It's just a thought...
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Posted by Paul on Dec. 13, 2013, 1:29 p.m. in New Zealand Economy
It’s about this time of year that people start ‘winding down’ and thinking about the holiday season ahead. It’s also a good time to take stock of the year that was and what potentially lies ahead in 2014.
For many people (including a lot of our clients) next year might just be the year that they pack their bags, saddle up and mosey on over to the land of the long white cloud. For the vast majority of them, finding a job is going to be at the top of the ‘to do’ list, so let’s have a look at what happened in 2013 and what’s in store for when they arrive.
2013 was an interesting year for New Zealand.
We held our regular national census, which was postponed from 2011 due to the Canterbury earthquakes. It revealed that in the last 87 years our population has tripled and since 1981 the median age of New Zealander's increased by 10 years (we are getting older).
The census revealed that if New Zealand was a village of 100 people, 70 of them would have been born in New Zealand, 24 would have been born overseas and 6 people apparently weren’t sure where they were born. To put that in context a quarter of our population wasn’t born here which represents a significant reliance on migrants for our economic growth.
Twice as many of our 100 strong village population would be working as skilled professionals rather than labourers and the second highest occupational group was managerial staff.
The proportion of our village community that considered themselves as coming from an Asian background almost doubled since 2001.
Overall the census data shows that New Zealand in 2013 continues to become more diverse in terms of our population mix and that ultimately migrants continue to make a significant contribution. Our population is growing, but ever so slightly, meaning that we continue to avoid the ‘rat race syndrome’ that consumes many developed countries. You can read the full report here: NZ Census
We also celebrated our second equal lowest Easter road toll on record, a fall in crime rates in most parts of the country, Wellington was hit by the worst storm since 1968 and a large portion of our country switched to digital television. Not to mention passing the same sex marriage bill in August and legally allowing same-sex couples to tie the knot.
From an economic standpoint, it has taken several years for New Zealand to recover from the global financial crisis and to see growth levels return to semi-normal. 2013 saw a continuation of a trend largely started in the latter half of 2011. GDP rates continue to grow conservatively (0.2% up in the June 2013 quarter), unemployment has fallen from the 7.3 high in mid-2012 to its current levels of 6.2. This puts us somewhere around 60 out of 200 countries in any of the numerous country by country comparisons. The best result comes from Monaco with apparently 0% and the worst being Zimbabwe with 95%.
Auckland housing prices continue to rise although the Government has introduced lending restrictions on the banking sector and committed to opening up additional areas of land for development, in an attempt to cool things down. Whether this will have much impact has yet to be seen.
Overall 2013 was a positive year for New Zealand and particularly in terms of being able to ‘one up’ the Aussies in terms of our economic stability. For the first time in as long as anyone can remember New Zealand has outshone Australia in terms of overall economic growth by roughly 0.5%.
So what does 2014 hold?
All the crystal ball gazers out there predict that the economy is set to grow strongly in 2014 with the Christchurch rebuild continuing to be a leading contributor to employment growth and direct investment. Increased household spending fuelled by increased optimism in the employment sector and robust house price increases will continue and unemployment rates are set to follow their slow trend downwards. In fact in October 2013 the ANZ announced that job adverts had increased by 4.5%, following a 1.3% rise in September. The jobs are there people – you just have to find them.
There are some caveats to all this prosperity however. Increased consumer spending obviously leads to increasing debt and if there was one positive thing the GFC did it was to get us all thinking more seriously about keeping our credit cards shackled up. As confidence returns to the market, people are starting to ‘splash the cash’ and retailers are already anticipating a bumper Christmas spend.
The Reserve Bank is tipped to increase the official cash rate in 2014 (most likely the first quarter) as pressure continues to mount over a very strong New Zealand dollar.
Overall for anyone looking to make the move next year, head over to New Zealand and either seek out that all important job offer to secure Residence or come with a Visa in hand, 2014 is set to be a pretty good year. Despite the fact that the vast majority of our clients continued to secure jobs even in the midst of the GFC, the signs for a strengthening New Zealand economy are all there.
We still have to tread cautiously of course, and there is always an element of trepidation when it comes to any forecast, particularly in recent times, however so far the polls and forecasts from previous years haven’t been too far off the mark.
