Shaping Post Quakes Christchurch

April 16, 2016

David Bowie said “Tomorrow belongs to those who can see it coming.” We could add and to those who are shaping the future of Christchurch and Canterbury now after the physical and emotional damage wrought by the five major quakes of 2010 -11.

But it is hard to look clearly into the future if you are mired in unresolved earthquake related problems. The St Valentine’s Day seismic reminder was high on the emotional Richter scale.

Very real progress is still mixed with uncertainty. For every new milestone there is a five year old millstone still dragging many people down, especially those with unresolved insurance claims.

Beaverish construction activity south and west of The Square contrasts with inactivity at the core of the city. A large question mark still replaces the fallen spire of Christ Church Cathedral and pigeons rule the open air roost. The cloud of uncertainty extends over the proposed convention centre and adjacent commercial and hospitality projects, all waiting for the fog to clear.

In the early disaster recovery stage there was some understanding of the need for a command and control approach from CERA, the government department charged with implementing the. Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Plans.

A different public mood has been evident for some time and will intensify with local body elections this year and national elections next. What many want is a different style of leadership, locally based, and a more active democracy. Best post-disaster recovery practice elsewhere suggests the earlier the better.

People living, working and investing in Christchurch have skin in the regeneration game and have to live with the results.

Despite starting with high hopes, CERA became prematurely portly. Leadership changes in the last 18 months have slowed momentum though not the flow of commuting bureaucrats.

The popular success of the Margaret Mahy playground stands in stark contrast to the lack of preventative action in adjacent New Regent Street which has caused the inner city tram artery to be blocked for weeks after damage exposed by the recent 5.7 quake. Quick off the mark outside the constraints of the inner city plan, the private sector has also for some time been driving the retail and commercial rebuild in the central city assisted by the directed migration of public sector government agencies to tenant new buildings.


“Regeneration “is the current bureaucratic buzzword and it is worth reflecting on its meanings. In Biology it is “the restoration or new growth by an organism of organs, tissues, etc., that have been lost, removed, or injured.’ In Electronics “ a feedback process in which energy from the output of an amplifier is fed back to the grid circuit to reinforce the input.’ Both are relevant to Christchurch now. The first is about organic growth, not alien grafts. The second is a metaphor for raising the depleted energy levels of the people of Christchurch by plugging into their positive inputs and feedback.

The new Regeneration legislation creates two new entities, Regenerate Christchurch and Otakaro Ltd, which have governance structures akin to commercial boards, apart from their funding, rather than government departments. From this transition point there is an opportunity to do things differently. There is also a fear that nothing much may change apart from the shuffling of alphabetical acronyms.

There is already in place the City Council’s Development Christchurch Ltd, not to be confused with the Canterbury Development Corporation, charged with looking at urban regeneration and investment. Otakaro has an anchor projects delivery role, while Regenerate Christchurch is charged with taking a long term, bigger picture approach to visioning and planning.

The new mix of central government and local government agencies is rather confusing and fraught with potential power conflicts. The regeneration proof will be in the collaborative pudding.

As would be expected after four years it is time to revisit, in the light of what we now know, some earlier decisions taken in respect to the anchor projects and precincts which came out of the closed door 100 Days Blueprint exercise for the Christchurch Central Recovery Plan in 2012. The Blueprint was a bold game changer, but the industrial descriptor was not appropriate for what needed to be, at least after its animated video sales launch, a more open and organic process which took account of contestable expert input and other perspectives.

This would have got more buy-in and enabled the Recovery Plan to have evolved more organically.

The process did not engender any sense of community ownership other than the feeling that the citizens of Christchurch were in line to pay some large tabs without having a say.

In reassuring contrast, André Lovatt , Chair of Regenerate Christchurch said recently “From my perspective, Regenerate Christchurch must and will engage with the community around what will be done.”

Drawing from his experience of working with a representative Christchurch Arts Centre board in the restoration and seismic strengthening of the Arts Centre, Lovatt has exercised real community leadership by taking people with him towards a clear vision. He now has a bigger canvas on which to outline and fill in the bigger picture.

