Why are we so worried about terrorism?

Errorism

Over the last year there have been a huge amount of articles covering terrorism. Nearly all of them international coverage. Deaths from cars, trucks, stabbings. It’s awful. I was in Paris when a man shot some police. The city was chaos with road blocks and the detonation of a suspicious bag in the Metro.

This was during the elections and the Parisians were on high terror alert. The city sounded like a never ending Jason Borne car chase with all the sirens. People were deeply worried about Le Pen and feeling suspected even though they had lived in Paris for 10 years. Desperately concerned about what the election would mean for them.

But this is Paris. Smack bang in the middle of it all.

Meanwhile in New Zealand people are worried about terrorism as well. It is hard not to be when news agencies constantly post terror related articles. They do this because fear sells. They get more hits and sell more advertising through fear mongering.

The government uses fear to fulfil it’s agenda. Massive increases in defence spending, the NZIC budget, the removal of privacy protections in the GCSB Act. All these things have been justified as combating global terrorism, protecting us from the unseen threats that surround us. The shadowy evils that are waiting to pounce.

Fears don’t have to be rational and the fear of terrorism or war in New Zealand isn’t. For instance, the UK travel advice for New Zealand doesn’t even have a link for terrorism.


Why are we so worried about terrorism?


 

Defence Spending

Prime Minister John Key justified the massive increase in defence spending by pointing out the threats.

“The emergence of ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant), heightened tensions in the East and South China seas, increases in military spending across South East Asia, and the rapid evolution and spread of cyber threats are just a few examples,” he said.

Yet the same defence force white paper that the spending was based on states,

“New Zealanders can remain confident that the country does not face a direct military threat in the foreseeable future. ”

And then goes on to advance possible threats that may be more likely to occur. Not much to justify spending an extra $20B over.


New Zealand's biggest threat


 

NZIC Budget

In Budget 2016, the Government announced an increased funding package for the NZIC of $178.7m over four years. In the words of the government this was,

“for the New Zealand intelligence community to ensure it can provide essential intelligence and security services and remain effective in a rapidly-evolving environment.”

Which can be roughly restated as we don’t have anything to worry about and we have made up a nice sounding sentence in the hopes you won’t ask to many questions. Or possibly, we just changed the law so we can surveil you but there are quite a few of you so we need more money.


At the end of 2014 New Zealand’s terror threat level increased from very low (unlikely) to low (possible but not expected). MFAT


 

The GCSB Act and associated legislation.

The changes to the GCSB and associated Acts gave the New Zealand government unheralded powers to protect us from terrorism. Yet the last act of terrorism was the Rainbow Warrior bombing in 1985. A full 32 years ago.And a simple search of the news for ‘GCSB threats‘ doesn’t find any reports of them to do with terrorism. Just the usual reports of how they have broken the law, been used to advance politics, and are installing their software in ISP’s in order to ‘better protect us’.


“Unlike many other countries, including our closest neighbour, New Zealand has not recently experienced terrorist attacks or serious, publicly-disclosed security threats.” – Cullen Report 2016


 

So why are we so worried about terrorism?

In the end there doesn’t appear to be any explanation for why we or our government are so worried about terrorism. It is insane that we spend so much time and energy on it.

It is justified by the use of shadowy threats to the country, people working secretly to destroy us. The problem with this is that it can’t be proven and we can’t disprove it either.

If the government says that 18 people are under watch for suspicion of terrorist links we aren’t allowed to see the reasoning. It is secret. We must trust them. They only want to protect us.

In reality New Zealanders have a greater chance of dying from just about anything else than terrorists. You have a greater chance of killing yourself than you do of being killed by outside forces.  579 people took their own lives last  year. We should be worried about that.

I think in the end it is because we aren’t afraid of things we believe we can control. It is the things that we can’t control that are easiest to fear. It is a pity. There are a lot of things wrong with this country that should gain more of our attention. There are better ways to spend our money.

 

 

Station Rock Track to Medlands Beach via Kowhai Valley Track

View from Station Rock Track

It is a good idea to start this from the top at Station Rock end. Unless you really like steep hills. 🙂

Station Rock track is a fairly new track. Originally it only went up to Station Rock but now it has been extended. It follows along the ridge-line to meet Kowhai Valley Track. This means you can do a nice loop by walking up the Medlands Hill, along Station Rock, and then drop down Kowhai Valley track back onto Medlands Beach.

