Another Spectrum

Personal ramblings and rants of a somewhat twisted mind

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Mushroom farming

I admit it. The wife and I are food junkies. We both like to experience new forms of cuisine. For us food is always an adventure. Living in Aotearoa New Zealand means that some of the foods that the wife grew up with in Japan are not available here, although much more is available than when she first arrived.

One item she has often missed is the lack of variety in the types of mushrooms available in this country compared to what is available in Japan. That’s unlikely to change much as the importation of fungi into this country is strictly controlled. The reason being that the effects of any foreign mushroom on our unique environment, should any get established in the wild, is unknown.

However two exotic species of mushroom are now able to be grown in Aotearoa New Zealand: shiitake mushrooms – under strictly controlled conditions, and oyster mushrooms which are are not controlled. It’s the latter about which I wish to sing my praises.

Oyster mushrooms are by far my favourite mushroom, although I’m not able to say why. Perhaps it’s because it has less of an earthy smell than other forms or perhaps it’s because its texture changes depending on the cooking method employed.

A few weeks ago a stall at the local Farmers Market was selling mini oyster mushroom farms. Essentially a large plastic bag filled with a material inoculated with oyster mushroom spores. We bought one. Finally, after several weeks of waiting, the very first batch of what will hopefully be a long season of mushrooms have been harvested and consumed.

I can tell you, that oyster mushrooms consumed within an hour of harvesting are absolutely divine. As we often do, tonight we cooked at the table. Tonight, copious quantities of oyster mushrooms, aubergine (eggplant), red capsicum (bell peppers), brown onion, finely chopped cabbage with mung bean sprouts, chicken kebabs, and finely sliced grass feed Angus beef steak, washed down with an NZ Sauvignon Blanc. What can I say but that it was like heaven on earth!

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Is Aotearoa New Zealand really werewolf free?

According to data released under the Official Information Act, there has been no werewolf encounters reported to police over the past three years. Over that time police handled 316 complaints relating to supernatural or extraterrestrial events, but none regarding werewolves.

On the other hand, we seem to be facing a witch invasion or perhaps infestation. A total of 120 incidents involving witches were reported. Unfortunately the report is sketchy on the nature of the complaints or whether we should take special precautions to protect ourselves from possible witch-caused harm It doesn’t even provide information on how to identify the creatures. Surely the police are failing in their duty here.

At least we can be grateful the ghosts are less common, or at least have less reason to be reported to the police. Over the three year period, a total of seventy ghost related incidents were reported.

There were 67 reported extraterrestrial events – 37 reports of aliens and a further 30 UFO sightings. How many of the sightings turned out to witches flying on broomsticks isn’t reported, but due to the prevalence of witches, I have no doubt some of the sightings were misreported.

I have no time for zombie movies or TV series, but perhaps they have been created to help us accept a zombie presence in out midst. They seem to be more common than many of us think. In all, police recorded 59 zombie related incidents.

Given that most incidents are not reported to police, and apart from zombies, paranormal beings are intelligent enough to want to hide their presence from the authorities, I think what has been reported is only the tip of the iceberg. We all need to be vigilant and keep a watchful eye open to any possible paranormal activity.

Returning to the lack or werewolf reports, I suspect it’s also a case of misreporting. In human form werewolves are virtually indistinguishable from humans, especially if they remember to shave their hairy knuckles. When in wolf form, any activity has probably been recorded as dog related incidents. I’m also mindful that a bite from a werewolf turns the victim into one, so they are unlikely to want to report the incident. On that basis, I have serious doubts that this country really is werewolf free.

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Climate change education

I’m a firm believer that the purpose of schooling, particularly at primary and secondary school level is not to prepare the next generation for jobs but to prepare it for life. In this respect I believe the education system in Aotearoa New Zealand does particularly well, as we are encouraged to question and interpret for ourselves any and all information students receive.

So I’m somewhat disappointed by the stance taken by some members of the opposition National Party with regards to their criticism of the rolling out of climate change education resources for schools in 2020, which they are calling “indoctrination”. Is it because the Climate Change Minister happens to be the co-leader of the Green Party that makes it so unpalatable, or being (slightly) right of centre, do they see education only in terms of jobs and careers?

