Posts with tag: world cup
Letters from the Southern Man
Migrating is more than just filling in forms and submitting paperwork, its a complex process that will test even the most resilient of people.
Understanding New Zealand is paramount to your immigration survival and to give you a realistic view of the country, its people and how we see the world, read our weekly Southern Man blogs. Often humorous, sometimes challenging, but always food for thought.
My apologies for the late Letter from New Zealand. I returned home earlier in the week from fourteen days of hectic consulting (dawn till dusk and beyond) in Singapore and Malaysia. Seriously shattered. It has taken a few days to recover.
Not helped by yesterday being the first day of the third cricket test between England and New Zealand at Eden Park. It is the last cricket test of the New Zealand summer.
I often counsel potential clients that the key to quick assimilation into our society is linguistic and cultural compatibility along with skills (or capital).
And cricket is a mighty fine barometer. If you understand this game you will survive. If you love this game you will thrive. If you don't, well, you'll get by.
Cricket is part of our British ancestry. It is in our blood. Given I live about 15 minutes casual walk to the home of all that is great and good about New Zealand sport I wasn’t about to miss the first day. There is nothing like it.
Eden Park is the beating heart of New Zealand sport’s premier games – rugby and cricket. I have spent many a lazy summer afternoon there enjoying a quiet ale with friends and family watching, to my eyes anyway, that finest form of the game of cricket – the five day test.
I have also enjoyed many a booze filled day watching the New Zealand cricket team play the best in the world. In all forms of the game – T20s and one dayers. Light entertainment and fast moving – I consider it a fun day out but it is rather a hit and giggle situation – without the seriousness, commitment and skill of a test match.
Now, as the days grow shorter, summer holds on by a thread and the evenings close in earlier as autumn creeps i up the country the Black Caps – ranked eighth in the world are battling the second ranked team in England.
Travelling with their small but highly vociferous band of supporters known as the Barmy Army (who are seeing what a real summer is all about) the game late on day two has New Zealand with their noses in front.
How to explain a game that takes five days to complete to a new migrant?
I did try describing it once to some Americans but I quickly realised I was wasting my time. Even talking about it as like a five day version of baseball on valium still didn’t work. Their eyes glazed over and I realised that you need to be the son or daughter of the British Empire to ‘get it’. And those Americans just weren’t part of the British Empire for long enough for the game to take root in their psyche.
This game has to be the sternest test of mental and physical strength. A game that swings from advantaging one side to another, that twists and turns under hot summer skies, where a single delivery can make or break a career. Nothing like it.
Of course to others it is as exciting as watching paint dry. But to them I say, Philistine to a man.
Many years ago when my sons were starting out playing cricket (about age 5) a very dear friend of mine from Durban said to me – great game cricket, it teaches them so much more than how to hit or bowl a ball – keep them involved for as long as you can.
And I did.
Over the past twelve years most of my summer Saturdays wee until very recently been spent standing down one end of a cricket pitch acting as one of two on field umpires for my two sons club and school cricket games. You never appreciate the cut and thrust of this game till you have had the chance to stand down one end watching your boys become young men learning their craft, developing their game and adding the lessons of the sports field to their personal development and world view.
As I so often said to my boys and those I also coached down the years – in cricket as in life. Which usually resulted in the rolling of eyes. Now that they are older, and unfortunately no longer playing, they are beginning to understand what I meant. The more you put in, the more you get out of it.
Nothing is tougher than cricket. It is the cruellest of games. And the prince of games. Ask any opening batsman.
But back to Eden Park. Since its redevelopment for the Rugby World Cup of 18 months ago the park as lost a lot of its intimacy for cricket. Something of a concrete jungle of huge towering stands (largely empty even during test matches) there are now in my view far nicer places to watch test cricket. Other cities of New Zealand have their own dedicated cricket venues which usually involve one or two medium sized stands to watch and then grass covered embankments, often framed by ancient Pohutukawa trees.