Station Rock

The track up to Station Rock is good. The next part of the track is brand new and well marked but it can be muddy and slippery. When you get to the  Station Rock turn off, maybe 15 mins in, it is worth going to have a look at the view. Looking west you can see down the valley to Medlands. And looking east you get a good view of Tryphena and Coromandel.

Station Rock lookout

You can also see one of the radio masts for Aotea FM.

After going back to the turnoff you can head south along the ridge line. I was a little disappointed in the views but perhaps that was because I had seen them before. It is really more of a nice walk in the bush. A lot of work has been put into the track but unfortunately the pigs have decided it was all for them.

Station Rock Track view

Kowhai Valley Track

Kowhai Valley Track runs from Rosalie Bay road down to Medlands Beach. Station Rock track joins on about 200m down from the road. If you have the time go up and have a look if John Kargaards gallery. Otherwise it is downhill for quite a way. There is a seat near the bottom of the incline and then you go through some coastal forest before coming out onto Primrose Road at Medlands.

Kaitoke Hot Springs to Mt Heale Hut via Peach Tree track

Kaitoke Hot Springs Track

Kaitoke Hot Springs track is probably the most walked piece of track on Great Barrier Island. It is also the easiest. Being almost flat helps. If there was a track to take someone in a wheelchair on, this would be it. Do a test run first, but it should be fine.

The track starts on Whangaparapara road. There is parking and it is maybe an hours walk from the Claris Airport so it isn’t hard to get to. Another good idea is to get Steve and Lebee to drop you off and pick you up at the other end.  I don’t know how much it costs but they seem to do it quite a lot.

It takes about three quarters of an hour to get to the hot springs. There is a toilet there and if you follow the path around to the left you can find some hotter pools up stream. There is also a deeper one at the top that isn’t as hot but is still the best.

If you cross the bridge the track keeps on going up steps. At the top there is a seat with a nice view of the Kaitoke Swamp. There are a couple more steps and that is about all the climbing until the start of Peach Tree Track. At the bottom of the hill the Hot Springs Track joins onto Tramline Track.

Tramline Track

Tramline Track runs all the way from Whangaparapara almost to Windy Canyon. Both ends of it are quite steep but the middle is flat and straight. Easy walking.

Tramline Track

Peach Tree Track

Peach Tree Track runs off Tramline where an old whare used to be. I have been told the peach tree wasn’t there though. It may even be still around. It is an interesting sign to read though.

Almost immediately after starting the track you begin to ascend. There had been recent track work when I went up to try and stop the spread of PTA there is a washing station at the start of most of the tracks on Great Barrier.

Once you get out of the larger Manuka into the smaller scrub-lands you are halfway there. The vegetation changes and you cross a stream where an old Kauri Dam used to be. After that it is a fairly steady climb until the junction with Southfork near Mt Heale Hut.

It is always a good idea to look at the view on the way up though. 🙂

Te Ahumata (Whitecliffs) Track

Te Ahumata - Looking down.

Te Ahumata Track is a nice walk to the top of Te Ahumata (Whitecliffs). Roughly an hour and a half up and down again. Parking is right across the road at the Forest Road track entrance.

Te Ahumata track entrance

It is a fairly gentle walk to begin with. Following the ridge and curving around until getting to the turnoff to the top. If you keep on going without turning off you end up in Okupu.

Although the track is quite good and I didn’t get my feet wet in sneakers you do have to be careful in parts as the mud can be slippery and the moss deeper and wetter than it looks.

There are good views up toward Hirakimata (Mt Hobson) and down into the Kaitoke swamp and the northern end of Kaitoke Beach.

After the turn off the path does become a touch steeper and rugged as a lot of water comes down and the clay is gouged and slippery. It isn’t to bad though and soon you get to an area where you can look over the ridge down into Blind Bay.

I like this spot. In the distance is Coromandel, but if you look down the valley then you can see Blind Bay wharf which means Davey Owens house is down there. I have to resist the urge to yell,”Have another Waikato!” in the voice of god.

Looking down toward Blind Bay Wharf

Once you get to the top there are views in every direction. Down into the Kaitoke and Medlands Valleys. Out to sea off both side of the Barrier. Up north across the bush. I had forgotten how nice it was as I hadn’t been up for a while.

Te Ahumata advice

There isn’t really any drinkable water up there especially in summer so it might be an idea to take some liquids up with you. It can also be windy and a little exposed. Coming down is worse than going up if there is a bit of rain. Footwear with good grip is advised.