The simple fact is that there is no change in curriculum. The resources provide teachers with additional resource material. It also acknowledges that some of the information can cause stress or distress to some students, and provides guidelines to help teachers and parents address this when it occurs.

While I don’t believe any member of the National Party is a climate change denier, there are some who are yet to be convinced it’s a serious issue or that it is primarily caused by human activity. Take the comment of Judith Collins, a senior National Party MP (Member of Parliament) who has stated “The likely impacts of climate change are being hugely overstated by the media and political left”.

Many of her colleagues are also skeptical about the success of any attempt to reduce warming to less than 1.5°C above pre-industrial levels, as the big players, especially the US, China and India are doing so little. They point out that as this country contributes only 0.17% of the world’s greenhouse gas emissions, there was little point in the Zero Carbon Bill passed into law in November last year which includes a net-zero emissions target by 2050 and a 24 – 47 percent reduction in biogenic methane below 2017 levels by the same date.

But as Climate Change Minister James Shaw has observed, per capita, New Zealand is the 21st biggest contributor to greenhouse gas emissions, and that small countries don’t get off the hook because collectively we add up to a greater total of emissions than the larger countries do.

What both amuses me and alarms me in equal measure, is the call by some conservatives to have climate change education treated the same as religious education. In NZ, schools can only offer religious education outside school hours, students must opt in, and lessons can be for no more than 20 hours per year. They also want climate change education to be “less extreme”, and in their opinion, less indoctrinating.

So what does climate change education involve? It’s part of the wider environmental education in New Zealand schools, which has been part of the curriculum for many years, the aims of which are:

  • Aim 1: awareness and sensitivity to the environment and related issues
  • Aim 2: knowledge and understanding of the environment and the impact of people on it
  • Aim 3: attitudes and values that reflect feelings of concern for the environment
  • Aim 4: skills involved in identifying, investigating, and problem solving associated with environmental issues
  • Aim 5: a sense of responsibility through participation and action as individuals, or members of groups, whānau, or iwi, in addressing environmental issues.

The introduction to the curriculum guide states:

New Zealand’s natural and social environment is unique. A mild climate, cultural diversity, a small population with high levels of participation in outdoor activities, extensive marine resources, relatively clean air and water, a variety of national parks, and distinctive plants and animals all contribute to the special nature of the environment. As New Zealanders, we value our environment for recreational, aesthetic, economic, cultural, and spiritual reasons.

New Zealand’s future as a nation relies on our maintaining a quality environment. This environment includes its natural and built elements as well as its social and cultural aspects. It is air, water, and land. It is plants and animals. It is people, their communities, and their social and cultural values.

An understanding of the many factors that influence the environment, particularly the impact of people, is critical to maintaining and improving environmental quality. People have modified the land, introduced plants and animals, and utilised both renewable and finite resources. Understanding and responding to people’s impact on the environment therefore requires a multifaceted approach.

Now, if I believed in indoctrination theories then I’d start right here, particularly with aim 3 which aims to develop “attitudes and values that reflect feelings of concern for the environment”. Why pick on a teaching resource specifically on climate change, which involves no curriculum changes when one of the aims of the curriculum itself is to encourage specific attitudes and feelings. This runs counter to the ideology of some conservatives which is to teach the facts, and only the facts (but only the facts I agree with), and that values are a parental responsibility, not the state’s.

Given the nature of the topic, the Ministry of Education has released a wellbeing guide to accompany the teaching resources. It includes a reminder to parents which can be applied outside the climate issue, particularly the last sentence, which I have emphasised below:

It can be difficult to see your child struggling, unhappy and anxious. You might even feel guilty or responsible. Your child may be frustrated with you and other adults about the current climate change situation. With any unpleasant feeling your child has, it is tempting to want to “fix it”. However, the most important response is acceptance and acknowledgement of feelings, within a caring relationship. Being with your child, whilst they come up with their own solutions and ways of dealing with things, is harder – and more important – than it seems.

