2023 Census – It is about all of us

The main marketing campaign for the 2023 Census has now begun, says Stats NZ.

Excitement is building around the census with the rollout of ‘All of Us’ campaign encouraging people across the nation to be counted in the 2023 Census. 

The New Zealand Census of Population and Dwellings is the only official survey of all people and dwellings in Aotearoa New Zealand. Census Day is on Tuesday 7 March 2023.  

“With the census just six weeks away, we want to ensure that everyone in Aotearoa New Zealand not only knows about it but understands why they are being asked to be part of it,” Simon Mason, Deputy Government Statistician, and Deputy Chief Executive Census and Collection Operations said. 

“The 2023 Census is about us here today, about honouring those who came before us, and those who will come after us. This campaign and census are about showing and sharing who we are and the communities we represent.” 

Data gathered through the census is used by communities, iwi, councils, businesses, and government to make important decisions about where to fund and locate services and infrastructure across the country.  

“Census data is used to make important decisions that impact every person and community in Aotearoa New Zealand. The opportunity to be part of the census only comes around every five years. It is our chance to represent ourselves, our families, whānau, and communities to create change,” Mason said. 

The census will be able to be completed online or on a paper form and is available in different formats. Households will start receiving their census forms from mid to late February. 

Information about the census is available in 29 languages on the census website including New Zealand Sign Language videos. Information will also be available in Braille and as Audio files. 

“There will be a lot of assistance available to help people complete the census. The aim is to ensure every person in the country has the information, formats, and support they need to take part and be counted by Census Day on 7 March 2023,” Mason said. 

Watch the video on YouTube:

When we all take part in the 2023 Census, all of us count – Tatau tātou

The next census is coming. It will be held in early 2023, with Census Day Tuesday 7 March 2023.

The census is a nationwide survey that happens every five years. Every person who is in the country on the night of Tuesday 7 March 2023 will need to do the census.
By taking part in the census, you help create a better understanding of your community and what it needs. People’s responses are combined to produce statistics that provide a picture of life in Aotearoa New Zealand and how it is changing. Your identity is kept private and confidential.

To learn more about the 2023 Census, visit www.census.govt.nz

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Thinking long-term about property in retirement

Liz Koh, money expert, on retirement options

As we get older, we inevitably spend a bit of time looking at options for living in a comfortable retirement spot. We all want to find that perfect place – whether it be a retirement village, an over 60s unit, or staying in one’s own home.

However, getting to that perfect possie takes a bit of planning and also a change of mindset. There have been a lot of headlines about the housing market having come off the boil, but one perspective on that issue is that there is almost never a ‘perfect’ time to sell your family home to downsize or move into a village community.

It is important to discuss the issues of retirement living well ahead of any move to a new home.

Changes in circumstances happen to all of us, so everyone needs to be a bit forward-looking in terms of living choices.

While a good number of people inevitably become concerned about drops in property values, the current situation is not necessarily anything to worry about. By definition, when we’re in a property cycle, there are ups and downs.

Thus, retirees need to look at the wider trend in property. While house prices might have fallen from a peak, those prices are still well ahead of where they were five or 10 years ago. Not many people have the luck of being able to sell right at the peak of a market, so people shouldn’t feel bad about that. Also, while the value of a home may have fallen, other values including other living options will have come back as well or at least not have upward pressure on them.

Taking a longer-term perspective means an older couple can usually say they’ve done really well, out of home ownership.

There comes a time when a couple or single person should take stock of the future and come to a decision as to where they want to live the last part of their life, rather than have an option forced on them. One question is: do you want to stay in your own home and come and have someone look after you, or would you rather be in a retirement village where there are people around you that can help you as needs be. But it’s very much a lifestyle choice and there’s no right or wrong answer.

There are ways to make the family home just a wee bit more attractive to buyers, as witnessed on television shows like Selling Houses Australia. A really good real estate agent will give guidance on such things as how much to spend on preparing a house for sale. You shouldn’t go overboard in terms of putting in new kitchens and bathrooms but it certainly does help if the property is presented well.

An investment can be made in updating the décor or staging the property with more modern and neutral furniture. Painting untidy areas, decluttering and making sure the garden is presentable are other relatively non-expensive and straightforward decisions.