So while Eden Park has become more functional it has certainly become better for watching rugby than cricket.
Its days as a joint venue, shared with rugby, must surely one day end. Right now, money talks but it is odd given Auckland has over 1.5 million people who enjoy being outdoors thanks to our long balmy summers why we haven’t taken test cricket away from Eden Park to a venue more befitting what might be the last of the truly gentlemen’s games. I know a few years ago Auckand cricket was offered over $20 million to take the game elsewhere. Strangely they declined.
If as a recent arrival to New Zealand you haven’t been to Eden Park, go before this test match is over. Take the children. It’s part of our DNA and even if you don’t understand the game the beer always tastes great sitting in the warm late summer sun.
Until next week
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man
Happy New Year to one and all.
Back in the office next week and looking forward to another busy year helping our clients make the move to New Zealand.
We are big in this country talking up our lifestyle – of our relaxed attitude to life (and work), our take it easy culture and our love of summer and the outdoors.
While I am the first to admit New Zealand does not have any monopoly on beauty nor necessarily even a balanced lifestyle this place surely takes some beating as I discover during every summer break.
I am writing this week’s letter from New Zealand lying in my recently erected hammock at my beach house at Lang’s Beach. Oh yeah folks, the Southern Man got out the chainsaw last week to cut some suitable post length timber from a 30m high gum tree to hang the hammock from. I’ll write another day about the house this tree nearly hit on its way down. The short version is it missed the neighbours pride and joy. Thank God.
I have written before about my favourite place on this dear old planet of ours, Lang’s beach, in Northland.
Only 90 minutes drive north of Auckland I always feel a million miles away up here and sometimes when I am out in the boat around the nearby offshore islands I feel about 60 million years away.
Lang’s Beach has soft white sand that curves gently around the Pacific Ocean for about one and a half kilometres. At its southern end a promontory of land curls round and provides the perfect place to launch pleasure boats and jet skis. At this time of year there can be 30 tractors and trailers parked along the sand having launched their boats for fishing, water skiing, diving and other water sports.
Our beach cottage sits high on the hill over looking Bream Bay and out toward the cluster of islands known as Taranga and Marotere Islands all lying some 15 -20 kilometres away. These islands are all nature reserves where no human is allowed to tread and are home to some of our rarest and most endangered birds and reptiles. Out there the Tuatara finds sanctuary. This ancient reptile evolved alongside the Dinosaurs and while most Dinosaurs didn’t survive the impact of a meteor all those eons ago the Tuatara managed somehow to get through that great extinction. Unfortunately today it struggles to survive on mainland New Zealand given the numbers of introduced predators such as rats, ferrets and stoats and generally only finds sanctuary on these offshore ‘arks’.
Yesterday we took a day trip out to one of these arks - Taranga.
On our way over a glassy blue green sea we wanted to go game fishing and to try and land a Kingfish or two. These fish are relatively common (everywhere we are not apparently), put up a heck of a fight and are lovely served as steaks….. Unfortunately as with so much of this summer’s fishing the catches have been embarrassingly pathetic and we caught none despite trying everything we knew attempting to catch them.
We then found a bay nestled out of the sea breeze and had lunch. We lowered our fishing lines into the clear waters to try our luck with the local Snapper population while we savoured Panini, brioche and other assorted goodies under a hot sun and cloudless sky.
Rising over 400m above us towered the pinnacles, a feature of Taranga Island. Covered in dense native forest from the waterline to the very top we caught sight of several individuals of an endemic species of parrot, the North island Kaka. These are big birds (for those into things avian – around the size of a Sulphur Crested Cockatoo) and make an impressive sound screeching above us as they flew in search of food. These large brown birds with a flash of bronze on their wing feathers were far easier to hear than to see as they did the rounds of their favourite trees. Tuis, warblers, parakeets and all manner of other native birds were trilling and squawking deep in the forest. They collectively made quite a racket as we sat contemplating the beauty of it all on the boat. It reminded me of something Captain James Cook is reputed to have said when anchoring the Endevour off our coast 240 years ago - he had to move and anchor further out to sea as his crew couldn't sleep given the noise made by so many birds. Taranga and offshore islands like these offer us a tantalising audio insight into what New Zealand once was before my ancestors arrived.
