Migration in a context of colonisation

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Some thoughts from the recent Presbyterian Research Network lecture with Tony Ballantyne.

A larger than average attendance, I think I saw a good representation from the Friends of Toitu Settlers Museum.

The leadership of the settlement in the first generation was atypical.  As pastoral leader of the colony for the Free Church of Scotland Rev. Thomas Burns was sounded out by a delegation of workmen before landing in support of their request for a eight hour working day.  He was in favour.  The secular leader of the expendition, Captain Cargill, was a traditional classist in favour of the Good Auld Scotch Rule — a ten hour working day.  His leadership was muddled, perhaps it’s no surprise that the other ship’s captain, Captain Elles, settled further south in Invercargill.  The union question in first-generation Dunedin was decided to the workers’ advantage.  So much for the good auld Scotch rule!

Originally supporters of the new colony and benefactors, local indigenous Maori were quickly sidelined as further ships arrived bringing new settlers on whom it was easy to capitalise.

The colony was defined by its identifying boundaries.  Two thirds were Presbyterians, the minority were the Little Enemy, mostly Anglicans and Methodists.  It was not homogenous.  The discovery of gold expanded the size of the colony, the old identities labelled the influx of the miners as the new iniquity.  That did not stop them by profiting on stocking the new chums.

Even so when the Early Settlers Museum was established its identity of the Early Settlers took the cut-off date as 1861, late enough to cover six months of the arrivals of the New Iniquities.

Surprisingly while there is a surfeit of original documentation for the settlement of colonial settlement of Southern New Zealand the study of its history is overlooked, taking New Zealand’s history to the North Island.  There is a new history waiting to be written here, as well as a historical identity to discover.

The John Wickliffe and the Philip Laing in Otago Harbour, see http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=36533 for information.

The John Wickliffe and the Philip Laing in Otago Harbour, see http://mp.natlib.govt.nz/detail/?id=36533 for information.

Candidates Meeting

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The last three days were busy evenings with events.  Here’s my report on the first: a candidates meeting at the Hutton Theatre in the Dunedin Museum hosted by Forest and Bird, Wise Response, Generation Zero and Oil-Free Otago, and others I think.

Forest and Bird handed out poll forms with seven priorities for conversation.  We were told to pick three we considered most important.  It was an exercise in frustration.  I think I wanted to tick at least six!  So many good choices.

The theatre didn’t fill.  There was still a wide range of people.  I saw a couple of Labour stalwarts come in and sit at the end of a row of young Nats.  Every seat was leaflet dropped by the National Party.  The Democrats for Social Credit were also keen distributing their pamplets, like elderly street preachers.

Seven candidates going in alphabetical order.  These people get to know each other.  Fun to watch who’s sitting together: the Conservative candidate exchanging a quip with the Labour incumbrant, and the National List M.P. sharing a joke with the Legalise Marujuana Aotearoa candidate.  Interesting to watch them: who smiles, who scowls, who makes notes for their turn.

The Act candidate has already resigned in a huff over his party leader playing the race card rather than stand for the party’s libertarian principles.  No replacement from Act on Campus has taken his place.  No candidate for New Zealand First either.

The Labour candidate, David Clark, up first: “The economy is a subsidiary of the environment.”  “There are more National MPs in government than Maui Dolphins.  We need to change the numbers.”

I was interested in hearing Rob Stewart from Internet Mana.  No game-changer but acceptable.  He ended on “We have only one world.”  The next one over is too far to walk.

Metiria Turei from the Greens was to the end of the list.  “Most of us are campaigning for the party vote.”  “There is much greater commonality on the left to environmental issues.”  More on that when I go to the live-feed for Generation Zero from Auckland.

Last off the rank was Michael Woodhouse, the List M.P. for Dunedin from the National Party.  As the government M.P. most of the questions were directed to him from the floor.

I walked home thinking about the candidates meeting to organise for Opoho Church.  It will be the weekend just before the election, and, no matter the pressure put on us by the candidates, we promise to be more sillier and irreverent than they can be!

Here is Hope

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The Combined Dunedin Churches put on a well-attended event at the Dunedin Town Hall.  Even though I knew I would not enjoy the worship music, which would be jumping, I went to hear one of the speakers, Highlander Captain and All-Black Brad Thorn.

I stood for the songs.  Mostly I did not sing as they were unfamiliar to me.  I listened to this wall of sound around me.  I joined in when they sang a version of Thine Be the Glory, Risen Conquering Son and sang with gusto.  I used to have a version of this from a worship service from the London Proms.  Perhaps a more orchestral sound next time?

