Articles about New Zealand

My homeland.

Low voter turnout favours the Right

Does low voter turnout favour right-wing political parties? Common wisdom says it does: for example, non-voters tend to be poorer people who would have favoured left-wing parties. In the recent New Zealand general election, the centre-right National Party won an absolute majority in parliament, but only about 77% of eligible voters actually voted. I found some interesting data on non-voters and used it to see whether the result would have been different if all eligible voters had exercised their democratic duty. The results:

1. Yes, low voter turnout favours the right-wing parties.

2. If everyone had voted, the result would have been much closer: the Labour Party may have been able to form a government. Continue reading

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The Last Days of the National Costume — Anne Kennedy

Anne Kennedy’s book starts out as a fussy woman’s internal monologue, before expanding to take in a pivotal series of events in her otherwise quiet life. It also will make me think twice before taking clothing in to be repaired.

The extended power outage in Auckland in 1999 apparently made minor headlines throughout the world. (I wasn’t living there at the time.) This is a story of the little madnesses that went on during that time in the life of Megan Sligo, a part-time clothing repairer. As people bring their clothes to her to be repaired, they tell her about the shameful and wonderful secrets behind the damaged items. She maintains her professionalism until one woman brings her an Irish dancing dress with a torn sleeve. Somehow this draws her into its own story.

The narrator is quite delightful. She’s likeable despite being slightly annoying; her mix of intelligence, prissiness and (sometimes) foolishness makes her seem real. I liked the setting of the story too, just because it’s set in parts of my hometown that I know really well. It makes me appreciate the place I come from, much like the Lord of the Rings films — though that’s the only similarity. And the way things work out seems right and proper, when Kennedy could have gone for the fairytale instead.

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The Fall Of Light — Sarah Laing

The Fall Of LightI like this book. It has a story to make you happy and sad, pictures to make you wonder, and themes to make you think.

Sarah Laing is a cartoonist as well as a writer — I knew of her work from magazines and from her blog Let Me Be Frank. I read a review of The Fall of Light somewhere and thought it sounded interesting. Sometime later I realised that the cartoonist/blogger was also the novelist, so I went out and bought the book.

The story details the fall and rise of Rudy Chapelle, an Auckland architect. He struggles with his job, his colleagues, his ex-wife, his children, his friends, his neighbours, and his parents. In short, he struggles. He is actually pretty annoying in many ways, quite precious and a bit self-obsessed. I could appreciate why his ex-wife was his ex-wife. But he’s not a bad guy really, and it’s good to see his slowly overcome himself despite himself. Many of the other characters in the book are very engaging and likeable though. And so is the setting — Auckland — but maybe just because I live there too.

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The Broken Book — Fiona Farrell

I love this book. Fiona Farrell started out writing a travel book about walking in different countries and places, but the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010-11 imposed themselves on the writing. As she says, “The quake sent a jagged tear right through my text.”

The result is a book of stories and observations from many years of living and walking in various places. But it’s shot through with stories, essays and poems about the Christchurch earthquakes, and earthquakes through history.

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The 10pm Question — Kate De Goldi

I don’t know how many books have been written about neurotic 12-year-olds, but I doubt many of them are as good as The 10pm Question. The central character, Frankie, is a portrait of a boy struggling with (he feels) the weight of the world on his shoulders. He’s so serious, yet still a kid and a very human character. Pretty much all the other characters are weird or colourful in their own way, but never too cartoonish (with the possible exception of the Aunties — but they are so likeable I don’t really mind).

The book’s official site has a little essay written by the author, describing the ideas that went into the book and how it was written. Don’t read it until you’ve read the book though.

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The Lake — Anna Coddington

The Lake by Anna CoddingtonHere’s a set of simple, affecting songs, beautifully sung and sympathetically arranged. The overall theme is Love Gone Wrong, the traditional singer-songwriter preoccupation. But Anna Coddington turns it into something that sounds great — “beauty exploding from despair”, to use one of her own lines.

I was looking forward to buying this CD, since I enjoyed Anna Coddington’s performance a few months ago. Even though it’s been quite a long time since then, I still remember quite a few of the songs. The songs worked really well live, with Anna accompanying herself on guitar; the fuller production on the album adds another dimension without ever overwhelming the basic voice and guitar structure.

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Ben Kemp & Uminari / Anna Coddington

Ben Kemp looks like a rugby player, but he has the most delicate falsetto voice and a rather poetic songwriting touch. His band, Uminari, are tight and very cool in a quirky Japanese way, especially the drummer who is so cool he doesn’t need drumsticks. We saw these guys at the Classic Comedy Bar and they put on a great show. But they were supported by local singer-songwriter Anna Coddington, and I liked her set even more.

Ben Kemp is a very nice Kiwi musician who has lived in Japan for some time now. He has gotten together with a group of Japanese musicians to form his band. The music works really well live — they go for extended soundscapes built around each song, with Kemp’s voice sometimes acting as another instrument. The mood ranges from gentle and contemplative to a bit more noisy and experimental on some tracks, where they might try to evoke the sound of the sea or a storm. It’s hypnotic stuff.

Between songs he tells how the songs came to be, and also shares some stories about himself. The show was nice and intimate — at one point he brought out a couple of bottles of Japanese liquor (sake and umeshu) and passed them around the audience. You can’t much more chilled-out than that.

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Mother & Baby Yoga

Yoga is such a pleasant and healthy way to pass an hour or so. (If only pleasant and healthy went together more often.) It’s good for everyone — especially busy people, such as mothers of small babies. But what can mothers do with their babies when going to yoga? Well, they can take them along! Yoga is good for everyone, and that includes even tiny babies.

I’ve put up a web page for a Mother and Baby Yoga class near me because I think it’s such a great idea and I’d like it to catch on. It helps the baby to socialise as well as learn to use its body, and it’s also good for the mothers to have a fun play with their babies and have some relaxing exercise for themselves. I’m hoping that one day I will be able to go…

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Auckland Sky Tower

Auckland Sky Tower

Now that’s what I call a mirror.

I took this snapshot at breakfast-time on a Monday.

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I found these tasty treats in the supermarket a while ago. I never really enjoyed the larger kiwifruit (known as the “kiwi” in some parts of the world, which amuses us New Zealanders no end), but these little ones are great.


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