Deciding on the best time to make the move is a tricky business and it comes down (usually) to your own personal commitments, children and schooling and obviously finances. However for those that have committed to the process and are bound for New Zealand in 2014 things definitely look positive.
Our offices will be closing down next Friday on 20 December and then opening again on 13 January, giving the team a well-deserved break after a very busy year. 2014 also signals an even busier year for our New Zealand and Australian offices with seminars scheduled or our usual locations (South Africa, Singapore and Malaysia) as well as new seminars being presented for Australia in Botswana, Greece, Turkey and Israel and for New Zealand in Indonesia and Hong Kong.
If you are chewing over your Christmas Turkey or Ham and thinking that you might want to be doing that in New Zealand next year, why not register for one of our seminars. Click on the links at the end of the blog for details.
We will be wrapping up our Southern Man newsletters for 2013 next week with one final instalment.
Until then try and survive the last few days of the silly season.
Register now to reserve your seat or forward this page to a friend who might be interested in attending.
Posted by Iain on April 5, 2013, 11:56 a.m. in Crime
About a year ago I wrote a blog reflecting on national crime statistics for the year ending December 2011. In that year crime was down by around 10% on the previous year. I didn’t think it could improve beyond that especially at a time of relative economic quiet (traditionally with higher unemployment so too crime rates). However, it hasn’t happened – our safe little country just got even safer.
A snapshot of the December 2012 year shows that murder bucked the trend and was up from 39 deaths in 2011 to 42 in 2012 (46 in 2010); assaults were down by 3.4%; sexual assault rose by 1.3%; robbery was down by 10.1%; unlawful entry/ burglary down by 11% (not at my place – see below), Fraud and Deception was unchanged, illicit drugs up 0.3%, public order down 1% and I could go on.
The overall picture is steadily declining crime rates.
How strange it is then that the media still headlines crime on the Six O’clock news bulletins and splashed across the front pages of the daily rags that pass for newspapers in this country.
While these statistics are, I suspect, a true reflection of the rates of crime in this country is this a case of everything being rosy in paradise?
The Police are quick to point out that they are more focussed on crime prevention rather than crime charging and solving. One of their tools is earlier intervention and in particular in cases of domestic violence (which dominates our crime against persons stats) using what are known as Personal Safety Orders which allows the Police, without anyone being charged, to remove a person from a domestic situation whether they usually live at that address or even if they own the property. The individual can be asked to leave for up to 5 days. A cooling down period which appears pretty effective. Assaults are significantly down in the past three years as Safety Orders increase. It appears to be working.
Naturally there are critics and those that would argue that ‘real’ crime isn’t getting better, the Police are simply charging people less. And in that there may be some truth.
Take drug offences. The Police have been focussing heavily on prosecuting drug supply and dealing harshly with that through the Courts. They are less concerned with charging users of say, cannabis/marijuana but giving verbal warnings (not to be confused with a formal warming which is recorded as an offence).
I continue to be astounded at how blasé my own sons and all their friends are about recreational drugs (cannabis only I desperately hope) and underage drinking. Not helped as a parent I might add when these young men and women watch those (inane) reality Police shows which show young New Zealanders being stopped by the police who from time to time find a ‘joint’ and who do not press charges but destroy the offending item by crushing it under their feet.
It raises an interesting point of discussion between my friends and me.
On the one hand we live in a society that increasingly does not view the use of recreational drugs as a crime. The fact is cannabis is freely available and used by many people of different age groups and backgrounds means that it is commonly found in many social situations.
Its use and possession however remains unlawful.
When the Police themselves are not taking a hard line on its use it certainly makes it more difficult for we as parents to ‘police’ its use and make our teenagers understand it is a crime when those tasked with enforcing laws see it as low priority.
Maybe the Police approach is right. If Society accepts the use of (relatively harmless) drugs, the Police are perhaps just reflecting the values of that Society. Maybe it is time for a law change.
Burglary of course remains the most common of crime.
I live in Mount Eden, a suburb of Auckland that lies on the fringe of downtown Auckland. One of Auckland’s oldest it is full of hundred plus year old villas with no off-street garaging for cars, low levels of security, generally no gates to prevent people coming onto our properties and houses that have old wooden sash windows that are not hard to jimmy open. An area of relative wealth meaning good pickings for those that might be so inclined to help themselves. Mount Eden is apparently the burglary capital of New Zealand. My family have had a number of brushes with burglars in our 20 years in the suburb.
