Monday, February 28, 2011

Green Party Suffers PE?

Out of touch with reality?
A suggestion of a nationwide earthquake levy on all NZ income earners seems prematurely extreme.
Green Party co-leader Russel Norman last week suggested slapping the levy on all those earning over $48,000 - similar to the Australian flood levy. And he's not just talking a one-off:
"Earners of $48-$70k a year could pay up to an additional 1% income tax, while those over $70k could pay up to an additional 2%...this would raise an additional $921 million per year and be directly tagged for disaster relief and reconstruction. It could last for a defined time period such as a year, or end with the reconstruction of Christchurch, whatever comes first."
Brother Russ seems to have forgotten that NZers already pay EQC levies, for exactly the situation that Christchurch is now in! For over 60 years the Earthquake Commission has collected premiums off insurance and built up a substantial nest egg against damage, called the Natural Disaster Fund. This holds around $5.6 billion and is backed by overseas reinsurance plus a Government Guarantee. The Govt Guarantee ensures that EQC will always meet its obligations, regardless of circumstances.
The Fund still has enough cover for two more monster 'quakes and, with continuous top-up premiums, there should never be a need for a further levy ever... unless of course we're facing a Sodom and Gomorrah scenario! In which case, we'll just kiss our arses goodbye... after having lasciviously kissed so many other arses that we incurred the wrath of God in the first place!
So Russ, you go back to saving the lesser speckled water weevil.
Leave the government to focus on the rescue work at hand.
And I'll do my bit too by lustfully practising the downfall of humanity.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Hark! Is That The Fat Lady Warming Up?

From The Daily Yomiuri (a paper published in English by Japan’s leading daily, The Yomiuri Shimbun), this story: "Antarctic whaling on the verge of disappearing".
"We can't outrun them!"
The paper speculates nasty Nippon's whaling activities in the Sthrn.Ocean may not see another year. As well as Sea Shepherd's actions, low domestic demand for whale meat has made the prospect of continuing whaling extremely gloomy.
Then follows a nice little 'colour' piece, describing the exhaustion aboard the Nisshin Maru factory ship while bolting from Sea Shepherd: "There's no way we can outrun them!" - so officials quoted a phone call from NM on Feb.11th.: the caller sounded completely exhausted. They obviously had not done their homework: NM's fastest speed is about 20kmph, but Sea Shepherd's Bob Barker and Gojira top 30kph and 44kph respectively. One agency offical said, "It's impossible for the whaling vessels to outrun them, unless the activists have trouble with their vessels" (y'mean, like deliberately ramming one of 'em?).
So the big question kickin' around Japan is: what about next season? Will there even be a "next season"? Ministry officials say discussions have already begun behind the scenes about ending Japan's Antarctic butchery.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Out For The Count there's this bloody shite earthquake in Christchurch, right?
And...the five-yearly census (the official count of people in NZ) is about a week away, yeup?
So...someone in the halls of power very wisely decided this wasn't exactly the best time to go asking kiwis for info, when we're all a tad shellshocked. Thus it was announced: no 2011 census...excellent to this point.
[This'll be only the third time the census has been cancelled: first in 1931 due to the depression, second in 1941 during WWII.]
But wait! In steps the PC Brigade saying that, in order to stop the census, you gotta have a law change! It's called "covering one's arse"!
Y'see, under the Statistics Act 1975, the census must be held sometime this year. That basic human decency has put the brakes on it, is irrelevant. Because the Act requires a census every five years, it will need to be amended asap, to ensure Statistics NZ is not in breach of the Act! Oh no, we can't have that, can we! Jeez, as if someone's gonna sue 'em! So it's getting legal advice from Crown Law "on the most appropriate legislative or regulatory process" to make this required change. As well as the law change, the Governor-General needs to revoke the date of the census!
Surely common sense would dictate a far easier solution to all this legal two-stepping. What's wrong with Parliament just saying: "Ok, guys, we're all in the shit here. We're gonna move the census to March 8th next year...and then get back in line with the following one in 2016. Sweet? Great. Now, next on the agenda is..."
See? Pretty easy. Pretty straightforward. We all know where we stand. No pissing around with legal beagles, amendments to Acts, revoking of dates etc etc.
Oh yea, and because the census costs about $90-million, instead of dumping all the 2011 forms, just store them until next year! The fact that the date will be one year off won't upset the applecart...and at a time when the country has an earthquake-blitzed major city to sort out, $90-mill is a damn good saving!
Ahhhhhhhhhhhh yes, but of course that's all too easy, eh.
PS: 27 May 2011 - New census date announced for March 2013.

