Archive for the 'Jennifer Garlick' Category

Rebuilding Christchurch

Amargh Street, central Christchurch, in 1860

Amargh Street, Christchurch, in 1860, when the city was being constructed first time around

We’ve all watched, gobsmacked, the images of destruction in Christchurch and its suburbs. Our first thoughts are with bereaved families and the badly injured, and with the intrepid folk working around the clock on rescue and recovery, and restoring infrastructure.

But talk has also begun about rebuilding the city: what should be restored, what should be conceived of anew, how to make buildings which can withstand such forces of nature – liquefaction became a word in most New Zealanders vocabularies last September, and we have a better understanding of the underground cathedral of aquifers the city stands on.

Sometimes out of destruction can come the hope of a new beginning, and it seems to me there is a chance to make a city more in tune with its environment, but also maybe a world-leading city of the 21st century.

While working on the Te Ara entry about knowledge-based industries, from our Economy and the City theme, I was startled to learn that one person in every 300 residents of Christchurch writes software for a living. There are more than 200 IT companies in Canterbury, including Tait Electronics, a major supplier of digital mobile radio systems internationally (on their website they’ve been outlining their role in supporting the emergency services since the quake). Altogether Canterbury was responsible for half of New Zealand’s software development in 2008.

If weightless exports hold a key to economic success for a small country remote from world markets, then maybe Christchurch could become a centre custom-designed to foster creative industry? What do you think?

Rocket into Christmas with Hauraki–Coromandel

Wouldn't you rather be here?

Wouldn't you rather be here?

Those of us who labour behind the scenes at Te Ara would like to wish our readers in New Zealand and other parts of the world a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year. And we have a Christmas gift for you – the 18th of our Places entries: Hauraki–Coromandel, a very special region covering the Hauraki Plains and the Coromandel Peninsula. Written by distinguished historian Paul Monin, the entry explains the many attractions of Hauraki–Coromandel through the centuries – first for Māori people of different tribes, and later for Pākehā seeking kauri timber and gum, gold, or hoping to establish farms.

Nowadays, this beautiful area is attractive to another group of people – holidaymakers – and looking at some of the fabulous images, such as the photo of snorkelers in sparking turquoise water at Cathedral Cove, it is easy to see why. When Christmas holidays roll around, thousands of people from Auckland, Waikato, and further afield converge on the region: this interactive map shows how the populations of various beach resorts boom over summer.

For motorists coming from Auckland, the excitement begins to mount as they queue at the famous one-way Kōpū bridge. If heading up the western side of the peninsula, they will be greeted by the sight of massed pōhutukawa (the New Zealand Christmas tree) in spectacular bloom. Some may be lucky enough to enjoy the retro delights of a real kiwi bach, such as these ones made of old Auckland trams.

Rocket into Christmas!

Rocket into Christmas!

Visitors from Waikato heading for the eastern side of the peninsula will probably pass through Paeroa, with its well-known Lemon and Paeroa bottle statue. This icon had its origins in a 1967 promotion by the local businessmen’s association. Inspired by the moon landings that year, the association built a 7-metre-tall rocket and coined the slogan ‘Paeroa rockets into Christmas’. In 1968 the L&P bottle replaced the rocket.

Once through the rugged Karangahake Gorge, it will be onwards to Waihī and then beaches at coastal towns such as Whangamatā, Tairua, Pāuanui and Whitianga. Whether heading east or west, there’s lots to see and do on the way – for instance you can stretch your legs on the Karangahake Historic Walkway, take a ride on the Driving Creek railway or call in at The Waterworks.

Don’t you wish you were there? Perhaps you will be – in which case, have fun and take care. Remember to swim between the flags, so you don’t create headaches for volunteer surf lifesavers. And never drink and drive, as some did during the prohibition years of 1909–1926 – this type of risk-taking should definitely be consigned to history.

Thoughts on editing the Tangihanga entry

A tīrairaka, or fantail

A tīrairaka, or fantail

Editing an entry on tangihanga recently reminded me of the power of Māori poetry to evoke the experience of grief. The natural world was a vivid reference for Māori metaphorical imagery, and one of the thrills of reading and listening to Māori oral literature is the landscapes, birds, trees, seas and skies it describes are all here around us: beautiful Aotearoa.

It’d be a challenge for a lyrical poem in English to swallow a name like ‘bull kelp’, but rimurimu, its Māori name, is lovely. In a song written in grief for her dead child, an East Coast mother begins ‘Rimurimu teretere e rere ki te moana,’ describing the way kelp drifts and eddies on the tides, a powerful metaphor for the helplessness of grief.

In the last verse she compares her child to a tīrairaka, a fantail, a bird which flits about and is never still, a dazzling simile for the elusiveness of memory.

Another metaphor for the yearning of grief comes from the song ‘Tai timu tai pari taihoa e haere,’ which implores the turning tide to halt. This was sung to Māori troops heading off to the Second World War.

There’s an everyday poetry in te reo Māori which to me rivals the potency of Shakespearean English … why wouldn’t you want to learn it?

Other ways of measuring the economy

GDP per capita of selected OECD countries

GDP per capita of selected OECD countries

I’m nerdy enough that I really enjoyed editing the economics entries, which we launched last month as part of the Economy and the City theme. Through editing them, I finally came to understand those acronyms – GDP, GNI, PPPs – that economists like to throw around.

Since finishing work on that theme, I’ve continued reading about economics, and have recently been finding out about the GPI, genuine progress indicator. This adds on to GDP (gross domestic product) the value of unpaid work – such as housework, parenthood or volunteering – and deducts things like the cost of crime, household rubbish disposal and environmental degradation. Green economists see this as a truer measure of economic wellbeing. Applied to the US economy, GPI showed that while GDP per person had risen steadily since the 1970s, the GPI was flat or declining.

In New Zealand the Auckland Regional Council is keeping track of GPI for Auckland. Economists are now beavering away at measuring GPI for the whole country. It will be interesting to see what it shows, and might require us to make additions to some of our entries.