Friday, 5 September 2014


When in 1996 New Zealand switched to the mixed member proportional representation system for Parliamentary elections, we took a stride towards achieving a more accurate form of democracy, replacing the First Past the Post system that had thrown up results, which when analysed, showed that the percentage of votes cast for each party did not match the number of seats allocated to those parties.  The MMP system has produced results that are a more accurate reflection of the wishes of the voters.
But a Parliament that is proportionally constructed does not necessarily conform to the ideals of a democracy?  
The best description of a democracy, is that everybody has a right to be represented, but the majority have the right to govern, or to quote Thomas Jefferson from his Parliamentary Manual of 1800.
"The voice of the majority decides. For the lex majoris partis is the law of all councils, elections, etc., where not otherwise expressly provided."
 What is the majority? Is it over 50 % of the total, or merely the greatest of the individual totals? If a party receives 47% of the vote, then the other combined parties have 53%. It is obvious that for practical governance, unless most of the minority parties form a union to achieve over 50 % of the vote, we have to accept the definition of majority as being the party with the highest number of votes. Webster’s dictionary calls this a Relative majority.
No single party has received over 50% of the vote, absolute majority, since Sid Holland’s National Party in 1951, and no party has ever achieved this under the MMP system. This has resulted in the highest polling party being forced to negotiate with one or more minor parties to pass legislation, meaning delays and frustrations. It is also contrary to the principle that the majority have the right to govern.
 The majority should not have to compromise its policies by bribing a minority into supporting it in Parliamentary divisions. If a coalition is formed prior to an election then the voting public know what its policies and alliances are, and vote accordingly, but when agreements or coalitions are formed after the election, it is a betrayal of the policies of all parties involved in the conspiracy.
A solution to this travesty could be to introduce a ‘majority bonus’ system, along the lines of that used in Greece, San Marino, and in France for municipal and regional elections.  I would not go so far as to advocate any of these countries formats, but the principle is, that after the final vote count in an election, the majority party is allocated bonus votes in proportion to the number of its members needed to reach the 51% of the electorate. These can be used in parliamentary divisions if required.   If this had been used in the 2011 election, where National received 47% of the seats on an electorate and proportional basis, it could, if required, use its bonus four votes to pass legislation. No compromise, no subterfuge. Minor parties would still be represented in parliament in proportion to their vote, but they would not be in a position to veto legislation of the party that had received the majority public vote. It would however, only need all minor parties’ votes, plus one of the Governing party to overthrow unpopular legislation.
Should a method along the lines of this suggestion be adopted, there is one quote that should be framed in the lobby of parliament house-
"Bear in mind this sacred principle, that though the will of the majority is in all cases to prevail, that will, to be rightful, must be reasonable; that the minority possess their equal rights, which equal laws must protect, and to violate would be oppression." --Thomas Jefferson: 1st Inaugural, 1801. ME 3:318



Monday, 3 March 2014

          Ring out the old, ring in the new
                             Ring out the false, ring in the true.
                             Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
                             Ring in redress to all mankind.
                             Ring out the thousand wars of old,
                             Ring in the thousand years of peace.
Inscription from Tennyson’s ‘In Memoriam’ inscribed on the bell ‘Grace’, known as ‘Aroha’

The Wellington carillon is housed in a 50 metre campanile. It is an integral part of the National War Memorial, located in Buckle Street, in the suburb of Mt. Cook. This elevated site was chosen to meet the criteria that it should be visible from most parts of the city, and from ships entering the harbour.
The suggestion for a carillon to be built as part of the War Memorial came from a Wellington jeweller P.N. Denton in about 1919, but his idea was postponed due to Government financial restraints.
In 1926, the Wellington War Memorial Carillon Society raised £9600 for the purpose of purchasing 49 bells. The original design was for 69 bells, but funding only allowed for the 49 originally cast. Subscribers could pay between £30 and £1440 for a bell which would be engraved with a dedication bearing the name of a World War one casualty, the name of a military battle, or a military unit. All bells were fully subscribed within one week and were offered to the Government for inclusion in a new War Memorial.
The Auckland Architects Gummer & Ford won the 1929 competition for the design of the carillon, the National Museum, & National Art Gallery. The tower and campanile was to be built in the then popular Art Deco style.
Delays due to funding in those depression years meant that Work on the memorial was only started in 1931. The Christchurch builders P. Graham & Sons won the tender.
The first bells were cast in December 1927 by the British firm Gillett & Johnston of Croyden. The author and Evening Post correspondent Nelle Scanlon was present. Her emotional witness report read...

