If I said the word “Niue” (pronounced like “New-eh”) would you know what I was referring to? Be honest.
I went to the Pasifika festival in Auckland a couple of years ago to celebrate the culture of Pacific Island nations and discovered there was an island dependency of New Zealand called Niue. It is a 3.5 hour flight from Auckland and sits in the South Pacific, roughly in the area of the more famous Tonga, Samoa or the Cook Islands.
Anyway, the island is around 250 square kilometres in area and around 64km around it by road, with a population of around 1,500 people. It is one of the largest raised coral atolls in the world and is referred to as “the rock” by locals. The highest point on the island is just 69m above sea level, however its raised, jagged sea cliffs protect it from many potential natural disasters.
I was lucky enough to go there recently, and I hope to share some things about this wonderful little slice of the world over the coming weeks with you. But for now, here is a photo of the western coastline at low tide with the exposed reef just to whet the appetite.
Following on from my recent post about buying Palm Oil free products, I was thinking about the choices we make as consumers, and the irresponsible actions of businesses.
Why do we need plastic straws in our drinks when there are sustainable alternatives?
Why do we need Christmas Crackers? These invariably go into the bin on the same day!
Why do we need little plastic “toys” or suchlike in cereal packets (or indeed Christmas Crackers)? It seems absurd that these add any value to anyone.
Why do some food items come packaged in both a box AND a bag?
In the digital age, do we really need to send paper birthday (and other occasion) cards around the world?
When was the last time you refused free plastic bags? We don’t need them most of the time, nor should we want them.
As a consumer, I feel underinformed at times about what the most sustainable option is for my purchase (often you don’t even get a choice)…as a business, I suspect they just want to make as much money as possible by hooking people in, but maybe we can alter the behaviour of businesses if we begin to shift away from cheap wasteful gimmicks and analyse “traditions”.
I recently stayed in an hotel which provided a little bag encouraging you to take any toiletries away with you. The sentiment is great as opposed to leaving partially used items in the room that must often just go in a bin, so I applaud it in that regard, but why is a bag required? Why not just a small sign or a note in a guestbook? As a concept it seems up there with humans producing a paper leaflet about saving trees. Scenic Hotels – this is not an ECO bag…it is a bag that did not need to be made at all…you have wasted resources in an effort not to waste resources. THINK!
It’s a little bit behind the times now as the NZ election was in September but I thought I’d talk politics (hopefully without the whole subject being a big turn-off for you).
This year was the first time I’ve been able to vote here in NZ since becoming a permanent resident. Indeed, by law you have to enrol to vote but you don’t actually have to vote (seems bizarre eh?)…although I doubt anyone polices this…it is NZ after all!
A little factoid for you is that NZ was the first country in the world to give women the vote in 1893. Why on earth it took so long to do things like that is anyone’s guess.
The voting system requires you to cast two votes on the day, one for a party you wish to govern and one for your local MP. The number of seats a party receives in parliament relates to the proportion of votes received counted up across the nation from the party votes cast, with the people receiving those seats being taken from a prioritised list which each party publishes. Your local MP will get their seat first though, if elected. In my area I could choose from 16 parties but only 6 local candidates.
Sounds a bit weird right?
They have what they call a “wasted vote” statistic linked to those votes people cast for parties who don’t receive enough votes to win a seat (you need 5% of the party vote for a seat or to win a local area seat)…but then this seems less than would be wasted in the UK where if you vote against a long-held party seat and your candidate doesn’t win in that area, you vote is largely meaningless.
The outcome in NZ had the strange situation where the ruling National party didn’t have enough seats to form a majority government, so the NZ First party entered into coalition talks with them and also with Labour and the Green party (the latter two already stating they would govern together but not having enough seats either). NZ First then in essence decided who won depending on who gave them most of what they wanted (Labour/Green it was). This was made more comical by the fact that the NZ First leader couldn’t even win his own seat and basked in the grand-standing limelight while everyone sucked up to him. Pathetic. It was a bit like the public voting on X Factor and then Simon Cowell’s personal assistant (i.e. someone arbitrarily unimportant) just deciding who he/she wants to win afterwards…in other words, a farce.
In summary, politics is messed up whichever way you slice it, and it’s a shame that it doesn’t attract altruistic and honourable people to the career. Someone worth voting for. Democracy isn’t perfect, but I suppose it seems better than the alternatives.