So, if you do downsize or move into a retirement village, there should be some money left in the bank account. One question, that raises, is how quickly should that money be spent.

My view is that those who have worked hard all their lives deserve to be able to spend their savings in retirement, rather than pass it all on to their children. Those children will, in many cases, benefit from a final settlement on a family property or retirement townhouse, or apartment. These days, also, children should be able to look after themselves.

Personal circumstances and preferences might help determine how a couple or single retiree spends any extra money left over following a move to downsize or move into a village community.

Some might see their travel options open up, while others may feel they have been there and done that, or that they don’t even like travelling.

That being said, those looking forward to retirement should certainly save towards having extra money on hand. Superannuation in New Zealand can to an extend cover day-to-day living costs but no more.

My broad rule of thumb is for when people first retire, in their mid-60s, that they should have up to half the value of their home available as a liquid (able to be freed up easily) investment portfolio. That is a good number to aim for, if you want a really good retirement, to do lots of travel and other things.

The reality is that during the first ten years of your retirement, your spending will be highest, and as you get older you tend to spend less though healthcare expenses can increase.

Certainly, on retirement, you don’t want to be asset-rich and cash-poor because even if you have a lovely home to live in, you won’t be able to go anywhere. Also, if you do choose to stay in your own home, you should make some maintenance provisions. You don’t really want to get lumbered with a lot of maintenance as you get older.   

In terms of the leftover amount, following the sale of the family home, it can be used strategically over a good amount of time. Thinking of how much extra travel and the lump sum projects you would like to do, on top of normal weekly living costs, and budgeting for that can help you estimate how much extra cash or liquid investments you need. Such items might include a new car or spa pool.

Travel is also usually on people’s minds and I’m thinking that I will try and get a lot of travel done in the next five years. After that I can say to myself ‘I’ve been there, done that’ and if I lose my good health it doesn’t matter as much.

Liz Koh is a money expert specialising in retirement planning. The advice given here is general and does not constitute specific advice to any person. She can be contacted at enrichretirement.com 

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Charities and community sector rely significantly on the generosity of volunteers

by Michelle Kitney, Chief Executive, Volunteering New Zealand (credit Comvoices)

COVID-19 has highlighted the need to understand the value, impact and potential of volunteering, and the infrastructure, that enables volunteers to enrich Aotearoa, New Zealand.

Last year, Statistics New Zealand released the Non-profit institutions satellite account: 2018 (NPISA) This revealed some interesting facts about our volunteering landscape.

It highlighted how the charitable and community sector relies significantly on the generosity of volunteers.

In 2018, there were 115,000 non-profit institutions in Aotearoa New Zealand. Eighty-nine per cent of non-profit institutions did not employ staff.

Non-profit institutions account included a monetary value of the volunteer labour in non-profit institutions. This unpaid work contributed a whopping $4 billion dollars to the economy in 2018.

Another report, by JB Were’s New Zealand Support Report (Feb 2020) also identified volunteer labour as a critical component of New Zealand’s non-profit institutions’ operating systems.

As we work together to respond to and recover from COVID-19, organisations will need to focus their resources and efforts to nurture and engage their volunteer workforce. Many organisations will need to engage new cohorts of volunteers.

We are already seeing the benefits of a community-led approach for all sectors of the community. There is considerable problem solving already occurring within local communities. Volunteers are a key part of this.

Infrastructure such the Volunteer Centre Network and organisations that enable peer-to-peer support like Neighbourhood Support New Zealand have been pivotal in enabling a community-led response to COVID-19.

The Volunteer Centre Network has 17 centres around the country. They connect volunteers to community organisations delivering services and support within their communities during the response and recovery to COVID-19.

Volunteering New Zealand can help connect you with The Volunteer Centre Network, volunteers and opportunities to help. 