As I said, it was Brad Thorn that I had come to hear and consider.  He was interviewed on stage by a pastor.  The conversation steered away from the details of testimony and theology.  There was several references to the recent Highlanders game.  Don’t ask me about that, I’m a sports non-believer.  Thorn was not on the field during the game.

I picked up some notes from what the big man said.  He’s from a Mosgiel family, with a back-ground in one of the churches that faded away when the family moved to Australia.  His success in both Rugby League and Rugby Union made him independently wealthy and at the top of his game.  He wanted more from life and with some encouragement made a commitment to Christ.  This involved a noticeable change of nature to those around him as he “put on the Christ nature” (his choice of words).

For him being Christian is being professional.  I’m guessing this is a reference to his role as a professional sportsman.  He lives by the code of the game on the field, in his public life, and in his Christian life.  I wonder if this a return to the chivalric romance of muscular Christianity as was popular in the first half of the twentieth century, a masculine ethos to balance feminine religion.

The evening ended with a 30 minute address and altar call from retired Youth for Christ man and family councillor Ian Grant.  I left wondering what the evening had been for? And who for?  It all felt muddled.

Local Body Elections

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When I look at who got in, and who did not, I don’t feel I need to be disappointed.  Several candidates that I rated highly got in.  I gave two votes for mayor.  I think I put Cull as my second choice.  He got in without my vote getting counted.  Despite what his critics say he has a substantial majority.  My first candidate also got onto council.  I’m pleased with that and wait to see if my choice will be effective.

I rated Neville Peat and Benson-Pope highly in their presence at Opoho Church’s Candidate Meeting.  Both are also present at the council chamber.

Nearly all the new candidates ran visible campaigns with posters around the city.  Hilary Calvert was the most popular candidate.  I’ve heard it that she cornered the women’s vote.  Her poster was in a number of empty properties around the central business district.  I thought that would have been sufficiently indicative.  Her career in parliament, along with Benson-Pope’s, seems to have been forgotten.

Business candidates came across to me as strong on balancing the books, and with no vision of growing business in Dunedin.  As a group they did not attract my attention.  They are present around the council table which is going to create an interesting balance.  I want to keep an eye on this.  If they act like scoundrels then I expect the next election in three years’ time will rectify this.  There is still a chance that some of these councillors can be put to good use.

Dunedin has one big electoral ward which covers the urban part of the Dunedin district.  There is talk that with interested voters now down to below 50% that the rural wards will be absorbed into this.  I am not convinced that this will galvanise the electorate to vote.  If anything the candidates are already distanced from the citizenship of Dunedin and this suggestion will continue the disaffection.  My own preference is to reverse the trend and restore urban Dunedin to smaller wards again.  The councillors need to be out there and talking to people.

Already some commentators are talking about doing away with local body elections out of the lack of interest.  Central government can then appoint the right people to run local government.  I don’t think that we are basket cases yet to ruled by technocrats like Italy, Greece and Cyprus.

People of the Four Winds: The Dunedin Jewish Community at Toitu

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I saw in the Star that there was going to be a talk at Toitu.  The local Jewish Congregation had put up a little display of artefacts relating to Jews in Dunedin.  Dr Stuart (Shlomo) Swerdloff, a migrant to the university from California, addressed the audience.  His favourite Jewish/New Zealand fusion food is Kumera Latkes.  The Jews that arrived in Dunedin came with the gold rush.  They were following the money.  They were successful enough that they established a temple and expanded it.  Their third temple survives in Dunedin as the Temple Gallery, an especially beautiful building  up steep steps close to the centre of town.  The interior is to admired.  Unfortunately the sanctuary is part of the curator’s flat in the building and can only be seen briefly.  The congregation meets in a simpler modern building in North Dunedin.  Although smaller in numbers they maintain the necessary quorum to read the Torah.

The Jews that came to Dunedin were modern people.  Jews in America created Levi’s Jeans.  Jews in Dunedin started the Hallensteins clothing business.  Look around, they left names that are still part of the city’s history, Willi Fels and the Theomin family.

They maintain the story that when they invited a visiting Rabbi to celebrate the first Purim he wrote the Megillah, the festival scroll, the night before the occasion.  If so he had a very good hand because on examination in the display it is very neat writing.  A prayer book was open to show mention of prayers for Queen Victoria and Prince Albert.  These people knew how to pray for the peace and well-being of their city.