Around us Gannets circled before pulling their wings in tight against their bodies and diving like guided missiles (with similar precision) at the shoals of pilchards (sardines) and other small fish that find relative safety around the rocks and among the seaweed and kelp of these coves. Pied shags sat on rocks with wings out-stretched, drying off in the hot afternoon sun following a morning’s fishing. We even spotted a few Little Blue Penguins, common in these sub tropical waters as they too sought out fish.
As usual we did nothing but feed the fish we were targeting although we had little trouble catching under sized snapper. You can only keep them if they are at least 27cm long. Usually we throw back anything under 30cm as you don’t get a lot of fillet off anything smaller but these past two weeks given the fishing has been so bad we were measuring these guys down to the last millimetre. If they were 27centremetres they were promptly despatched and thrown on ice.
During the afternoon we completed our circumnavigation of Taranga with Kingfish rods back in hand trailing ‘they can’t help themselves’ (according to the guy in tackle shop) jigs. A couple of bumps as these predatory fish nosed the lures racing in front of them but no takers. Sigh….
Above us towered sheer cliffs with trees, bonsai like, growing out of every crack and fissure. One thing a keen observer quickly learns around these parts is that where life can exist, it will. How some of these trees survive given the thrashing they can get from an often strong wind along with salty spray I’ll never know but many were ancient – twisted and crippled but hanging in there.
Rounding the northern tip of this large island we hit the northerly wind which had created a swell running at perhaps one and a half metres. The run home was like being on a roller coaster. Surfing down one swell before running head long into the next made for an interesting ride. We lay in bed last night still rocking around (inside our heads) following this bumpy yet exhilarating 40 minute ride home.
Home to fillet two small ‘keepers’ and then off to the Waipu Pizza Barn where stories were swapped with other locals from the area about this shared fishing famine.
Even without a chillybin full of fish she was a cracker of a day – 27 degrees in the sun, a warm sea breeze, magical coves having been explored on Taranga, an abundance of native birds along with spectacular cliffs and forests. And one must assume judging by the numbers ofsea birds fishing – fish.
This may not be the best place on the planet but it sure takes some beating.
Back into the office next week and then off on the 18th to give seminars in the very antithesis of where I am now – concrete covered, crowded and air conditioned Singapore – about as far removed from mother nature and this good Earth as it is possible to be, followed on the 26th by a seminar in Kuala Lumpur – it isn’t going to be easy to tear myself away from this special little corner of New Zealand.
Until next week
It’s over. It’s finally over.
The ghosts of 1991 to 2007 have finally been laid to rest. The mighty All Blacks who so dominate world rugby year in and year out have finally secured their second Rugby World Cup. The RWC monkey (gorilla?) is now firmly off their backs.
Deserved winners they were if I may say so myself. Being the objective observer I am of course.
What a struggle it has been. Late nights, excessive drinking, lots of partying, endless fun, frayed nerves, tension, loss of sleep – and that’s just the players. What about us poor suckers who had to live it with them?
Late nights, excessive drinking, partying, sleep loss, tension, chewed fingernails, teasing friends around the world (mainly South Africa for obvious reasons….) – we may as well have played the games. It has been really, really tough.
I couldn’t have gone another week. If this tournament had been eight weeks long rather than six I’d be booking a consultation with a transplant specialist about now – my liver is shot and it just couldn’t take any more.
What a great ride it has been.
Watching the final from the new stand at Eden Park on Sunday was truly special. It was not the game so many people had been expecting and having written off the French in the week leading up to the final as being unworthy a great many of us had to swallow (actually choke might have been the word of the day) humble pie as they not only proved worthy finalists they could, with an extra Powerade or two, possibly even have won.
