Book Review: Jobs, Robots and Us – Why the future of work in New Zealand is in our hands, by Kinley Salmon

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_jobs_robots_and_us.jpgWinter is a good time to take stock of our own lives, issues in society and the purpose of life, work and technology. It is a time of reflection to enable us to look ahead. Kinley Salmon provides an excellent resource to help with our musings. Here is a book that includes social history, science, statistics, expert opinion and personal experiences. What part does technology play in the future of our nation and are we ready to embrace change? This book gives a balanced and very well-organised response. The chapter topics are clearly outlined in the introduction and so enable the reader to gain an overview before further reading. I found this helpful as the summary of content allowed me to select the areas of my own interest to read first. Are we prepared for changes and how best can we enable these?

Kinley Salmon grew up in Nelson and now works as an economist in Washington DC. His qualifications in Public Administration in International Development from Harvard, combined with his New Zealand upbringing, give him a unique perspective on the issue of work and technology.

In this book, he addresses ideas such as the speed of adoption and diffusion of technology, the lack of know-how to enable change and how to sustain such change. This book is made accessible by the use of examples from New Zealand. The Novopay debacle is given as an example of innovation without good preparation. Likewise, a taxi driver using Tom-tom rather than Google Maps or Waze, which give real time traffic information, shows an unwillingness to adapt new technologies.

I was interested in his discussion of the impact of new immigrants and recent returnees as bringing new ideas back to our shores. He gives evidence that they do make a difference in our ability to take up new technologies.

In the concluding chapter, Salmon states that the future of work in New Zealand is not yet written, but sits with individuals, businesses, iwi, communities and government to be shaped. As a teacher, I found this work challenging but hopeful. My students will play an important part in deciding what work will look like but the environment that enables such changes, lies with my generation.

Reviewed by Kathy Watson

Jobs, Robots and Us: Why the future of work in New Zealand is in our hands
by Kinley Salmon
Published by BWB
ISBN 9781988545882

Book Review: The Plimmer Legacy, by Bee Dawson

Available in bookshops nationwide.

cv_the_plimmer_legacyMost people who know Wellington will have come across the Plimmer name. It’s immortalised in locations such as Plimmer Steps, Plimmer House and the seaside village of Plimmerton, north of Wellington city. Many residents and visitors will have paused to look at the statue of the ‘energetic and entrepreneurial’ top-hatted John Plimmer and his ever-leaping little dog Fritz. The pair are found at the base of the steps between Boulcott St and Lambton Quay, a route that Plimmer often took. Bee Dawson’s book recounts the story of the Shropshire-born Plimmer and many of his descendants from the 1800s through to the present day.

Dawson is a social historian who has carried out extensive research not only on the Plimmer family but also on the growth of early Wellington. Her book also provides a comprehensive record of farming history in the Rangitikei area, where many of Plimmer’s descendants established farms.

The Plimmer family and other settlers faced many challenges. Earthquakes, infant deaths, rheumatic fever and other illnesses took their toll. Fires were common, sometimes destroying entire streets, and there were constant threats of work-related injuries and deaths. However, life was not all doom and gloom. The Plimmer family was fortunate to experience first-class trans-Tasman steamer trips, enjoying the plush couches, tempting menus, and solid marble baths on offer during the journey. Their social life included balls, fancy dinners and moonlight river excursions.

Dawson has drawn on accounts in newspapers, letters, journals and other records. Where there are gaps in these accounts, she suggests what was likely to have happened. Photos and maps supplement the text. There are plenty of diverse topics covered, some in more detail than others. They include Māori history and lore, transportation (with a hair-raising tale of brake failure), duck-shooting traditions, pest control, mourning rituals, and corporate ‘wheeling and dealing’. Dawson even offers a couple of the Plimmer family’s favourite recipes.

Dawson grew up on a Canterbury farm and her love of farming and knowledge of farming practices is evident throughout the book. As a townie I knew nothing about the complexity of land exchanges or the farm ballot systems that Dawson describes. I was intrigued to learn about the old Rabbit Board houses, and how farming families cope in remote areas during floods and electricity outages.