Key findings – Non-profit institutions satellite account: 2018:

  • 115,0000 Not Profit Institutions (NPIs) contribution to GDP in 2018 was $8.1 billion, this was 2.8 percent of GDP. In 2013 they contributed $6.2 billion (2.9 percent).
  • The value of voluntary labour (or formal unpaid work) in New Zealand’s NPIs was estimated to be $4.0 billion in 2018, compared with $3.5 billion in 2013.
  • Volunteering hours have remained stable at 159 million per annum. The value of this volunteer labour is estimated at $4 billion.
  • There has been a reduction in the overall number of people volunteering, from 1.2 million, to just over 1 million.
  • In 2018, 89 percent of NPIs did not employ staff.
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We wish you a Merry Christmas

Driving Miss Daisy

Ho Ho Ho what a year we’ve had. I think we all deserve something special for being so
well behaved and there is nothing better to give, or to wish for, than a Driving Miss
Daisy Gift Voucher.
A Driving Miss Daisy Gift Voucher can be purchased directly from your local Daisy and whether receiving or giving, it makes such a thoughtful gift.

But you don’t have to wait for Santa; there is plenty to do with Driving Miss Daisy to
fully enjoy the festive season:

  • Christmas lights tours
  • Festive coffee mornings with friends
  • Christmas carol services
    Then there are the Christmas chores that Driving Miss Daisy can take care of with you:
  • Christmas Shopping and don’t forget they will do the posting
  • Shopping for that special Christmas Day outfit
  • Airport Transfers
  • A companion to end of year functions and events
    But you really don’t need a reason to call on Driving Miss Daisy, as just getting out and
    about and enjoying the company of your Daisy driver is good for the soul by simply
    having a good time, creating positive memories. So, don’t sit inside lonely while the
    world buzzes along, there are very few reasons not to have a little fun. If needed many
    of our vehicles are fully equipped with Wheelchair access, to assist with walkers and
    Remember, Driving Miss Daisy accepts the Total Mobility Scheme cards. Your fare is
    subsidised by 50% per trip (up to a maximum regional subsidy cap which is set by your
    local Regional Council), however, to make getting out and about even easier at the
    moment the government are funding an amazing 75% subsidy, which will be in place
    until the end of January.
    To end we wish you all a very Merry Christmas after what has been a most challenging
    year for all of us. So please help us, help you, by considering buying a Driving Miss
    Daisy Gift Voucher or dropping the hint to family that it would be an ideal gift for
    Contact us today to discuss your requirements.
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#MedSafetyWeek: You can help by reporting suspected side effects to medicines

Every report of a suspected side effect helps to improve the safety of medicines for everyone

The seventh annual #MedSafetyWeek starts today and runs until 13 November. The goal is to encourage everyone to report suspected side effects of medicines. This year’s global event involves medicines regulators from 82 countries worldwide. It focuses on the important role that everyone has in reporting suspected side effects and contributing to medicines safety.

Why report?

Medicines are used to help people when they’re sick. All medicines are checked by Medsafe, the medicines regulator in New Zealand, for both safety and effectiveness before they’re made widely available. All medicines may cause side effects in some patients, so there are steps in place to monitor safety after the medicines are placed on the market. Safety monitoring can gather more information about known side effects and identify new ones.

You contribute to medicines safety when you report suspected side effects to the Centre for Adverse Reactions Monitoring (CARM). Medsafe and CARM work together and use information from these reports to learn more about the safety of medicines. If a new side effect is identified or there is new information about a known side effect, Medsafe can act when necessary to help protect you and others from harm.

How to report

The easiest way to report is to fill out the form on the CARM website: nzphvc.otago.ac.nz/reporting/

Anyone can submit a report. You don’t need to be certain that the medicine caused the reaction – just suspicious. You can also ask your doctor, nurse or pharmacist to submit a report on your behalf. Or ask a friend or relative to help you.

What to include in a report

Four things are essential to include in a report:

  • the details of the person with the side effect
  • the reaction(s)
  • the medicine(s)
  • the details of the person making the report.

Extra information is optional but really helpful. The types of information that can help with the investigation of suspected side effects include:

  • the dose and brand of the medicine
  • other medicines you are taking, including over-the-counter, herbal or alternative medicines
  • when you started and stopped taking the medicine
  • when the reaction started
  • details of what happened when you had the reaction
  • any medical conditions you have
  • whether or not you are feeling better.

If you aren’t sure, you can leave these details out or ask your healthcare professional to help you.

Thank you for reporting suspected side effects of medicines. Every report counts and helps to make medicines safer for everyone.

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5 Things To Know About Copper Withdrawal

TCF, Commerce Commission, and the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution scheme. 