Other items that were passed around the audience, it was well attended by interested people,   A Kiddush cup for sharing wine on Sabbath eve, two menorahs, one traditional, the other modern in design, and two kippahs.  These can be serious like the one that was lovingly made, or whimsical, like the one that was a souvenir from Paris!  I resisted trying one on to see what it was like (besides no mirrors nearby!)  Dr Swerdloff displayed how to wear a prayer shawl.  These things are special his family’s life in Dunedin.  They are reserved for their practice, when they are valued.  Apparently his daughter is very good at blowing the ram’s horn for New Year and Atonement.  The congregation has provided one from Israel for her.  There is pride in that.

Heritage – Asset or Liability?

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This was a public lecture given by Sir Neil Cossons as public of the Symposium celebrating the 150th Anniversary of the Dunedin Gasworks.  It was well attended by a well-heeled audience.  Very respectable.

On the 23rd of May 2007 the world population shifted to a percentage where the majority of humanity lives in cities.  It was a Wednesday.

We were told about Liverpool in decline after its industrial age.  A society’s industrial age can last four to five generations.  Just long enough to think that it will last forever.  Economies move away.  It comes as a shock.  They thought that they could build cathedrals.  Last absolution before the motorway!  Confession: 6 items or less!  Liverpool, one of my ancestral homelands, has discovered its heritage coolness.  It’s fragile, but it has an opportunity to recover itself.

I’m happy to hear that in the heritage industry archiving is crucial.  There is an oral record to be preserved.

We were told about the Cornish Mining World Heritage Site.  This covers ten locations across Cornwall.  It could be bigger than that.  Where there’s a hole there’s a Cornishman down it.  Did somebody tell Poldark?  There are distinctive Cornish mining buildings across Spain, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.  This world heritage site could prove to have a  global vision and people are talking, everywhere where Cornish miners created community, kept the faith, and buried their dead.

Then there are the places where people want to keep the look of their communities because they have an affection for the way it was.  Heritage teaches people to take the protest into their own hands and preserve living cohesive communities.  The alternative is development.

As our drinking patterns change pubs in Britain are closing down in hundreds per month.  Access to alcohol makes it easy to enjoy a few drinks together at home.

When St Pancras Station was renovated recently they had copies of William Barlow’s original plans to compare on site.  I did say that archives are important!  The vision was ambitious.  I considered what they had done alongside the renovations of Knox College.  Even though that was praised as successful I wonder if they showed the same vision.

Dunedin is in a good position to push ahead as a city with a living community heritage.  There are people interested to build, and to rebuild.  The restoration of several old banking buildings has shown this vision.  There needs to be recognition of the small end of the scale as well.  Innercity density will increase.  There are buildings that can be opened up for clothing and fashion, information technology and small scale manufacturing.

Looking around I think I saw a lot people interested in arts, heritage and architecture in Dunedin.  I don’t think I saw any of the local body election candidates in the audience.  Shame.  If they had been there they could have got something to think about.  And maybe a couple of extra votes.

Helping you get ahead

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It appears that the Labour Party are on a policy drive.  I saw a notice of a meeting at the Knox Church Hall and made the point of attending.  The Labour Party is my political bias of choice.  I arrived about twenty minutes before hand and the room was beginning fill.  By the time the meeting got underway the room was full.  The Labour Youth volunteered their seats for the last arrivals and stood for the meeting.  I estimate about 200 people in attendance.  It’s not just a party for teachers and unionists.  There were a diverse range of people in ages and ethnicity.  Maybe this is Dunedin.

Both local Labour Members of Parliament were present and David Clark introduced the Labour Leader David Shearer and finance spokesman David Parker.  People in Dunedin have been badly hit by the loss of jobs from the city.  The leaders were here to introduce their NZPower policy.  People are living in dread by the menace that lurks in their letter box, the power bill, especially those people for whom which bill is paid is a choice each month.

Electrical power is generated by one company and supplied to electricity users by another company.  It turns out that often these companies are part of the same private corporation who can insure the price they pay to themselves is cheaper than that they provide to an outside supplier, maintaining a monopoly and keeping competitors out of the market.  The Labour Party’s policy is to insert a third body, NZPower, to regulate the price between the power provider and the supplier.  Prices are based on the most expensive electricity generators, coal and gas, even though hydropower is the most common and efficient electricity generator in New Zealand.  NZPower would work off a price that is midway between hydro and the more expensive generators.

No surprises that the electricity companies are opposed to this!  The electricity companies operate to increase profit, not to reduce cost.  Which means that electricity prices increase at twice the rate of inflation and in 2012 at five times the rate of inflation.  Now the government is determined to sell of shares of electricity companies and privatise them into the hands of New Zealand’s 3%.  Not a good policy for water that is publically owned.

NZPower is compared with Pharmac.  That worries me as both major parties in national politics favour free trade to varying degrees.  The control of medical drug buying through Pharmac in New Zealand is something that I want to see protected.  That’s another matter.