The tight-knit nature of rural communities is well-depicted, and Dawson also emphasises the strong family ties and business nous that have kept Plimmer’s legacy alive.
Succession planning has been critical to the Plimmer family’s ongoing success. Generations of Plimmer descendants have continued to work the farms, often during university holidays. This work often involved what they call the ‘d’ jobs: ‘drafting, dagging, docking, drenching and dipping’. Such hands-on jobs provided a solid introduction to farming life, although some descendants later pursued careers in the corporate world.

I suspect that this is the only book I’ll ever read where the appendix includes a list of paddock names. Some are named after family members, others after farm workers including shepherds, fencers and tractor drivers – there’s even one named after an accountant. Several names reflect the territory, purpose, or characteristics of the area, such as Flax Gully, Airstrip and Dam Flat. Dawson provides a thorough index and a short bibliography for readers keen to learn more, drawing primarily on New Zealand material. The family tree at the front of the book helped me to keep track of the main characters.

The closing notes include a descendant’s observation that the Plimmer family has now come full circle – from Wellington city to the Rangitikei district and back to the city again. The area where John Plimmer first established his business ventures is now ‘just a stone’s throw away’ from the family’s current office on Queen’s Wharf. That office is also not far from the statue of Plimmer and Fritz. If the statue could talk, Dawson’s book hints at the fascinating stories those two could tell.

Reviewed by Anne Kerslake Hendricks

The Plimmer Legacy
by Bee Dawson
Published by Penguin Random House
ISBN 9780143773559

Book Review: Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E! Māori in the First World War, by Monty Soutar

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_whitiki_whiti_whiti_e.jpgA new literary taonga has been published with Monty Soutar’s Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E! Māori in the First World War.

The sheer scale of this magnificently published 576-page book (Bateman), will be a treasure for many New Zealand families whose tīpuna included members of the New Zealand Māori (Pioneer) Battalion of the First World War and  those iwi and Pacific Islands from whence the volunteers came.

A particular strength of the book as a taonga – there are many – is the mata created  especially for the book by Prof. Derek Lardelli depicting ‘three mata (shells or bullets)  which caused so many casualties’.

The mata are used to section the chapters which, page upon page, include maps, charts, and a huge collection of photographs. Of the latter, the photos of individual soldiers collected from archives and families especially for the book are the most poignant, especially as Soutar has researched personal information and written many caption/ stories of the soldiers and their families. Many of the photographs have been digitally coloured by Sir Peter Jackson including the front dust cover of the battalion gathered on the beach at ANZAC Cove.

Every solider who served is mentioned in the book in one way or another. However, this book is not just about the soldiers of the battalion. This is a cultural, social  and political history of New Zealand at the time. Chapter one, Before the War, Porongirangi ana te Pakeha starts with a time line beginning in 1897 with Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee and goes  through to August 4 1914 when the UK declared war on Germany. The Chapter traces the life, the many facets of politics of the day including land tenure and compulsory military training, plus race relations. There is a list of 46 Māori who served in in the South African war.

Nothing is glossed over. Issues of recruitment from different iwi, especially from the Waikato and Taranaki still bruised by injustices of the New Zealand Wars, are covered. The enthusiasm of many to fight for King (UK) and Country (NZ) are also detailed.  Sickness, desertion, injustices, every aspect of life in the Battalion is covered, often inclusive of letters from the front or official reports.

There is also much praise and many accounts of collective and individual bravery. Humour is never far away for the Māori Battalion: Private Bill Maopo had a rude awakening when shells landed among his him and his mates while they were sleeping at Leeuwerk Farm on the Western Front. ‘Maopo fled in just a shirt and socks. They had to run “through a paddock full of growing California thistle, up to our knees”‘. Perhaps it wasn’t funny at the time,  just in retrospect.