For anyone interested in what the fuss is about, here are the links to the teaching resource and the wellbeing guide:

Climate Change Learning Programme – Teacher Resource (.pdf, 7.09 MB)

Climate Change Learning Programme – Wellbeing Guide (.pdf, 0.75 MB)


A chilly escapade

During my life of some 7 decades, I’ve had one or two memorable experiences, some good, some bad, and some that were neither, but had the potential of being life threatening if circumstances had been less favourable. This is one of them.

After finishing high school, I was employed by a multinational I.T. company in a role that was then called a service technician. The company manufactured, sold and serviced a range of equipment from cash registers to accounting machines to mainframe computers. In the first few years of employment, most of the equipment I serviced was electro-mechanical – cash registers, bank terminals and accounting machines.

I had been working for the company for about a year, when I was assigned the task of travelling to Mt Ruapehu to service all the equipment at the Chateau Tongariro and further up the mountain at the Top Of The Bruce ski lodge. In total there were about thirty machines involved, mostly electric cash registers, but including some back office equipment and a few manually operated cash registers. In those days, this was three days work for one technician as the servicing of a single machine typically took up to one hour.

The first day was uneventful.  Driving from sea level to 2000m (6560 ft) in an under powered, unlined and unheated 1100cc Ford Anglia Panel Van in late winter over tortuously winding roads can never be described as exciting even though one was constantly shifting between 2nd, 3rd and 4th gears for most of the journey of nearly three hours. It was cold and unpleasant. There wasn’t even a radio for company.

The next day started out bright and sunny, and as the forecast was for snow the following day, I decided it would be wise to drive up to the Top Of The Bruce to service the equipment there that day. I didn’t fancy driving up the mountain in falling snow in that vehicle.

As it was a week day (Wednesday I think) the ski lodge was quiet, and there were only a few staff in attendance. The car park was almost empty. One of the cash registers I was supposed to service could not be found, but eventually the duty manager remembered that it had been taken to a cafeteria further up the mountain to cater for the weekend crowds.

The cafeteria was open only on the weekends when the slopes were crowded with skiers. However the duty manager offered to start up the chairlift so that I could go up to service the cash register. I had never been on a chairlift at that point in my life, so I readily agreed to the offer.

The arrangement was that he would start the chairlift for me to journey up. Once I arrived at he top I would use the phone at the top terminal to contact the duty manager at the bottom terminal. He would then stop the chairlift until I was ready to come down. At that time I would phone the office at the ski lodge, the duty manager would then go to the chairlift base terminal and start the chair lift so that I could return to the bottom.

He handed me the key to the cafeteria, and his business card that had the office phone number on it. The phones at the chair lift terminals were directly connected and a simple turn of a handle was all that was required to cause the other phone to ring. He also handed me a tourist brochure that included a stylised map of the area at the top terminal so that I could identify the cafeteria from the many other small buildings, mainly ski club chalets, clustered there.

In due course, I found myself on a chair lift with my tool kit balanced on my lap. The views were spectacular, especially as it passed over some deep valleys. In some cases, there must have been several hundred feet between myself and the ground below. It wasn’t until I had nearly reached the top that I realised how cold I was getting.

Perhaps now is an appropriate time to mention my attire. As I had not intended to be outside apart from traversing from car to building and back again, I was dressed in the approved company manner: Dress shirt and tie, dress trousers and dress shoes. Over this I wore the approved grey lab coat. Not exactly appropriate for winter mountain wear, but as I had intended to be indoors the whole time, it was adequate.

However, it most definitely was not adequate, when seated on a chairlift in winter half way up the highest mountain in the North Island. By the time I got off the chair lift and phoned the duty manager, my teeth were chattering. It was cold, and I was struggling to keep a grip of my toolkit, which weighed around 12 Kg (26 lbs). The cafeteria was about 200 m (220 yds) from the chair lift, and although it was relatively flat, the snow had been packed hard by several thousand pairs of boots the previous weekend and was extremely slippery. Remember I was wearing smooth soled dress shoes.

For those who aren’t aware, Mt Ruapehu is an active volcano. There had been an eruption the previous week. What the duty manager overlooked to tell me, or was unaware of, was that a lahar had swept down the mountain, and the mud flow had come to a stop against the cafeteria. The door to the building was blocked by a chest high wall of frozen mud. There was no way of entering the building that way.