Last week I was offered three tickets and turned them down – my ‘final’ had been the All Blacks versus the Wallabies and taking my family to what was a truly great game. Now there was an All Black team at their dominant best – they’d have crushed anyone that night.
Later in the week I was again offered a ticket and this time I thought I just had to be there. How could I not go to a World Cup final that was being played just a ten minute walk from my home? In my city and in my country? Was I crazy? Perhaps just hung over...
I totalled up what I had spent on tickets to three pool games and a semi and thought – I’ve spent enough. I could buy a car with what I have paid to watch the Samoans, Fijians, English, Scots, Wallabies, French and All Blacks! And I had been to the pool match where the ABs despatched the French with consummate ease. Why waste more money?
Simply, and after another 23 seconds consideration, I said to myself I just had to be there – even if it was going to be a one sided affair. I was being called. The atmosphere at Eden Park had been tremendous all tournament. Games watched in high spirits – colourful fans, great organisation, a world class stadium organised to run like a Swiss watch.
I was right on all fronts bar one.
I should have known that a final is different. Players grow another leg. The French grew several and what had been billed as a bit of an anti-climax turned out to be a gripping final. Some have said it wasn’t pretty – well to me it was. A true test match. Beautiful from kick off to the 80th minute. Pitting two teams of ‘die for the cause’ players against one another at one of the great rugby grounds in the world cheered on by 61,000 fans at the park, another 4 million at home and many millions more around the world was something I will never forget.
From the time the French players formed their ‘V’ for victory sign when confronted with the haka we all knew we were in for something special. And of course the French have long been the All Blacks bogey team.
Eighty minutes of grinding rugby later the stadium erupted in delight (or possibly blessed disbelief). Personally my joy lasted about two minutes – then I started to simply feel relief. Relief that the team and the country had pulled off something pretty remarkable.
The IRB had said that giving the Cup to NZ was a bit of a risk. We are too small, not enough people, stadia too small, TV time zone issues and all that but they were the first to state on Sunday evening that it was probably the best World Cup in the 24 year history of the event.
So much was done so well by so many so unobtrusively.
When international media and team management wanted things done – in tournaments past they had been told no, not possible. Here it was – hang on a minute, give me a bit of time and I will see what I can do. And do we did. With beaming smiles.
I note even our Australian cousins at the Sydney Morning Herald gave New Zealand ‘11 out of 10’ for the way the event was pulled together and run.
Clearly the reason for its success was New Zealanders embraced this tournament like none before have done.
The concept of the stadium of 4 million was deemed a bit cheesy but it was well on the mark (not sure what the other 416,000 New Zealanders were doing for six weeks).
Whole cities, towns and schools adopted different countries. Teams were based in many regions around the country and made to feel more welcome than they had expected and ended up enjoying so much more than simply the rugby. When the Georgians played the Romanians in Rotorua for example half the crowd turned up wearing yellow and half red.
When the Irish team played in Dunedin they seriously thought that 20,000 Irish supporters had flown into the country. The truth was there were only 3000 of them! The rest were locals. The same at Eden Park for their pool match against the Aussies where out of a crowd of 60,000 I would suggest 55,000 were supporting Ireland (arguably not just reflecting the fact many of us have Irish ancestry but more the friendly rivalry that exists between NZ and our neighbours across the Tasman). The rest were New Zealanders dressed in green. Every team was made to feel like they were playing at home. It was something the organisers wanted and New Zealanders, being the friendly welcoming, sport crazy nuts we are, took them all into our hearts and homes.
By all accounts the players had a great time.
As did the 100,000 or so tourists that have jumped out of planes, bungeed off bridges, visited Milford Sound, enjoyed our beautiful countryside, swum with dolphins, been fishing, enjoyed great coffee in little cafes in picturesque small towns, ate at some of the best restaurants in the world, skydived, drunk some great wines at some of the world’s best wineries, experienced street theatre, local beer and local pubs, played golf on world class golf courses and generally had the time of their lives.