The detailed accounts of action are harrowing. ‘The Maori lads came under heavy fire as they tore up the stakes. “I think I will be killed at that wire” said one. “The bullets came ping, ping over our heads, but the Turk he fire too high. Paikare…we have a [lucky] escape that time.”‘

In all there were 2227 Maori and 458 Pacific Islanders who served in the Battalion.

This is not the first book to be written on the history of the Battalion. Chris Pugley’s Te Hokowhitu a Tū: The Māori Pioneer Battalion in the First World War was published  in 2015 by Oratia Media. However, Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E! Māori in the First World War expands greatly on the information and context of the history of this famous Battalion.

Reviewed by Lincoln Gould

Whitiki! Whiti! Whiti! E! Māori in the First World War
by Monty Soutar
Published by David Bateman Ltd
ISBN 9781869539580



Book Review: The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa, by Vincent O’Malley

cv_the_new_zealand_WarsAvailable in bookshops nationwide.

Vincent O’Malley’s, The New Zealand Wars \Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa, documents some uncomfortable truths about the early history of Aotearoa/New Zealand.

Sensitively tracing inter-racial & inter-Māori events from the signing of the Treaty of Waitangi (ToW) in 1840, until the end of armed conflict in 1872, O’Malley highlights events at significant variance with the sanitised, even romanticised, history still mostly accepted by the dominant culture.

Building on the work of other historians such as Belich & King, O’Malley exposes the early betrayal by the Crown, then the Colonial Government, of the central article of the ToW, namely the ‘…unqualified….chieftainship over…’ & ‘…full, exclusive & undisturbed possession of their (Maori) land…’ This in return for acceptance by Māori of peaceful settlement by Europeans.

Driven by pressure for land as the number of settlers rapidly grew, Crown representatives forged pretexts for taking military action against various Iwi & groups deemed hostile to the Crown, with the unspoken intention of forcibly acquiring land.

O’Malley provides an excellent chronology of armed clashes, from the Northern Wars in 1845, to the final shots fired in pursuit of Te Kooti in December 1871. He gives particular focus to the Waikato War (which sparked the Māori King Movement) & the unjust invasion of a peaceful Parihaka. Attendant atrocities are well articulated. As is the intolerant settler attitude towards Māori as an inferior race once Pākehā predominated – this mindset ‘justifying’ actions in breach of Treaty obligations.

Highlighting land confiscations & other injustices inflicted on Māori, first by force of arms and then by weight of numbers, (by 1860 Pākehā outnumbered Māori), O’Malley makes a connection between the loss of land & self-sufficiency, and an abiding grief & anger translating through subsequent generations even to today. He postulates that that unhappy mix puts into proper context the harsh reality of Māori over-representation in negative societal statistics.

The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa is well-written & illustrated, and comprises another forward step in establishing a truthful & accurate history of the founding years of our nation. It suggests itself as compulsory reading in our schools’ history classes.

Reviewed by Barry Keane

The New Zealand Wars \ Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa
by Vincent O’Malley
Published by Bridget Williams Books
ISBN  9781988545998

Book Review: Filming the Colonial Past – The New Zealand Wars on Screen, by Annabel Cooper

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_filming_the_colonial_pastThe New Zealand Wars have given filmmakers from early days a rich source of material.  One of the earliest filmmakers was Rudall Hayward, who initially made silent movies.  He made 3 films featuring the New Zealand Wars. They were The Lady of the Cave 1922, Rewi’s Last Stand 1925 and The Te Kooti Trail in 1927. A remake of Rewi’s Last Stand in 1940 brought this film into the era of sound.

Rudall Hayward’s family emigrated to New Zealand when he was 4 years old from England. His family came from a line of entertainers, touring with variety shows that included short films, sometimes locally made ones. Early films often depicting Māori were Europeans with their bodies dyed brown – shocking, and not at all convincing. Hayward’s instinctive showmanship combined with genuine interest in making films about Aotearoa generated community involvement in his projects.  They also drew in local townspeople and iwi.

