how to deal with MAF (NZ Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry). They have already flagged that they want to rummage through 9 boxes in our container as “boxes of interest”. Gulp. I think box #182 is the one full of dead squirrels – only joking MAF 🙂

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May 11, 2010 at 7:08 am 4 comments

I’ve arrived!

Well, dear reader: here I am ensconced in Christchurch, New Zealand having safely made the move over the Ditch from Australia. It’s Day 4 here and I already feel quite at home in my new country. Everyone is very friendly and the weather isn’t that cold. I’m told though that mid-June I’ll be starting to shiver.

Quite a lot to do, like getting an NZ driver’s license, an Inland Revenue Department ID (aka tax file number) and so on. But of course I have been quick to check out the issues that seem to be occupying the Kiwi mind. There’s a big kerfuffle going on about water in the Canterbury region (which is where I’ll be living). Not sure what’s the issue just yet but rest assured I’ll be onto it and will let you know.

The day we arrived the papers were full of one deplorable incident and one pretty bizarre thing that happened in Wellington. First up, five idiot Norwegians shot and killed a kereru, which is a a protected species under the NZ Wildlife Act and the maximum penalty for shooting the birds is a $100,000 fine and up to six months’ imprisonment. Here’s what the kereru looks like:

It’s also known as the New Zealand native wood pigeon and mainly inhabits forested areas. So the dumb ass Norwegians were on a hunting trip to NZ and decided to film themselves killing kereru and other animals and birds, including a paradise duck. They posted the bloody footage on YouTube (ah, really dumb ass dudes) and boasted about their exploits.

Naturally, NZ authorities are pretty keen to arrest the Norwegians and charge them for offences under the Wildlife Act. I’m not yet familiar with NZ law so not sure whether there is an international treaty between NZ and Norway that would enable authorities here to force extradition or allow the Norwegian authorities to prosecute. But the dumb ass hunters will be charged should they ever set foot in New Zealand again. What is causing a kerfuffle here is that apparently the hunters were very well-informed before they came to NZ that shooting the kereru (and other species) is illegal.

The Maori people also kill the kereru following customary practices and for food (which NZ authorities are battling it seems) but this is quite different. This is a case of visitors to NZ, who were fully aware that their hunting actions were illegal but nevertheless went ahead and killed kereru, then blatantly boasted about it on YouTube. An outrage if you ask me.

Meanwhile, up on the North Island in Wellington, bizarre things seem to be happening. A teenager was allegedly attacked and bitten by three people in a “vampire attack” that took place at night. The poor dude’s blood was drunk and he passed out whilst the attack was occurring. He then spent days in hospital fighting off infection and fever (did you know that there are more germs in the human mouth than in a dog or cat’s?). One of the alleged attackers said: “Do I look like a vampire? I’m out during the day time”. Here’s his photo – you can make up your own mind.

May 9, 2010 at 4:32 am 4 comments

The Daily Oxford

My new blog, The Daily Oxford, is now open for business. I’ll be using the Daily Oxford to chronicle my adventures as I “transition” from Australia to New Zealand and adjust to living in rural NZ.  I will be keeping to short posts (I know: gasp!) accompanied by plenty of photos. As I explore my new country and get to know New Zealanders, I’ll be letting you in on what I discover. As I learn about how to live on a farm, grow organic vegetables and work with horses and cows – so can you!

So I hope you’ll join me over at the Daily Oxford. I’m sure we’ll have plenty of laughs together. And no doubt, I’ll be suffering the odd tantrum or two as this city gal transforms into a country gal.

Don’t panic: I will still be blogging here at ThinkingShift.

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April 22, 2010 at 2:00 am Leave a comment

How to spot a bogan

My stats tell me that lots of people followed the link to the Wikipedia entry for bogan, which I provided in the post telling you I’m about to choof off to New Zealand to live. Since the majority of my readers are from the United States, I thought I would provide some further guidance on what exactly is a bogan and, more importantly, how to spot one. Since I’m about to move to NZ, I also undertook some serious research to find out if bogans exist there.

But first: who or what is a bogan? Aussies who aren’t bogans (ie that would be me for example!) will tell you that a bogan is someone from the the lower working class demographic, usually residing in the outer-urban fringes of a city with inadequate social infrastructure in those fringes. Check out the Wikipedia entry for bogan here to get more details. The word bogan appeared in Australian literature in the 1800s and usually referred to something of poor quality.

