Vale Parachute Festival

A few weeks ago it was announced that the annual Parachute Music Festival would be no more. This is a great loss to the youth of New Zealand.

With my mate Herbie at Parachute 03
With my mate Herbie at Parachute 03

During my teenage years and early 20s I attended seven Parachute Festivals. My first was as a 15 year old in 2003, this was also the last year Parachute was held at Totara Springs in Matamata. Despite this now being over eleven years ago (wow time goes quick), I still have a number of memories of my first festival: trying to be a good kid and go to bed at 11pm on the Friday night and not being able to sleep cause of the noise from all the music stages; watching TobyMac, a very young Rapture Ruckus, and Pillar perform on the mainstage; trying to join the mosh and circle pits inside the cage; and chilling in the afternoon sun on the grass as Steve Apirana played acoustic.

After that first festival I was hooked, Parachute was like no other concert or festival I’ve been to. While the move to Mystery Creek, Hamilton in 2004 saw the production value of the festival increase the core of the festival remained the same – four days of young people being exposed to a wide variety of music and genres, building closer friendships with the people they travelled to the festival with, randomly bumping into old school friends and church mates, and learning about the relevance of God and Christianity in the present – generally, all without parents.

And this is what made Parachute Festival unique. For me personally, I have so many memories of things that have happened at Parachute over the years, I have seen hundreds of bands play and be exposed to music that in the past I wouldn’t have dared thought to like. But three memories stand out: the Newsboys performing and in the middle of Shine basically stopping their show for ten minutes and standing in worship; Dave Dobbyn having to stop playing as the rain poured down and the mosh pit dancing in the rain chanting ‘da da da slice of heaven’; and no matter how late you had gone to bed the previous night forcing yourself to get up and attend the morning church service.

Dave Dobbyn in the rain
Dave Dobbyn in the rain
Parachute Morning Meeting
Parachute Morning Meeting

In the decision to end Parachute Festival, Mark de Jong is right in saying that there are many more big music festivals in New Zealand now and this makes Parachute Festival commercially difficult. However, the big music, while a key component, is only one component of the festival.

Debut Stage 2009
Debut Stage 2009
Another highlight of the festival over the years has been to see many hundreds of small bands play on the debut stage. Many of these bands are teenagers with their garage bands who would normally only play to a maximum of 50 people at a church find themselves performing in front of hundreds and at times thousands of people. This was something very special to heart of Parachute Festival, again there are battle of the bands and other shows for small bands, but the scale of Parachute Festival in this area was like nothing else.

Overall, the end of Parachute Festival is a great loss to the youth of New Zealand, there is nothing else like it. While I’m certain that some newer events will fill some of the void left e.g. Easter Camp, for a long time yet many people will be saying ‘when I was a teenager.. Parachute Festival.’

Six Days in Godzone

I have just got back from a very quick holiday in New Zealand. With the trip only lasting six days it didn’t give me time to catch up with as many people as I would have liked to have seen. However, I still did manage to see a little over 30 family and friends, including a number of members of my extended family whom I had not seen in over two years.

The highlight of the trip was two days of Bluebird skiing conditions at Mt Ruapehu. It takes around 4 – 5 hours to get to Mt Ruapehu from Auckland. So to make the most of the day I got up at the insanely early hour of 3.20am on Thursday morning to do the drive to Whakapapa Ski Field. I arrived at the ski field just after 8am, got my ski gear on and hit the mountain.

After a few runs down the Knoll Ridge and Valley T-bars I ventured out into the Far West area of the mountain. Despite having skied at Whakapapa many times over the last seven years I have never encountered a day where the weather has been good enough to go out to the Far West so the first time heading out there made this trip especially worthwhile.

After a few runs down the western slopes in ankle deep powder I decided to traverse back to the main area of the mountain, just as the cloud rolled in and the visibility dropped to only a few metres. Because of the poor visibility I managed to get a little lost on the traverse back and ended up dropping in on one of the chutes above Hut Flat. This run is an extremely steep double black diamond and I am quite proud that I conquered it, even if it was an accident – because I doubt I would have gone down it if I had known fully where I was going.

I stayed overnight in Ohukane on Thursday night and ventured up to Turoa Ski Field on Friday morning. There is a lot more snow on the Turoa side of Ruapehu and for the first time ever I saw snow in the forest on the drive up to the ski area. The top part of the road was very icy and despite having hired a fairly powerful car it still struggled at about 20km/h up the final 3km of the road. Friday was another Bluebird day and the snow conditions at Turoa were even better than Whakapapa the day before. The powder wasn’t as deep but there was much better coverage across the mountain which meant I was dodging around rocks.