Friday, February 25, 2011

Horsin' Around With Our Drinkin'

Seems the World Health Organisation (WHO) has saddled us with a "pissheads" label!
According to their international report, NZers drank the equivalent of about 750 stubbies of beer each in 2005. The WHO Global Status Report on Alcohol and Health shows kiwis drank an average 9.6L of pure alcohol each, well above the 6.1L global average (but still less than our neighbours across the Tasman!). Our most popular tipple: beer, followed by wine and spirits. Shock! Horror! Probe!
National Addiction Centre boss Doug Sellman says the "extraordinary" figure equals 750 stubbies of 4% beer, 100 bottles of 12.5% wine or 24 bottles of 40% spirits.
Obviously Mr.Sellman hasn't broken a sweat on a boiling NZ summer's day - or he'd sure appreciate what a couple of coldies do to a hard-earned thirst! And as for two bottles of wine a week: maybe his personal life's a bit reined in too!
If that's the case, perhaps he'd like to zuzz things up with a different tipple - next month's Hokitika Wildfoods Festival is offering shots of horse semen! Only $10! And available in cherry, liquorice and banoffee pie flavours... and even common-or-garden bog-standard "stallion" flavour.
I'll pass, thanks!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Sea Shepherd Searches For Missing Yacht

Anti-whaling vessel Steve Irwin is searching for a yacht in atrocious Antarctic conditions.
The EPIRB or distress beacon on 14m steel yacht Berserk, with three crew, was activated about 5pm on Tuesday from the Ross Sea - but then it stopped working overnight Tuesday.
NZ's National Rescue Co-ordination Centre centre ordered the navy's patrol ship HMNZS Wellington to Berserk's last position but found no trace of the yacht. Wellington was in the area on sea trials: it was released from the search because of deteriorating conditions but two more ships, Steve Irwin and a Russian ship Professor Khromov, have joined the search.
On its website, the Norwegian-registered Berserk is classed as an adventure sailing charter vessel which "roams the seven seas doing long-term navigation around the world." The site says the vessel is "no luxury yacht with high-tech electronics and luxurious equipment, but it is fully equipped for comfortable sailing in extreme environments".
The 6-8m swells and 110km/h winds prevent the use of an aircraft but, as soon as the storm abates, Steve Irwin's helicopter will be used in the search.
PS: 25 Feb.2011 - Steve Irwin has found a liferaft, empty of people or supplies, which appears to have come from Berserk. Its helicopter is now up and searching... note the ice on the SI, indicating the poor conditions in the search area. Hopes are fading for the missing yacht: if it has sunk, with water temperature at -12C, survival would be a few minutes.
PS: 27 Feb.2011 - Berserk sunk in hurricane-force Antarctic storm.
PS: 01 March 2011 - controversial Scandinavian adventurer Jarle Andhoy cries: "Don't blame ME!'!"

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Harawira Targets World Cup

A veteran activist (read "shit-stirrer") is threatening to use the 2011 Rugby World Cup *yawn* as a platform to tell the world maori are hard done by (!!!).
Titewhai Harawira (Hone's mum) wants to "expose" New Zealand's treatment of maori to foreign media, here for the Cup. She wants to tell international reporters they're getting an inaccurate picture of Noo Zuld, by providing "a whole chronology" of what's happened here and rubbishing claims maori are well looked after and have their land intact. Mrs Harawira says she plans to tell visitors about the impact of legislation, which is supposedly anti-maori.
The interesting thing is: Titewhai thinks foreign media will actually give a damn about her rabid ravings! Hell, most of NZ doesn't! They have dismissed her, her extended family and their antics as nothing more than vaguely amusing fill-copy on a light-news why does she think the rest of the world will take her seriously?
Was there a massive global groundswell when maori activists boarded a Northland tourist bus to whinge about their grievances?! Did the earth actually stop spinning with her son's rantings?! Or when her family members et al regularly abuse the PM at NZ Day celebrations?! And so on and so on...
Face it, Titewhai: yours is a case of "the boy who cried wolf". Your only remaining credibility lies in the eyes of your own family. The rest of NZ is getting on with trying to move this country ahead... together, positively. Your plan seems destined to turn the country against maori (and further marginalise yourself).
Look before you leap...there is no place in a modern progressive multi-cultural society for your kind of twisted politics.
+ Meanwhile Titewhai's lad, loudmouthed MP Hone Harawira, is off to form a new political movement: he'll be an independent for the rest of the parliamentary term, and contest November's general election as an independent or with a new political movement. He claims his decision was to avoid destroying the Maori Party he'd worked hard to build up - yea, right - quite frankly, he was about to be expelled anyway!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Christchurch Is Hit Again!