Sustained regeneration requires open and creative dialogue and knowledge sharing not closed and defensive entities playing their PR cards too close to their chests.

The bandwidth of trust between those governing and those governed is due for a big upgrade. A well designed and well executed engagement process is community building in itself. People will support what they help to create.

For some months The Press has rekindled the enthusiasm of the pre-recovery plan Share an Idea exercise. Shaping a renewed city requires shared visions and shared strategies.

The intangibles

City regeneration is not just about building tangible structures, although they are the most visible sign of progress. It is also about developing the intangible assets which reside in its people .

The strength of the city’s intangible assets balance sheet will be reflected in the well-being of its people, their sense of community, their character, their creativity and above all their confidence in the future.

It is time for a fresh self image to reflect the changing character of Christchurch, not just in its physical appearance but because of the Ngai Tahu Renaissance of the last two decades and its changing multicultural mix, augmented by the more recent wave of rebuild migrants plus some new refugees.

Time will tell if the opportunity has been taken to create a more flexible legislative framework post CERA which promotes collaborative and innovative behaviour and reflects the sense of promise, energy and excitement which has been only the  fringe festival of earthquake recovery to date.

To date much of the focus has been on the cardiac recovery of the heart of old Christchurch, after the seismic exacerbation of pre-existing conditions of decline . A more holistic view of the health of the wider city and region is overdue. In Plato’s words “The part can never be well unless the whole is well.”

*Blinks      22/2/16  19/2/16   Jen Hastie 16/2/16   18/2/16    3/15

#Lyall Lukey 16 April 2016
My other less serious blog:

Canterbury Quake Anniversary -The Guilty Remnant

September 10, 2012

“What if-woosh, right now, with no explanation-a number of us simply vanished? Would we think it was the Rapture? Would some of us collapse? Would others of us go on, one foot in front of the other, as we did before the world turned upside down.” Tom Perrotta “The Leftovers”.

This was the challenge faced by the bewildered citizens of Mapleton, a stereotypical fictitious US small town, in the aftermath of an event known as the Sudden Departure, in which hundreds of ordinary citizens suddenly departed in the middle of living their ordinary lives.

Some of the dearly departed were more sinners than saints, to the chagrin of some professional clergy whose response was less than rapturous when they themselves didn’t make the celestial cut and had to stay behind to minister to the undeparted.

Kevin Garvey, Mapleton’s new mayor, a former businessman with a new community vocation born of the crisis, tries to bring a sense of renewed hope and purpose to the shattered community. But nothing is the same as before the Sudden Departure -not marriages, not relationships, not friendships.

It’s two years last week since the first big seismic event, the 7.1 Greendale quake on 4 September 2010, changed our Cantabrian landscape and our world.

In the phony seismic war before the deadly 22 February 2011 quake, we were rather nonchalant about the risk from on-going quakes. The City of Christchurch hosted the Paralympics a month earlier in late January 2011.  The sporting festival opened with a parade of athletes, many in wheel chairs, through a central city which had been shaken by the Boxing Day CBD quake just as the post-Christmas sales bonanza was about to kick off. A month later the cathedral spire toppled on the site of the VIP’s marquee which had seated the Prime Minister and other national and international notables at the opening ceremony.

Since September 2010 we’ve had 11,965 quakes*, 100 over 4.72 .magnitude* and 14 over 5.5.  The frequency is reducing: there have only been 18 quakes over the last 7 days, and the Richter scale severity is also decaying , though with the occasional spike to keep us on our toes.

One cult spawned by the Sudden Departure in Mapleton was called the Guilty Remnant, whose members took a vow of silence as they struggled to come to terms with the selective cataclysm and make atonement.

Though the central city building  which housed our offices has been demolished, on the home front my family is in the guilty minority of those in Christchurch whose houses are now spick and span in the wake of the quakes, touch wood (rough hewn rimu-strong and flexible).  Just before the September earthquake anniversary thunderstorm hit Christchurch last Wednesday, accompanied by dazzling meterological pyrotechnics, the multinational team of repairers and decorators that had been working for six weeks on our house  finished their work.