In this blog, we are going to share five things to know when it comes to the copper service network in New Zealand.

The way we connect our landline and broadband services is changing, as our needs and requirements grow. For some of us that means learning far more about our phone systems than we’d ever expected to.
Our easy-to-read PDF factsheet is quick to download and covers all these tips – and more! Download now to understand the changes to the copper network and find out if you are affected.

Here are five things to know about the changes to copper services that will help you understand what’s happening and answer some frequently asked questions. 

1 – There are two major changes affecting the copper network over the next few years.  

  • Chorus’s copper withdrawal plan. Chorus will be turning off the copper network in areas where fibre is available and where uptake rates are high.  
  • Spark’s PSTN switch-off. What’s that you ask? The Public Switched Telephone Network (PSTN) is that voice calling part of the service which used to take up all the room on the copper lines. Today, we’ve got far more efficient voice services available, and so like many telcos around the world, Spark is switching off the PSTN. 
  • Chorus or your service provider will contact you about these changes, and if you don’t get the email or letter, you’re not affected. You won’t be suddenly switched off overnight without warning or anything like that. Both Chorus and your service provider will give you lots of notice to make the switch and provide details outlining your alternatives. 
  • You can check Chorus’ map to see if you are affected by copper withdrawal or Spark’s website to see if you are affected by the PSTN switch-off. 

2 – These changes are not happening overnight 

  • This is not a quick transition. The changes will be rolled out over several years as more alternative technologies become available and as customers move to newer services. 

3 – You can keep your existing phone number, landline and broadband 

  • You don’t need to give up your current phone number, landline, or access to broadband. The way these are connected will just be upgraded to more modern technology. In some cases, you may be able to choose from several options, including fibre, fixed wireless, HFC cable, or satellite. 

4 – If no alternative technology is available, you will not be asked to move from copper. 

  • If you do not have access to another alternative to copper, then you will not be asked to move from your existing copper service.  
  • By the end of this year, 87% of New Zealanders will be able to connect to fibre at home. If you want to check what services you might have available to you, check out the broadband map. If you’re on a copper connection today, take some time to explore your alternatives, and if there are alternatives available to you, you don’t have to wait. You can change to a newer, faster technology as soon as it’s available. 

5 – Download our PDF Factsheet

  • This fact sheet is a quick and easy guide to all the changes that are happening to our network connections. If you, or someone you know, has been told their connection is changing, download the sheet for an easy-to-understand guide to the exciting new world of telecommunications.  
  • The factsheet is a joint initiative between the TCF, Commerce Commission and the Telecommunications Dispute Resolution scheme. 

Webpage  https://www.tcf.org.nz/copper 

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Age Concern New Zealand is proud to announce the first-ever winners of the Age Concern New Zealand Huia Awards.

The Huia Awards are an annual celebration of New Zealand’s older people and those who support them.
“I am delighted to celebrate Marcia Te Au Thomson, Rangimahora Reddy, and Malia Hamani as the esteemed winners of our 2022 Huia Awards, says Karen Billings-Jensen, Age Concern New Zealand Chief Executive.
“It is timely to honour these three remarkable women: Marcia Te Au Thomson, Rangimahora Reddy, and Malia Hamani as part of our International Day of the Older Person celebrations in 2022.

Marcia Te Au – Thomson

If you have ever sought to have a real-life example of the proverb “Naku te rourou nau te rourou ka ora ai te tangata”, you need look no further than Waihopai’s beautiful wāhine rangatira, Marcia Te Au-Thomson who lives that adage “that with your contribution and my contribution the people will thrive”.
Marcia has a focus on all things “luscious” she sees the beauty and the positivity in life and embeds this in the life of those around her. This is apparent from her uplifting Facebook posts and is interwoven into her daily life with the work she undertakes at Nga Kete Matauranga Pounamu Charitable Trust.
Marcia has an active role with the Kaumatua group at Te Tomairangi Marae in Murihuku. Her role includes sharing Waiata, involvement with the Ukelele Group, helping in the kitchen, setting up and helping to facilitate the social media pages for the community during the pandemic to ensure a digital community for the members was maintained and supported albeit at a distance; operating a phone tree system to check on members; picking up and taking people for errands, coffee catch ups and other social opportunities with a goal to foster community, friendship, respect and positivity for the kaumatua.
Marcia’s commitment to her community is unique and far-reaching from her roles as a Celebrant, a Justice of the Peace, a board member, or co-opted member on various District Health Board entities and working with education institutions as pastoral support.