"We may be witnessing NZ's darkest day"
Prime Minister John Key

It's as if the September 2010 earthquake was Mother Nature's "test run"... on that occasion, it was the middle of the night, streets and businesses were empty, there was a lot of property damage but very few injuries.
This afternoon, 12.51pm lunchtime, the CBD full of workers and shoppers, Christchurch was slammed by a 6.3 quake - the epicentre, the sleepy quaint town of Lyttleton.
Although it was a little smaller than September's seismologically, its impact was far greater. It was shallower and thus the effect was so much more intense. Buildings that were already weakened structurally by the September biggie and the subsequent endless aftershocks, have collapsed. People have been killed - at time of writing, the death toll was 65 and expected to rise - many more have been injured, at least 100 are still trapped in the wreckage (latest update 8am 06/3: 166 dead, 200+ missing. Update: final death toll = 182).
And the very heart
of Christchurch - its religious soul, the big Anglican cathedral in Cathedral Square, has sustained serious damage, losing half its 63m spire and half of the facade along one side.
This damage to such an iconic structure will come to symbolise the impact of today's quake, and perhaps also symbolise the resilience of Cantabrians and New Zealand as a whole.
I'll not attempt to summarise the quake's effect here: its such a daunting task and there're many news sources on-line doing their job in this regard.
New Zealand's heart is bleeding tonight...

No Happy Ending

Half a pod of 107 pilot whales died and the remaining whales euthanased, after stranding in hot dry conditions at the remote southern end of Mason Bay on Stewart Island on Saturday (19th.).
Dept of Conservation: "We didn't have a chance to save them."
Two overseas trampers discovered the pod of dead and dying whales on Saturday morning but had to hike for several hours before they could raise the alarm.
DOC staff immediately choppered in to the beach to assess the situation: about half of the whales were still alive when they arrived at the 10km-long beach, accessible only by air.
With just five people on-site and the tide on its way out, DOC saw no chance of keeping the animals alive until enough rescuers could be flown in to assist. To top things off, a storm warning for the area added to the dangers of attempting a refloat.
So the decision was made to euthanase the 48 remaining pilot whales.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Frozen Milk: New Kiwi Treat

Last week, NZ dairy monster Fonterra trumpeted a freeze on wholesale domestic milk prices for the rest of 2011. Such nice guys!
CEO Andrew Ferrier said they'd already absorbed $10 million of increased costs over recent months and any further increases this year would also be absorbed. Isn't that good of 'em? (Since 2007, Fonterra has recorded 13% compound annual profit growth. And in 2009-2010, it delivered revenue of $16.7 BILLION, up 4% on the previous year - so taking $10mill on the chin is just petty cash!) "World dairy prices have gone up more than 26%...we've only passed on an average increase of 1.4%. While these prices are good for food exports and the economy, NZers are feeling this in their shopping trolley. We recognise milk is an important part of the diet and we want to ensure that future generations grow up enjoying it every day." Awwwwwwww, they have our best interests at heart. Truly. "It would be great to see retailers getting in behind this commitment for the benefit of NZ consumers."
Oh, the fridge light goes's not Fonterra's fault milk is so pricy: it's the ratbag retailers'! Thanks for the clarification, Mr.Ferrier.
That's a nice bit of "spin"...yet the price freeze was announced the - very - same - day that Agriculture Minister David Carter demanded a special report (and for Fonterra to revisit its sums) after public anger at the fast-rising price of milk and other dairy products. Coincidence...? Ahhh...nuuuuhh!
Cash cow?
Peter McClure, managing director of Fonterra's NZ operations said it could be a "prudent" time for it to start market research on the rising price and consumer resistance, after a "dramatic" fall in sales in the past three months. No shit, Sherlock! You need research to tell you why consumers are pissed off? Well, here's my two minutes' worth:
Woolworths own-brand standard milk 2L = $4.15!
Meadow Fresh calcium-added trim milk 2L = $4.75!!
Meadow Fresh Lite homogenised milk 2L = $4.79!!!
Anchor calcium-added milk 2L = $5.09!!!!
Happy with those prices? Really?
They should take a leaf out of the Oz supermarkets' battlebook: across the Tasman, milk is ammo in a price-slashing war, with own-brand milk plummeting in price - while sales have rocketed 15-20%!
Hmmm, can't for the life of me figure out why though.
I'll ponder it more while I suck on my frozen milkblock...
PS: 31 March 2011 - Investigation underway into milk price gouging claims...
PS: 16 June 2011 - NZ pays $195m too much each year for milk!!!