I was considering going straight back to the chair lift, but it had stopped shortly after I had phoned the base, and it was very unlikely that the duty manager was still there. My only option was to use the phone inside the cafeteria to call the office. It turned out that access to the building was rather simple. The wall on the uphill side of the building had been pushed in by the mud flow, and all I had to do was scramble over the frozen mud to get inside. I would then be able to phone the office for the chairlift to be started again.

It wasn’t until I was inside, that it dawned on me that I might be in some danger. The telephone had been mounted on the displaced wall but was now lying on the floor. There was no dial tone. A quick glance outside confirmed that at least one, possibly two, telephone poles has been toppled. There was no way that the phone could be made serviceable any time soon.

I considered my options. It was now mid afternoon. Could I rely on the duty manager realising that I hadn’t requested that the chairlift be started? Was anyone else aware of where I was? I couldn’t be sure of either. The possibility that I might be stranded for some time was becoming a reality. The cafeteria was well stocked with snack food, but as the electric power was also off, there was no way of heating the place, and there were no articles I could use to keep me warm. Staying there was not an option.

A quick examination of the other huts and chalets nearby revealed that they were designed to keep heat in and the cold and uninvited visitors out. The stylised map indicated that there was a walking track that zigzagged down the mountain. The map indicated that walking time to the Top of the Bruce was a little over an hour.

I decided my best option was not to rely on someone noticing I was missing, but to walk down. After all there was a walking track, so what could go wrong? My mind made up, I headed off with my toolkit in hand, which felt like it was getting heavier by the minute. As I passed the chairlift terminal I decided to try ringing the base on the off chance that a passerby might hear it. I gave up after ten minutes and headed to the start of the track.

As I have previously mentioned, the snow around the chairlift terminal was packed hard and was extremely slippery. I’d only walked a short distance when I slipped and landed heavily on my tailbone, my toolkit flying gracefully through the air to land some distance away before starting to slide down the slope. I then realised that I too was sliding at an ever increasing speed, and I could find no way to slow down or stop.

Ahead of me was a wire mesh fence that from my vantage point while making lazy circles as I sped downhill on my back, appeared to run along the edge of a precipice. My first thought was “Well that’ll stop me if nothing else does”, but then it occurred to me that perhaps hitting the fence at the speed I was doing might not be good for my health.

I could find no way to stop my slow spins, and every now and again I would catch sight of my toolkit, also doing slow spins as it speed down the mountain on a slightly different trajectory but towards the same precipice and fence.

The distance from where I fell to the fence was perhaps a hundred metres – about the distance between goalposts on a rugby field. I was well past the halfway line and approaching the 22 metre line when I finally managed to gain control over the spinning. Now that I was better able to observe where I was heading, two things became very apparent: my toolkit would reach the fence well before I did and that there was a gap of between twenty and thirty centimetres (8 – 12 inches) between the snow and the bottom of the mesh – enough room for the toolkit (and possibly me) to pass under.

Just as I was about to wave the toolkit goodbye, it disappeared into a spray of flying snow. It seems that people kept clear of the fence and and there was a band of soft(ish) snow in front of it. Moments later I too felt a rapid deceleration as snow flew all around. I didn’t so much slam into the fence as to gently kiss it. Somehow in the last moments I had got into a sitting position, although I don’t remember consciously doing it, and I came to a very gentle stop with my chest and cheek against the mesh, my arms extended above my head and my legs extending under the fence. I’m sure it must have been a comical sight, although fortunately there was no one around to witness the spectacle.

After taking a moment to compose myself, I gingerly made my way along the fence line to where I last saw the toolkit. It was totally buried, but the disturbed snow made its location obvious. By a stroke of good fortune it had finally come to a stop against one of the widely spaced fence posts. I retrieved the toolkit and, not trusting my shoes on the hardened snow skirted around its perimeter until I reached the start of the walking track. Taking a last look at the scene behind, I headed on down the track.