‘Wellington’s sturdy fight to have a memorial carillon ringing out across the harbour and hills was this day crowned in triumph. As the bell metal in the great cauldron was swung high to be poured into the prepared mould I borrowed a sixpence which I tossed into the mould where the stream of flowing metal, like a river of flame, swept it along in its tide. This was the first bell of the Wellington Memorial Carillon, number 38, Sari Bair.
Silently, almost reverentially, we watched at the birth of the first six bells. It was after sunset when they were cast. At noon the next day the outer covers would be removed, gradually, for fear the sudden fierce cold might crack the bell. In less than 20 hours the metal would be set, though not cold... In fancy we could hear those bells ring out and echo among the hills.’
The bells were tested by the makers in 1931, with the spokesman for the company saying
‘I think that it’s the most perfectly toned carillon we have made.’ 
The dedication and opening ceremony took place on Anzac Day 25 April 1932 by the Governor General Lord Bledisloe, witnessed by an estimated 50,000 citizens. The lamp of remembrance, placed on the top of the tower, was lit, and the Carillon bells sounded for the first time.
The first recital was played by the English Carillonist Clifford Ball, and the European trained Gladys Watkins of Wellington.
 Since 1984 the Carillon has been considerably rebuilt and enlarged, with 20 mid-range bells replaced, and 21 smaller treble bells added. In 1995 the Government donated four large bells Grace (Aroha), Hope (Tummanako), Remembrance (Whakamaharatanga) and Peace (Rangimarie). The current National Carillonist Timothy Hurd donated 5 smaller bells. These additions brought the total number of bells to 74, ranging in weight from 10kg to 12.5 tonnes. The combined weight of the bells is 70.5 tonnes, making it the 3rd largest carillon in the world. The Peace Bell is the largest in the Southern Hemisphere
Timothy Hurd has held a number of master classes, attracting performers from both within New Zealand and overseas. A Carillon Festival was held in Wellington in 1990, with twelve performers from seven countries taking part
In 1955 the Hall of Memories was added, constructed by the same builder who was responsible for Carillon tower 24 years earlier. The campanile was strengthened to withstand the frequent Wellington earthquakes, and then re-clad in Canaan marble from Nelson. The original cladding of Putaruru Stone had been seriously corroded.
The National War Memorial, Hall of Memories, Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and the Carillon are all being incorporated into a Memorial Park, currently under construction.
The carillon is played by a keyboard (clavier) consisting of rows of wooden keys which the carillonist plays with hands and feet. The bells themselves do not move as they are bolted to a frame. Under each bell there is an iron clapper, more like an arm, that is attached by a system of levers and wires to the carillonist’s clavier. The sound produced is controlled by the amount of energy used. The National War Memorial clavier is one of the most modern in the world, designed and built by the current carillonist Timothy Hurd, who explains-
 ‘The carillon is a highly gestural instrument. The dexterity required is more one of limbs than of finger skills. It is like dancing to your own music.’
Gladys Watkins 1932-1936
John Randal 1937-1950 and 1954-1983
Selwyn Baker 1950-1954
Timothy Hurd QSM from 1984


Ministry for Culture and Heritage website.
Sound bite

Friday, 28 February 2014


This thirteen hectares of outdoor education reserve was established in 1974.  The Nga Manu Trust founder trustees Professor John Salmon, Peter McKenzie, and David Mudge had been informed of a site on Ngarara Road Waikanae that was ideal for the purpose of preserving the largest remnants of Kapiti lowland swamp forest, providing also, the opportunity to encourage the preservation and recovery of native flora and fauna. Nga Manu translates to ‘The Birds’.