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Tricky Dicky's Run Finally Ends

Cute, but a killer.
NZ Dept of Conservation (DOC) this week finally caught an elusive stoat threatening native wildlife on Kapiti Island (off the SW coast of the North Island).
This lil' ratbag was spotted last November, sparking a full-on 3mth $30,000 trapping and monitoring programme, with 160 traps set. Some lateral "boy" thinking was used to catch this one: assuming it was a male, bedding material reeking of female stoat scent was used as a lure!
Kapiti Island was declared free of introduced mammals in 1998 after many years of eradication. It's now home to some of NZ's rarest wildlife and is an important native bird recovery site.
Now some may think: 30-grand just to catch one liddle iddle stoat!!! But it's vital these vicious killers are wiped out, especially on predator-free islands like Kapiti. Stoats are blamed for the extinction of some native bird species (bush wren, laughing owl, native thrush) and as the major cause of decline of many others (Sth.Island kokako, takahe, kaka, mohua, Hutton's shearwater, kakapo, kakariki, and kiwi).
Although the island is about 5km from the mainland, stoats have been known to swim at least 3km (or it may have hitched a ride on floating driftwood), so DOC's not jumping to conclusions that this is the only stoat on the island...but is hoping for the best.
PS: 21 July 2011 - Another stoat has been found on Kapiti! Damn!

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Surprise Sailing Stopover

Surprise visit indeed!
Virbac-Paprec 3, leading the non-stop Barcelona round-the-world yacht race, docked unexpectedly in Wellington on Thursday for emergency repairs.
I say "surprise!"... because I had not heard a single word that this event was even on! You'd think we'd have heard a bit more about it here in NZ, given that most of the yachts are kiwi-built. And damn, DO we make good yachts!
Still, now that I've found the website, I'm a little more familiar with this, the second running of the event.
If you're vaguely interested in yacht races, this one's a tad crazy. It's the only double-handed (two-crew) regatta around the world, non-stop from Barcelona back to Barcelona via three capes - Good Hope, Leeuwin and Horn, and through Cook Strait (and the strait, certified at times as the most vicious stretch of water in the world, is where VP3 sustained some damage).
The race is approx.25,000nm (46,300km) along the Great Circle line, the shortest route traced on a map across the world. It started on Dec.31st.2010 and the first yacht is expected home about the end of March.
Even if you're not into yacht racing, the website (in your choice of four different languages) is worth a visit. It's a very good example of multimedia usage. Not only does it have the compulsory team bios, yacht pics, skipper blogs etc., but also audio, weather updates, and an awesome live positional tracker (with extremely good graphics). The tracker alone is worth checking out, if nothing else!

Friday, February 18, 2011

U-Turn In Direction AND Intent?

After barrelling full-speed east for 2,000 miles, and just before entering Drake’s Passage into the Southern Ocean, the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru has done a 180 and is heading back west! It's also dropped speed to 11 knots, down from the 14 knots it was doing as it headed east. WTF???
This turnabout could mean one of three things:
(1) it may be on a great circle route back to Japan
(2) it may be returning to the Ross Sea to continue killing
(3) it may just be shit-scared of what the Chileans might do.
Y'see, NM's headlong bolt brought it very near Chile's Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ), in international waters declared a whale sanctuary. As the vessels moved closer, the Chilean govt and public grew increasingly upset. Sea Shepherd was passing location data to the Chileans, who intended to take action if NM entered its EEZ. So perhaps the butchers saw the writing on the wall...
Meanwhile the report of the hunt's suspension has not specified how long this suspension will last. For the season? Two weeks? A few days? Despite requests from several govts and organisations, there's been no confirmation from Japan. But OMG - he squeaketh! "Ginza Glenn", Glenn Inwood (NZ-based mouthpiece for the Japanese Institute of Cetacean Research) says no decision has been taken to end this year's illegal slaughter. Ok, so he didn't actually say "illegal slaughter". He very-PC-like called it "research". Puh-leez!
The hunters: Gojira and Bob Barker
BREAKING NEWS: Japan officially abandons its whaling season early!! And admits to a lousy catch of only 170 minke and two fin whales...

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Whale Hunt Suspended!