Despite both Whakapapa and Turoa being on the same mountain and run by the same company the two fields have quite different characteristics. Personally I prefer Turoa, all the times I have been up the staff have been extremely friendly, and there is much more open terrain to explore without needing to do long traverses.

Before I went to the ski fields one of my friends had disputed that I was any good at skiing – being a computer geek and not playing sports gives me that reputation – so I set up my GPS on my phone to track one of my runs down the mountain… and… I managed to get through 2.3km, 700 vertical metres in six minutes with an average speed of 23km/h and a top speed of 39km/h – a result that I am very happy with.

The remainder of my trip in NZ involved visiting extended family in Wanganui and catching up with many friends from my former university and workplaces. As I write this I am on a plane back to Sydney and I am already missing home. I may be biased as I am a kiwi, but New Zealand is simply the most amazing, friendly, and adventurous place I know. Australia may be my current abode, and the world may be my oyster, but New Zealand will always be my home.

Continue reading “Six Days in Godzone”

An example of why NZ will never catch Australia

Yesterday I saw a friend link to an advertisement for a full time graduate programming job on Student Job Search. The employer is seeking someone who is competent in C#, ASP.NET, HTML, CSS and Silverlight.

None of these skills in particular are very difficult or uncommon but what got me was the pay rate. $20/hour at 35 hours/week. On the surface that doesn’t look that bad and probably a lot better than the $12.75/hour most people are getting working in retail, but lets do some maths.

$20/hour * 35 hours/week * 48 working weeks/year = $33,600 NZD per annum.

Now lets convert that to AUD (using xe.com) we get just under $26,000 AUD per annum.

Now the minimum full time wage in Australia is $27,355 per annum (based on 38 hour week).

So a full time graduate job in a growth sector in New Zealand pays lower than the minimum full-time wage in Australia.

So this got me thinking, what is the minimum full-time wage in NZ, converted into Australian dollars?

The minimum is $24,480 NZD (based on 40 hour week), which converts to just under $19,000 AUD per annum.

To put it simply at the minimum wage level in Australia you earn 44% more for two hours less work per week.

Now of course none of this takes into account tax differences, superannuation, living cost differences etc. But it is still a remarkable gap.

Prime Minister John Key may talk about a goal of catching Australia but I don’t believe it is possible. Politics can’t fix the problem, only business paying their employees more can, and of course this idea flies straight in the face of capitalism.

In the meantime it is little wonder why so many young people are leaving when a graduate job is paying less than the equivalent minimum wage of the next door neighbour.

Len Brown – New Mayor of Auckland

Len Brown has just been elected the first mayor of the Auckland Supercity.

This is a positive result and hopefully one that will see much benefit come to Auckland. Now is the time for long term planning and investment in the city to bring it forward. Three years is both a short and a long time in politics. I don’t know how much Brown will achieve in only three years but lets hope in the long term he will deliver much needed forward thinking for Auckland.

Update 1: A earthquake happened and Bob Parker has been re-elected to the Christchurch Mayoralty. This result shows how quickly the media and natural events can change the fortunes and expected outcomes of people in politics.

Keith Locke’s Head of State Referenda Bill Voted Down

It is a great shame that the National Government along with the support of the Act, Maori, and Progressive parties tonight voted down Keith Locke’s Head of State Referenda Bill.

The sooner New Zealand becomes an independent nation the better. I do not mind if we become a state of the larger nation of an independent Australia or if we become an independent nation in free association with an independent Australia. But there is one thing I feel strongly about and that is New Zealand should no longer be a colony of Great Britain.

Some may argue that we already have independence through the Statute of Westminster however this is not full or true independence.

What has particularly got my back up tonight though is the arguments of the Maori Party in the debate. Below this post is the full speech given by Rahui Katene in which she argues that any move towards becoming a republic would run foul of the Treaty of Waitangi.

What a missed opportunity this is. The Treaty of Waitangi has been a source of much argument and problems for years, the founding of the Maori party was birthed in a disagreement over the Treaty of Waitangi on matters to do with the foreshore and seabed. There are a number of factions within Maoridom who do not agree with the treaty and some iwi who did not sign it and to this day do not want to!

A move to a republic gives the nation of Aotearoa New Zealand a chance to make things right, a chance to get a second go at creating a nation. However, the very politicians who represent a party that was born out of a disagreement over the interpretation of a badly worded treaty do not even want a discussion on the issue at a select committee.

I want to know if the Maori Party was forced by the National Party to vote against the bill, or if it did so on its own merits. In either case I have lost a lot respect I had for that party as a party of free thinkers. You can’t always fix the past, you certainly cannot hang onto the past, the best way forward is to always do what is best for the future and that is an independent republic of New Zealand.