Peter McKenzie was the son of Sir Roy McKenzie 1922-2007, and grandson of Sir John Robert McKenzie who in 1938 established the J.R. McKenzie Youth Fund, and in 1940 the J.R. McKenzie Trust.
The reserve now contains about 700 different plant species, many of which are on the ‘endangered species’ list, along with a diverse range of native animals, birds, and fish, being nurtured in their wild habitat, and where applicable, in enclosures.

A nocturnal house was opened in 2010 in the presence of the Governor General Sir Paul Reeves, giving the public an opportunity to view the Kiwi in as close to its natural environment as possible.  The wild-life ponds with their vast range of water-fowl add to the reserve’s ability to encourage interest in our natural heritage.

 The daily bird feeding by the staff is enjoyed by visitors as is the feeding of the Native long-finned eels. Bush and fern walks are all accessible by wheelchair. The lookout tower provides views over the sanctuary, and beyond, to Kapiti Island in the West, and the Tararua Ranges in the East.
Picnic sites with gas bar-b-q add to the attractiveness of the reserve to families.
Educational visits are encouraged, and are assisted where required with lectures and organised programmes. A one bedroom cottage on the premises is made available for the use of research scholars.

The Nga Manu Reserve is administered by the registered charitable trust Nga Manu Trust, with the following objectives:
To preserve our unique native flora and fauna.
To provide an outdoor education resource based on conservation and preservation.
To support recovery programmes for our native flora and fauna.
To promote public awareness of our native flora and fauna.
The Nga Manu Trust supports scholarships with Victoria University Wellington and Massey University Palmerston North.



Friday, 24 January 2014


The 1981 anti-tour protesters have exaggerated their influence on the apartheid politics of South Africa.  There were already changes under way, especially in the sporting area. I visited South Africa in the 1970’s and was convinced that the situation was too complex and fragile to risk interference from outsiders.  The reforming F.W. De Klerk was engaged in a battle with conservative right wing forces.  He believed that the international sanctions had been detrimental to his careful work breaking down the attitudes of the right wing making this conservative group even more determined to resist change. Bullying was not going to work. Isolationism also obstructed the international dialogue wanted by the liberals, academics, and sports bodies.  It is interesting that in De Klerk’s autobiography, New Zealand, the All Blacks, and rugby, are not mentioned. De Klerk was awarded the Noble Peace Prize in the same year as Nelson Mandela.


                               A WAIKANAE HOUSE, MALL, AND GALLERY.