Hot news yesterday evening: Japan has suspended its Antarctic whale hunt and may recall the fleet!
Nasty Nippon's whaling plans were not going smoothly this year. The fleet left its home port weeks late. It had planned to hunt whales until mid-March, but it's had an absolutely disastrous season with Sea Shepherd shadowing it from Day One.
Bob Barker is still tailing Nisshin Maru. The factory ship is now in the Drake Passage - between the southern tip of Sth.America and Antarctica - 2,000 nautical miles away from its hunting grounds. At this rate, they'll just carry on sailing east and eventually hit Japan! The three harpooners are unaccounted for, but these are unable to kill whales without NM to process them.
In recent years, the whalers' bag has been well below their quota: last year's fleet returned in shame with only half its limit. And this season, SS estimates the fleet's been able to kill only 30-100 whales - about a tenth of its target!
Meanwhile the NZ government is seeking confirmation of the announcement from Japan, and Sea Shepherd's Paul Watson is also cautious of the report: "If that's true then it demonstrates that our tactics, our strategies have been successful."
I do hope this is a genuine sign that Japanese decision-makers have recognised there is no future for whaling in the 21st Century. And by actually making this withdrawal permanent, they would not only save their government millions in 'prop-up' money, but also begin to salvage their country's reputation.
Ultimately, the decision to end whaling for good will take place not in the turbulent waters of the Southern Ocean, nor in the World Court or the International Whaling Commission but in the halls of power in Tokyo, Oslo and Reykjavik - where money talks.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dogs Of War Are Just That: Dogs...

A major failure within the Royal Australian Navy leaves NZ with the only heavy amphibious naval capacity in this region.
Woof! Woof!
HMNZS Canterbury is now the only naval ship that can land heavy forces.
Oz Defence Minister Stephen Smith says "maintenance and sustainment of our amphibious capability has effectively failed". Its landing ship HMAS Manoora is going on the scrapheap (it has major hull corrosion and needs new gear boxes) and Kanimbla needs so much fix-up work that it won't be match-fit until April 2012. The fleet has been poorly maintained for over a decade and has suffered the "adverse side effects of a make-do culture". Another landing ship, Tobruk, had been on 48hrs notice to go to sea but when Cyclone Yasi hit Queensland, it wasn't ready: Smith reckoned they'd find the same problems with that one too.
And indeed, 38 of the Oz navy's 54 vessels could not operate at full capacity for at least some of the first six months of last year.
Ocker embarassment comes after decades of it quietly mocking the capability of NZ Defence Forces. Yeup, humble pie tastes like... kangaroo! Hehehehehe...

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Art Deco In The Gun Again

The demolition dust from St Heliers' Art Deco buildings has not yet settled, but it looks like it's happening again!
Ahhhh, the sins of our fathers - the (old) Auckland City Council struck a deal with Viaduct Harbour Holdings, allowing it to destroy nine out of 17 buildings in the Wynyard Quarter, deemed worthy of protection.
Those-in-the-know have been legally stopped from speaking publicly! In fact, the deal's so secret-squirrel that the (new) Auckland Council will not even confirm its existence! Why such secrecy? Auckland Council is a public body - it has a public obligation to infom ratepayers before deals are set in cement.
Wynyard Quarter is light industrial, with marine/early 20th.century industrial heritage: bulldoze it all, and you get just another glass canyon. Woop-de-doo. And if so, then why did council bother to put an $8mill. heritage tram track around there? Do they think folk wanna trundle round and round, looking at reflections of historic trams in the mirrored glass? If the Quarter becomes another Viaduct Harbour lookalike...OMG! There's a limit to how many bars, nightspots and cafes a city can support.

Monday, February 14, 2011

Raising A Speights For Frank

Veteran kiwi actor Frank Whitten passed away peacefully in his sleep last Saturday morning, aged 68.
Frank's acting career covered movies such as Vincent Ward's Vigil (1984) and tv shows like Gloss, City Life, and Erebus: the Aftermath among many others. He acted in the UK and, in Australia, had roles in All Saints, Murder Call and Police Rescue. He also worked with major theatre companies in NZ and Oz.
Mr Whitten was awarded "Best Supporting Actor" in 2007 for his role on tv's Outrageous Fortune, playing senile ex-safecracker Grandpa Ted West.
Ironically for a bloke who grew up in the Waikato, for 12 straight years he appeared on the Speights Beer 'Southern Man' tv ads, wryly delivering that iconic line: "Good on ya mate". Here're a couple of those classics: "The Deer Stalkers Ball"...

...and Speight's "Better Half"...

Good on ya, Frank.