Only last Tuesday morning my eldest son was watching TV at 2.15am (as you do it seems when you are a University student) and thought he could hear people talking outside the lounge on our driveway. We don’t have garages for our cars but a driveway that sits beside our house (and TV room). He turned the TV off and went to the front door. Two men ran down the driveway and jumped into a car and sped off. My son waited outside to see if they would come back (having noted the type and colour of the car – too dark for a registration plate) and sure enough about five minutes later these guys cruised past once again. He thought little more of it and went to bed.
At 8.00am my neighbour knocked on the front door to tell me that my son’s car (parked on the road) had been broken into. Given they live in a state of near perpetual poverty (or so they tell us) I assumed they would have left nothing of value in it. However, it turns out my youngest son left his GoPro Video camera that I had given him three days earlier for his 17th birtthday in the glove compartment. It was gone. As was his school bag with his year’s books and notes along with his iTouch. The thieves left his uneaten lunch of sandwiches that had been in his schoolbag (and may have been there some days knowing Tom).
Suffice it to say I was furious. Not only at the thugs that think they have the right to break windows and help themselves but to silly 17 year olds who despite their father’s plea to never leave anything of real value in the car, especially when it is parked on the road, one son did.
We duly reported this to the Police and my eldest son gave them a good description of the vehicle they were driving. They were genuinely interested. They have a good track record in our suburb of finding thieves like these. Goodness knows they get enough practise.
If there is a good side to crime here it is that it tends to be against property rather than people. If someone breaks into your house they aren’t going to hang around just to harm you. Violent crime against people is overwhelmingly domestic violence. That doesn’t excuse it but should reassure anyone thinking of moving here that crime is real but it is low level and generally not personal. If you get bashed, chances are you will know the person who did it. It might not make you feel better if it happens to you but reinforces our streets are generally very safe.
My wife often walks around 4km to the gym, before and after dark, summer and winter, rain or shine. She thinks nothing of it. She carries no protection and is armed only with a cellphone. That is the reality of ‘crime’ in this city and this country.
When I consider that if we murdered people at the same per capita rate as a country like South Africa we would murder around 1000 people a year it brings home just how safe New Zealand is (and how unsafe places like South Africa really are).
It remains pleasing though to see the crime rate continues to fall and a very safe country is becoming even safer.
Until next week
Southern Man - Iain MacLeod
Posted by Iain on Feb. 15, 2013, 6:52 p.m. in Living
I wouldn't usually reproduce someone else's blog piece but this week I am going to (and I hope the author doesn't mind). I do so in response to some pretty vicious and defamatory comments posted last week on the Letters from New Zealand blog site. Most posts I took down - anything defamatory will always be removed especially when the person is too cowardly to put their real name and email address to it.
I am however all for adult and respectful discourse so I left most of them up even though they will fail statstical or half intelligent scrutiny. The ones that ran down New Zealand as 'third world', 'a shithole', terrorised by urban gangs, suffering a youth drinking culture (that part at least is true), terrible child abuse statistics, high cost of living, low wages etc I left up. After all I have nothing to fear from such opinions - I am the guy who leads a team of Consultants who stand up at seminars around the world and warn people to be careful in their expectations of this country or any other. To do their homework, establish their employability, visit if they can and make a balanced decision in the full knowledge nowhere is perfect and the migration process comes with no guarantees. I hear myself at every seminar say up front and openly 'I don't live in paradise, I live in New Zealand'.
There will always be contrarian views - some migrants do view New Zealand as heaven and others hell. Most fall somewhere in between.
In the interest then of other perspectives read this from a US based blogger comparing his country with New Zealand and he draws on real, verifiable statistics.
Written by Nonny Mouse from American blog 'Crooks & Liars'.
We Americans like to think, and in fact have been indoctrinated for decades to believe, that we are the greatest country in the world, the best at just about everything. Sadly, that hasn’t been true for quite some time. Words patriots once gave their lives for, like ‘freedom’... and ‘patriots’... have become almost meaningless.
