Speaker by Various Artists


Jim's Five Weird Movies to Watch for Christmas

by James Rae Brown

Movie geekery knows no season – because when you really love movies, it's always popcorn time. But some times of the year are special and, for film nerds, Christmas is most definitely one of those times. Jimmy has rounded up his five favourite Christmas films – including, er, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Digest your turkey to this lot ...


Reimagining the Media: a call for contributions

by Barnaby Bennett

I’m one of the directors of a little publishing cooperative called Freerange Press. We publish books about the city, design, politics, and pirates. We’ve been doing this since 2007 (as a formal cooperative since 2012). We are making a book about the media in New Zealand and this is a little bit of writing to explain why we think this discussion is important now, and how you can be involved.

Contemporary society is relentlessly confusing, characterised by a lack of justice and fairness, and yet profoundly rich and vibrant. It’s this sort of messy, intriguing framing of our modern world that the cooperative publishing company Freerange tries to bring attention to.

Over the past nine years we (six directors, 20 first mates and hundreds of contributors) have focussed our collective attention on issues important to us: the city, violence and gardening, the role of the trickster in contemporary society, feminism and technology, the commons, loving our institutions - and many others.

Most recently, and I think most importantly, we have have published a number of books telling stories of post-quake Christchurch. Few places in the world bring together this confusing, lacking-in-justice and yet filled-with-promise vibe more powerfully than Christchurch. Watching and documenting a city fall apart then slowly piece itself back together is likely to be the most intriguing and difficult thing I will do in my lifetime.

The thinking of American philosopher John Dewey has become important to me: chiefly his views on the ways in which complex issues are understood in relation to the public, and what the role of a publishing company in this context might be. Dewey wrote around the turn of the 20th century, a time very different to ours but in a society sharing a similar sense of profound change.

Radio, trains, international trade and complex global wars were challenging the models of democracy on which the West is based. The idea that neighbourhoods, cities and city-states can best manage their affairs by engaging the people that live in them in decision-making processes was being challenged. Along with the young liberal journalist Walter Lippman, Dewey identified the impossibility for even the most attentive and gifted citizen of understanding the rich and complex networks affecting their lives and the world around us.

Dewey and Lippman diagnosed a feeling many of us share today. The sense of complexity, helplessness and excitement that comes from confronting difficult things.

Both suggested that "the public" is not an abstraction to be measured and polled when needed, but a grouping that could instead be better understood as "publics" that activate, agitate and spring into action when issues relevant to them emerge.

They suggest that it is issues themselves that pull publics (groups of interested people who don’t necessarily agree) together around a problem. Publics are verbs, temporary formations of people activated around something that concerns them. Issues like land rights, economic growth, post-quake housing, mental health, climate change, neighbourhood protection, cycleways, post-colonial justice.

These publics gather around the smallest of issues, like who mows berms, to the most complex problems we’ve ever faced as a species – such as climate change and energy production. From classic progressive political issues like gender equality and worker rights to conservative positions on rates, taxes and migration.

The experience of publishing in Christchurch, and about Christchurch, has forced us to start asking questions about the role of the media in how publics form. What is the role of the media in the changing landscape of the internet, global networks of ownership, and its ability to discuss, confront and provide space for the important issues of our time? This question happens to coincide with a more general turbulence in the media landscape worldwide. Freerange Press’ next non-fiction publication, Reimagining the Media, will investigate the media as it once was, as it is today, and as we imagine it to be and what it might become.

At Freerange we like to tap the wisdom of the crowd. We aim to locate and give voice to groups, expert citizens and concerned professionals that are trying to articulate and respond to the problems they see. We make beautiful and important books with writing that is easy to read. We want to be part of the very that is a public calling attention to a problem, and by doing so hopefully, in some small way, contribute to understanding and acting on it.

We are calling out for journalists, commentators, theorists and users of the media to participate in this reimagining and to examine how New Zealand understands and defines itself via the media through reflecting on issues, ideas and controversies that have proven significant in recent times. We wish to work with collaborators to build an in-depth discussion about the media and the opportunities available to it (and its users).

Through carefully themed chapters and quality writing that engages the public, the book will be a case study of a radically changing industry: the quantity of media content continues to increase exponentially; new media technologies sit in tension with an aging population; the impact of social media and of citizen journalists is on the rise. Within this ever-evolving landscape there is a (perhaps misplaced?) nostalgia for the good old days; there are questions over the standards of the profession, the role of journalists and the media’s function as a public space.