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Bob Barker Blockade

As Sea Shepherd's Steve Irwin heads SE to the Japanese whaling fleet (after resupplying in NZ last week), the ships Bob Barker and Gojira are still preventing the nasty Nippons from killing any whales.
Yushin Maru 3 tried to test BB's resolve, by moving in quickly as if to transfer a dead whale to the factory ship Nisshin Maru (although they didn't have one). BB held its position hard astern of NM. The Japanese blinked...and retreated, leaving BB solidly blocking the NM's stern slipway.
For a ship that was screaming out international "under attack" distress calls and was supposedly entangled with two prop foulers only a week ago, YM3 got back into the chase very quickly indeed...!
NM has been unable to shake off BB in the ice packs. G flanks the fleet, keeping on the outside of the ice packs and speeding up to meet the whalers when they emerge from the ice.
Currently there is no way for the whalers to load whales without causing a collision with BB, and no way to shake SS unless they deliberately sink the G (and thus nail their own coffin lid down permanently). Meanwhile SI will arrive by mid-week.

Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sex In The Car

Ok, it's the weekend.
So let's kick it off with a wee laugh: hope you enjoy "Sex In The Car"!!

Friday, February 11, 2011

Target Re-Acquired!

The whaling blockade is on again!
On Wed.9th., Sea Shepherd's hi-speed interceptor Gojira re-acquired the Japanese factory ship Nisshin Maru. Busted in the middle of flensing a whale on deck, NM tried to flee through ice. Gojira harrassed the huge factory ship, to buy time for Bob Barker to arrive from 28 miles away.
Nisshin Maru: near miss
NM 'hot-dogged' with G, veering off a collision course with only 20m to spare. This dangerous tactic has been used by the nasty Nippons several times this season against G. Now, it's one thing to nudge a solid metal ship with another - but it's a completely different story to hit a vessel made of 'glass sandwich' construction with an 8,000 ton monolith! There would be only one outcome from that action (as seen last year) and so, by attempting to cause that, there can be nothing but deliberate intent to ram and destroy in the mind of the Japanese captain!
Bob Barker tailing
Nisshin Maru
Early yesterday morning (Thurs.10th.), under cover of darkness, NM and a harpoon boat headed into thick pack ice: G was able to meet them on the far side of each floe using her speed advantage. Then BB arrived to take over the pursuit, blocking the stern slipway of the factory ship to stop further attempts to offload dead whales. BB is now easily tailing NM through thick pack ice, while G continues to skirt around the ice looking for harpoon vessels.
Steve Irwin’s brief stay in Wellington, NZ last weekend provided them with everything they needed to return to the Southern Ocean Whale Sanctuary: donations of food (especially fresh produce) for all three vessels, plus a full load of 250,000L of marine diesel. Wellington really laid on the generosity, with an incredible amount of donated tools, supplies, equipment, and services.
Steve Irwin
SI sailed on Wednesday evening and will RV with the fleet in about five days. BB will hold position on NM's stern until SI arrives. By doing that, the nasty Nippons cannot process dead whales, allowing Sea Shepherd to again effectively shut down their whaling "research".

Thursday, February 10, 2011

A Plague Of Pirates

Right now, 32 ships and 730 crew are being held by Somali pirates (the figure was updated by this week's news of an Italian oil tanker hijacked).
With more than 600 reported attacks on ships in the past four years, massive economic damage has been done to already poor states along the E.African seaboard.
Piracy costs world trade NZ$30 billion a year. Many insurers won't cover ships that go anywhere near the piracy zone: ships must travel either via the Panama Canal (too narrow for the largest vessels) or the Cape (the route taken by virtually all NZ shipping). A group representing 75% of the world's tanker/container fleets has called on the UN for a naval blockade of Somalia and even demanded a multinational invasion to destroy pirate bases. But Somalia's long coastline makes a blockade impractical and, after the US Black Hawk Down Somalian fiasco, do ya really wanna try an invasion?
The multinational naval Task Force 150 can't stop the plague (though attacks in the Gulf of Aden have halved), so US merchant ships have armed guards: security companies hire ex-Special Forces men as well as offering crew training in anti-piracy techniques. UK's Royal Navy is forbidden to confront pirates "for fear of breaching their human rights". OMG!!!

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

It IS All Worth It!

