Monday, April 25, 2005

President's Column - Sporting Good Time

My high school testimonial says that I played for the Kaipara College First XI cricket team in 1995 and 1996. I even opened the batting line up several times in 1995. If this doesn’t impress you, then this will: 1995 was my first year at high school. Yes, THIRD FORM. I was the opening batsman for the Kaipara College First XI when I was thirteen. Not a word of this is incorrect. Didn’t expect that from me, did you? I believe that Martin Crowe achieved the same thing at Auckland Grammar.

What I fail to mention (well, on most occasions) is that there was only one cricket team at Kaipara College in 1995 – the third form team. I did open the batting, but apart from a well-timed boundary against Westlake Boys, there was very little to write home about. My high school principal (for some unknown reason) felt compelled to make me look a lot better than I actually am.

So, this is the “University Games Salient President’s Column” from your exceptionally un-athletic President. Read carefully as I pretend to know what I’m talking about…
As you read this issue of Salient, the 210-strong Team Vic will be competing at the 2005 New Zealand University Games on the North Shore in Auckland. This year’s competition is being hosted by the Auckland University Student Movement at AUT. Hopefully, all going according to plan, Victoria will be hosting the 2006 games.

Our rugby league, rock climbing, basketball and debating teams (to name but a few) will be competing with the best of them in Auckland. We have regularly punched above our weight at University Games: we came fourth in Dunedin in 2004 and third in Palmerston North in 2003. Not bad considering we are the fifth largest university (take that Auckland!).

University Games (or, as they used to be called “Easter Tourny”) are more than just drunken debauchery. At Dunedin a few years ago they also had a riot – fun times all round. No, but seriously; they are a chance for students to get away from their studies for a little while, and compete on the national stage with others from around the country. They are an opportunity for students to test their skills at one of the highest levels, while still in a good-natured environment – after all, chances are you will be having a beer with your opponent afterwards.

Last year, VUWSA established “Team Vic Ltd”, an entity created wholly to assist clubs (both sporting and cultural) with sponsorship and merchandise. VUWSA also employs a sponsorship and advertising manager who can assist with seeking external sponsorship. There; that’s my token VUWSA plug for the week.

If you ever get a chance to go to University Games, I recommend it. I attended the 2003 games in Palmerston North and had a great time. Not only is it one of the highest levels of sporting competition, but it’s also a change to meet and socialise with students from other universities from around the country.

Oh, and before you ask, I didn’t think debating was a sport either, but the powers-that-be [that’d be me – Ed.] ensure me it is. How about that, eh?

Thursday, April 21, 2005

Computer Problems

My computer profile died yesterday. I lost all my old emails, my contacts, and my Outlook calendar appointments. Fortunatly, they were backed-up by our IT guys to Sunday night. This means that if you emailed me between 6pm Sunday and 9am this morning, chances are, I didn't get it.

I am told that the problem was in my PST file. Apparently, these only opperate if you keep it below 2gb. Mine was close to 5gb, as I hadn't archived Outlook since I started at VUWSA in 2003. Heh. I'm archiving now.

It is a little scary how reliant on computers we have become. Not only was I late to almost every appointment I had yesterday (have since reverted back to a paper diary), but I could do very little work on anything. I kept on thinking "I'll just take care of that, oh, wait, no I won't."

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

Political Poetry Entry 1

Don Brash by Greg Stephens

Don slowly arose,

With a comb in hand,

To strike up a pose,

To face the land.

Gerry walked in

He showed Don the poll,

That had National at the mini

Since that fateful roll.

Don started to cry,

Just as Helen walked passed,

He tried to be sly,

But he could not last.

He cried to Helen,

‘How are you popular?’,

She smiled while eating a melon,

And said ‘Don you are in dire’.

Don wiped away a tear,

Only to find,

The media glare,

Looking through the blind.

Don looked at himself,

Saw his combover undone,

Wished he was an elf,

And proclaimed himself dumb.

Political Poetry

This takes the cake.
Boris's constituency

Henley on Thames; May; two thousand and five

Elections are looming: do you still want to thrive?