I had only walked a short distance, certainly less than a hundred metres when I began to question whether walking down was a wise choice. Unlike the packed snow around the buildings, this was very soft and about knee deep and sometimes came up to mid thigh. Walking through it was very hard going. The path itself wasn’t steep, but the terrain it was carved into was, and the snow drifts meant that the path was virtually invisible. It was clear that no one had been on this path since the last snowfall. To guide trampers (hikers), there were red marker posts at infrequent intervals, some barely protruding above the snow, some I suspect were buried completely.

For the first ten or fifteen minutes, the track zigged and zagged beneath the chairlift but after passing under it several times, the markers showed that the path headed well away from the route of the chairlift above. Unperturbed, I set out using the markers as a guide. I made two disturbing discoveries. The first was that less and less of each marker post was visible above the snow and that the path between posts was not a straight line. I frequently found myself tripping over hidden boulders or finding only more loose snow where I expected solid ground.

Before long I found myself out of sight of the chairlift and with no visible markers to guide my way. While snow might be good for softening my frequent falls, I discovered that it is extremely exhausting when tying to push through it, not to mention how slow progress is. If it wasn’t for the trail that had formed behind me, I would have been totally lost.

Perhaps if you were more familiar with snow, you’d know what to do in such circumstances, but my previous experience with the stuff was nonexistent, apart from viewing it on mountains from a distance. This was my first experience of being in it, literally. Clearly it would be foolish to try to attempt to follow a path that wasn’t visible, and wandering away from known paths would make it very difficult for anyone to find me if a search was mounted. Its a very large inhospitable mountain.

I decided my best option was to return to the collection of ski chalets and with the aid of tools I had to break into one of them. I had just passed under the chairlift when a thought struck me. The chairlift makes an almost straight beeline down the mountain to the Top Of The Bruce, so why not follow it? The clouds had closed in so an aerial search wouldn’t be possible, and if if the chairlift was put in use to transport searchers, I could yell to them as they passed overhead.

The decision to leave the track and follow the chairlift seemed a rational choice at the time, given my lack of experience of the conditions and the fact that that I was probably suffering from mild hypothermia by then. so with toolkit still in hand I set off.

The snow felt less deep the steeper the slope became, although sometimes a large boulder or rocky outcrop would cause a buildup of snow or hide a snow drift until I stumbled into it or tumbled off a hidden ledge into deep snow. Never the less, I felt I was making good progress as I passed the third or fourth chairlift pylon.

The pylons were were not particularly high, but they were placed on ridges, and sometimes the ground between them dropped away markedly. I had reached one of those places. The ground before me dropped away at nearly sixty degrees, before rising on a similar incline to the next pylon almost at the same altitude as the one I was standing beside.

The snow didn’t look particularly deep here, as boulders and rocky outcrops were clearly visible everywhere on both sides of the valley. I could plan my route between pylons to make best use of those features. What I didn’t count on was that on such rough terrain, hollows are filled in with snow, and remain hidden until you tumble (literally) into one.

I’ve never been able to tie shoelaces that remain done up, so my preference these days is for shoes with zip or velcro fasteners. On the day in question the dress shoes were of a slip on type with elasticised panels to keep them in place. Their inappropriateness for the conditions quickly became apparent as I any time a foot became partly wedged between rocks, I would loose a shoe as I took the next step. Sometimes it required a face plant in the snow to be able to reach down and retrieve it.

By the time I reached the bottom of the valley, mist obscured the chairs and cable and only the pylons were visible. I also discovered, that while the destination pylon was always visible on the way down, it frequently disappeared from view beyond the horizon in front of me on the way up. The exact opposite occurred with the pylon behind me, frequently disappearing on the way down and remaining in view on the way up enabling me to set a course using the alignment of the four feet at the base of the pylon as a guide.

The next few pylons were over moderately sloping ground so the target pylon was visible, more or less. The clouds had reached ground level and at times the pylons would disappear in the swirls of mist. I also discovered how saturated you can become if you’re not adequately protected from the mist. I was not. By now my clothes were decidedly damp. And cold. Very cold.

There were a further two deep valleys I had to cross and although by now visibility was down to around twenty metres, by good luck or good fortune, I was able to find each pylon. I noticed that the snow was getting less deep as I continued downhill.