So if you’re curious about who’s taken our crown, you might be surprised. The latest international index of 123 countries released by the Fraser Institute, Canada's leading public policy think-tank, and Germany's Liberales Institut, ranked New Zealand number one for offering the highest level of freedom worldwide, followed by the Netherlands then Hong Kong. Australia, Canada and Ireland tied for fourth spot. The survey measured the degree to which people are free to enjoy classic civil liberties - freedom of speech, religion, individual economic choice, and association and assembly - in each country surveyed, as well as indicators of crime and violence, freedom of movement, legal discrimination against homosexuals, and women's freedoms. Pretty extensive stuff.
The United States tied Denmark for seventh. We didn’t even get bronze.
As for the idea that the United States is the envy of the world when it comes to free markets and business? Wrong again. The U.S. continues to lose ground against other nations in Forbes’ annual look at the Best Countries for Business. The U.S. placed second in 2009, but in 2012 it ranks 12th, trailing fellow G-8 countries Canada (5th), the United Kingdom (10th) and Australia (11th) The world’s biggest economy at $15.1 trillion scores abysmally when it comes to trade freedom and monetary freedom.
So, who did top the list for the Best Countries for Business?
New Zealand. New Zealand can boast a transparent and stable business climate that encourages entrepreneurship. New Zealand is the smallest economy in the top 10 at $162 billion, but it ranks first in personal freedom and investor protection, as well as a lack of red tape and corruption.
Okay, so at least MIT is still the best university in the entire world, we’re still first at something...Well, according to the Association of American Colleges and Universities, there are two thousand six hundred eighteen accredited four-year colleges and universities in the United States, most of which operate privately or as part of state governments. Only fifty-four of these are in the top 200, very slightly over 2% . So who does top the educational rankings?
That would be New Zealand again, first in the world on the basis of performance in three areas: access to education, quality of education and human capital.
The annual QS World University survey ranks institutions based on scores for academic reputation, employer reputation and how many international students it has, among other things. Up to 20,000 universities from around the world were surveyed to find the top 700 academic institutions from 72 countries, the best universities in the world.
New Zealand has eight universities nationwide, with slightly less than around a half million students. According to the QS World University Rankings, two of New Zealand’s universities – Auckland and Otago – rank in the top 200 of the 700 best universities in the world, and Auckland in the top 100 (83rd and 133rd respectively). That's 25% compared to the United State's 2.06%. All eight universities rank in the top 500, with Auckland University of Technology appearing on the list for the first time this year. That’s a 100% rating.
Even when New Zealand isn’t top of the list, they’re outranking and out-performing the United States on just about any index you want to consider. How about the environment? According to the Yale University and Columbia University 2012 Environmental Performance Index at the World Economic Forum, ranking 132 countries, New Zealand placed 14th in the top 30. The United States trailed at 49th.
We rank top of the list for the most expensive health care system in the world, but dead last overall compared to six other industrialized countries - Australia, Canada, Germany, the Netherlands, New Zealand, and the United Kingdom – when it comes to quality, efficiency, access to care, equity and the ability to lead long, healthy, productive lives.
There are a few other things the United States tops the charts at: We’re fifth out of the top 25 countries in the world in terms of crime rate. New Zealand is 24th.
Auckland is ranked the third best city out of the top five for quality of living, after Vienna and Zurich, nothing in the United States making the list at all. Even when it’s just the Americas being ranked for quality of living overall (taking New Zealand out of the equation altogether), the top four cities are all in Canada, with Honolulu coming 28th.
Don’t even get me started on the All Blacks.
One of the smallest countries in the world is kicking our ass when it comes to actually living up to the standards we Americans pretend we still have. Isn’t it about time we stopped kidding ourselves, stopped living on past glories that mostly never were, and started actually trying to be at least as good as one of the smallest nations on earth?
So I am not the only one that thinks New Zealand is doing okay.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Posted by Iain on Aug. 23, 2012, 10:16 a.m. in Immigration
My apologies for no Southern Man Letter last week. Call it a technical hitch while in Johannesburg. I hope you missed me.
What a week it has been here in South Africa which has once again made international headlines for all the wrong reasons.
In the past few days striking platinum miners have managed to butcher a policeman who they hacked to death. They went on to kill a second policeman, killed 8 fellow miners in intra-union clashes and of course then came the slaughter of 34 strikers by police, cut down in a hail of automatic weapon fire.