Mahara House was built in 1902 by A.A. Brown for Hemi Matenga Waipunahau, brother of the paramount Chief Wi Parata Te Kakakura of the Ngati Awa & Ngati Toa. It provided luxury accommodation for guests that included Admiral Jellicoe, Richard Seddon, Lord Plunket,   Herbert Kitchener (First Lord Kitchener), and Alexander Turnbull.  The name Mahara, meaning remembrance, was chosen possibly out of respect for victims of the Boer War. The house was frequently used for hunting and fishing groups, and the frequent New Year parties were memorable.
Waikanae was originally called Parata Township having been established formally by the Native Township Act of 1895, but Waikanae became the preferred name through common usage
 Mahara House was located on the Main Highway, the front entrance being next to the large Pohutukawa tree on the south border of the present service station. Next door, on the Ngaio Road corner, was the Parata homestead where Hira Parata the son of Wi Parata and his son Tohuroa (Tom) resided. Hira managed Mahara House for a short period after its official opening.
Hemi Matenga and Wi Parata were both born on Kapiti Island, the sons of Waipunahau of Ngati Awa and Ngati Toa descent. Their father was George Stubbs, an Australian whaler who in 1838 was drowned off Kapiti
Hemi Matenga died in May 1912, just six years after the death of his brother Wi Parata who had been residing in a house next to the Whakarongotai Marae. This house was demolished to make way for the Waikanae Hotel bottle store and car park.
Hemi Matenga had built another house at 48 Winara Avenue which is still standing. Known as ‘Kildoon House’  its stables can be seen from the Road, unfortunately Hemi never lived to see its completion.
Hemi Matenga sometimes used an anglicised form of his name, James Martin, when on official business not connected to Tribal interests. His wife Huria aka Julia Martin was known as ‘The Grace Darling of New Zealand’, for an heroic rescue of the crew of the brigantine Delaware which had been wrecked close to the Pa at Wakapuaka near Nelson.
In 1907 the land to the south of Winara House was auctioned off by Hira Parata in 100 quarter acre sections. These sections were opposite the railway line facing the Main Road and would have included much of the existing Main Road shops; the sections were later further subdivided to better suit the purpose of small shops.
In the early hours of 19th January 1937, the daughter of the absent proprietor of Mahara House, sleeping in her upstairs bedroom, was awakened by the noise of the crackling of flames; on investigating she found smoke pouring up the stairwell; the electric lights would not function.  Keeping her head, she managed to alert the few guests and staff, who escaped in their night clothes, just as the entire staircase exploded in flames and collapsed. The flames soon reached 50 feet in the air and the glow could be seen up to 20 miles away. There was a 500 gallon water tank at the rear of the building but its supports were alight, causing it to overturn, spilling the water. There were no fire brigades at the time and nothing could be done to prevent the total loss of Mahara House.
In more recent times, on the area behind the shops facing the road, town planners agreed to incorporate a square, accessed by a pedestrian mall. In recognition of the history of the site it was named Mahara Place. Paved in a red shade of tile it became known affectionately as ‘Red Square’.  In the last few years the paving had lifted in places and was not considered safe. It was re-laid in a different shade of brick that made the nickname obsolete.
A small art gallery run by local artists was established in the square, which has over the years, with the help of private benefactors and the local council, been developed into a professional gallery respected by artists and public for its exhibitions and presentations of the works of local and nationally recognised artists. It maintains a strong commitment to the promotion of many highly regarded Maori artists.  The Mahara Gallery’s reputation is about to be further enhanced by plans for an extension that will enable it to have a permanent display of the works of Frances Hodgkins and her sister Isabel Field, who had family associations with the Kapiti area.

2.      The Kapiti Coast by W.C. Carkeek. A.H. & A.W. Reed 1978
3.      The Kapiti Museum, Waikanae.
4.      Wai Cook (G.Granddaughter of Wi Parata)
5.      The Evening Post (Papers Past)
6.      The Colonist (Papers Past)