I was at Auckland Zoo recently and noticed a sign regarding the desire to try to eliminate the containing of palm oil in the products we buy on a day-to-day basis. The intention of this is to help mitigate against the clearance of native forest in countries like Indonesia, Malaysia and more – simply to allow space for the farming of palm oil. This forest clearance is removing habitat for many species such as the well-known Orangutan.
Some people may say “Why should I care?”, to that I would suggest that if we continue to rape the natural world without a second thought then our surroundings will be particularly desolate, dull and colourless one day in the future – and who knows if we might just need one of these species one day? Don’t other species have as much right to their little corner of the Earth as we do? A more selfish angle might be to think about how bacteria are fighting back against antibiotics…who knows where the next magic drug will come from.
Of course, often the countries supplying such products and the people living there are in want of the money that rich western companies and countries will provide, so the most important thing is to try to strike the right balance to give everyone and every species a fair go. Sustainability is everything.
So how do you eliminate palm oil from your shopping? Please look at the photo below and do some research for your own country’s labelling. To start with, try to buy alternatives where any ingredients show something relating to “palm” in them. I guess that is the end of my palmolive soap purchasing for a start…and Bisto gravy granules too (a sad day indeed).
Together we might all make a difference for our and for future generations to enjoy.
Just west of Auckland on the Tasman Sea coast lies the beautiful Bethells Beach. Often appearing deserted, it is a spot which surfers and walkers enjoy, amongst others. The coastal path there is a part of the Hillary Trail which runs for 76km around the west coast.
Just inland from the beach, a short walk takes you over massive sand dunes to Lake Wainamu, which sits at the base of cascading waterfalls in something of a bowl, surrounded by the Waitakere Range mountains and said sand dunes. It is stunning to see, even on a cloudy day. The cool lake water feeds a stream which empties into the nearby ocean.
I was contemplating recently those moments in life when you feel a sense of total peace, perhaps some people would relate it as a spiritual experience. For me, I think those moments are generally involving communing with the natural world – other species who have total freedom of whether they are near you or not, or interact with you or not, especially in a world where humans predate or deliberately trample on so many of those species without a second thought…considering ourselves superior…for food or sport or otherwise.
It is unusual for me to feel those kind of things with people, but occasionally that can happen too. I guess hugs with loved ones or close friends can achieve a similar feeling. Those moments tend to be quiet also, words having no part in it, fuelling that peace.
In New Zealand, it is notable that a number of the native species (the diurnal ones at least!) are quite trusting and will not be quite so fearful of humanity as the UK. Even introduced species somehow seem more “friendly” as a rule…while keeping their distance. Whether this is because of a later arrival of mankind and differing attitudes or the fact that mankind is proactively working to save so many species in NZ, who knows! Perhaps we should just put it down as a superb outcome and enjoy the mystery and inner peace it can bring.
One upshot of having such a wonderful time in the UK is that it inevitably raises questions about the future. I will never regret the decision to move to New Zealand because it has given so many wonderful experiences which I would never otherwise have had but there is suddenly a pull on yourself from a number of sources when you return home for the first time.
There is the emotional pull of missing friends and family (though of course moving somewhere based on someone else being there would most likely be a huge mistake in the making), a cultural pull of missing certain things from your homeland, a pull from the countryside (not really from the cities!) and a pull of missing the British humour and the feeling that everyone generally understands you. All of these things (plus a good few others) seem to club together to raise doubts, especially when so many good feelings are crammed into a euphoric, short timespan.
However, leaving a booming economy, vibrant multicultural environment, conservation experiences and the wonderful countryside of NZ would be tough in its own right. It takes a long time to establish yourself in a new place and maybe a true regret would be to throw in the towel after just a few years and go back to something which I left behind for good reasons in the past. Add to that the upshot of Brexit (plus the divisive ignorance it has given rise to in the British culture), its potentially negative impact on the economic future of the UK and you begin to think that a wait-and-see approach is much more sensible. It seems more sensible to think about moving forwards instead of moving backwards.
The key question seems to be this…what kind of life do you want? It is also the hardest to answer. One thing has become clear, sometimes you have to change yourself and not just the place you live, because if you move to a new place, you will eventually revert to the same basic routine.
Has anyone had similar doubts or experiences themselves that they would like to share?