The first hint that you might be dealing with a bogan is the speech pattern. Bogans speak in a different language – Boaglish – and shorten their words. For example, fishing becomes fishun. So the suffix -ing is non-existent and is transformed into -un. A bogan also adopts nicknames for people and places. So the Leagues Club becomes leaguesy or Shane Warne (cricket dude) becomes Warnsey.

A second hint that you might be face to face with a bogan is the moniker they have inflicted on their (poor suffering) children – Shazza, Dazza, Montana, Dakota, Baz, Kylie, Charlene, Khayleigh, Memphis, Mikaela, Savannah, Tiffanee, Dallas. Some of these names very well suit American states and cities but a bogan also loves to give kids these sorts of names.

A bogan usually drives a Holden, Ford or possibly a beaten-up old Datsun car sometimes festooned with flame patterns or fluffy dice hanging off the front mirror. They often take the bogan vehicle out for a spot of hooning, which is usually accompanied by loud screeching of tyres (or tires for my American friends) or the blaring out of Barnsey music or Midnight Oil (The Oils to bogans).

A bogan usually has a lot of time on their hands because most likely they are unemployed (aka dole bludgers). So they sit around in their flats (apartments) or boganvillas, in their cheap flanno shirts, drinking Victoria Bitter (or VB) or they lurk in the local RSL waiting for the $10.00 lunch special of bangers and mash followed by tinned fruit salad. Yum.

The dress sense of a bogan is a dead give-away. Apart from the flanno, they love Ugh boots, singos (singlets), black leggings, trucker caps, piercings of the eyebrows and basically any out-dated fashion they can lay their hands on.

American readers: think of bogans as white trash, trailer trash, rednecks or hillbillies and I think you have it. Although I appreciate that between these species, there are subtle differences. And now to the question for today – does New Zealand have bogans? After extensive research, I can tell you that NZ boasts its very own postgraduate student who was awarded NZ $100,000 to study the bogan lifestyle. Dave Snell is a self-confessed Kiwi bogan who declares bogans are not dull-witted, unkempt or uncouth:

Apparently, the NZ bogan is immediately identifiable from the tattoo or T-shirt of choice (very popular: Metallica or AC/DC, an Australian heavy metal band usually referred to by bogans as Acca/Dacca). They are also seen typically clad in black rib jerseys, tight black jeans or tracksuit pants (trackie-dacks). So the key to spotting the NZ bogan is the black clothes, sometimes with beer or Jack Daniels’ Finest Tennessee Whiskey logos. Their favourite haunts are rugby matches and the back roads of country NZ. It would seem that hoons are referred to as petrol-heads over there.

My research tells me that NZ bogans flourish in the provincial cities and towns of Invercargill, Wanganui, New Plymouth, Ashburton and Nelson. I’m yet to discover if the species exists in Oxford but will let you know.  NZ bogans are called by different names depending on geographic location, with westies, booners and bevans being other terms. NZ bogans seem to like hassling kids. In Hamilton, bogans were living in a property next to a High School and, whilst lounging around drinking beer all day, shouted derogatory stuff to kids causing security guards to be hauled in. This would seem to signal a slight difference between NZ Boganis and Boganis Australianus (as I believe the species are referred to). The Aussie bogan lays off the kids.

NZ bogans appear to love loitering in shopping malls but can also be found congregating in pubs that offer live entertainment and dimly lit carparks. Like Aussie bogans, they have free-time on their hands due to bludging not working and so NZ bogans network with fellow bogans on public transport.

Apparently, I just need to watch NZ’s longest-running TV documentary, Outrageous Fortune, to study NZ Boganis. And I have heard mutterings that NZ has its very own bogan QueenPaula Bennett – who is a high ranking Cabinet member and a favourite of NZ Prime Minister, John Key (which leads me to ask the truly important question: is the NZ Prime Minister the world’s first bogan PM?).

So you can see dear reader that whilst I may have a desire to escape the Aussie bogan, NZ Boganis exists in the Land of the Long White Cloud. Subtle differences are evident but a bogan is a bogan. I plan to examine NZ Boganis when I arrive and will report my findings on my new blog.

Meanwhile: any bogans reading this post – please don’t email accusing me of bogan-bashing.

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April 13, 2010 at 2:00 am 8 comments

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