It was starting to get dark and I had no idea how far I had come or how far I had yet to go. I’d been walking, stumbling and falling for around two hours. Then miraculously, a path appeared. I had no idea if it was the same one I started out on, or a different one, but I thought there was nothing to loose by following its downhill course. It kept remarkably close to the route of the chairlift as occasionally I’d pass by a pylon.

It was almost dark when I reached the Top Of The Bruce. There was no light on and the place was locked. The mist hadn’t eased, and it took me a while to locate my vehicle in the car park. There didn’t appear to be any other vehicle there. In those days, our company vehicles were easily identifiable with the company name and logo emblazoned on the sides and rear. Surely the duty manager would have noticed the vehicle as he left? Perhaps visibility didn’t allow it.

The drive from the Top Of The Bruce to the Chateau typically takes ten to fifteen minutes if I recall correctly, but on that night it took an hour in the darkness and fog. I doubt I went any faster than walking pace. I think I made the whole journey in first gear! I remember stopping at least twice because the winding unsealed road ahead would disappear completely in the swirling fog.

I also discovered that sitting in an unheated vehicle in damp clothing is more chilling than the strenuous exercise in the open I had undertaken over the previous two hours. It was a very bedraggled and cold nineteen year old that made his way to his room at the Chateau, who then spent the next hour under the shower trying to warm up.

That was my first and worst experience with snow. Not something I ever wish to repeat.

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Pavlova and Pōhutukawa

Two words synonymous with the Christmas season and summer in Aotearoa New Zealand.


If you’re not a Kiwi or an Aussie, you probably think if a pavlova (if you think of it at all) as a meringue dessert topped with whipped cream and berry fruit. And you could be forgiven for thinking that.

In fact I have been served such a thing in overseas restaurants and even on a cruise ship renown for the culinary skills of its chefs, all incorrectly described as pavlova. They were not. They were, as I described above, just meringues topped with whipped cream and strawberries.

So what’s the difference between a meringue and a pavlova? I think of a meringue as being either crispy throughout, or being a softer, slightly moist texture when used as a topping such as on a lemon meringue pie.


What I have been served as a pavlova outside of Aotearoa New Zealand or Australia, is more or less a larger version of a meringue as shown on the left above, smothered with whipped cream and strawberries and sometimes kiwifruit. That, a pavlova does not make!

These are not pavlovas!

On the other hand, a pavlova has a very thin crispy exterior only a few millimetres thick, and a soft, moist, fluffy interior, so soft that it collapses when gently squeezed between tongue and the roof of the mouth. It’s so fragile that it can’t be picked up with your fingers. Without the crispy exterior, any fruit placed on top of the pavlova would sink right through it. In fact the whipped cream spread over the top is more dense than the interior of a good pavlova. A good pavlova often looks like it’s about to collapse with the crust cracking once it is decorated.

Real pavlovas

Here ends my lesson on distinguishing the difference between a real pavlova and a fake one,


The pōhutukawa is sometimes referred to as the New Zealand Christmas tree, as in some parts of the country it flowers at Christmas. Like much of the NZ flora and fauna, its population in the wild is decreasing due to predation by introduced species – in the case, the common brushtail possum from Australia. The possum, with its voracious appetite for green leaves, buds and young shoots, eats many of these trees to death.

Fortunately, the pōhutukawa’s spectacular displays of crimson flowers make them a desirable plant in larger gardens, and they are now distributed well beyond the region they naturally flourish in. With careful pruning, they can be kept to under four metres high.

The Pōhutukawa

One particular pōhutukawa tree has a special place in Māori mythology. On Cape Rienga at the northern tip of Aotearoa New Zealand, an ancient Pōhutukawa clings to the side of a cliff and overhangs the ocean below. It’s estimated to be around 800 – 850 years old and would have been a relative youngster, perhaps no more than a hundred years old, when humans first set foot on this land. The tree is special in that it is the departing place of the deceased on their way to the legendary home of their ancestors – Hawaiiki-A-Nui.