Until then most of our possessions had been stored in a container swung in precisely by the Peter Fletchers Transport driver over the fence onto the side lawn. We’ve been camping at home with my wife acting as clerk of works and tea lady. The workers left a card thanking her for the latter if not the former.

Now the grandfather clock, which came crashing down in the first quake, is restored to pride of place at the front entrance and the cuckoo clock is back on the wall upstairs, no longer mute.

In the scale of things our damage was pretty minor, with no land problems because of the lava spur our house sits on at Kennedys Bush 12 kilometres south west of the city centre. We certainly didn’t have high priority needs like many people in east Christchurch and those at the other end of the Port Hills to us.

Apart from the more than 20,000  red zoned  and vacant houses in the process of being demolished, 27,000 people live in the TC3 category zone requiring detailed land inspection by drilling and, in many cases, new foundations. 400 people still live in badly damaged houses, some families squatting in a single room.

With no obvious land damage or structural house damage the make good and makeover at our place  was very straightforward and because the damage being well under the EQC $100,000 cap our insurance company wasn’t involved.

One or two small things still to sort out but the repairs and renovations, including some extras on our own account, have gone very well and we are very lucky. Given the problems faced by some people it would be unseemly to offer rapturous applause but here’s a quiet nod of approval to EQC, Fletchers Rebuild, Renovation Specialists and the subbies.

The stubbies are in the fridge awaiting the final sign off. We’ll invite the workers over to clean them up.  There won’t be any Mapleton leftovers.

*Blinks The two year seismic scorecard.

#Lyall Lukey
10 September 2012 My other less serious blog

Seismic Night, Holey Night….

December 25, 2011

“You could see the panic on people’s faces. That’s the end of Christmas – it’s so unfair,” Sue Joy, florist  23 Dec 2011 

On the eve of Christmas Eve, just when things seemed to be all calm and all bright, the serious jolting started again.  Not only shepherds  were once again quaking at the sight of the quakes. No seismic Christmas truce here in Christchurch in the demolition  trenches  but lots of new sink holes- and a sinking feeling. 

As I write this, at 8am on Christmas Eve, GeoNet has reported 63 earthquakes around the wider Canterbury region over the last 24 hours.* This ended six months of relative calm for the city and will further set back  recovery as insurance companies re-start their risk raters. 

Christchurch residents hoping Christmas celebrations would be a brighter end to a bleak year are instead dealing with more seismic damage to homes, infrastructure and businesses through shaking damage and liquefaction.

Two large magnitude earthquakes on Friday heralded the new activity – a Richter 5.8 and a 6.0, the latter being the 4th largest magnitude since the seismic season started here in September 2010. 

I was upstairs at home for the first 15-20 seconds roller and was out in the garden for the second shorter, but more feisty shock, talking to our Student Job Search gardener who was just describing how he’s seen our whole house jiggle at the earlier quake when we had an even jigglier encore.

Our post World War II rough hewn rimu house is obviously very elastic and goes with the flow. It probably also helps that it is sitting on a foundation of crusher dust from the old Halswell Quarry across the road which acts like base isolation. The grandfather clock downstairs and the cuckoo clock upstairs kept going through the first but were stopped dead, but ever to go again, by the second. 

Once again we were fortunate but a lot of people, especially on the east side of town, were not with power cuts and liquefaction silting up  parts of the eastern suburbs for the fifth time in 15 months.* Not the Xmas present they were expecting. There appears to have been a Mercalli migration further east. Most of the recent quakes were centred in faults below Pegasus Bay, off the coast of Christchurch, within 8-21 kilometres of the city centre, and many were less than 10km deep. 

Whatever the new physical damage from these earthquakes-and there were scores of minor injuries-  they have further set back the recovery of the city. Retailers who have struggled to survive were dealt a major blow as stores packed with Christmas shoppers were evacuated. Some face being shut on the busiest trading days of Christmas Eve and Boxing Day. 