The Barrier Wave

Barrier Wave

The Barrier Wave is a special thing. And I’m not talking about the surf. I am talking about the way people wave at you as they go past in a car. Some are instantly identifiable by their wave, some are cursory, some are exaggerated, and some are hilarious.

You see it in other parts of the country in rural areas. I have always thought of it as not just a, “Hi! How are you?” but more of a recognition of the other persons existence. I am here, you are here.

It is also very hard to stop doing. When you drive of the ferry at Auckland it usually takes about ten to fifteen minutes to stop automatically waving at everyone. Half because of the weird looks you get and half because your hand gets tired.

I sometimes joke that as I am driving off the edge of the road I’ll probably be waving.

Luke Nola has done a short video on it so I am posting it here to make it a little easier to find in case I ever get homesick. It is a nice slice of Great Barrier Islands population, at a party.

The Barrier Wave

The Barrier Wave – Part 2

The Barrier Wave – Part 3

Mt Heale Hut to Harataonga Beach

It was cold and clear when I woke up at Mt Heale Hut. I probably should have been more proactive and gone to the summit for sunrise but instead I cleaned the hut. There had been a rat the night before. Probably because of the food people had left behind.

Really, on the bench there was an egg, and open UHT cream, 1/10th of a bag of chips, a little bit of cider, and some butter. A little note beside them proclaimed that the egg and cream were good on the 15/06/17. What a wonderful person to leave their rubbish behind for others to carry out. There was probably around 3kg of left overs as well.

Rubbish at the Mt Heale hut.

Hirakimata (Mt Hobson)

After leaving the hut you skirt around the base of Mt Heale and then up a large old slip (same big storm) to the start of the stairs that lead to the summit of Hirakimata (Mt Hobson). There are quite a few of them.

Hirakimata is home to a Black Petrel colony but you don’t see much of them. You might be better to sit down in Whangapoua at sunrise or sunset? That’s the only time I have seen them. There are the usual calls of Kaka (demented parrot) and Pīwakawaka (fantail).

The upper part of Hirakimata was one of the only places on the Island that wasn’t logged or burnt off so it still has original bush. From the summit you pretty much have a 360 degree view of the Barrier and surrounding landscape. Nice place for a break.

Palmers Track

Taking Palmers Track away from Hirakimata you follow the ridgeline to Windy Canyon. There isn’t much full bush which means you get really good views down into the Whangapoua basin and Kaitoke, Awana valleys. The track is good and clear but can be slippery in the wet.

Halfway along is an arch made of tree trunks. This was part of a logging system. It is incredible how valuable logs must have been back then. It is also incredible how few remain.

Further on is Windy Canyon. It is worth stopping at the top of the stairs and looking back down the valley at the columns rising from it. There is a triptych in the waiting room of the Claris Health Centre. It’s worth looking at. 🙂

Whangapoua Basin from the top of Windy Canyon.

Palmers Track winds through Windy Canyons steep slopes and then carries on until you reach the road. I was going to The Harataonga Coastal Walkway tracks northern end so I turned left on the road and started down Okiwi Hill.

Harataonga Coastal Walkway

Strangely, when you get to the start of the Harataonga Coastal Walkway the sign says there  is cellphone coverage. This isn’t actually true. Probably the last cell coverage you will have will be as you leave the Whangapoua Basin at the end of the peninsula.

The Harataonga Coastal Walkway is stunning. It isn’t steep, the track is well maintained, it has great views of Rakitu (Arid Island), and small beaches. Unfortunately, you can’t go to the beaches as it is private land. Both sides of the track are private land.

When you get to Harataonga it will more than make up for that. As will the camp ground with sheep and geese wandering around. Eels in the stream and no one there.

Forest Road to Mt Heale via Southfork

One end of Forest Road starts at Port Fitzroy and the other at Whangaparapara Road. I started at the Whangaparapara end. It was closer.

Forest Road

The entire track is supposed to be 13km and it can feel that long.  It follows the ridge line at either end but there are three deep valleys and, especially heading south, a hill that seems to climb forever. Forest Road can be quite slippery at times. You definitely have to keep an eye on where your feet are going when it is wet. Not so much muddy, just slippery.