Monday, 20 January 2014

JOHN WARD 1805-1890 
On 1st August 1839 John Ward the secretary of the New Zealand Land Company wrote a letter to the Company surveyor William Mein Smith which had a significant effect on the future shape of our city. Some interesting extracts from the instructions given in this letter are:
...If you find that Col. Wakefield has selected the spot which he considers most eligible for the first and principal settlement you will precede hither with the ‘Cuba’ in order to complete the survey as soon as possible.
...In laying out the plan of the town you must as closely as possible adhere to the conditions on which the Land Orders have been sold, as expressed by the enclosed copy of the terms of purchase-providing at all events, that every holder of a Land Order obtains one full acre of land within the town.
The Directors wish that in framing the plan of the town, you should make ample reserves for all public purposes, such as a cemetery, a market place, wharfage, and probable public buildings, botanical garden, a park and extensive boulevards. It is indeed desirable that the whole outside of the town, inland, should be separated from the country sections by a broad belt of land, which you will declare that the company intends to be public property, on condition that no buildings be ever elected upon it.
The form of the town must necessarily be left to your own judgement and taste. Upon this subject the Directors will only remark that you have to provide for the future rather than the present, and that they wish the public convenience to be consulted and the beautiful  appearance of the future city to be secured, so far as these objects be accomplished by the original plan, rather than the immediate profit of the Company....
The letter also contained instructions for the size of both town and country sections, and the method to be used for their allocation.
Although Ward would have received instructions verbally from the directors, he needed to interpret these instructions, putting his own slant on the written directives. The letter was signed by Ward and not per pro the directors.
John Ward was born in East Cowes Isle of Wight in 1805. He was the son of John Ward, collector of Customs, and Martha Arnold, the sister of Thomas Arnold of Rugby School fame. As a young man he had planned on a legal career but after travelling widely in Europe and making friends with many high profile persons, including the French aristocrat and politician Marquis de Lafayette, and the historian philosopher Barthold Niebuhr, Ward became disenchanted with the law school and its dry company. He was offered, and accepted, a position as Inspector of Prisons, a situation that he  only held briefly  before being approached by George Lambton the Earl of Durham, who offered him the job as his personal secretary. Durham was the Chief Executive of the New Zealand Colonisation Company, and through his influence Ward was engaged as the Company Secretary.
 In 1839 Ward wrote ‘Information relative to New Zealand’, a public relations booklet for potential settlers.
Problems arose with the legality of the contracts entered into by the settlers, so Ward wrote to William Wakefield, the Company representative in Wellington, instructing him to seek guidance from Hobson on any matters arising from the contracts, as they may not be legally enforceable.
In 1841 Ward began a diplomatic career, located in Hamburg, as British Commissioner for the revision of Stade Taxes. He was a committed believer in free trade, and on this subject, held informal talks with many high profile Eurocrats, including King Leopold of Belgium and King Frederick iv of Prussia. His efforts for the revision of taxes on British goods eventually brought success when in 1861 Prime Minister Robert Peel agreed to revise the taxes being charged on German grain imports. These taxes had been a major stumbling block to the elimination of taxes on British goods entering Germany.
In 1845 Ward was appointed Consul-General to Saxony, based in Leipzig.  By 1848 Germany was in a revolutionary mode, with citizens from the many independent states making up Germany, demanding constitutional reforms.
In 1860 Ward was promoted to Charge d’affaires and Consul General for the independant Hanse Towns of Hamburg, Bremen, and Lubeck.  He had many friends among the intelligentsia of Europe meeting several times with the Prussian president Otto Von Bismarck in Berlin, who by 1868 was building up his military capability with arms and gun-boats produced by the Krupp’s factory.  Bismarck’s intention was to use bullying tactics to unify the various independent states, and bring them under the control of Prussia.  Ward was disturbed by these Prussian ambitions. Within a few years Bismarck had control of most of Germany, and Britain remained neutral.  In spite of his concerns, Ward did not believe that there would ever be a war between Britain and Germany.
John Ward was a friend of the oppressed. He formed a Polish Society in London after that country had been invaded by Russia, and was an advocate for education in science and technology, sending reports back to London on German technical instruction methods. His brief stint as Inspector of Prisons had convinced him that solitary confinement, and daily counselling, was the best means of reforming prisoners. Ward initiated negotiations on behalf of his friend the Sendic (senator) Sieveking of Hamburg, who wished to purchase the Chatham Islands from the New Zealand Company, but this transaction was not approved by the Colonial Office.
 In 1870 John Ward’s responsibilities to the Hanse Towns was ended, when under pressure from Bismarck they joined the North German Federation.  A subsequent cut-back in British public spending meant no job was available for John Ward, whose integrity, and service to the country, earned him a C.B.E.
In retirement John Ward was critical of the British Government for their apathy in dealing with German ambitions. The following quote from his 1872 memoirs explains his frustrations.
‘For a number of years past England has almost withdrawn herself from Continental affairs, and the notion, whether right or wrong, prevails, that we are indifferent to the fate of foreign nations, except in so far as our commercial interests are involved ..... this is the reason why important political secrets are withheld from the knowledge of the British representatives abroad’.
The frustrations of diplomatic advice not being taken seriously by a Government determined to remain neutral, left him embittered.  Ward also believed that the Crimean war could have been prevented if the diplomats had been listened to.  
John Ward was an intelligent man with an abiding love for theatre, literature and philosophy.  He married Caroline Bullock in 1832 and died at Dover in 1890. John and Caroline had three daughters and two sons. One son, also John, followed his father into the diplomatic corp.  The other son was the distinguished historian and writer Adolphus William Ward.




Tuesday, 3 September 2013


There are only two events that happened on a day that in future could be named ‘New Zealand Day’.

3rd May 1841 New Zealand becomes an independent country separating us from New South Wales.

19 Sep 1893 New Zealand becomes the first country in the world to establish Universal Suffrage.