Watching the horror unfold on TV the world it seems has been totally shocked by scenes that looked like the D-Day landings with miners being cut down as they appeared to charge toward police lines.
Not something one might have expected in a ‘democratic’ South Africa.
Or is it?
South Africa is a one party state. One party because that is what the people have voted for.
The place is sinking into a cesspit of Government lead corruption. Of Union leaders agitating for more. Of mines that are marginally profitable. Of desperate people with little left to lose.
It is an incredibly violent country at the best of times. And these are not the best of times.
For 18 years those that voted in the ANC have been promised jobs, running water, shelter and electricity and the truth is this Government appears unable to provide close to any of it for the majority of its constituents.
Over the years the newest politicians have become more radical in their speech and promises.
The ruling elite have managed to sideline the young pretender to the ANC throne, Julius Malema, but it is worth noting he was on the blood soaked ground last weekend rallying the miners and people against their Government.
All the while my potential clients sit behind their electric fences and high walls and I can but assume pretend it isn’t all going on around them.
It beggars belief that they are not all queuing up to leave.
What has genuinely shocked and horrified me is the way most South Africans have simply shrugged their shoulders (as they are want to do) and said ’Oh well, this is Africa’ and got on with their day.
I don’t think I shall ever forget last Friday morning when the country’s TV breakfast shows were broadcasting pretty graphic images of the massacre. I sat in a café watching people and the TV. No one else was watching and if they were interested, concerned, shocked or horrified they hid it pretty well.
Jam with your croissant and latte sir?
Last weekend I had the opportunity to discuss the events of the massacre with many families while I consulted and, yet again, I was stunned – no one seemed terribly upset or concerned.
Precious little thought appears to have gone into what this unrest might signify for the future of this country.
People – this is NOT normal.
This is not how societies that aspire to civility behave and this sort of thing does not happen in New Zealand or Australia. Call us dull and boring but in New Zealand our police don’t carry guns. Our miners do not strike because they want to earn a living wage, 20,000 people are not murdered every year (I was told by a police employee who should know last weekend you can actually add half as many again – the Government here actively supresses crime statistics), a woman is not reporting a rape every few minutes and our politicians do not have their faces in the public trough awarding contracts and positions to their friends and family.
These are all signs of a thoroughly rotten and dysfunctional society.
So why have the inboxes of the teams at Immagine New Zealand and Immagine Australia not been full to overflowing with ‘get me out of here’ emails this past week?
I’ve given it a lot of thought and I confess this last week here in South Africa has made me realise that although we have so much in common the differences are stark.
People here have shut down. They don’t want to see what is going on around them even less think through what it might all mean. If the lights are on and the hot water is running they are understandably desperate to believe that the events of last week may as well have happened on Mars.
Why? Human nature I guess. Until the barbarians are climbing over the walls people hope the noise outside is just a passing herd of animals.
I read a report a few days ago that said that Eskom, the state electricity provider, can only guarantee a somewhat regular supply of electricity to homes and businesses by buying back excess electricity off the mines. If the mines were using all the electricity they get, the lights would be off in suburban South Africa. Already power cuts have become part of the landscape.
Again everyone kind of shrugs and says “it doesn’t really matter, they aren’t that bad”.
I think though I get it – people see what they want to see. No one really wants to contemplate leaving their country, their friends, their family, their history. Uprooting for a life that only promises to be better. A potential new life that comes with no guarantees. It’s easier to bury your head in the sand and say that each of these events are isolated and there will be a happy ending.
But at some point surely all thinking South Africans must wake up to the reality that if the Government’s own constituency is going to start opposing them and the Government in turn is going to crush their own voters at the barrel of a gun then surely only trouble lies ahead.
But, hey, a few months ago over 50 people were killed in a strike in this country.
So last week as shocking as it was to us ‘outsiders’ was arguably not an isolated incident.
And therein lies the rub.
I have come to realise this week that if you live on a rubbish dump that grows and grows around you, you assume the whole world is covered in stinking refuse.
Till next week - The Southern Man
Posted by Iain on March 30, 2012, 4:49 p.m. in Living
I spend so much time overseas exploring other people’s countries that I spend precious little time exploring and enjoying my own. And I’d be lying if I didn’t say that saddens me a bit.