So many said that they had been on many holidays before and had high expectations that were not met – this time they had equally high expectations and they were exceeded. Indeed according to many, smashed.
Little things like New Zealanders taking perfect strangers into their homes for four week so they got a real NZ experience during the World Cup and being loaned motorcars, binoculars, cameras and all sorts of things to people who were basically total strangers.
But such is the way of the people of this country. It is what makes it special.
The country used the opportunity to showcase fashion (probably a bigger exporter than you might imagine), high end manufacturing, food and our IT industries as well as our more traditional primary industries such as farming, fishing and horticulture.
Contacts were made, relationships forged, dollars flowed.
Having enjoyed this opportunity to showcase our country to the world, I think we are all now somewhat exhausted. It’s been really hard work having this much fun.
Having thought that this might be the last time that we would get to host the event the fact we pulled it off so well has already lead to talk that the tournament will return.
Roll on 2030 – I hope by then my liver has recovered.
Until next week,
Seminars – Our final round for the year are coming up in South Africa, Malaysia and Singapore. Tell your friends about 'the little country that could' and come and hear what we have to share with you about it and the new lives that await migrants to this wonderful country.
Sport is a funny thing, it can bring out the best and worst in us. It can be a force for good and it can also be used for negativity and destruction. So too migration.
I can see with the All Blacks now poised to take the World Cup for the first time in 24 years how dedication to a single goal; a goal that is researched, visualised, planned and then executed can be such a force for good, not only for those involved but for those around who get to bask in the reflected glory.
If you win you can look back and pin point the pivotal moments where the decisions that made the difference were locked in.
If you lose you can look around and find blame with everyone and everything else except yourself and your plan. Blame those around you because in the end you were just not up to the challenge.
I am still ashamed of the vilification of referee Wayne Barnes in this country and the way New Zealanders blamed that referee for their departure from the 2007 quarter final in Cardiff. No referee ever cost a rugby side a game in the World Cup. Not the ref in the game between Samoa and South Africa three weeks ago, not South Africa when they played Australia in the quarter final and lost and not Wales when they lost to France in the semi.
Scapegoats are for those that seek factors other than themselves. It might be natural to lash out when you fail to reach the summit of your own Everest but, not only is it unseemly, the reasons given are often so wide of the mark.
I was thinking this past week about some of the toys being thrown from cots in certain parts of the rugby world when I got to reflecting over a client of ours from South Africa who has just found himself an offer of skilled employment here that will secure his and his family’s future. As a senior Police Officer in South Africa he has seen all pathways to promotion blocked owing to that country’s employment policies which nowadays specifically excludes most ‘whites’ from advancement.
His salary is pitiful given he puts his life on the line every day he gets dressed in that uniform and his savings as a consequence not high. In fact so bad is the salary of a Police Captain, shot twice in the line of duty that he has had to set up and run his own small business on the side to supplement his income. Pest control (the irony is wonderful) has kept himself and his family from the gutter.
When I met with this potential client back in July in South Africa, I outlined a strategy to achieve Residence for his family in New Zealand. I counselled him that it would not be easy but was doable. I told him he would be tested like he has never been tested before.
He needed a job offer to make it happen. Skilled and relevant employment and it would not be an easy nut to crack.
I explained that the two weeks he had planned to set aside to come to NZ and try to secure the job was simply unrealistic, greater investment in both time and money would be needed. Two things he was very short on.
We discussed the obvious employer – New Zealand Police. New Zealand is recruiting more front line police but unfortunately I told him that he would not be able to apply to join them as they have a policy of only employing New Zealand citizens or permanent residents, but that there were other sectors which would and had recruited former policemen we had helped to get Residence Visas of New Zealand.
He was understandably very nervous about it all. I might even suggest he was petrified. He was one of the few clients that just before he flew out here I emailed and asked ‘Are you really sure you want to do this? Are you really sure you are up to it?”