Parliament's sleeping: no Government now

Each qualified voter should vote; and here's how:

Surrender your card to confirm that it's you,

Then pencil your cross; in the space for the BLUE

With this as a guide, I am going to run a NZ Election Poetry Competition.

The rules are thus:
  1. It has to make reference to a New Zealand political party or personality.
  2. It has to take the piss out of one of the above.
  3. It must not be serious.
  4. It must be topical.
  5. All entries must be emailed to me (president(@) and I will post them on my blog. I will only post poems that are clever and funny, not abusive or offensive poems.
The prize will be a jug of beer at Eastside and the honour of being the first winner of the
President Greenbrook Award for
Services to International Literature

I will endevour to have the best right and left poems published in my President's column in Salient (providing Emily lets me).

Tuesday, April 19, 2005


I've just seen a UK Conservative Party leader Michael Howard news conference on the British "Yob Culture" on Sky News. I didn't realize people still used words like "yob", but maybe it's just the Tories... read this guy's blog. Iain Dale strikes me as a frightfully sterling chap, of fine upbringing, what. He doesn't, however, want you to leave comments. Bugger.

The news conference was truly moving stuff, really. My particular favourite moment (trust me, there were many of them) was when Howard's accomplice (the name of whom I have forgotten - if anyone saw the news conference please post the guy's name in comments) was asked what would he be after the election "Conservative Party leader, or a former Member of Parliament". The Tory didn't dignify it with an answer, funnily enough. The whole news conference smacks of "we know how to fix these young whipersnappers; a swift kick up the backside is what they need" (Howard's speech can be read here). It's a concept that is foreign to me. National don't even come close to that sort of cynicism, in my opinion.

And what is with the Tories slogan: Are you thinking what we're thinking? Simple answer: probably not. Labour's slogan seems much better to me (not that I'm at all baised...): Britain forward, not back. Interestingly, you can read the entire Labour manifesto online.

The British election is of considerable interest to me. I have never studied British politics, basing my entire knowledge on one Blackadder episode, the complete series of House of Cards, and what Jordan has told me of his experiences working in the Prime Minister's strategy unit. I don't think it will be a considerably close race for Tony Blair and the Labour Party, but it'll be interesting just the same.

Monday, April 18, 2005

President's Column - It's Easy Being Green

Universities occupy the role of being the “critic and conscience of society”. This means that academics have traditionally lead the way in social trends and movements. In the past this has included such movements as the Anti-Vietnam War movement, the Springbok Tour, and, more recently, homosexual law reform and the Civil Union Bill.

One movement which has over arched all of these is the environmental movement. This is one which is once again rearing it’s head at Victoria University.

The environmental movement was (debatably) started by Rachel Carson’s “ground breaking” book The Silent Spring. In this, Carson claims that the use of insecticides and pesticides has led to a decline in the number of songbirds in the United States. Carsen states:

“What happens in nature is not allowed to happen in the modern, chemical-drenched world where spraying destroys not only the insects but also their principal enemy, the birds. When later there is a resurgence of the insect population, as almost always happens, the birds are not there to keep their numbers in check.”

The Silent Spring started a wave of environmental legislation and activism around the world, including here in New Zealand.

This week, the VUWSA environmental group “Gecko” will be running a localized campaign on campus to raise awareness of environmental issues, and their link to the global context. Gecko is has grown from “a tiny but committed group who wanted to get involved in environmental matters”, to a large, well organised, and passionate group of activists.

Their campaign – code named “WastED” – is centred around educating students about the environment. There will be activities all week, including workshops and speakers. Green MP Nandor Tanzcos will be speaking at the Student Representative Council on Wednesday (12:50 in the Quad). I urge you get involved.

The main push for WastED is for Victoria University to institute a recycling policy for it’s four campuses. This builds on work done by a group of students from Environmental Studies 104 last year who begun such a project.

There is currently no uniform policy for recycling on campus, just sporadic practices in different schools and faculties. This is disappointing, as there is no incentive for staff and students to use the few recycling facilities on campus.