2000: That was then...
Those who've participated in a whale rescue may wonder if the refloated mammals actually survive? Detractors call it a waste of effort... well, here's a story that's both motivating and proof that whale rescues can be successful!
Back in November 2000, a large humpback stranded on a beach in Brazil. A 100-strong rescue team worked for twelve hours to return it to the ocean. Then last year - a decade later - the rescued whale was sighted again!
To make absolutely certain of its identity, biologists collected skin samples for genetic analysis. The confirmation is extremely satisfying: never before has a rescued whale been re-encountered after so long. The news gives hope to those who continue to devote their time to saving beached whales.
2010: This is now...
As we know only too well in NZ, the odds that a whale will survive after beaching are quite slim. Some question if the effort is worth it, believing the animals are sick or injured, and would probably die anyway. But for the volunteers who struggle in the surf to rescue these majestic creatures, the slightest chance of success is always worth the sweat, and often tears. And with a fleeting glimpse of one such rescued whale swimming happily, they'll carry on knowing that they do not toil in vain.
(...many thanx to Treehugger)

For more uplifting whale-oriented stories like this, check out the Underwater Times...

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

The Maori Messiah?

Yesterday's news, that the Maori Party had suspended Hone Harawira's membership, fair warmed my heart!
Only hours now til it gets rid of him completely: the party's governing body hears the formal disciplinary charges against him tomorrow. Then it's a double-tap to the temple...what a waste of two good bullets! LOL
I look back and wonder whether the guy had a death wish, the way he so vigorously mauled the hand that fed him. The biggest windmill he jousted was National's Marine and Coastal Area Bill - which was never ever going to give back to maori the entire NZ coastline on a silver tray.
It's just a jump to the left...
Harawira's been cited in media reports as having informal chats to form a new left-wing party. But if someone is foolish enough to enlist such a loose cannon, this surely won't happen before the elections this November 26th.
Hone-bro would have been much better advised to tone down his rhetoric, and actually try to achieve something good for his people from inside the Maori Party. All he'll be able to do now is agitate his minions towards a maori "revolution" (heck, that was a Waitangi sidesplitter, if ever I heard one!).
The big question is: how many ordinary Maori party members and activists will follow the Maori Martyr out the door? I guess a fair slice of the faithful from Hone's Te Tai Tokerau electorate, plus the separatist-flag wavers, the unemployed radical fringe-dwellers, and the few who actually believe Hone's twaddle that this country will ever sanction a breakaway maori state.
Would they be enough for Hone to launch a new maori political party, to kick the puha out of his previous pals? If so, Labour would certainly be salivating, coz they'd stand a good chance of winning back nearly all the Maori seats!
In the meantime, those who blindly follow the man - who publically embarrassed and cheated his party, dissed its leaders, and insulted the vast majority of "white motherf**ker" NZers - should remember those immortal words from Monty Python's Life Of Brian:
"He's not the Messiah: he's a very naughty boy!"

Monday, February 7, 2011

Farewell Spit Whale Trap

A large stranding on Friday 4th.: about 80 pilot whales near Farewell Spit in Golden Bay, top of the South Island.
Around 100 people unsuccessfully tried to refloat the whales against an outgoing tide. The next high tide wasn't until 11:30 Friday night, so another attempt was planned for Saturday morning, and in the meantime, staff worked to keep the whales cool.
However most of the pod swam off unassisted on that overnight tide, leaving 14 dead. The pod was reduced to 66: nine died on Friday, including a baby, and a further five died overnight.
DOC searched for the pod along the Farewell Spit to check if they'd restranded, and sadly that's what happened: 41 at Farewell Spit (one died), and another 25 whales just south of the original Puponga stranding site at Triangle Flat.
Sunday Update:
Three pilot whales were found dead near Farewell Spit, after they beached a third time this morning.
The two groups of whales which restranded on Saturday afternoon moved with the overnight high tide and then formed three groups: about 19 whales near Puponga, about 25 at the base of Farewell Spit on Triangle Flat, and about 25 whales 10km down the spit.
DOC planned to refloat the whales on the 1pm high tide, first focussing on freeing the Puponga whales.
Monday Update:
DOC and volunteers successfully refloated 65 pilot whales that restranded in Golden Bay yesterday. But 17 of the original pod of 82 whales that first stranded at Puponga Point on Friday afternoon died during the weekend. The three groups of whales beached over a 10-kilometre stretch were refloated on the noon high tide. The first group of whales to be refloated milled around, waiting until the last group were refloated before they all swam off to deeper water.

Golden Bay traps pilots whales reasonably often: the long curve and gentle shelving of Farewell Spit is notoriously deceptive.
+ Summer 1989: 348 whales beached in Golden Bay - most were saved.
+ December 2006: 129 whales stranded on Puponga Beach - about 100 whales saved.
+ New Year's Day 2007: just two weeks later, 50 whales died after beaching in the same area.
+ December 2009: 105 whales stranded there - all died.