Reimagining the Media will be curated and edited and include articles, case studies, interviews and visual essays. The collection of diverse perspectives and great writing ensures that the book will be a significant contribution to this subject and a valuable resource. The book will be launched with a panel discussion and event on the last night of the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival in August 2016.

Please send your pitches on reimagining the media (by media we mean platforms that bring information into the public sphere) and expressions of interest to  by 20 December. Pitches should be maximum one page and include a description of the idea and relevant experience. If accepted submissions will be due in mid-February. Freerange will pay  a contributors’ fee for those pieces that are accepted.

The editorial steering group for this project is: Giovanni Tiso (Bat Bean Beam), Russell Brown (Public Address), Rosabel Tan (Pantograph Punch), Sarah Illingworth (Impolitikal), Barnaby Bennett (Freerange Press), Emma Johnson (Freerange Press).


About Freerange Press

Freerange Press publishes books and journals about cities, design and politics. Freerange has an extensive distribution network and produces high-quality books, journals and other media projects. Freerange Press has experience in carefully managing publications with difficult topics and competing interests, and has the ability to turn complex issues into cohesive and well-designed objects.

Our last two books have proved successful commercially, in reviews and through participation in a series of public events. Christchurch: The Transitional City Part IV is in its third edition and has sold close to 2000 copies. Graham Beattie, called it "an inspiring piece of publishing". It has been reviewed on Scoop, covered in The Press and has featured on numerous blogs. Once in a Lifetime: City-building after Disaster, with foreword by Helen Clark, was launched at the WORD Christchurch Writers and Readers Festival in 2014. It has sold more than 1000 copies to date. Wil Harvie from The Press called Once in a Lifetime "the most important earthquake book so far". It has had wide-ranging coverage: TV3’s Firstline, National Radio, The Press, The NZ Herald, Idealog, Architecture NZ, Scoop.


The Spirit Level

by Che Tibby

So it's 1982 and I'm standing on the porch watching Mum move a sack of spuds out of the shed and towards the car. I can see it like it's yesterday, her with her shoulders slanted, a fag hanging out her mouth, high elbow pointed upwards as she grunts and hauls the rough fabric.


"Taking these round to Trish and Tony."

"Can I come?"

"Get in."

I've grown accustomed to not talking much in the car, so we sit silently while she drives out and up to Papamoa Beach Road and along the long empty stretch of lupins and grasses out to their place. There's old pines and that half-round hay shed that's been there forever. There's graying fences and the occasional car parked up at the roadside, occupants over the at the nudey beach.

She flicks ash out the window.

When we stop the scene's reversed, with her popping fag between lips again and hauling the spuds out of the boot. She carries them across the driveway and into the house, not pausing to knock, and heads up the stairs. I follow diligently, my head popping up past the guard rail just as she's putting the spuds down in the kitchen. The first thing I see is Tony sitting there at the table.

His shoulders are square and he's sitting bolt upright, his narrow face weather-beaten and slightly strained. His forearms are resting on the table and his hands are fists. His hair has been combed to one side with his fingers. Tears roll down his cheeks.

"Ya didn't have to." He murmurs.

I look across as Trish speaks. "Liz, you can't afford those either. Take them home, we'll be alright."

She looks at me and says, "We're leaving before they make us take them."

And just like that, we walk out, and climb into the car.

So why you say? Well, "82 was the time when the government took away all the fishing rights and Tony has a boat parked up at the wharves in Tauranga that can't work. It's been months and they have three kids to feed. A mortgage to pay. And they have nothing.

But us? We have a Widow's Benefit keeping us going. The money is barely enough to keep us in clothes and shoes, but Liz takes the food out of our mouths and takes it over to their place, leaving them enough to see them through.

And we don't talk about it on the way home. I just sit and look out the window and wonder about a better time. A time when I'll understand what just happened. A time when a gift of charity like that will be more than a moral lesson for me, and more like a something I'll need do myself. A time when I'm a man who'll have an inkling of what it must be like to not have any way to feed your kids. A time when I'll remember that what I saw was the real New Zealanders, the ones who give a fuck about the pōhara because, they are the pōhara.


Judith Collins and the hand-grenade handover

by John Palethorpe

The strange sense that we’ve been here before is well justified, given Judith Collins’ reappointment to the role where she gained her ‘Crusher’ moniker (despite never actually crushing a car).

Her re-appointment and Sam Lotu-Iiga’s demotion is being framed to portray her as the strong-willed, no-nonsense person who can clean up the Corrections and Serco mess. This feeds into the public persona, the Collins ‘brand’, of half pantomime villain, half steely eyed Thatcher. It’s an easy narrative, the tough, no-nonsense and slightly morally dubious politician brought in from the cold to fix a problem created by a generally less hard-edged, more conciliatory politician in Lotu-Iiga.