Vice Chancellor Pat Walsh said at the Student Representative Council just before the break that a recycling policy is something he would be willing to support. I will be working with Gecko, University Management and University Council to make sure this comes to fruition.

Recycling is common place in most work places and education establishments. There is no reason why it shouldn’t be part of Victoria University. It is important that the university re-took it’s place as the critic and conscience of society.

Sunday, April 17, 2005

Wellington Central Candidate Literature Post #1

During the past 48 hours, most residents in Wellington Central will have received two candidate promotional flyers - the first for the election. Here is my (slightly biased) analysis of both of them.

The first was from National candidate Mark Blumksy.

This was a folded 1/3-A3 glossy leaflet entitled "A Voice For Wellington Central". Inside, there is an extensive biography of Blumsky, although the only mention of policy is:
"Mark believes National's policies of lower taxes, better roads, and more favourable conditions for small and medium businesses will be great for Wellington."
There is also an indication that National still doesn't fully understand MMP. Granted, the leaflet is National Party-blue, but there is a division between National branding and Blumsky branding. Let me elaborate.

The front has no mention of Blumsky, except for a photo (ie no name). It does, however, have a small National logo, and even smaller URL on the front. The leaflet folds out with a picture of Don Brash, and the same photo of Blumsky from the front. Three columns of writing is headed (at the bottom) with [tick] Mark Blumksy; Voice for Wellington. It is not until you turn to the back that there is any mention of party votes. There is a clear division between Blumsky and National - perhaps Mr Blumksy is running for Mr Blumsky, rather than National? Considering the importance of the Party Vote under MMP, this does seem very strange. Similar sentiments are made by Rodney Hide here. There is also no tie in with the "Eyebrows" logo Blumsky is using on a billboard at the Mount Victoria tunnel, which would have provided some branding for Blumsky.

The second piece of literature arrived today (yes, Sunday). This was "The Hobbs Herald; Marian Hobbs MP Reports...", a newsletter from sitting MP, Marian Hobbs.

In almost complete contrast to Blumsky's leaflet, the Hobbs Herald is an A3, 8-page, newspaper format newsprint leaflet. It is full of feel-good photos of Hobbs with several of her constituents, doing thinks like helping out at a volunteer centre, and interacting with students in the Victoria University quad. The information is quite topical, with the front page dedicated to Tuesday night's public meeting regarding the V8 race. There is a distinct link between national politics and the Wellington Central environment. The Labour logo is at the bottom of every page. Some of the data is presented in graph-format - these are not only misleading (the base of the graphs is not zero, making them look considerably more favourable for Labour than they possibly should), but also a little patronising (with big arrows spelling out trends for those not intelligent enough to work it out for themselves).

A direct comparison is not entirely fair: Blumsky's leaflet is clearly electionaring, while Hobbs' is more of a newsletter (which - judging by the House of Representatives logo accompanying every Labour logo - is probably funded by Parliamentary Service). However, as they arrived at around the same time, most residents with minimal political knowledge will not make such a distinction. Therefore, will compare them directly.

Blumsky's leaflet looks a lot more professional than Hobbs', although the format is similar to the countless real estate agent leaflets that arrive almost daily. This could be detrimental in two respects: the leaflet could be dismissed and thrown away on arrival, and could also associate Blumsky with real estate agents (no offence to any real estate agents, but hardly a profession someone running for office would like to be associated with). It was also delivered by the postie which meant that it was folded up within the Wellingtonian and Western News (I almost overlooked it as I was about to light a fire with one of the newspapers). Blumsky's leaflet comes across more personable than the lecture-format of Hobbs'.

Hobbs' leaflet looks more like a community newspaper, which could mean it is dismissed slightly less than Blumsky's leaflet. It was also delivered today - a non-mail day - it didn't have to compete with other junk mail. This also gives the impression (correct or not) that Labour have more volunteers on the ground than National, and don't have to rely on paid deliveries. Hobbs' does, however, give indirect coverage to Blumsky by wading into the V8 road-race debate - an event that is widely associated with Blumsky, yet he makes no mention of it. Maybe Hobbs' is running scared?