Sunday, February 6, 2011

One Close Call, One False Call

+ A deliberate attempt to repeat last season's ramming of Ady Gil?
On Friday in the Sthrn Ocean Whale Sanctuary, the Japanese harpoon ship Yushin Maru 3 deliberately tried to run down Sea Shepherd’s Gojira: G avoided collision by only 3m! And one of the Delta boat crew narrowly avoided being injured when a whaler threw a bamboo spear down into the boat. SS has some of these dangerous bamboo spears (and video evidence of the spearthrowing is on its website).
G and the small boats from Bob Barker successfully ran interference, to break YM3's stalking of BB. BB is now free to hunt the Nisshin Maru factory ship.
The sharp end of the business...
As BB steamed away, YM3 issued an international distress signal saying they were under attack by BB and G!! BB was over seven miles away when the distress signal was sent!! SS responded to the distress call three times in Japanese and in English (and recorded and monitored this acknowledgment) but got no reply. Yet the Institute for Cetacean Research issued a media release accusing SS of not offering assistance! A distress signal indicates a ship is "threatened by grave and imminent danger" and needs immediate assistance. To make a distress signal in other circumstances breaks international law. I don't recall the nasty Nippons using such a desperate (and illegal) tactic before.
+ ...meanwhile Steve Irwin is refueling in Wellington, NZ...
+ ...and in Tokyo, whalers called for greater to protect the fleet and stop falling sales of whale meat. Fisheries newspaper Minato Shinbun quoted the CEO of the fleet's management company as saying sales fell 30% in the first half of the financial year. Executives are now saying that covering "research" costs by selling whale meat as a by-product no longer works. They are struggling to find any consumer appetite, and are implying they want more subsidies. But it now seems the Fisheries Agency of Japan wants to distance itself from the whaling.
Get you next time, grasshopper!
Since the fake "under attack" distress calls from Yushin Maru 3 and Sea Shepherd's prompt answers (as monitored by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority), there has been no reply from the Japanese. However YM3 is now dead in the water and has not moved for 48 hours. In accordance with maritime law and protocol, Gojira stayed with YM3 to offer any help...but still no word from the nasty Nippons about the nature of their "distress".
Finally the Australian Maritime Safety Authority contacted G and said that YM3 was not in distress and did not require assistance, so G left to search for the whaling vessels. YM3 is no longer tailing Bob Barker, and is also not killing whales. Reason? The nasty Nippons are now claiming SS deployed ten wire rope "prop foulers" around the YM3 and that two tangled around its propellers.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Gump's Thoughts On Waitangi

Expect a shit-storm at Waitangi's NZ Day celebrations this weekend - and amazingly nothing to do with Hone Harawira's Last Stand against the Maori Party!
A health warning's been issued over faecal contamination in the Bay of Islands. Last weekend's record rainfall caused several sewage spills and caused massive overflows of farm effluent, run-off and septic tanks.
So, bro, no eating shellfish from inner harbours and coastal areas around Northland for the next 28 days, no swimming either and, as for the 20 waka taking part in races, the paddlers should shower as soon as they come ashore.
With thousands converging on the area, the Green Party's raising a stink, calling the shit-uation "unacceptable": "People at Waitangi celebrations will be robbed of traditional swimming, jumping off the bridge and eating local seafood."
Te Tii Marae, already in the poo for koha extortion attempts, is shitting tacks about dropping seafood from its menu. Spokesman Kingi Taurua: "We're very disappointed and angry. We rely on (the ocean) to feed our guests and this will disrupt our plans." He said the decision may reflect badly on the Ngapuhi tribe. Er, why? Ever heard of Host Responsibility? Do you want your guests sick? Ok, so now you can't just waltz out into the bay and score tons of free kai - if you want it, you'll have to buy it like the rest of us. Hey, I've got a brainwave: you could use the $1000 koha already paid by oh-so-politically-correct TVNZ!
Gump is Da Man!
Greens co-leader Russel Norman says: "This shameful disruption to Waitangi Day is a line in the sand.
Enough is enough. We need clean water rules without delay."

Oh puh-leez! Rules won't stop the rain! Unless the Greens have a hotline to God, they should ease up on the political pointscoring. Just tough it out - like everyone else.
As legendary sage Forrest Gump once mused: "It happens. Shit. Sometimes."