This involvement with communities and local iwi has continued throughout the decades in New Zealand. It has become a very important part of telling of the history of how the relationship between Pākehā and Māori has developed through the centuries. The history of our own country is important and needs to be told – filmmaking is an excellent way of doing this.

Politics has also played an important part in how the stories are told, including the amount of money available to be able to portray and ensure these stories can be told.  Television played an important part in this. Television drama series The Governor and independent film Utu, enlisted Māori advisors Don Selwyn, Merata Mita and Joe Malcolm.

Full length feature films River Queen and Rain of the Children were made with mixed reception by critics and the public alike. Many saw River Queen as a bit of a disaster, with delays in production because of lack of money and one of the main actors becoming ill.

Over the years Māori have become part of the mainstream acting community but in early years of colonial film-making, they were not encouraged to apply for parts. They were not seen as having the ability to portray what the writers and directors saw as qualities which would be accepted by the general viewing public.

As well as a change in the number of Māori actors, there has been an uptick in the number of Māori directors, with a number of well known and respected Māori film directors being part of film making history worldwide. Taika Waita and Lee Tamahori are two that a number of us have heard about – especially if you are a movie goer. Taika’s Hunt for the Wilderpeople in 2016 gives a sideways glance to The Te Kooti Trail as the young hero Ricky (Julian Dennison) tells Bella (Rima Te Waita), ‘I’m a Maori warrior and that bottle over there is a British Soldier, I’m defending my wives’.

Lee Tamahori has directed a number of very successful films here and overseas but the one most of us remember was Once were Warriors, which shocked a lot of New Zealand audiences who found the subject matter rather confronting.  When he moved to Hollywood, he worked on films Die Another Day (the James Bond film from 2002) and The Edge. 

The cost of producing historical drama have continued to rise but new technologies have reduced the cost of screen stories in other genres. Most films are now shot digitally, drones have replaced helicopters, and editing has become digitised.

One area of change that most of us of the older generation have noticed is that technology has replaced travel guide books. Travellers who want to engage with the past may choose a digital guide, the Waikato War Driving Tour app, a history of the wars created by the Māori Heritage team of Heritage New Zealand in 2013. More recently, The Ministry for Culture and Heritage have developed an app – The 1846 War in Wellington. They have connected sites, allowing a traveller to follow the paths of the wars while listening to the words of people who fought at each place.

This book is certainly a comprehensive and detailed look at film-making in New Zealand. While I found it a bit heavy going at times, it was overall a fascinating and enjoyable read.  Who would it appeal to?  Anybody really with a fascination with film and TV documentary and drama productions.

Reviewed by Christine Frayling

Filming the Colonial Past – The New Zealand Wars on Screen
by Annabel Cooper
Published by Otago University Press
ISBN: 9781988531083

Book Review: Frensham, a New Zealand Garden, by Margaret Long and Juliet Nicholas

Available in bookshops nationwide. 

cv_frensham_a_new_zealand_garden.jpgFrensham is a large garden just over a hectare, on the southern edge of Christchurch city. It was developed by Margaret Long and her husband Ron when they moved to the property twenty-seven years ago, the seven-year old-house having little garden around it at that stage. It has been a labour of love for Margaret which she shares in a stunning book as she takes the reader on a tour of the garden through the seasons.

In the prologue Long says ‘I embarked enthusiastically on my gardening journey, creating spaces and purchasing the many and varied plants then available from nurseries.’

Her husband Ron assisted with making structures to enhance the plantings and the name evolved from the rose Frensham, as it had been her father’s favourite rose.

‘The bush fires of 2017 … were the catalyst for Margaret’s wish to have a photographic record of the garden. The idea of writing the book about the creation of the garden…. was reconsidered now, and she realized that it would be the photographs alongside her words which would best tell the story,’ says Marilyn McRae in her introduction.

Frensham is an eye-catching hard cover book, with the author focusing on the four seasons and highlighting trees and plants which are a real feature during a particular month. Complimenting the text are numerous quality photographs by Christchurch photographer Juliet Nicholas. She has ‘lived’ with Frensham for an entire year, photographing its changes through the months and the seasons, and providing a unique insight into the growth and development of the garden.