Rangimahora Reddy

Rangimahora is a leading light for the Rauawaawa Kaumātua Charitable Trust – she actively promotes the Kaupapa to support Kaumātua (55 years and over) with culturally focused, appropriate and accessible health, social and community-based activities and services. The overarching aim being to enhance the quality of life and well-being of Kaumātua.
Rangimahora extends her expertise and generously shares her talent, wisdom, and mahi to all of Aotearoa. She offers her expert advice to government, community, and business organisations both in Aotearoa and globally.
Currently, Rangimahora collaborates with university researchers in research funded by Building Better Homes Towns & Cities and Ageing Well National Science Challenges, and the Health Research Council. She also leads the upgrade of Rauawaawa’s redevelopment which will meet the needs for “age and kaumātua friendly” community facilities.
Rangimahora actively advocates for the rights and well-being of Kaumātua, her dedication and aroha for the work she does for Kaumātua of Aotearoa is admirable and she is an excellent inaugural Huia Award recipient.

Malia Hamani

Malia Hamani has been dedicated to working with older Pacifica peoples for decades. She set up and is still managing the organisation TOA Pacific (Treasuring Older Adults – Pacific)
Malia Hamani is the founding member of the first Elder Abuse and Neglect Prevention and the Empower and Pamper Programme. She was involved in the establishment of the Pacific Islands Home Care Service.  She was also the Chair of the Fakatouato Community Trust, a member of the community reference group for the Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs, and a Pacific Islands representative on the Regional Mental Health Committee and the National Carers Alliance.
Malia continues her advocacy across national and local community issues in recognition of the needs of older Pacifica people.  She has built up extensive experience with the social connection, carer support, and elder abuse prevention needs of older Pacifica people. 

The Huia Awards are an annual celebration of New Zealand’s older people and those who support them. The Huia feather is a sacred treasure for Māori, symbolising leadership and mana. Huia feathers were traditionally given as tokens of friendship. Each year we will award three recipients a Huia Award. Nominations must show how recipients support our kaumātua and make positive differences for them.

Age Concern brings people together across generations, places, and cultures, nationally and locally. In the Age Concern whānau, everyone is welcome and valued.

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Two Cochlear implants gave me my life back

Posted by Pindrop Foundation

Catherine Wolicki – Community Hospice Nurse

Catherine was on the verge of walking away from her beloved nursing career before she received her first cochlear implant (CI) last year. She has lived with progressive hearing loss her whole life and relied on hearing aids and lip-reading until these were no longer helping.

Qualifying as a psychiatric nurse at 27, then a general nurse at 32, my nursing career has included psycho-geriatric and acute psychiatry, intensive care, district nursing, oncology, haematology, and now palliative care nursing. 

In 2019 though, my hearing began to decline rapidly, and I found communicating with patients increasingly difficult and exhausting from concentrating so hard to hear.

My hearing got so bad I had to lean in and really concentrate on people. It was pretty awful, and I used to apologise all the time. I would have to manipulate my surroundings so I could be close to people, and it wasn’t fair to patients and their families- I felt I wasn’t giving them what they needed. 

I’d arrive home fatigued every evening, and I honestly thought I’d have to take early retirement. Thankfully, I was referred for a cochlear implant and got my first one in 2021.
It made such a difference; with just the CI, I could hear my feet shuffling on the carpet, the birds outside, and even the dog’s breathing was so noisy. I was so excited.

Being able to hear better now with one CI and my hearing aid was such an improvement. But I still had a problem with ongoing ear infections, which had plagued me since childhood.  Plus, just the one CI wasn’t really enough. I was still missing out on the conversation, especially multi-disciplinary team meetings at work. I was grateful for my one-cochlear implant, but there were big challenges when I continued to get infections. I had had Blind Sac surgery before my left cochlear implant.

What really prompted me to enquire about a second CI was that I got the worst ear infection I had ever had-causing pain, which meant I couldn’t wear the hearing aid. I had to take time off work because I couldn’t function well with just one CI. 