Except that’s bollocks, isn’t it? Sam Lotu-iiga was thrown a grenade by his predecessor, Anne Tolley, but the pin on that grenade was pulled by The Honourable Judith Collins MP back in 2009. It was Collins who put the Mt Eden contract out to tender and of the three bids for it, chose Serco. it was Collins who exuberantly praised the UK company saying “Serco have a strong track record in managing prisons. I’m confident the company will bring the high standards of professionalism, safety, rehabilitation and security expected…”

And, given the direction the as-yet unpublished report appears to be leading, it was Collins and her successor, Anne Tolley, who didn’t question the self-reported statistics that emerged from Mt Eden Corrections Facility. Indeed, Tolley has some questions to answer about the deal that brought Serco into the Wiri prison in South Auckland. Because while Collins’ deal was struck before the worst failures of Serco were evident in their overseas contracts, Anne Tolley must have been wilfully blind to ignore the utter mess of their contractor in 2012.

But back to Serco. At No To Serco we expected there to be a delay in the reporting about the Fight Clubs, and there was one. Stage One of the Serco report was due at the end of October, and Serco have filed an injunction claiming they didn’t have time to prepare for the investigation that had been going on for three months and was vital to the continuation of their contract. Stage Two concerned all subsequent expanding revelations from inmates, former inmates, staff and the families of all. It was due at the end of November. So far, nothing.

The shift in Minister is a tactic employed as a way to shuck off the impact of, what is probably going to be, a very damaging report into the Government’s flagship privatisation programme. It wasn’t supposed to be this way, by starting with prisoners (who nobody cares about) it should have been possible to claim success and move on with other privatisations. That is happening, but the opposition to it is now much more coherent and with a good measure of public opinion onside.

Minister Collins will deflect questions about Serco in the same way Chris Finlayson did about the GCSB, claiming “I wasn’t the Minister”. That may be temporarily effective, but given Collins’ role in the introduction of Serco to New Zealand, it should not be too difficult for MPs, like Kelvin Davis and David Clendon who have worked so hard so far, to find cracks in her defence.

It all depends on the release of the reports. At No To Serco, in partnership with ActionStation, we have been quietly maintaining contact with the thousands of people who have made it clear they want Serco out of Aotearoa. Regardless of who is the Minister for Corrections, these reports will be released. What we are hearing right now is that there will be sufficient grounds for a termination of the Mt Eden contract.

That’s a potential win, and an important one too. Whether or not it pushes Collins or Lotu-Iiga further into trouble is relevant politically, but it’s not the whole aim of our campaign. So if Serco lose Mt Eden, then we’ll be focusing intently on Wiri and any potential bids for public services. Their proposed bid for management of Wellington’s trains brought thousands of email responses to Parliament. The public just don’t trust them any more. And that matters.

Because Key can change the Minister, bringing back the architects of disaster in Collins or Tolley, but he can’t change the absolute disaster of Serco’s mismanagement of our prisons, or our determination to see them exit New Zealand with a firm boot to their rear.

John Palethorpe is an organiser with the group No To Serco in Aotearoa.


Waitara and the perils of public advocacy

by Abbie Jury

The Waitara River needs friends. For a long time, it was the waste disposal unit for the town of Waitara's freezing works, which pumped offal and other waste down the old blood chute straight into the river (great herring fishing ground, according to older locals). While that has stopped, the river is often the receptacle for overflows from the town’s stormwater and even sewage systems. Water quality in the area is so bad that there are signs warning about contaminated shellfish on the local reefs.

So the Taranaki Regional Council’s latest actions against the group Friends of Waitara River are not good news for the river. But their actions also set a dangerous precedent for the rest of the country.

The Council has picked out three individuals, instead of the group for which they signed on behalf, and determinedly pursued, through court action, costs incurred on a resource consent hearing.

The group made a submission on three resource consents related to extending the time permitted for emergency discharge to water (emergencies are more frequent than occasional) and requested an independent commissioner to hear the consent applications lodged by New Plymouth District Council to Taranaki Regional Council (TRC). The latter council said they would charge for the independent commissioner, but never gave a definite figure.

Friends of Waitara River (FOWR) lacked legal status at the time so their submission was signed by three members. By the time the hearing was held, the group was an incorporated society and recognised as such by the independent commissioners.

It was a major hearing. The FOWR submission involved 14 people speaking in person, an additional 13 written statements and a petition of support with 480 validated signatures (whittled down from over 600). Other submitters included Forest and Bird, Tawhirikura, Ngati Rahiri and DOC.