SUBMISSION on the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill

Submissions on the Education (Freedom of Association) Amendment Bill closed earlier today. This is the full text of my submission and why I do not support the introduction of Voluntary Students’ Association Membership.

To the Education and Science Committee

Introduction

This submission is from Bradford Heap. I am a PhD student at the School of Computer Science and Engineering, University of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. From 2005 – 2007 and 2009 I was a student at Massey University’s Albany Campus. During 2006 – 2008 I was on the Executive Committee of the Albany Students’ Association Inc. In 2008 I served as the President of the Association and as the internal students’ association representative on Massey University’s Council.

I do not wish to appear before the committee to speak to my submission.

I can be contacted at:

Summary

I oppose the intent of this bill because:

  • Freedom of Association is already secured through section 229A clause 5 – 7 of the current Education Act 1989. There is no need to remove compulsory automatic membership of students’ associations when there is already a working and effective mechanism for students to object to membership.
  • This bill will result in the loss of student representation on both a local and national level. Currently at a local level many students’ associations organise and run independent student representation through such mechanisms as class/paper representatives, college boards, university committees and ultimately the Council. On a national level students’ associations work together through the likes of the New Zealand Union of Students’ Associations Inc., University Sport New Zealand Inc. and Student Job Search Inc. to provide representation and lobbying for students in a unified manner.

If compulsory membership of students’ associations is removed this unified and centralised organisation of representation will be lost. At this point there is no guarantee that the university will have an independent body of students to consult with. In lieu of this there are two outcomes:

1)                        Universities will no longer consult students. The outcomes of this would be very bad for good decision making, or

2)                        Universities will consult focus groups of students. However, there is no guarantee that these students will not be handpicked by the university to represent the views that the university wants to hear.

Most importantly there will be a loss of an independent student voice. If tertiary institutions have to start directly funding student representation groups there will be a perception of collusion over the outcomes of that representation and engagement that is not currently present.

  • There will be a loss of advocacy. Not all problems faced by students are representative of all students or need to be dealt with at a university committee level. Many issues faced by students are at relatively small scale and can be resolved through speaking to a particular lecturer or head of department. Unfortunately most students do not know the correct means for raising an issue, or if any issue is raised and there is not a satisfactory response how to take the issue to a higher level. Independent advocacy services provided by students’ associations help to deal with these issues and ensure that issues are resolved as quickly and effectively as possible, student advocates both employed and volunteers are trained in problem resolution and know the processes of the university and who to deal with to resolve problems. If Voluntary Student Membership is introduced the loss of funding from a decrease in student levy income will put these vital services under threat.
  • The most important service that students’ associations provide is clubs. Student Clubs are the lifeblood of student life and culture in New Zealand. There are many established clubs within universities that have stretched back many decades. However, these clubs are under threat with the introduction of Voluntary Student Membership. The primary source of funding for the continued running of these clubs is through the allocation of club grants provided by the students’ associations. Without funding many of these clubs would become the realm of the rich who can afford high membership and equipment fees while ordinary students will be locked out of the true university experience.
  • Most importantly I oppose this bill because of the direct effects it will have on all students as already seen through the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism in Australia. It is this last point that I would like to address in detail.

The Current Australian Situation

In 2010 I have begun my PhD and have been studying on the University of New South Wales Kensington Campus in Sydney for the previous two months. During this time I have become a member of the students’ union, a number of clubs, and been elected a postgraduate student representative for Computer Science and Engineering.

I should state clearly that the sky has not fallen in through the introduction of Voluntary Student Unionism in Australia. However, it is clear that there has been a dramatic loss of representation, advocacy, and services provided by the student union.

The only representation provided by the student union is through the Student Representative Council, effectively the same as the Executive Committee at most New Zealand students’ associations. This committee is democratically elected each year and each member of the committee has a portfolio role – e.g. women’s rights, environmental issues, etc. This committee liaises with the University over issues, but there is no legal or guaranteed framework for any representation or dialog.

Furthermore any representation at a college/faculty level is not organised by the students’ union. Within the School of Computer Science and Engineering, where I am studying, there is a committee of student representatives, this committee while voted for by students, is organised by the university, and operates on an ad hoc basis advocating for students by bringing issues to the attention of the school but there is no framework in place for how issues are dealt with.