I imagine the respective campaign managers will refute almost everything I've written here.

In the end, I think Hobbs' will have got slightly more coverage than Blumsky, for (I'm guessing) slightly less money, but it's early days yet. Very early days indeed, but it is looking to be a fiercely fought out election in the Capital.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005

SRC Tax Debate

We had Rodney Hide and Matt Robson at Victoria today debating tax policy. I think it was a huge success, with at least 100 active participants (ie not including those sitting eating their lunch).

My verdict was that both had their strengths and weaknesses.

Hide is a great speaker, an old school politician, who stood up there and bellowed into the mic. He moved around, and engaged with the crowd (and the crowd engaged back). I was less impressive with his "playing the player rather than the ball" tactic, which he engaged in a number of times. He benefited greatly by the large group of supporters he had there. He was, however, sidetracked by a number of interruptions.

Robson is a slightly more passive politician. He didn't engage with the crowd as much as Hide did, but still held his own, to a certain extent. He also played the player (his comment on Hide being a Frankistein-like figure was disappointing), but not as much as Hide.

The winner on the day was Hide, who stole the show.

As far as policy goes, I don't agree with either, but would be leaning more towards Robson's than Hides (I don't imagine that would suprise a great deal of you).

Both MP's may, however, be looking for jobs come September.

Hide's post on his blog is here. I'm the red-haired guy in between them (in case you didn't know).

Say NO to the Black-Caps Tour of Zimbabwe

Found this on goNZo Freakpower's blog. I urge everyone to sign it.

Monday, April 11, 2005

President's Column - Sermon on the Hill

I’m sure most of you have your favourate drunken story. A time when you have drunk so much that you have lost all comprehension of what you are doing. A time when you lost all inhabitations and acted in a way that was completely out of character. A time when you may have even put your life, or maybe someone else’s, at risk.

My personal favourate was before I moved to Wellington, and was attending a 21st at a bar on the Auckland waterfront. Someone thought it would be a great idea to buy a bottle of Bacardi for the ferry trip from Devonport. Of course, I drank more than my fair share and ended up passing out during the speeches. I was dragged out of the bar by the bouncer, apparently putting up little resistance. Obviously not in my best frame of mind, I decided that I would try and sleep it off, so lay down underneath KZ-7, and fell asleep. In the rain. I was woken up shortly after by some friends and two members of the local constabulary, and bundled into a taxi home – all before about 9:30pm.

I have certainly learnt my lesson, and haven’t touched Bacardi since. Even the smell of it make me sick (this made 18 months working behind the bar at the Backbencher difficult).

I was lucky that night. Most of my friends looked after me, and I know I have returned the favour for many of them. I have bundled drunken friends into taxis, hidden friend’s car keys, and cleaned up several ill-timed vomits in the early hours of the morning.

Some people, unfortunately, aren’t so lucky. Many people are left to fend for themselves, often ending up passed out on the side of the road, behind the wheel of a car, or doing something equally regrettable and damaging.

Last year the Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand (ALAC) released a report on student drinking habits. The report concluded that:

“University life may actually promote drinking among students. Drinking has been described as intrinsic to the student culture and more defining feature of tertiary study academic work itself.”

Alright, hands up whose surprised? I certainly wasn’t. I don’t think anything has really changed from when my parents were university aged (neither my father or mother attended university, as such, but you catch my drift). Maybe slightly more students drink because the drinking age have since been lowered, but, to be honest, I found it more difficult to buy alcohol legally as an 18 year old, than I did illegally as a 17 year old.

However, it is a different story with a report released this year regarding the drinking patterns of New Zealand. As you have probably seen from the television advertisements, drinking in New Zealand is a major problem. You may think the advertisements are almost as lame at the Victoria University “Makes You Think” ads, but how many of you have thought “shit, I’ve been in that situation. I know what that feels like”.

