Tuesday, June 14, 2011

My day at HUHA

The first I heard of HUHA (Helping you help animals) was through my friend Cherie, who has been a vounteer at the Kaitoke-based animal sanctuary for about 9 months. I asked her one day if I could come along and check it out. Cherie was happy to indulge my interest, so picked me up at 9.30 on a sunny Tuesday morning and we headed out to Kaitoke. We stopped along the way at the supermarket to pick up a trolley-full of leftover bread for the animals.

After arriving at HUHA, a gang of roosters rushed to meet us, scrambling for crumbs as we unloaded the bread from the boot of the car. Also keen to say hello was Munchkin the goat, one of Cherie's favourite sanctuary residents. I gave her a polite pat but the sight of her horns made me question if we would ever be close friends. Munchkin followed along behind us as we headed to the emu pen. The emus, Wiremu and Weemu, were very friendly chaps and skillfully plucked bread from my hand without getting my nervous fingers.

Next in line for our attention was Charlie the monkey, a retired circus performer. At 40 years old he's a grandpa by his breed's standards. Walking him up the hill to his outdoor enclosure was slow-going - the old guy had to stop every so often to catch his breath. Once at the enclosure it was feeding time for both Charlie and Laurie, a feisty Capuchin monkey. I was surprised to see Charlie shares his enclosure with two giant rabbits: Jelly and Bean. Cherie insists the two species are friends, but Charlie's boisterous rough-housing with the two rabbits made me think "with friends like that who needs enemies"!

It was time to jump on the quad bike and take a big slab of silverside and some roadkill to the injured hawk enclosure. Whilst the slab of meat looked juicy and delicious, I wasn't sure how excited the hawks would be about the roadkill - a dead hedgehog - it's surely the hawk equivalent of brussel sprouts.

More quad bike riding took us down to the cow paddock where I met Mabel, mini-Mabel, Woollybully, and No-Name. We scattered some hay for them to tuck into and I tenatatively gave Mabel a few pats.

Next Cherie took me groom the ponies and she also introduced me by name to most of the ten or so pigs on the property. The most impressive of all was Piggy-Sue, a ginormous sow-stall survivor. The story of her gallivanting on the grass for the first time after 5 years in a stall was pretty moving, and made me question my consumption of pig meat. If animals like Piggy-Sue have to suffer, bacon just doesn't seem worth it.

By now the midday sun was blazing hot, and we grabbed a shovel each as Cherie had some tree-planting planned for us. I had told Cherie I didn't mind getting my hands dirty, so she held me to that! Soon our planting was done, and so was my day at HUHA.

But we had one last task to do - this time down at the Petone foreshore - the release of a recently-recovered seagull. Cherie opened the box and out jumped our survivor. To check that his flying ability was back, Cherie chased him along the beach a little until he took off, and that was that. He soared out over the ocean until we couldn't see him anymore. "That's my favourite part of the job," said Cherie.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Driver kills two while evading police

See? It is possible to write a headline that doesn't blame police for the fatalities caused by fleeing motorists. When it comes to the debate about police pursuits, it seems the media has chosen its side. With headlines like "Police pursuit ends in serious injury" (NZPA); "Two killed in city after police pursuit" (The Press); and "Man seriously injured in police pursuit crash" (NZPA), it's not surprising that public heat is being directed towards police.

The man seriously injured in the NZPA headline above was an unlicensed driver who failed to stop when police tried to pull him over for speeding. Surely it was this man's decision to drive without a license, and then to flee police, that resulted in his crash - not the police's decision to pursue him? While I'm always ready to give a high-five to the long arm of the law for doing their job, the media's bias isn't completely baseless: New Zealand has more police pursuits per capita than anywhere else. Last year, there were 2000. In July, a review to police procedure on pursuits "made a number of recommendations" and "tightened up a number of criteria". But since the review, another six deaths have occurred during police pursuits. For 2010, that makes a grim total of 12 fatalities.

The Candor Trust is a lobby group calling for a Royal Commission of Inquiry into police pursuits. The Trust wants to see a moratorium on pursuing minor matters and chases involving young drivers. But will condoning low-level lawlessness on our roads really be safest in the long run? What might be the outcome be if a boyracer caught going 120km/hr knows he can get away with it if he simply speeds away from police?
It seems the answer to our police pursuit problem may not be 'blue and white'. Could a Royal of Commission of Inquiry find the solution to prevent further tragedies?

Friday, September 17, 2010

Swift outclasses former nemesis at VMAs

Since Kanye West infamously snatched the microphone from her at last year's MTV Video Music Awards, Taylor Swift's star has soared. So it's no wonder she harbours no bitterness for his very public diss. This year's VMAs saw Taylor perform a powerful ballad about forgiveness. With lyrics like "Who you are is not what you did" and "Every one of us has messed up too", Swift's self-penned song was clearly in reference to last year's incident. And if there was any doubt the song was about Kanye, there was also the line "Thiry-two, and still growin' up now". West was 32 at last year's awards ceremony. Commentators are praising Swift's song as a classy display of her maturity; cementing her status as the sweetheart of the music industry. Kanye also performed a new song at the VMAs. His was an ode to 'douchebags'.