The Long’s have shared their garden to visitors for twenty five years, being a wonderful venue for fundraising events at any time of the year. I was fortunate to visit Frensham earlier this year with a school fundraising tour of a number of neighbouring gardens, and as I look through the pages of the book I can relive my visit. It is a glorious book which can be picked up time and time again, and will be a handy reference to new gardeners as Margaret’s advice on planting and pruning is invaluable. She has accumulated a wealth of knowledge of plants and gardens over the years both here and overseas which is evident throughout the pages of this informative book with the inclusion of botanical plant names.

Reviewed by Lesley McIntosh

Frensham, A New Zealand Garden
by Margaret Long and Juliet Nicholas
Published by Quentin Wilson Publishing
ISBN 9780995105324




AWF19: Vincent O’Malley gives the Michael King Memorial Lecture

The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa will be back in stock nationwide this week.

pp_vincent_omalley.jpgFriday lunchtime at the 2019 Auckland Writers’ Festival and the ASB Theatre was packed out to hear Vincent O’Malley talk about The New Zealand Wars. He challenged us from the very start. We are still a nation in shock from the Christchurch massacre, so you could feel the attention of the audience focus on the speaker when he said this wasn’t an unprecedented event. The change of mood was tangible. Māori lost their lives in a similar way. O’Malley’s message is a simple one. We need to grow up. We need to act like grown-ups and own our history, warts and all. In the past we have chosen to ignore the story, in the same way we tossed aside the Treaty of Waitangi for over a century. Now we must recognise the profound influence that The New Zealand Wars have had on us all.

O’Malley spoke eloquently for an hour, filling in the gaps in our knowledge, helping to educate his audience. Two of his recent books have been very influential in moving our understanding forwards, first the massive The Great War for New Zealand: Waikato 1800-2000 in which he states that our defining conflict did not take place on the Western Front or at Gallipoli, but in the Waikato from 1863-64. A war of conquest and invasion by the Crown. His latest book, The New Zealand Wars: Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa, was launched just before the festival. At 270 pages against the almost 700 pages of the earlier book, this seeks to be a digestible guide, something that can be read and used in schools as a basic text book.

O’Malley’s talk was full of facts, many of them surprising. For example, two-thirds of the British army during the New Zealand Wars were Irish, and many became disillusioned with what they were doing. There were too many parallels with the treatment of Ireland. Many of the soldiers ended up marrying the Māori women from the iwi they had conquered. They had been fighting against people who had no standing army, people who were fighting for their lives and their lands.

In the 1850s there was a brief time of peace and prosperity. O’Malley reminded us that at that time Māori were driving the economy and the country’s exports. They were producing enough food to feed large cities like Auckland as well as themselves. It was in the 1860s that peace was shattered, war broke out in Taranaki and it appears that Governor Grey was determined to destroy the Kingitanga. ‘There was nothing noble about the massacres,’ O’Malley reminded us, and the execution of hundreds in Gisborne is ‘a stain on our history’.

We are still living with the consequences of that time of war today. Three million hectares of land were confiscated, and those confiscations were indiscriminate, with those who did not fight or sided with the crown also losing their land. 20% of Māori in Gisborne were killed, compared to the 5% of the population that were killed in the First World War.

O’Malley’s call to action is that we teach our own history in our schools and look after our battle sites. We must make sure our children know about this and we must get around the hang-ups that the Ministry of Education still has about the whole subject. Only by doing this will we break some of the intergenerational problems that have built up. We need to lobby both local and central government for more to be done. The sites that relate to our history are often neglected and hard to find. We need to make people aware and interested, create trails and history that we can follow on the ground.

The talk ended with rapturous applause for O’Malley and all he is trying to do.

Reviewed by Marcus Hobson

The New Zealand Wars | Ngā Pakanga o Aotearoa
by Vincent O’Malley
Published by Bridget Williams Books
ISBN: 9781988545998