According to myth, the spirits of the deceased travel along the coast until they reach this particular pōhutukawa. They enter the underworld by sliding down its roots and into the sea. Then they travel out to Three Kings Island, where they climb a peak to bid a final farewell to Aotearoa before commencing their long journey to Hawaiiki-A-Nui.

I’m aware of one other myth regarding the pōhutukawa. According to legend, the crimson flowers represent the blood of the warrior Tāwhaki. He fell to earth while attempting to find heaven to seek help in avenging the death of his father.

A growing trend among Pākehā (non-Māori New Zealanders) is the adoption of the Māori tradition of planting a pōhutukawa as a living memorial to the dead.

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It does surprise me how well Michael’s Summary of the year here Aotearoa New Zealand matches my feelings even though I’m a whole generation older. So rather than try to re-invent the wheel, I invite my readers to read his post.

Oh, and Michael, keep blogging. You really have been conspicuous by your absence over recent months.

While I have been conspicuous by my absence, New Zealand has been conspicuous for all the wrong reasons. New Zealand is the place I call home. It is my country of birth, the place where my wife was born and the birthplace of my children. In my limited time on this planet I have seen […]

via Conspicuous — Michael Bracey


Words and actions have ‘immeasurable consequences’

Below are the UN general assembly Speeches by the president of the United States of America, and the Prime Minister of Aotearoa New Zealand. Do they even live on the same planet?

Jacinda’s speech in English starts at 1m 5s if you wish to skip her formal greeting in te Reo Māori, but out of respect for our culture, please don’t.

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Statistics and religion in Aotearoa

In Aotearoa New Zealand, a census is taken every five years. Finally, we’re seeing results from the 2018 census. This has taken much longer than in previous surveys due to some glitches related to going from a paper based system to being fully online. This resulted in a low participation rate. It’s taken Stats NZ Tatauranga Aotearoa (New Zealand’s official data agency) longer than usual to compile reliable data sets.

The statistics on religion have been released, and it makes interesting reading and shows that trends that became evident at the beginning of the century are continuing.

One problem with the statistics is that they report affiliation and not actual beliefs. It’s known that within many affiliations in this country, religious belief ranges from extremely conservative to extremely liberal, especially within the mainline Christian churches, where belief in the traditional concept of God as a deity is waning.

Also within New Zealand, religious thought is not very high. If I could receive a dollar for every time someone on census day shouted “Hey Honey, What’s our religion?” or phoned with “Hello Dad. I’m just filling out the census and don’t know what to put down for our religion. Can you ask Mum please?” I’d be rather wealthy.

With that in mind, here’s some interesting facts that will either be pleasing or alarming or neither, depending on one’s perspective.

The number of Christians continue to decline. They now make up approximately 36% of the population. Keep in mind that non-theism is common within many Christian denominations, and within a few the most prevalent viewpoint. For example within Quakers, I doubt if there are any “true” theists left.

The number who claim no religious affiliation continues to climb. I admit that I’m somewhat surprised that it’s not as high as I expected, which was a little over 50%. The figure published is 48%, but there are two points to keep in mind. Of the 162 affiliations listed, some are not religious in the traditional sense, although they may well fall within Sir Lloyd Geering’s definition of “a total mode of the interpreting and living of life”. I’ll touch on some of these affiliations a little tater in this post. Those who claim any affiliation, are not included in the no affiliation category.

The second point is that according to several opinion surveys, somewhere between a quarter and a third of those with no religious affiliation do hold some idea of “something greater than themselves”, be it a force, energy, spirit, or “something” that is manifest within humanity, nature or the universe. So to assume all those who have no religious affiliation have no religious belief would be incorrect.

The Object to answering group is the next largest grouping after the Christian and no affiliation groups. They make up almost 7% of the population. It’s difficult to know what this group is composed of, and why they chose this option. But given that it is one of the listed options, I suppose some will take advantage of it. What is significant is that their percentage does not markedly change from census to census.

No doubt, fundamentalist Christians and their ilk will rejoice that only 0.15% affiliate with atheism and 0.14% with agnosticism, ignoring the fact that the majority of atheists and agnostics will have identified as having no affiliation.