Yet TRC decided to charge only three named individuals. Why?

TRC could have decided to carry the cost of the additional independent commissioner, but they didn’t. They could have decided to bill the group involved, but they didn’t. Instead they deliberately and zealously set out to bill the three who signed the submission. The regional council won in court and on appeal because of the legal technicality of the few weeks between signing and when the group became an incorporated society. They were also awarded costs on the first court hearing but not the appeal.

The court did not appear able to take into account questions about TRC's procedure, which include:

  • They added a fourth consent which was much larger and more complex to the hearing on the three consents and billed the three signatories for costs related to an independent commissioner for that fourth consent, even though the group had not requested this.
  • They failed to provide details of costs in advance of the hearing.
  • FOWR requested AN independent commissioner. TRC had already decided to employ TWO independent commissioners and added a THIRD commissioner – billing the signatories for the additional one. Presumably they could have just gone with the two they already had lined up and incurred no additional cost.
  • It is reported that a TRC staff member admitted in court that the costs incurred as a result of the FOWR request for an independent commissioner were around $5000, but they continue to charge them the original $12000 (plus unspecified additional costs of recovery).
  • TRC have refused to negotiate an out of court settlement. They have refused to meet with FOWR or to permit a delegation to speak to councillors.
  • TRC even refused to receive a delegation of local kaumatua who wanted to speak with them about the matter.
  • TRC refuses to recognise that FOWR traces its origins back to 1980 and the hearings into the establishment of the Motunui plant (now methanol but back then a Think Big flagship project turning gas into petrol) with their long sea outfall for waste. Then there was the Waitangi Tribunal hearing into discharging waste to water around Waitara in 1982. The Friends have continued in various forms, advocating for the water, the river and beach environments ever since, as well as being active in environmental projects. The issues have continued for 35 years now and so have some of the group members.

Sadly New Plymouth District Council, whose consents are at the heart of the issue, have wrung their hands in faux sympathy, nodded sagely and walked away.

All this means that three individuals are facing a bill – the exact amount of which remains unknown at this stage but is likely to be closer to $30,000 than $20,000. Sadly, one effect of the TRC’s divide-and-rule approach has been for many who coat-tailed in on that submission to duck for cover.

It seems likely that the TRC incurred more in legal fees than the debt they claim, but they won’t release this information under the OIA unless the applicants pay $461 up front – applicants plural, because at least eight different people have made the request. They also refused to release the information to Radio New Zealand unless they paid for it. 

Of those three individuals, Fiona Clark is a visual activist with a well-established national and even international reputation for her photography. Her series from the early 1980s of local kuia portraying the cultural importance of kaimoana is a seminal work.

Auntie Ivy – Werenia Papakura Kipa. 1982 by Fiona Clark

Fiona was active in the hearings in the 1980s and has continued to be involved in the same environmental issues ever since. While undoubtedly persistent, it has never been suggested that Fiona is deliberately vexatious in her submissions, to my knowledge.

Robbie Taylor is continuing the work of his late father, the highly respected kaumatua Aila Taylor, who spearheaded the challenges to the 1980 Motunui consents and also led the subsequent Wai6 claim.

Andrea Pikikore Moore is chair of the Manukorihi Hapu Society and is active in cultural, environmental and social justice issues affecting the Waitara area. Both Robbie and Andrea are quietly spoken, non-confrontational people who are used to working in the background.

How can this happen, I hear you ask in disbelief. Vote these men out. It is not that easy. The Taranaki Regional Council keeps such a low profile that many voters don’t even understand the difference between district and regional councils. Voter turnout is low and the incumbents are generally returned.

But it's more than that. A fortress mentality built up over years encompasses extensive use of “public excluded” provisions in meetings, refusals to receive petitions or deputations and responding to uncomfortable OIA questions with harsh demands for costs, to be paid in advance. That way you can control the message and if you repeat something often enough, it must be true. Or something.

The real danger of what the TRC has done is to ensure that citizens will not make submissions to consents again where costs are threatened. Nor are the public or the media able to use the OIA to try and find out information unless they are willing to pay what seem like exorbitant fees. Democracy, Taranaki-style, anybody? Were the RMA and OIA ever meant to be reinterpreted this way? Which councils around the country are going to follow suit and rid themselves of troublesome dissenting opinions?

The clearest message to them would be country-wide outrage at what they have done and widespread support for the Give A Little page. https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/supportthewaitara3/

Please help and do not let this council bankrupt these three individuals.