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Thursday, 27 September 2012

Taranaki Charity Worker visits Uganda

Charity work: Dympna Hart recently returned from a trip to Uganda where she delivered aid and saw  poverty first hand. 
By Jimmy Hick
New Plymouth woman Dympna Hart has seen poverty before but her recent trip to Africa revealed a new level of human hardship to her.

Mrs Hart spent June in Uganda working with local Christian ministries to deliver food, clothes and money to poverty stricken children outside the capital Kampala.

The part-time worker at the Good News Centre Christian bookshop on Devon St has previously spent a month working with charities in India, but the destitution she saw in East Africa was different.

“I thought I’d seen that in India, but this was poverty they were living in thatched huts and cooking with charcoal embers,” said Mrs Hart who worships at the C3 church in the city and New Zeal at Okato.

While in Africa Mrs Hart also linked up with children’s charity Imani and took part in three "crusades", delivering food, clothing and money to poor people in rural areas.

“We did a clothing drive to the east from Kampala, almost to the Kenyan border. Two people carriers absolutely loaded with clothing,” she said.
Mrs Hart said she felt privileged to be able to connect with the two charitable groups.

“They’re both totally dedicated. They live in their own country amongst their own people. They’re changing lives daily, offering people hope, let alone clothes and food.”
As well as experiencing how the Ugandan people live, Mrs Hart also squeezed in some sightseeing, travelling to the source of the Nile to fulfil a childhood dream, and while in Kampala she also visited the Presidential Palace, home of former dictator Idi Amin.

Now that she’s back in New Zealand, Mrs Hart hopes to set up permanent links between the groups she worked with in Uganda and the churches she is involved with here.

“I wanted to see their ministry working, and connect what I’ve got here with what they’ve got on the ground over there,” she said.
Mrs Hart said her Ugandan experience left her feeling like a local, and she hopes to return and see how the ministries work is going.

“It’s a given I’ll go again one day.”

Jimmy Hick is a Witt journalism student


Austin Martin Win Gold in Los Angeles


Solid gold: Musicians Lee Martin (left) and Karl Austin had their instruments stolen in Los Angeles - but still managed to bring back the gold from the World Championship of performing Arts. 
By Jimmy Hick
Taranaki musicians Lee Martin and Karl Austin played up a storm at the World Championship of Performing Arts in Los Angeles – despite having their instruments stolen just before the show.

Austin said the pair were enjoying a few drinks at a Los Angeles bar before the contest when their guitars were swiped from right in front of them.

“We were having a bit of a good night, hanging out with some local kids,” he said.  “We played them a mini concert, then they did the old smoke and mirrors and took off with our gear. I chased them and fell down some stairs.”

The World Championship of PerformingArts is a global talent quest, where singers, dancers, musicians and actors compete for medals and exposure.

Luckily the New Plymouth duo who use the stage name Austin Martin managed to get new instruments before the competition.

The effort was worth it as the duo snared 14 medals, 12 of which were gold.

Austin Martin, were selected to perform in Los Angeles as part of 14-strong New Zealand contingent of competitors.
Now they're back home, they want to keep up the momentum.
“The plan is to write an album and get back over to the States,” Austin said, “although there’s definitely some Taranaki gigs in the pipeline.”

Jimmy Hick is a Witt journalism student

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Asset-sales petition gathers New Plymouth support

Signing up: Dr Stuart Bramhall says 3000 New Plymouth residents have signed the asset-sales petition
By Jimmy Hick
Thousands of New Plymouth residents have signed a petition which aims to give voters a say on the Government’s plan to partially sell State-owned assets.

Dr Stuart Bramhall, who is collecting signatures in New Plymouth, said the Green Party alone had collected about 3000 signatures.

“We probably have five or six people in New Plymouth collecting signatures,” Dr Bramhall said.

The petition, which aims to force a citizens’ initiated referendum on asset sales, has more than 225,000 signatures but needs to reach 304,000 by next March.

The National -led Government is trying to pass legislation which would see up to 49 per cent Mighty River Power, Meridian Energy, Genesis and Solid Energy sold to private investors.

Dr Bramhall said the public stood to lose a lot if the assets are sold.

“If we lose this regular income we have from the assets, the Government will have three choices – to increase taxes, to cut services or to go deeper into debt.”
Jimmy Hick is a Witt journalism student

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Facebook – unlike. In fact, Despise.