I was exhausted from having to concentrate so hard even whilst I wasn’t working. So I decided to self-fund my second CI. It was the best thing I have ever done- though I will have to keep working for a few extra years to pay it off.

There are downsides – for instance, I can’t hear music very well yet- it’s muffled- I can’t discern a tune. I can’t play my flute because it sounds like a monotone. 
However – conversation is so much easier, my confidence has grown as I no longer misunderstand people and I’m no longer fatigued at the end of the day due to listening effort. I only wish this option was open to everyone who is severe to profoundly deaf in both ears like I was. My interaction with the world has improved, and it is almost worth losing my music for (though I do hope there will continue to be improvements- it’s early days yet).” 


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I Am Hana

Creative New Zealand

On 14 September 1972, Hana Te Hemara along with members of Ngā Tamatoa, the Te Reo Māori Society, kaumātua and supporting groups presented a petition of over 30,000 signatures to parliament calling on the Government to prioritise the revitalisation of Te Reo Māori.

This day later became Māori Language Day in recognition of the mobilisation of support behind the petition. Then in 1975, it was expanded to become Māori Language Week, now known as Te Wiki o Te Reo Māori.

Supporters present the Te Reo Māori Petition to Parliament; Auckland Star Newspaper; Copy Māori language petition memo, Te Ara – The Encyclopaedia of New Zealand

2022 marks the 50th anniversary of the presentation of the Māori language petition to parliament.  In recognition of that movement, the whānau and iwi of Hana Te Hemara have created I Am Hana a programme of community education and arts activity. 

“When Hana’s daughter Ramari Jackson-Paniora and niece Amokura Panoho approached Creative New Zealand for support, we recognised the importance of this kaupapa for te reo Māori and ngā toi Māori”, said Programme Manager, Māori Innovation and Advocacy, Tere Harrison. 

Tere continues, “The telling of this story of a wāhine Māori who left an impactful legacy for Taranaki and nationally for te reo Māori could not go unrecognised.  Hana wasn’t just an activist, she was a storyteller, a graphic designer, a change agent, she was an ‘artivist’, and Creative New Zealand proudly supports the mural portrait to be created by Mr G.”

From 30 August – 15 September, a five-storey mural of Hana Te Hemara (Te Atiawa, Ngāti Raukawa, Ngāi Tahu), a founding member of Ngā Tamatoa, will be painted on the exterior of the Puke Ariki Library in New Plymouth’s CBD, by renowned artist Mr G. 

The start of this large-scale mural opens several commemorative events in New Plymouth including a panel discussion by Ngā Tamatoa members, a photo exhibition by John Miller (Ngāpuhi) workshops for kura and local artists with Mr G and cervical cancer health checks provided by Taranaki Health provider, Tui Ora in recognition of Hana’s early death at the age of 58 of cervical cancer.  Events end with a community celebration at the mural site on King Street. 

Te Kotahitanga o Te Atiawa Chair Liana Poutu (Te Atiawa, Taranaki, Ngāti Maniapoto) the iwi collective driving this event, shared her delight at Ngā Tamatoa choosing Ngā Motu to commemorate this important milestone.

“Hana Te Hemara epitomised what it is to be a strong and tenacious woman. Her courage, along with so many from Ngā Tamatoa during the 1970s, paved the way for the thriving kura kaupapa, kōhanga reo and te reo Māori movement we have today,” said Liana.

“We are unashamedly proud of Aunty Hana as a leader, a mother, a fashionista, and a proud Puketapu wāhine. E kaha tautoko ana mātou i tēnei kaupapa mīharo, ka tika!”

Co-chair of New Plymouth District Council’s Te Huinga Taumata, Howie Tamati (Te Atiawa, Ngāti Mutunga, Ngāi Tahu), reflects on how Ngā Tamatoa and their legacy has shaped the resurgence of te reo Māori in Aotearoa.

“I am proud that my moko live in a time when they hear te reo Māori as part of their everyday lives, on the news, on social media. It is testament to the mahi of Ngā Tamatoa and Hana Te Hemara.