He was quite determined and was willing to follow our advice and the plan we laid out for him.
He has now been in New Zealand for about ten weeks, having left his wife and daughters behind and has been busy applying for various management level positions in retail, security and other sectors.
He has applied for jobs up and down the length of this country, travelled thousands of kilometres for interviews, been rejected by almost all but stayed stoic and focussed when he did not get them.
Then it happened. Last week he secured the position he needed for us to unlock Residence Visas of New Zealand for him and his family and we have just filed his Work Visa application (from within NZ) which will enable him to start his new job in a couple of weeks.
This job will also now enable him to proceed with confidence on our plan to secure his family Residence Visas of New Zealand.
The word “hero” is to my mind over used. It is very easy to suggest everyone is a winner and there can be no losers but life isn’t like that, we all know it. There are winners and there are losers.
Lady Luck plays a bit part at times but overwhelmingly we make our own luck.
The All Blacks aren’t about to play the greatest game of their lives owing to any luck or fortune. They had to beat some very good teams to make this final. They planned for it. They trained for it. They spent four years on it. And I have no doubt they will achieve it. They have been the best team at this tournament and I am truly honoured to have sat in the stands at Eden Park last Sunday and watched them beat the Australians, clearly the second best side at this Rugby World Cup.
All migrants that take the risks involved in scaling the mountain that is migration are to my mind heroes. All are taking risks that have real and meaningful consequences on a financial, emotional and logistical level if they fail. And make no mistake - all can fail and many do. There is something Darwinian about this process – New Zealand gets highly focussed and driven people who have been prepared to sacrifice and fight for the chance to live here.
There are many for whom the climb is too steep, the battle too hard, the rejections too frequent and who when faced with the adversity, the cost, the emotional investment, the time, the rejection and the fear find they just cannot scale the heights required to secure that key to a new life for them and their family.
And to this client, this dedicated, single bloody minded client, who has been tested in this process and his life like few others and who can add a few more scars to the bullet exit wounds on his body, I salute you. You are a real hero – you had a plan, you had a vision of where you needed to go and how to get there and you did it. Your children will one day, I hope, thank you for what you have risked and what you are about to give them.
I am genuinely proud, as a coach is of his rugby team, that although we have a long way to go to finish the residence process, the single greatest impediment to securing that residence is a barrier smashed and he will make it.
To all those who seek residence for themselves and their families who want to do this on the cheap, by cutting corners, by thinking it can all be achieved without real struggle – stay where you are – you will likely fail.
To those who are willing to get good advice, and yes pay for it (for these things are not mutually exclusive), this mountain is able to be conquered.
And to our beloved mighty All Blacks who stand for all that is great and good about this little country that could – who have put their bodies on the line in the quest for greatness and glory, a noble goal will be realised on Sunday. Not through cutting corners, not through trying to win this World Cup with anything other than a good plan, sweat and tears but through a vision held steadfastly to, a plan and single minded execution, taking the knocks and setbacks and conquering all those that stood before them.
To the All Blacks - you are all real heroes.
As is every one of our clients, including our Police Captain from South Africa who take all that the Immigration Department, New Zealand employers and the visa process can find to hurl at them and who win – whose ‘World Cup’ is a somewhat innocuous looking label in a well worn passport but which ultimately says it all - I came, I saw and I conquered.
Until next week...
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...
It of the oddly shaped ball.
Starts this week if you hadn’t heard.
I wasn’t going to do the rugby thing in the blog but the anticipation, excitement and the biggest event (party!) New Zealand has ever put on, or might ever see, has overcome me. Bear with me those of you that don’t follow this mad sport. Because to understand rugby and what is about to happen, is to get an insight into New Zealanders but equally, how New Zealand is changing.
I put myself in the highly interested but not obsessed camp. If we win it, great. If we don’t, then someone else played a better game in a knockout situation than we did. We move on. But in the meantime we have fun, party and show off this magical country of ours to the 85,000 visitors and the millions more who will watch on television from around the world.