Monday, September 6, 2010

In the wake of the quake

Cyclists have a whole new terrain to navigate along the formerly flat Christchurch roads.

After Christchurch, and the entire country, was shaken by that 7.1 magnitude earthquake on Saturday morning, it would feel wrong to blog about anything else. The regular bloggers on Stuff.co.nz apparently felt the same way - abandoning their usual topics of video games and movie reviews to chime in on how the natural disaster personally affected them. While the television news replayed the same few interviews on repeat, the blogosphere tapped into a wider range of quake experiences. Movie reviewer Margaret Agnew likened it to living through a disaster movie, and described how her maternal instinct saw her running to her son's bedroom before she was even fully conscious. Another blogger, Moata, was pleased to receive a comforting hug from John Campbell when she came across him while rubber-necking the damage in town. And a games reviewer predictably described their experience 'like something out of a video game'.

There's something about a natural disaster that turns us all into journalists. Amateur photogs were sending in their snaps and video-phone footage into news outlets at such a rate that Vodafone had to ask them to stop for fear of overloading the network. I definitely wasn't the only one conducting text interviews with Cantabrian friends, and I kept the news on all day, for fear of missing any exciting updates. As a Wellingtonian, I've been trained since preschool to be ready for a quake like this. So I almost feel guilty that Wellington has gotten off scot-free with this latest quake. Christchurch residents, in their brick houses, just weren't expecting their world to be so rudely shaken up.

The effects of the earthquake have been surprisingly far-reaching; beyond the expected uninhabitable buildings, and water and power shortages. After the intial influx of quake-injured patients to hospitals, the next round of patients have been gastroenteritis cases, from exposure to unsafe drinking water.
Domestic abuse callouts increased during the period following the quake, giving new meaning to 'broken homes'.
Wellington's Rimutaka prison has swelled, with Canterbury prisoners shipped to the capital after their prison was damaged.
Earthquake survival kits are being snapped up around the country; nowhere more than in Wellington (where we should theoretically already be prepared).
Sales on Trademe have popped up for quake rubble and chunks of tarmac - though some sellers are redeeming themselves by donating the proceeds to the Red Cross.

Apart from the scenes of damage and disrepair, the images coming out of Christchurch after the quake have overwhelmingly been of humanity doing the right thing. My favourite scene was of a group of student volunteers cleaning silt from an affected street. Most of the time we see students on the news because they're getting drunk or protesting about something. It was refreshing to see them earnestly putting their youthful energy to good use. As the University of Canterbury enters its second week of postponed classes, students will have plenty of energy to spare.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Attempted rape becomes attempt at rap

I'm not sure how I feel about this. Two New York musicians have turned an interview from a news piece about an attempted rape into an undeniably catchy Youtube hit. The unwitting star of the project is 24-year-old student Antoine Dodson, who was interviewed after he fought off an intruder from his sister's bedroom. Dodson's angry, head-bopping tirade was so close to being a rap song already that it didn't need much digital altering to turn it into one. It seems exploitative to turn a story about a sexual assault into something humourous, and profitable. But Dodson says he's been empowered, not exploited. The musicians responsible for his sudden stardom, Evan and Michael Gregory, are splitting the proceeds from iTunes sales of their song with Dodson.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Miracle in a mine

The first image of one of the trapped miners, captured by a camera lowered down a bore hole . Photo: AFP

Chileans are celebrating the news that 33 missing miners are still alive, 17 days after falling rock trapped them 700m underground. The miners are confined to an underground chamber the size of a small flat, and have managed to survive on just 2 days supply of food and water. Ventilation shafts have allowed them to breathe, but temperatures inside have been as high as 36C.
Fresh supplies are now being delivered to them through a narrow shaft. The miners' ordeal is far from over as it could take up to four months to drill a shaft big enough for the miners to be extracted one by one. Experts say the challenge will be to keep the trapped miners psychologically healthy until their rescue. I'm seeing major sponsorship potential here. You have 33 miners stuck in one place, which makes them newsworthy until they get out. Apple should be siphoning down iPods, Nintendo should be sending down 33 PSPs - what better opportunity for product placement? When the rescue is completed, you'll have 33 instant spokespeople for your brand!

Monday, August 23, 2010

Julia or Tony? Aussie election in a dead heat

Gillard and Abbot face off in their Leader's debate earlier this month.

As the vote count sluggishly continues for Australia's recent election, a majority win by either party becomes increasingly unlikely. The prime ministerial hopefuls are getting desperate - both have been flirting with independent MPs and minority parties, lining up potential support for a coalition government.
Gillard's Labour party is ready to get in to bed with the Greens, who are set to push for action on climate change. Labour's postponement of their carbon-emissions trading scheme until 2012 is likely to be a point of contention between the parties.
Independent MPs may be equally hard to please. One independent, Bob Katter said he would support whichever party he thought would do more for rural communities and ensure their right "to go fishing and camping and hunting and shooting." Another, Tony Windsor said he was "happy to talk to anybody" and centre-left independent Andrew Wilkie also said he was "open-minded." Whichever way this election goes, it's almost certain that fervent negotiations will be required to bring an end to this dead heat.