Having a beach house doesn’t help. Don’t get me wrong and I don’t want to sound like some pretentious prat but when you have access to a beach house you tend to want to spend your time there to the exclusion of spending that precious leisure time elsewhere.
So it is both a real blessing disappearing regularly to your favourite part of paradise but equally it can be a little restrictive.
So, I have decided that this year I am going to see more of New Zealand and have two trips planned to Central Otago this year – one to Queenstown to play golf in November and on the immediate horizon I am really excited at the prospect of spending the next week completing the Otago Rail Trail with my wife and a few close friends.
This involves mountain bikes, plenty of pub stops, mind blowing scenery and I suspect a rather sore bum.
If you haven’t been to Central Otago add it to your must see list. It is barren, rocky and always brown because in most parts it receives less than 100mm of rain a year. It is like the Great Karoo in South Africa meets Afghanistan (without the roadside bombs) or Iran without the Mullahs. It is New Zealand’s ‘high country’ where the plains meet the sky and the air is so clear mountains tens of kilometres away look like you can reach out and touch them, where the sky is so big and so wide it makes you feel insignificant and the size of an ant. It is a place where the weather is sunny and hot in summer and sunny and cold in winter.
Luckily we will be there when it is neither extreme and we are set to enjoy early autumn which will offer lovely warm days with daytime temperatures in the low to mid 20s Celsius but very cold nights with temperatures as low as 2-5 degrees.
With the changing seasons there is some chance of snow up in the mountains but that is highly unlikely (I sincerely hope so because we can only take 10kgs of luggage and I am an Aucklander and don’t possess ‘snow clothes’).
Perfect for golf. We’ll see about mountain bikes.
I will report back on this next week if I can.
One of the attractions of Central Otago for me is that it is so full of history and represents a region of the country that has been settled by Europeans and a few keen Chinese longer than most other parts. Sparsely occupied (if at all) by Maori when gold was discovered in the early 19th century the population exploded when the gold rush cranked into life. Given the scarcity of trees in that region the architecture represents a period of Victorian England meets often poor but eternally hopeful gold prospectors and settlers and many of the old cob and stone buildings that are still standing have been turned into boutique hotels, B and Bs and the like.
As I thought about what we are likely to see next week and enjoy in parts a landscape and New Zealand heritage little changed in 150 years it occurred to me that migrants tend to look forward at the new life that awaits, the city they have landed in and the new country ripe for exploration and seldom do they look back – except in those times of inevitable homesickness especially among the newly arrived. Those that have always lived some place often look back in time and at our history to better understand who we are and what made us and our world view what it is.
As a self-confessed history junkie I have been reading a wonderful book these past few days by local Journalist Gordon McGlaughlan. Its title is ‘Auckland – A Life and Times’ and as a sort of ‘Brief History of…’ is fascinating and well worth reading for those who have an interest in my home town, why it is here, who settled it and the forces, both natural and human that have shaped it to become what it is.
It is full of wonderful facts and insights.
As a keen geographer and Aucklander I have always been aware of the massive ‘reclamation’ that went on during the 1800s of Auckland’s foreshore. The soft sandstone cliffs in many parts were levelled by pick and shovel, sometimes explosives and carted down the faces barrow load by barrow load to create, through the destruction of some beautiful bays, flat land for the rapidly growing port and commercial activity. This book has allowed me to roll back the years in my mind to a place and time when the rail lines and yards, the wharves, many of the coastal roads and blocks of high rise buildings were not there and picture a place where in the 1830s only a tented ‘city’ existed. Where streams flowed down the valleys of bracken covered hills, slowed and accumulated in swamps of reed and raupo, where eels swam and freshwater crayfish hid among the rocks before the waters that sustained them flowed into the sea through mangroves and coastal estuaries.
Fascinatingly for a city that enjoys more than its fair share of rain one of the biggest constraints on the early city was the availability of fresh water. How ironic after the wet, seeming ‘summerless’, summer we Aucklanders have just had. Although in the 1830s there were only 1500-2000 people living in Auckland fresh water sources quickly became polluted and undrinkable.
There were during those early years only a few sources – the stream known as Horotiu to local Maori that ran down from the ridge along the valley now covered by Queen Street was the most important. Queen Street for those of you who have not walked it is our main Central City road that starts at the ridge now dominated by Karangahape Road at its southern end and which ends at Customs Street which crosses it a block away from the harbour.