Religions and denominations with more than 1% of the population are:

  • Anglican: 6.7%
  • Christian (not further defined): 6.55%
  • Roman Catholic: 6.29%
  • Presbyterian: 4.71%
  • Catholicism (not further defined): 3.68%
  • Hinduism (not further defined): 2.59%
  • Islam (not further defined): 1.22%
  • Latter-day Saints: 1.15%
  • Methodist (not further defined): 1.12%

Some other irrelevant but interesting information:

  • There are 348 more Jedi affiliates than there are Jehovah’s Witnesses. Each make up 0.43% of the population. Jedi has seen a sharp decline since the 2011 census when 1.5% of the population claimed affiliation.
  • There are 306 more (Christian?) Evangelicals (0.10%) than there are Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster affiliates (0.09%).
  • Our spaghetti loving friends outnumber Lutherans (0.08%)
  • My own faith tradition, Quakerism makes up 0.02% of the population and is outnumbered by Zoroastrian (0.02%), Taoism (0.02%), Satanism (0.02%) and Wiccan (0.03%). A few Quakers are also Wiccan (or should it be “a few Wiccans are also Quakers”?), but I’m not sure how Stats NZ has handles multiple affiliations.
  • The smallest religious affiliations are Libertarianism and Rationalism (with 9 members each, Cao Dai and Maoism (with 6 members each), and Commonwealth Covenant Church (with 3 members).

When I look at some of the religious affiliations listed, I think Stats NZ has taken Lloyd Geering’s definition to heart. How else could the following be otherwise identified as a religion (in increasing affiliation order):

  • Maoism
  • Rationalism
  • Libertarianism
  • Marxism
  • Socialism
  • Yoga
  • Humanism
  • Agnosticism
  • Atheism

While I hold Sir Lloyd’s concept of religion as “a total mode of the interpreting and living of life” as being accurate, I’m struggling when it comes to atheism, which as I understand it, is a lack of belief in a deity. I could understand anti-theism being a cause that could qualify as a religion, as could a belief in the need to weaken the influence of supernatural beliefs. Many atheists do hold such beliefs, but such beliefs are not what atheism is about. Can a lack of belief in a deity be any more a religion than my lack of belief in pink flying elephants or little green men in flying saucers? If they do qualify as religion, then absolutely everyone on this planet has a religion, as everyone on the planet will lack a belief in something. I don’t believe that is what Sir Lloyd had in mind.


Autumn already?

Apparently. My phone popped up a little diary message this morning telling me that today is the Autumn Equinox. I snorted coffee out of my nose when I read that bit of information (that’ll teach me to not use the phone during breakfast). Autumn already? And here I was looking forward to the warm weather of summer.

While I appreciate that the creators of Google Calendar believe that today is the Autumn Equinox, they are very much mistaken, and I will be writing to them to point out their error. Today is the Spring Equinox. If you think otherwise, you are wrong!

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Auckland to be renamed Orcland

Just Kidding.

But Auckland will be the home of  orcs, hobbits and many more LOTR (Lord of the Rings) races over the coming months, and perhaps years. Amazon Studios has chosen Auckland in Aotearoa New Zealand to be the production location for its multi-billion dollar Television series based on the Lord of the Rings.

The series is anticipated to be the most expensive TV series ever produced and will explore new story lines that precede The Fellowship of the Ring. It will bring thousands of jobs to the local film and entertainment sector. Although this country has been home to a number of major film productions, the small size of the local industry means that making a living in the film and television sector can be somewhat precarious – a boom and bust scenario. If the first year proves successful, it could make the lives of those in the film industry here just a little more secure than it has been.

Pre-production has been under way for a number of months and filming is expected to begin next year. Like all major screen productions it will be eligible for the standard NZ tax breaks available here. That means somewhere around NZ$100 of the hard earned taxes I pay, and every other Kiwi pays will go to Google so that the world can see this country in all its fantastic beauty.

Unless an Internet provider includes a free subscription to Amazon Prime Video (my current provider includes Netflix as part of its Internet package), it’s unlikely that I’ll get to see the series. Which is a shame, as I am a fan of fantasy and sci-fi stories.

As an aside, Kiwis pronounce Auckland and Orcland the same. Does the same apply in your part of the world?