The I am Hana project is a wonderful way to honour her and the group’s commitment to the survival of our language,” said Howie. “It’s an honour to be part of bringing Hana’s story to life in this way for Taranaki residents and I am sure the mural on the Puke Ariki Library building is going to look stunning, be a real drawcard and an immense source of pride for her iwi, hapū, and whānau.

Hana Te Hemara (1940 – 1999) was one of the founding members of Ngā Tamatoa. She was a prominent Māori leader and activist who was passionate about the revival of the Māori language.
Her name and her embodiment as a person is the inspiration behind the I am Hana project.

Creative New Zealand provides support to I Am Hana through Te Hā o ngā Toi, the Māori Arts Strategy. More details on their website: www.iamhana.nz 

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Grandma’s Gully

Ian Johnstone is a familiar name in the New Zealand television landscape. Since the early 60s, his work as a reporter, presenter, and producer has allowed him to document many key events from the first four decades of local television. Also an accomplished writer, his book Stand and Deliver was published in 1998. Ian was born in England in 1935, moving to New Zealand in 1961Here he shares a touching ode to his wife Marjorie and her hard work restoring bushland near their home.

Marjorie in her beloved gully

Our grandchildren are very keen on Grandma Marjorie, who hits birthdays with a few dollars and a cheery message, cooks excellent sausage rolls and chocolate biscuits, and readily swaps Instagrams about sport, school, friends, and adventures – all typical grandparent stuff. But there’s another side to her, probably a bit of a mystery to her mokopuna. The folk who know about it are those who use the footpath from our Newtown street down to Crawford Road then on to Kilbirnie. It takes them through an acre or so of scruffy bush with some ungainly gum trees, rotting trunks, and branches, evil-looking oleander, rubbish tossed in by passers-by, plus nasty old man’s beard and onion grass.

But changes are happening to that dismal gully and the path walkers often spot the changemaker, Grandma Marjorie – especially on wet days because she (brought up and waterproofed in Hokitika) loves working in the rain, and takes every chance to satisfy that odd enthusiasm. Every time (and there’ve been several recently) the nice woman on RNZ National says “Te Whanganui a Tara Wellington, gusty northerlies, a high of 14, showers then rain” Marjorie heads down to her garden shed,  pulls on her mud-stained blue strides, waterproof boots and hat, and the old red parka with secateurs sticking out of the torn pocket, grabs her beloved mattock/grubber and heads off to the pathway. Then she slip-slides into the undergrowth to the spot she’s chosen for the flax, rata, cabbage tree, kahikatea, totara, rimu (big cheers when one of those was proudly staked in place on her 80th birthday !) to replace the spindly half rotted tawdry plants now lying there looking ugly. What a difference her hours of careful weeding, hole digging, staking and planting have made. Where once was a tanglement of weeds, decaying trunks and branches, the passers-by now see all sorts of thrusting stripling greenery that looks really glad to be there. A few may not prosper and have to be shifted later, but generally, her seedlings and cuttings push their way upwards, keen to make the most of the chance Marjorie and Mother Nature have given them to flourish in the gully.

Now clever and hard-working though she is, Marjorie occasionally needs a bit of help, and that’s readily offered by good neighbours with a spade, slasher or chainsaw. I hope to introduce them in a later edition, but right now I must tell you about one of the women who support Marjorie in her mission. Julia is another grandma, and a botanist, gardener, photographer, walker, bush and people lover. Frequently on the phone discussing what to plant and where and when, she is also an invaluable plant and poison provider, frequently arriving with the boot of her car packed with seedlings just bursting for the chance to grace the gully. And every so often, Julia drops a wrapped parcel into Marjorie’s wheelbarrow “There you go, that’ll knock back the menace.” And soon another stretch of old man’s beard succumbs to Julia’s poison, making way for another step in turning a neglected wilderness into a green, calm, graceful grove which will delight future generations just as creating and nurturing it pleases Marjorie now. She loves it, of course, when her grandchildren cheer when she delivers a basketful of rolls and biscuits – but just think how pleased they’ll be in 40 or 50 years’ time when they stroll through the green-topped grove which – with luck –  the gully will be by then, perhaps even asking THEIR grandchildren “How do you think all these trees got here ?  That’s right…….they were planted by your great great grandma”.

Ian Johnstone

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