Little barrier in the distance from Forest Road

Maungapiko

Halfway along is one of my favourite places on the Barrier. Maungapiko lookout. Sitting on the junction of Forest Road and Kiwiriki Track, with a nice little table, is a short ten minute track that leads up to Maungapiko.  There is also a piece of railway line stuck in the ground at the entrance. The track can be a little slippery but it always amazes me how far you can see from the look out and how few houses there are in view.

Southfork

Near the end of Forest Road is the start of Southfork Track. It got pretty nailed in a storm a couple of years ago and you have to walk up the Kaiarara Stream for 500m or so before picking up a ridgeline that takes you up out of the valley. In the stream you will see the devastation that can be caused by weather on the Island.

The track rises fairly steeply at first but then levels out a bit before coming to a wire bridge. It must have been one of the first DOC wire bridges on the Island. Maybe even a Forestry Service one? It isn’t to far from the end where Southfork meets Peach Tree. Take a left and you’re only a hundred meters from the Mt Heale Hut.

Wire bridge on Southfork.

Mt Heale Hut

Nice hut. No heating but there are mattresses for about 20 people, gas burners, water, and toilets. It does call itself a serviced hut although that hasn’t really been true when I have passed through. Twice the gas wasn’t working, once the water had to be got from the outside tank, and generally there was no toilet paper. This time was the exception with everything working.

There are electric lights in the hut but no wall socket. Cell phone coverage can also be intermittent.

Off The Grid Great Barrier Island

Off The Grid Great Barrier Island

Off The Grid Great Barrier Island is a website run by the Aoteaora Trust to promote and inform people on the issues surrounding off the grid living on Great Barrier Island.

There is a huge amount of information to process when deciding to go off the grid. Not only on Great Barrier Island but for the rest of the world as well. Who better to give advice on what works and what doesn’t work than the people who live with off the grid technology every day.

Micro hydroThe website gives information on power generation, power storage, harvesting water, hot water, waste disposal and septic waste disposal. Each subject also includes case studies using real situations on the Island.

It also promotes new technologies such as Lead Carbon batteries and Salt Water batteries and in the future will be adding a blog on the pros and cons of running an electric car on the island.

Since 2015, the Trust has run a yearly event to promote the Island in its technology.

The 2017 event started at the Auckland Bowling Club with speakers on solar power, batteries, water filtration, power systems,  and waste disposal. It then moved on to the Island where the theory became reality with a tour of the Islands solar powered shopping centre, rodent monitoring, off the grid cooking and other workshops.

It then moved onto the Claris Club with presentations from Integrity Solar, CanFarm Energy Solutions, Aqua Synergy Group and Aquanova.

There were tours of homes using off the grid technology with the owners speaking about the pros and cons, solutions and drawbacks.

Finally, on the Sunday, there is a field day with stalls from both locals and off Islanders and plenty of conversation about local sustainability initiatives and solutions.

More can be found out about event by visiting their website or going to the next Off The Grid GBI Event in 2018.

Off The Grid GBI 2015

Aotea FM Great Barrier Islands Solar Powered Radio Station

Aotea FM logo

Aotea FM has come a long way in a relatively short time. From an initial small set of batteries and a couple of solar panels up a hill it now has three transmitting stations to cover as much of the Island as possible and a new broadcasting hut near the Claris shops.

That’s not a bad feat for an Island with no power grid.

It offers Island news, interviews, and an outlet for people to share their diverse tastes in music and culture. There is also the occasional weather forecast which can start at Great Barrier but stretch all the way into the Pacific in order to give surfers an idea what might be coming.

Aotea FM is run by volunteers as a local not for profit community effort. These volunteers do more than just play DJ. They have built the transmitters, the radio shack, governance, provided money and time, and occasionally they have to run up a hill to start a generator if there has been heavy cloud for a couple of days.

A weekly schedule can  look like a who’s who of the Island population, for example…..