Understand rugby in New Zealand and you will understand how it is a metaphor for a changing nation. In some ways, it represents what the ‘old’ New Zealand used to be about. Values that we all once shared and now many have left behind; what some pine for and what many are glad we have left in that other, antique New Zealand. Of some clinging to this sport as a measure of our national manhood and others who do not measure their worth, or the worth of this nation, against what happens on a footy field.
I live in a suburb called Mount Eden. It is a ten minute walk to the hallowed ground of Eden Park which, for the next seven weeks, will have the eyes of the rugby world focussed on it. Yet equally, there are literally thousands of people sharing Mount Eden with me who not only don’t watch rugby, they don’t give a toss about the world cup. Many are migrants from Asia and India. Give them football. Give them cricket. Give them Badminton. Give them Ping Pong. Rugby on the whole is for Pakeha (NZ European), Polynesian and Maori and the 100,000 South Africans that have made New Zealand their home.
Don’t get me wrong, I have bought tickets for the New Zealand versus France game later on this month at Eden Park. ‘Le Revenge’ for Cardiff 2007 many are calling it. I wouldn’t miss it.
So which teams have New Zealanders worried?
The young Australian team with possibly the best back line in the world. The South Africans who will bore us to death with their ‘style’ and to whom winning is more important than it is to New Zealanders.
That’s right South Africans. Every time I am in South Africa I hear that apparently rugby is a religion in NZ. It really makes me laugh. How little the Super Sport talking TV heads understand us. If rugby is a religion then I am afraid many of us are lapsed. The truth is, as I have said before, after many experiences watching the game in South Africa I have not come across more rabid rugby supporters.
I mean there’s been no playing dress up on a Friday like your favourite All Black in New Zealand. No endless TV commercials exhorting the so called team of millions. We know we are already part of Team New Zealand putting our best foot forward – the Silver Fern and more importantly the haka, are the unifying forces. Nothing staged about it. No trying to pretend we are all one people. We are all one people.
On my last trip to SA a month or so ago I almost thought that the tournament must be being held there and not NZ if the TV propaganda, er, marketing, was to be believed exhorting the nation to be one (as South Africa constantly does).
Hell, we have all been moaning about the price of the damn shirts! Personally wearing the shirt of the national team is the ultimate confirmation we are no longer seen as fans by the IRB but consumers. I confess I did buy one but not for me and not to wear. I have bought one for a good friend in South Africa, to add to his collection in his wonderful bar (pub) in his home in Durban. I wouldn’t waste my money on an All Black jersey.
So what does this World Cup mean to me?
Sharing good times with good friends. Welcoming people to our country to share a laugh and a unique ‘Made in New Zealand’ experience. A chance to showcase the best of our industries, our foods, our wine and our lifestyle. And of course a business opportunity. I have many potential clients coming over for a few weeks. I have no doubt they will be blown away by what they see and experience. And the best part for them will be the people. And many will decide to come back and live.
I have my tickets for the semi final which if results go the way of seedings should see the All Blacks playing the Springboks at Eden Park. I spent $1500 (ouch!) on three tickets for me and my sons. I figured this might be the only time we will get a chance to see a major game like this on our home patch and in the end, while I think the prices are hideously expensive it is a once in a lifetime opportunity – so what the hell!
And I confess, with the All Blacks losing their last two games to the Springboks and Australia, I just had to be part of it. To see if this time they could do it. To see if this time they could adapt and play a winning game all the way through to the end. Win ugly if they have to. As the Springboks and English have learned.
I think most New Zealanders, who always like a good time, would see winning as the icing on a seven week party cake. If we lose, we lose, the sun will still rise and shine upon us. I don’t think we define ourselves by what happens on a rugby paddock. I certainly don’t.
We are being told by the organisers to make sure we offer the 85,000 visitors the time of their lives and not to worry about whether the All Blacks win or lose. Ah, yeah, okay…roger that, sure.