Facebook kills communication. It devalues the beauty of the written word, rendering it a cheap, bastardised, lesser form of itself. The barrage of mindless messages flitting between the vacuous minds of facebook's self-selected drones has done to literature what Britney Spears did to music. And all at a price mind you.

The idea is novel. What do people want? To be heard by other people - and to hear other people themselves. Humans also have an urge to peer over garden fences, and peep behind curtains. Facebook (the online human zoo), among other websites, is simply the online version of this natural voyeurism. Except someone is watching you, while your playing peeping-tom.

People will argue that social-networks have it's benefits, and they surely do. But the amount of pop-up advertising, time-wasting links and pouty self-portraits is enough to make a venereal-disease ridden sailor nauseous.

Communication is amazing, exhilarating and priceless. But the exploitative nature of websites like facebook mask the true intentions of the creators. Hiding behind a fuzzy shield of 'connecting people', the creators sit laughing on multi-million dollar profits, selling YOUR information to the highest bidder.

It's all about money. Advertising. Promoting. Surveying. Gleaning personal information for market research. All in the name name of the mighty dollar. 'connecting people' indeed; more like 'connecting' a clique of capitalist-vultures with a large amount of cash.

The majority of people, who use social networking, don't even realise how much they gamble when they log on. It's easy to pretend that a website like facebook really was set up to help you keep in touch with Granny. But whoa there! Think for a minute, look around, be cynical, and ask yourself if it's really worth it.

Selling your soul for a look at someone else's.

Fracking is not the issue:

Fracking is a word that most people would not have understood a few years ago. Only those in the oil and gas industry, and those who the contentious method of fossil fuel extraction directly affected, would have had any idea what it involved. That's all changed in Taranaki now.

Hydraulic fracturing is a method of reaching oil and gas deposits, deep under the Earth's crust, by using a mix of high pressure chemicals and water to crack solid rock, and release deposits of fossil fuels.

Discussion around fracking generally gets stuck on whether this method of extraction is safe, how it effects underground water, and whether the chemicals used will be harmful to the environment around the drill site.

The problem with how this fracking debate is framed, is that it only involves talking about whether fracking, as an isolated method of oil/gas extraction, is harmful to people and the environment.

This discussion, although it needs to happen, ignores the crux of what fracking represents.

The range of debate around fracking in the mainstream media seems to avoid (purposefully?) the bigger picture.

Discussion on whether fracking is harmful to the environment or not, while ignoring the fundamental issue of fossil fuel dependence, is like discussing the merits of different methods of murder; while ignoring the victim. The methods used to reap oil and gas aren't the point. It's the fact that it is happening at all that should be scrutinised.

The way we live is dependent on fossil fuels. That is a fact. From how our food is delivered, how we get to and from work, the clothes we wear and the ways we entertain ourselves all require oil and gas in various forms.

The world is dependent on a finite resource, the gleaming treasures which we frack for. The trappings we take for granted will eventually cease to exist if we keep using our resources in an un-sustainable and reckless manner.

The arguments around fracking bring to mind the tired cliché of not being able to see the forest for the trees. It is not how we acquire the fuels we have come to rely on in the last few centuries, but why we need them, that needs to be seriously looked at.

For thousands of years human beings survived without the luxuries we, the pampered first-worlders, take for granted daily. Some would argue that humans are exploitative by nature, that we are cruel, greedy and selfish. Only time will tell.

Perhaps it is naïve to hope that the oil magnates, plastic toy manufacturers, car designers and the other industrial powers that hold sway over economies will see that what they are doing is unethical. And that thier behaviour is harmful to all of us that are alive now, and those who are yet to be born.

The discussion around fracking needs to be expanded to include a wider angle of thought. We need to consider just how much we want to be reliant on fossil fuels. For the sake of short term profits, and short term employment, we are jeopardizing our future - and we can all agree that we want a future.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012


I start this blog-post with an empty mind, but I'm sure something will arise from the recesses of my brain... Ahhh here we go...

I was thinking about robotic warfare the other day. Robots have no compassion, and if one was ordered to kill, it would show no mercy - unless programmed to do so. This thought, although it seems quite obvious, has dire implications for the battles that will undoubtedly rage between humans for centuries to come.