About two thirds of the way to the harbour this stream pooled in a large swamp about where Aotea Square and a massive underground carpark is now. It then meandered down through the valley before once again entering a wetland and mixing with the gentle tides that lap this harbour.
Now that same stream is imprisoned in large concrete pipes that feed storm water and the remnants of the steam itself into the Waitemata Harbour.
As I type this I am looking out over Queen Street from my office and imagining a landscape not covered in high rise buildings but a valley cut by Horotiu and guarded by two gently chiselled hills which once would have looked like any valley in this part of the North Island – towering Podocarp forests of Totara and probably Kauri - that most majestic of trees. With Tui, Kereru (native wood pigeon), kaka (native parrot) and all manner of birds wheeling and diving over and through the canopy. At some point Kiwi would have been poking and prodding the ground looking for fat native earthworms.
Now we have glass, concrete and tarmac and the nearest thing to fauna are flocks of pigeons that strut and preen on the window eaves of the oldest buildings that overlook Horotiu’s final resting place.
I have also learned that in the middle of Auckland University (about ten minutes walk from our offices) there exists to this day a fresh water spring which continues to flow with the clearest water that has been filtered over hundreds if not thousands of years by the volcanic rocks of the region.
It is now piped directly into the city’s storm water system which seems a real waste. A clean source of the freshest Aotearoa H2O not being consumed by the good folk of Auckland and thirsty University students is a real shame.
Another major source of fresh water came from a spring that bubbled its way up through the scoria on the northern slopes of that iconic volcanic cone I have written of before, Maungawhau or Mount Eden, and then wound its way down toward what would become Newmarket to collect in a large swamp in what is now Khyber Pass (another imprisoned stream). It was here the first of the big breweries set up shop and until recently, produced some of the world’s finest beers. They needed that fresh water.
It’s funny when you so take for granted the landscape you view daily to stop and consider occasionally what it once looked like. To consider that the water that comes from the tap that you do not think twice about would only 150 years ago have been thought of as an absolute luxury.
Each Aucklander today consumes around 300 litres of water. From about 1830-1850 in Auckland everyone relied on buckets and springs or rainwater. A wash would have been hands and face and a jug and wash basin. It is recorded most of the local population washed every six weeks. I can imagine how nice they’d have been to stand beside on a baking hot summer day in Auckland. No thanks…..
We lost Horotiu but gained personal hygiene.
And next week I am going to see a part of New Zealand that has changed little since the last Ice Age.
Until next week
Southern Man - Iain MacLeod
Posted by Iain on Oct. 5, 2011, 2:13 p.m. in Living
Despite Dan Carter being ruled out of the rest of the Rugby World Cup with a groin tendon tear the sun still came up this morning. Never has so much attention been paid to one man’s groin in the history of humanity (as far as I can tell).
Two other bits of good news (startling perhaps, depending on your perspective):
New Zealand’s murder rate was the lowest for 25 years over the last 12 months with a grand total of 34 people being murdered and a drop in crime by 6%; and
The New Zealand dollar has fallen to six month lows over the last few days with a downward re-rating of our credit rating by two of the major international rating agencies.
On the matter of the exchange rate, one might normally not applaud a downgrade in the nation’s credit worthiness but in the last two weeks since returning from South Africa, I have gone to change foreign currency locally and been rendered speechless by the exchange rates. The South African Rand was being bought at R6.99 to the NZ dollar and the Singapore Dollar was being bought at S1.06 to the NZ dollar. Needless to say I politely declined on both occasions as I simply could not see the New Zealand dollar being this high for too much longer.
And I was right.
With a readjustment of risk, the ongoing volatility around Europe, and Greece in particular, and also what is happening in the US (probably in another recession already), the New Zealand dollar has been sold off as ‘the markets’ have returned to the United States currency. I am happy to pay a little more for my petrol if like all New Zealand exporters my business becomes more competitive. A lower New Zealand dollar of course does two things for my clients – they get more New Zealand dollars when they move here and my fees cost less in their local currency.
Given that we are seeing the world’s middle classes getting poorer since the onset of the GFC and in particular in South Africa this is welcome relief I can tell you. I have been predicting for the last ten years that South Africans are in danger of becoming currency prisoners in their own country and emigration when it all finally falls apart simply won’t be viable. We saw it in Zimbabwe and I expect to see it repeat in South Africa.