On the student services side of the union there are not many services that are provided free to students. The big events held like bands, dance parties, and other student night type stuff are all user pays and run on a competitive basis against other local venues. But more importantly it is the student clubs that have suffered. All clubs charge a membership fee and in the past where a lot of funding has come from students’ associations, instead there are heavy membership fees upfront and additional funding is provided to some clubs by university faculties. Again the biggest problem with university funding of student bodies is that they are at the whim of the university for continuation of this funding from year to year and for the most part there is little in the way of set policy or openness surrounding the allocation of these funds.

Conclusion

At the end of the day the issue of voluntary verses compulsory membership of students’ associations comes down to two components, money and ideology. One ideology says that students’ associations should be entirely voluntary and user pays, the other is those who see the benefits of a compulsory system where the collective greater good is advanced. The largest problem with a user pays argument in students’ associations is what about those who get up against the wall with their finances at university and are not able to pay the bills and face the prospect of being forced out of university or their accommodation, when they go to their students’ association for financial or food help; is it expected that they be asked to pay for that help up front when they can’t afford to pay anything more?

Left or Right. There is no centre.

This is a summary graph of the political polls over the past three years. Look at the recent end. National is dropping. But so is Labour. Who is rising? The Greens and Act. What does that mean?

a) The minor parties matter!

b) A vote for Act or National will result in a right wing government. A vote for the Greens or Labour will be a left wing Government.

The choice is yours! This election is not all over. It is not a done and dusted result. It is wide open and your vote matters.

Rock the Vote. November 8 2008.

Green Party Billboards

Yesterday the Green Party launched its billboards for the upcoming election. I particularly like this one:

The problem however is that New Zealand is not on the centre of the earth. It must be!

So in setting out on resolving this problem I decided to be inclusive of all and therefore put the entire globe, spinning behind it. And viola!

Day Eight: Ruapehu Take Two

Because of some changes in plans I got to go skiing for a second time!

Don’t be fooled by the nice photos below the day started in much worse weather.

I left Wanganui at 6.30am to drive to Ruapehu and I arrived just before 8.30am. The weather was average to terrible driving up to the mountain. Snow in lots of places (not as bad as a week ago though) and lots of rain.

When I got to the base of mountain the upper mountain lift facilities were on hold. Because of this I decided to wait at the bottom of the mountain for an update on their opening status. This wait lasted almost a whole hour before I decided to head up the road at 9.20am.

In my hour of agony and dilemma I came very close to heading around to Turoa as it had more facilities open then Wakapapa. I was lucky that I didn’t though because it was only open for two hours before the weather packed in and closed the ski field.

Anyway back to the story. Like last week the road up to the ski field was closed unless you hired chains for your car. Chain hire costs $25 and there was quite a queue of cars waiting for chains to be fitted. I paid for my chains at 9.20am and then waited until 9.40am for them to be fitted. At 9.30am while I was waiting, and after I had paid, they decided to open the road up until Day Park 10. But no because I had already paid for chains I still had to get them fitted and go up the now open road on them.

This was a minor pain in itself but never mind chains are very helpful on mountain roads and because I was on chains I would be able to go to one of the higher and closer car parks when I got up the mountain. Sweet! However, when I got up the mountain I was directed to park at Day Park 10 despite having chains and arguing with the parking attendant. (I was told later he was wrong and I was right.) I was not happy about this for two reasons. The first is that I was made to hire chains that I did not need, and secondly I was forced to park low down on the mountain just because I was 2WD and the parking attendant was blind to the fact I had chains on!

Anyway. I couldn’t be bothered waiting for a bus so I walked the kilometer or so up the road to the Top of the Bruce. Here I hired gear and passes. The upper mountain was still on hold so they were only selling lower mountain passes. GRRRR I thought. By this time the weather had cleared a lot. After getting my gear sorted I headed out to head up to the top of the lower mountain. Well I ended up in a queue for this chairlift for close to 45mins! By this time it was approaching 11am! Yes I had been on the mountain for over two and a half hours and I hadn’t even got to go skiing yet.

When I finally got onto the chairlift they decided to open the Upper Mountain. When I had purchased the lift passes they had told everyone if the upper mountain opened everyone would have to go back and pay more. However, everyone on the mountain, including myself just headed for the upper mountain lifts without the extra passes. We had had enough waiting! There were at least 100 of us wanting to go higher up the mountain and it was not our fault they hadn’t sold us the right passes so thankfully the ski field operators saw the sense in letting us go higher!

After all this the weather cleared and the skiing was great. I skiied for just under five hours and now two days later I am still paying the pain for it. Sore legs, knees, bruised side and motion sickness is still mucking about with my sleep. But it was great. And fully worth it. Except for the chains!

Check out the reflection in the goggles. Nothing but snow and sky!

Note to self: When taking photos remember to smile!

To go off the edge or not. That is thy question.

Snow. Snow and more Snow!