According to the later ALAC study, “450,000 of us were binge drinking on our last drinking occasion”. That’s the population of the Wellington Region (that’s everyone between Island Bay and Paikakariki). This costs between $1 billion and $4 billion worth of harm. This costs the public health sector $655 million. This costs $1.17 billion in lost productivity. That’s real figures.

ALAC is not proclaiming that everyone stop drinking and preach “any tub-thumping evangelism about the evils of drink or the perils of getting drunk”. It simply asks that people own up to their drinking habits and take responsibility. To watch out for their friends, and keep them out of harms way. To not drink so much that they don’t remember what happened the next day.

Next Wednesday night, I will be joining the Mayor, and members of the University Management on a “Tertiary Alcohol Trek”, organized by the Hutt Valley District Health Board. This will start at midnight, and head down the paths that students take to and from town. We will be trying to highlight areas which could be harmful for students who are drunk.

We don’t want to frighten you out of having a good time. We simply want to make it safer for you to have a good time.

Friday, April 08, 2005

ANZAC Essay Winner

Yesterday I briefly attended a function for carrier advisors at Victoria. This is the regular sort of "Victoria is the greatest university on the face of the planet, send your students here" function. They wine them, they dine them, and they send them home with good feelings about the university.

One interesting observation; they held this during the university holidays, to give the impression that facilities are plentiful, not crowded like they are during term. Students may be in for a short, shard shook when they turn up only to find you have to queue for virtually everything.

But I digress. I was surprised to see the carriers advisor from Kaipara College in attendance. I went to Kaipara 1995-1999. When I was there, I knew nothing of Victoria University - the only universities which visited were Auckland, Otago and Massey, which was where the vast majority of the seventh formers went.

I was quickly informed that a Kaipara College student had, for the third time, won a place to travel with the Prime Minister to the ANZAC commemorations at Gallipoli. I'm not entirely certain, but I think Alice Krzanich may be the daughter of my high school geography teacher.

Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Thing from Kate at Aboutown

From Span to Xavier to Kate to me and now I have to answer the questions and pass it on - so I will.

You're stuck inside Fahrenheit 451. Which book do you want to be?
"1984" by George Orwell

Have you ever had a crush on a fictional character?
Alex in Tessa Duder's "Alex". We had to read it at primary school.

The last book you bought is?
"Muldoon: His Way" by Barry Gustaffson. A great (if not the best) political history of New Zealand ever written.

The last book you finished is?
"The Fatherland" by Robert Harris. Not quite as good as "Enigma" but still very good.

What are you currently reading?
I have begun "Stalingrad" by Antony Beever, but have stalled with other commitments.

Five Books you would take to a deserted Island?
Five copies of "The Holy Bible" because you never know when you'll need rice paper.

Who are you going to pass this stick to (3 persons) and why?
Greg Stevens - Becuase he's been getting a lot of stick from the VRWC lately.
Kakariki and Resistant Soy - Becuase you should always keep left.

Monday, April 04, 2005

The Real David Farrar...

I got sent the link to this anonymously through the VUWSA website. Rest assured DPF looks nothing like this guy...

Sunday, April 03, 2005

First SJS National Council

I attended my first Student Job Search National Council meeting as Wellington/Northern South Island Chair yesterday. The papers for the meeting would have given the Wellington Telephone directory an inferiority complex, and most of the meeting was taken up with operational proposals from various regions, which I will not go into in detail here.

However, at the end of the meeting we defined the regional boundaries for 2005. Most remained unchanged, however the Wellington/Northern South Island region no longer includes the Wairarapa (for practical reasons - UCol has a campus in Masterton, so it was decided that it would be more appropriate to come under the Manawatu/Central North Island region), or the Buller District (it was decided that Caturbury/Westland would include the entire West Coast).

On the lighter side, Wellington/Northern South Island does include the Chatham Islands (based on the fact that Wellington Airport is the main access way to the Islands, a similar basis as Rongatai Electorate), and Otago/Southland now includes Kurow, as it is on the southern banks of the Waitaki River.
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