Let me elaborate.

I was watching a film about the 1914 Christmas ceasefire in WWII. The picture illustrated how even in the hell of close combat warfare, in the cesspit of human wretchedness, kindness and peace can shine through. The heroes who participated in the numerous ceasefires on that fateful day, (and in the few days that followed in some cases) shared the common interest of self preservation. Caring about themselves and other people, rather than the lofty ideals and territorial gains in the psychotic minds of the masters of war.

The unfortunate souls, stuck on the fronts, showed that even when hope seems lost, and when death circles above, all it takes to regain some aspect of humanity is to lay down your weapon.

Robots wouldn't do that.

Modern drones show no compassion, no differentiation between victims and no humility. They kill (in some cases) indiscriminately. The future of warfare seems to be leaning towards robotic, apathetic androids, without the 'frailty' of self determination. It would seem that this is an attractive concept to those who play men like pawns, and gamble human lives at a whim.

An automated, weaponised unit which cannot look into the eyes of a cowering victim is useful , when cold-calculated murder is the goal. Humanity is surely descending into a period of ethical chaos, with these robotic beasts reigning havoc on populations world-wide. Maybe one day a code of ethics will be able to be programmed, morals micro-chipped or compassion coded. But until that day, have fear citizens of the Earth, death from above has no mercy!

Monday, 19 March 2012

Articles For Taranaki Daily News

Author's fascination with war spurs novel with local flavour

Taranaki author and history buff Sid Marsh toured the villages of northern Italy finding authentic voices for his debut novel.
Greyhound was launched at Puke Ariki this week and it follows the exploits of the NZ 2nd Division which fought throughout Italy during World War II.
"I spoke to locals over there and had a yarn with Italian writers, novelists, historians and reporters," Marsh, 55, who went to Italy in 2008 and 2010, said.
During his five weeks in Italy, the Eltham writer also visited the Vatican City and Triest, the city where the New Zealand 2nd Division ended its Italian campaign.
The novel is also the result of hours of research done at Alexander Turnbull Library and the Archives New Zealand Building in Wellington.
Filled with terse humour and the banter typical of Kiwi soldiers, Greyhound has a Taranaki spin, with the main characters hailing from the province.
A WWII history buff, Marsh also interviewed Taranaki veterans, to help give his novel authenticity.
The author said he had always been fascinated by the war.
"I've been interested in WWII for years," he said. "About 10 years ago I started looking into tank warfare, and I've always been a sucker for Sherman and Tiger tanks".
An author for 22 years, Marsh has written several non-fiction books which explore his other passion, New Zealand wildlife.
He said he would decide whether to continue with fiction after seeing how well Greyhound was received. "If it sinks like a stone, I'll stick to non-fiction."
Greyhound is available from Woodshed publishers for $39.99.


Articles for Taranaki Daily News

Car groomers given a clean start

A new carwash business in New Plymouth is offering a leg-up to New Plymouth's unemployed.
Mick Willbourne, who runs similar businesses in Wellington and Tauranga, has employed four people through Work and Income at his Courtenay St Shop n' Shine site and hopes to hire two more.
"We are working with Winz to employ people who have a difficult time finding work," said Mr Willbourne, who is also offering work experience opportunities at the carwash.
Originally from Romford, East London, Mr Willbourne has been in New Zealand for about five years, and has previously worked as a butcher, owned a delicatessen and has worked in various hospitality positions.
He said he decided to open Shop n' Shine in New Plymouth due to a lack of similar services here.
"There's great opportunities for small businesses in Taranaki. We saw an opening in the market and decided to go for it."
Launched to coincide with Americarna last month, Shop n Shine's prices range from $15 for a quick wash to $50 for a more thorough mini-groom.
Work and Income Taranaki- King Country commissioner for social development, Gloria Campbell, said Mr Willbourne's initiative was to be applauded.
"This is great news for four local job seekers who are now in paid work. I hope other young people looking for work will be encouraged by this."
Work and Income offers a range of assistance to employers who provide first-time workers with a job or support unskilled workers who require training.
The assistance can include subsidising wages and funding for training.
Mrs Campbell encouraged other Taranaki employers to get in touch with their local Work and Income work broker, whether they were considering hiring now or in the future.

Jimmy Hick is a Witt journalism student.