I have no doubt we will. Show them a great time that is.
Already the supporters are pouring in. No rooms at the inn and all that. I am amazed that most have booked six week stays and it is clear this isn’t going to be just an Auckland and Wellington rugby event but our visitors are going to suck in all that it means to be a New Zealander. Everything this wonderful country has to offer them – local food and wine, farmers markets, vineyards, farm stays, urban stays, big game fishing, little game fishing(!), Auckland’s new Art Gallery, stage shows, the new ‘Q’ theatre in Auckland, local music, museums, Lord of the Rings Country, Weta Workshop, America’s Cup yachts (get out on our harbour if you are coming), skiing (bumper snow levels on Ruapehu in the Central North Island) , surfing (yep, ski in the morning and surf in the afternoon), walking on beaches, whale watching, swimming with dolphins, sailing, hiking, mountain biking – makes me tired just thinking about it.
Spring is here and the weather should be perfect for rugby – temperatures in the high teens most days in most places, not too hot and not cold. This winter has been very mild apart from two cold snaps. The garden is looking pretty dry and the potted plants need constant watering. The rugby fields will be in excellent condition.
Any thoughts that this will be a wet and challenging environment for rugby favouring the European teams is rubbish. I wouldn’t expect a lot of rain.
And it all kicks off if you’ll excuse the pun this Friday.
Organisers are expecting 50,000 people at Eden Park for the official opening ceremony and another 60,000 along Downtown Auckland.
If you can, watch, watch – the opening ceremony begins at 6pm local time (6am GMT, 8am South Africa and 2pm Singapore and Malaysia). The largest firework display New Zealand has ever seen follows the Eden Park Events.
If you are coming over or are already in New Zealand here is a few must dos while you are here in Auckland:
Have brunch/lunch/dinner (hell just stay for the whole day) at the new Wynyard Quarter
Stroll the farmers market at Britomart then retire to one of the many new bars for local beer or wine. And try out local beers – you could drink a new local beer every time for seven weeks and you’d never drink the same variety twice!
Head up the Sky Tower – you will probably see home from the top.
Visit Federal Street (under the Sky Tower) for some of the best Tapa’s Bars you’ll find (and the latest hang out for Auckland’s beautiful people)
La Cigale Farmers market in Parnell – great food, coffee and the best locally grown produce you will find (ask for directions, it isn’t easy to find but well worth it)
Settle in and watch the rugby at ‘The Cloud’, a 130 metre long structure that looks like a rolling, well, cloud (or albino caterpillar). This is ‘Party Central’ for the RWC. Two football fields long with two giant 18m TV screens, it is to be the hub for World Cup revellers. Bars, stages and food – it is going to be the place to be. Set up to cater for 15,000 people at a time.
Merediths (in Mount Eden – again voted NZ’s best and just a stones throw from Eden Park) for the best fine dining experience you will find while you are here (if you can get a table – they are often booked months in advance). Equally The French Café, The Engine Room, Dine, Clooneys (the list really is endless).
Enjoy some of the cheap Chinese eateries along Dominion Road (15 minutes walk from Eden Park). You won’t understand the waiters, you aren’t there for the service but the food is cheap, regional Chinese and to die for.
Ponsonby Road for more food and bars
Fishing charters out on the Hauraki Gulf – you read me talk about it, now do it for yourselves
Newmarket for shopping
A day (or two) on Waiheke Island – our gem of the Hauraki Gulf – vineyards, great restaurants or you might even take your boardies and have a swim.
If you are staying centrally in Auckland the bus service is superb. The trains are safe and clean and if you are not staying too far away from a station offer a comfortable alternative to the car.
And if you can, squeeze in a bit of rugby!
And therein lies the rub. Once the rugby club was the centre of our social lives. These days, especially for those of us that live in cities like Auckland, it is a small part of it with our diverse backgrounds, histories and interests, the RWC is just a good excuse to have more fun.
Let the party begin!
Iain MacLeod - Southern Man