The MP for Dunedin South, Clare Curran, closed the meeting.  No one seemed to be perturbed by the detail that Shearer and Parker were wearing colour coordinated ties.

Stop GCSB and TICS

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It was estimated that 400 people turned up for this demonstration in Dunedin’s Octagon.  I arrived about 20 minutes early and watched the people gather.  The numbers grew quickly and at the last moment.  Advertising for the Dunedin event had been low key.  Rather like being at church, complete with its own liturgy best known to the in-group.  I stayed until the end of the formal speeches.  After two hours of consecutive speeches the numbers and energy levels had dissipated.  I didn’t stay for the open microphone or the music.

Repeatedly the refrain People with nothing to hide have nothing to fear from surveillance was quoted and dismissed.  People with nothing to hide shouldn’t be under surveillance in the first place.  History has shown that the surveillance states of the past have produced nothing but dysfunctional and paranoid societies where opinion and expression are suppressed.  The acts of terrorism of recent times have happened despite our current surveillance states.  We are surrendering security to distrust.

Alternatively the GCSB has something to hide from us that its surveillance is not under supervision that members of the public can trust.

Meanwhile the GCSB would like you to download that fish casserole recipe again.  It was delicious but they’ve lost the link!

GCSB: Government Communications Security Bureau; or as I’ve memorised it: *Government Communications Savings Bank (Looking after you in a very, very special way!)

And TICS I understand is Telecommunications Interception and Communications Security Act.  This is the less familiar abbreviation.  It might prove to be the more scary one in consequence.

The Skyscraper Throne

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I have finished the first book of the Skyscraper Throne by Tom Pollock.  Set in London it was urban fantasy borrowing from New Weird.  I felt while I was reading that it covered a lot of  the same material as Charlie Fletcher’s Stoneheart Trilogy.  Of the two authors I would be more inclined to recommend Fletcher who seems to me to write with more energy and vision.

Still the idea of using the Skyscraper Throne is a good one.  There is a paragraph in the middle of the book that described it:

Cut into the western face of the pyramid was a seat with high sloping arms.  It was vastnothing could possibly be big enough to fill it.  But even as the words left her mouth, Beth knew whose throne it was, because cut into the chair’s high back was the tower block crown.

It amused me to consider Dunedin has something similar in the back of the old central post office, a granite throne looking toward the harbour.  Smaller cities are not candidates for urban fantasies.  I think Dunedin as a heritage city should be a good contender for age-old battles of the imagination.  I wonder what agent of the Iron Crown waits to return to ascend that abandoned throne.


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Farewell of the week goes to my dear friend L’Enfant de Jeu.  She has left for Australia to work in IT at a small university in Canberra.  What a blow!  My cynical soul tells me that this year I have lost two women that have helped me move between various flats: one due to an unfortunate death; the other to Australia.  At least I know that Ms. de Jeu is watching out for me.  I want her to spread her wings, there is so much she could accomplish.  I will be watching out for her.  Hobbit-spotting will become a link back to the dirty ol’ town.

We met up at the Poolhouse on Filleul Street and took over two tables to say farewell.  What a wonderful evening!  Several of us were epochally dire at pool.  Put several of us on a table and we could keep wacking the white ball bouncing around the table, occasionally pocketing other coloured balls until the table was cleared and somebody technically lost by missing the black.  What a way to enjoy an evening.  Can I adopt Ario?  We can be the Smith Brothers, the World’s Worst Pool Players!

Saturday night I visited Brockville Community Church as the parish inducted the minister into permanent ministry there after 5 years commitment to temporary appointments.  An interesting parish, Brockville is a working-class part of Dunedin.  It is evident that there is also a university-related community up there of staff who favour the area’s available housing.  Anyway the induction was well attended, and the catering was good too!  Five tables of food!  Despite the financial constraints on the parish it felt like from the service that it was a growing community.

Today’s diversion was a concert by the Southern Consort of Voices at St Joseph’s Chapel, Of shadows on the stars.  New music to me, it included the Cantique de Jean Racine by Gabriel Fauré, a piece I was not familiar with.  The Consort used the opportunity to position themselves around the Chapel to create a soundscape of voices for several pieces.  It was worth hearing.

At the end of a warm spring weekend and I’m still listening to pieces of Verdi’s Tosca and finding things I haven’t noticed before.  It’s obvious I haven’t listened to it often enough.  I picked out some Rajasthani dance music from my collection to play randomly this evening, and now I’m wondering if I should add in Yo Yo Ma’s Silk Road Ensemble to compliment it.

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