With regard to crime statistics it is really heartening to see that ongoing improvement in these statistics. As if New Zealand wasn’t already safe, it has become a whole lot safer.
On “average” New Zealanders murder approximately one person per week although in 2010 we murdered 65 (a particularly nasty and brutal year) and the year before 35.
If we were to murder people on the same per capita rate as they do in a country like South Africa, we would still be murdering close to 1000 people per year.
The difference in the probability of becoming a victim of crime was brought home to me in South Africa two and a half weeks ago following the release of that country’s latest crime statistics. The Government was “celebrating” a fall in the national murder rate from 20,000 a year to “only” 16,000. To put that into some perspective, since the US invasion of Iraq on 19 March 2003, there has been approximately 9,500 US casualties and I believe they call that a “war”. They kill as many in South Africa in six months as US forces have lost personnel in 8 years.
Overall in New Zealand recorded crime fell by a little under 6% over the last 12 months.
Interestingly the largest decreases in overall crime were in the South Island and particularly Canterbury, Southland, Tasman – nothing like a good natural disaster to bring people together and be good to one another it appears!
Family violence also fell by 3.1% and there was a reduction in “family violence assaults” which also reverses trends of previous years. These statistics were of course taken before Mr Dan Carter ripped his groin tendon and while the All Blacks are still in the 2011 Rugby World Cup. There is (seriously) a spike in domestic violence in this country if the All Blacks lose a game of rugby! How pathetic and sad.
The Government here is taking credit for tougher sentences (we have one of the highest per capita prison populations in the world), three strikes and you are out (or ‘in’ – jail that is), better police resourcing (more front line police). I heard a different possible explanation for it this morning however – change in demographics – an aging population results in less crime (older, wiser, less drinking and fighting basically). The drop in our crime has parallels with other similar first world low birth rate economies.
Regardless of the reasons it is nice to know that if it is possible for our safe streets and cities to get safer, they just have...
Speaking of excess drinking and giving a lie to the older you get the more sensible you become for those of you who are not rugby fans forgive me but I have now managed to sneak off to Eden Park to enjoy the All Blacks dismember France, Manu Samoa to arm wrestle Fiji into submission and on Saturday night enjoyed England vs. Scotland. Quite amazing really – close to 60,000 people at Eden Park (which looks truly amazing) for this northern hemisphere encounter, of which probably 10,000 where supporting England.
This doesn’t have quite so much to do with the fact that England doesn’t appear to know how to play rugby (how much kicking can you do without calling yourselves Manchester United?), but more perhaps to do with the fact Scotland were the underdogs and many New Zealanders have Scottish ancestry. A great time was had by all except we suspect the Scottish rugby team who fell at the final hurdle with 3 minutes to go and were knocked out of the World Cup.
What is truly amazing is how organised this World Cup has been. There are volunteers for Africa inside Eden Park, security has been tight but not obtrusive, burly policemen stand beside each beer stand with tightly crossed arms and bulging biceps just to remind you what you are up against if you get too silly; there are not generally queues of more than 4 or 5 minutes to get food or drink and having been in the two main stands for 2 of the 3 games, the stadium is emptied inside of about 20 minutes when it is all over.
All of the bars and restaurants around Eden Park are pumping to all hours of the night and there is no doubt about it, this event has brought a real energy to New Zealand. We all remain nervous as we are every 4 years that the All Blacks might not go all the way but I am certainly hoping that the tens of thousands of visitors that are here sharing the festivities are having a good time. Certainly all the feedback we are getting from our many South African and English visitors to New Zealand is that they are having a whale of a time and enjoying visiting a country they might not otherwise have seen.
We also of course, have many clients here who are enjoying the rugby while looking for work, with a view to moving here. All have reported strong interest in their skills and they are all falling in love with the little country that could.
Onwards now to the quarter finals of the RWC which will see Wales beat Ireland by scoring a try, Australia beat South Africa (sorry loyal South African readers), New Zealand beat Argentina and England beat France (how did either even make the quarters? England will win without scoring a try).
And we will stroll down the Eden Park for Sunday’s knockout gamers knowing the streets are safer than ever.
Until next week...
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