Monday
08:00 – Kick Start with Brownie
10:30 – The Cure (Michelle & Marie)
13:00 – The Adam from Okupu Show
15:30 – Mystery Monday with Sharon

Tuesday
08:00 – The Breakfast Club (John Tate)
10:30 – Leebee’s Lunch Break
13:00 – The Rook show
15:30 – The Penny Drops

Wednesday
08:00 – “T” in the morning
10:30 – Nikki’s of Angels, Love & Horses
13:00 – L’Indie’sClassicJazz’nBlues
15:30 – Cool Grooves & Hot Tracks

Thursday
10:30 – Leebee & Lenny’s Music Mayhem
13:00 – Ngaire’s Thursday Cruize
15:30 – Cool Grooves & Hot Tracks

Friday
08:00 – Kit’s Morning Catch Up
10:30 – Phill’s Friday Fiasco
13:00 – Off the Record with Kathy
15:30 – Sali (Stolen Tuesday)

Saturday
08:00 – DJ Fresh
10:30 – Toni’s Top 10
13:00 – Stop it! Live with Leon
15:30 – Sharon’s Saturday Arvo

Sunday
10:30 – Sunday Buzz (Joseph Hodgetts)
13:00 – Tala’s Sunday session
15:30 – Lars and the Real Show


And you don’t have to be on the Barrier to listen. AoteaFM streams live online!





AoteaFM Collage

Internet upgrades

Internet Upgrades

It looks like the Local Board and everybody contacting Chorus and Ministers with their concerns might be having some effect. Amy Adams sent this the other day.

Internet Upgrades

Dear Mr Harre

Thank you for your email dated 6 March 2016 to Hon Nikki Kaye, Member of
Parliament for Auckland Central, regarding broadband services on Great Barrier
Island. The matters you raise fall within my portfolio responsibilities as Minister for
Communications, and have therefore been forwarded to me for response.

I can understand your frustrations and share your concerns that some
New Zealanders are not able to receive a satisfactory internet connection because of
where they live. That is why this Government has committed to lifting New Zealand’s
broadband performance, and the first phases of the Ultra-Fast Broadband (UFB) and
Rural Broadband Initiative (RBI) programmes are well on their way to delivering
faster speeds to 97.8 per cent of New Zealanders by 2020.

As a Minister of the Crown, I am unable to intervene in the business operations of
private companies, such as Chorus and Vodafone. However, I have asked my
officials to provide an update on broadband availability on Great Barrier Island. I
understand that you may have already received information from the office of Hon
Nikki Kaye in relation to your email so you may already be aware of some of the
information below.

Chorus has confirmed that it has recently made the decision to upgrade two existing
cabinets on Great Barrier Island by June 2016. This upgrade will improve the speeds
of existing connections and will allow for new customers to be connected. These
upgrades, however, will not extend to the entire Island.

If you still reside at Mason Road, much of the information in my previous letter to
you (reference CITAA1415-410) remains current. It is unlikely that the planned
upgrades will improve the broadband connection to your address. The primary
reason you experience slow speeds at your address is due to your distance of more
than 6km from the cabinet that delivers broadband services to your area. This is
beyond the theoretical limit of ADSL.

I note your comments about slow internet speeds on Great Barrier Island generally.
Chorus has confirmed that, although broadband services are linked to the mainland
(the backhaul link) by Digital Microwave Radio in the Waikato, broadband speeds on
Great Barrier Island are not affected by services in the Waikato. Furthermore,
infrastructure upgrades in the Coromandel have no adverse impact on the
infrastructure that provides services to Great Barrier Island.

Vodafone has confirmed that the RBI towers providing fixed-wireless services to the
Island also use Chorus backhaul. The use of Chorus’ fibre does not impact the
fixed-line access network on Great Barrier Island.

Vodafone has advised my officials that it has a long term commitment to Great
Barrier Island and has managed to provide considerable increased coverage over the
last three years. However, it does not currently have plans for further upgrades.

When planning future upgrades, Vodafone takes into account area population,
potential demand, initial deployment costs, ongoing maintenance and future upgrade
requirements. Upgrading a network outside of Government programmes is a
commercial decision on the part of private companies, such as Vodafone, and will be
driven by network priorities. I am unable to intervene in such decisions.

I note your comment that it would have been desirable to deploy UFB to Great
Barrier Island instead of fixed-wireless broadband under the RBI. While the
Government would like to be able to provide UFB to all, the cost of deployment in
areas with difficult terrain and low population densities means this is not currently
possible, and we have had to prioritise.

Please be assured that this Government is actively seeking ways to help improve
broadband coverage across New Zealand, particularly in rural and more remote
areas. To this end, the Government is extending the UFB programme, entering the
second phase of the RBI programme, and establishing a new Mobile Black Spot
Fund which focuses on areas of state highways and tourism areas that currently
have no coverage. With combined funding of up to $360 million, it is intended that
mobile and broadband coverage will be expanded to many communities across
New Zealand under these programmes.

Yours sincerely,

Hon Amy Adams
Minister for Communications