 Essential tremor 

“Essential tremor” is an involuntary trembling that affects millions of people. In October 2008 Eddie Adcock, 70, a bluegrass maestro whose career was being hampered by a hand tremor was asked to pluck his banjo during brain surgery, so surgeons could pinpoint the right part of the brain to work on. During the procedure surgeons prodded and inserted electrodes into his brain to suppress the nerve cells causing his tremors. When the surgeons found the right part of the brain, the plucky Adcock instantly regained his ability and was able to play at full speed once again*. 

The Canterbury land mass above and below the waterline seems to have developed a chronic case of the sesmic ETs. In this case the geotechnical explorations and explanations can’t by their nature be as precise as Adcock’s half hour. Nor can they give the same instant feedback in any predictive sense, let alone bring about a cure.

For that reason the latest tremors have literally sent shock waves through the psyches of people here who were just starting to relax into the Christmas spirit and contemplate a happier and more stable New Year. For some it was the last straw:
“Had enough now   #52   17 min ago   Thats it. We cant do this any longer, the kids are upset, wife and I cant sleep, the best of the city is gone, we are going too. Sorry to those we are leaving behind to rebuild and tough it out. Family and prospects in Melbourne.*” 

But most, not so badly affected, will stay and hopefully display the spirit and dogged determination needed by new pioneers. Before this latest blitz about half the commercial buildings in the central city have either already been demolished or are about to be, including our former offices. There could well be some new candidates.

This Yuletide in this part of the world it’s just got that much harder to sleep in heavenly peace. But many of us still have a lot to celebrate so best wishes for the festive season, no matter how restive. 


#Lyall Lukey 24 December 2011  My other less serious blog





Yuriy Gagarin:The Importance Of Being First

May 2, 2011

 Modest; embarrasses when his humour gets a little too racy; high degree of intellectual development evident in Yuriy; fantastic memory; distinguishes himself from his colleagues by his sharp and far-ranging sense of attention to his surroundings; a well-developed imagination; quick reactions; persevering, prepares himself painstakingly for his activities and training exercises, handles celestial mechanics and mathematical formulae with ease as well as excels in higher mathematics; does not feel constrained when he has to defend his point of view if he considers himself right; appears that he understands life better than a lot of his friends.”Soviet Air Force doctor reporting on Yuriy Gagarin*

Ground control to Lieutenant Yuriy…

Fifty years ago 27 year old Soviet Union air force pilot Yuriy Gagarin became the first human being in space – making his own first giant orbit for mankind in a single circumference and spurring America to set itself the challenge of getting the first man on the moon by the end of the decade.

The popular and genial Gagarin was the ideal but apparently not the strongest cosmonaut candidate for the debut flight.  It seems that Gherman Titov was  ranked first but kept under wraps for the scheduled longer second space flight in the series. Gagarin was a much favoured candidate by his peers. When the 20 candidates were asked to anonymously vote for which other candidate they would like to see as first in the space hot seat, all but three chose Gagarin. 

Apart from all his other qualities Gagarin’s short stature at 1.57 metres (5 ft 2 in) was an asset in the tiny capsule of his rocketVostok 1, which lifted off as scheduled on 12 April 1961, at 9:07am Moscow time (6:07 GMT).   

The entire mission was controlled by either automatic systems or by ground control. This was because medical staff did not know how a human might react to weightlessness, so it was decided to lock the pilot’s manual controls. A code to unlock the controls was placed in an onboard envelope, for Gagarin’s use in case of emergency. It remained unopened, though he had already been told the code by the head of cosmonaut training Nikolai Kamanin. There were a few tricky minutes at re-entry when the service module remained attached to the re-entry module by recalcitrant wires that had failed to separate but Gagarin’s admirably equable temperament during strong gyrations was equal to the situation while the module’s attitude and altitude realigned.

Later Gagarin said; “The feeling of weightlessness was somewhat unfamiliar compared with Earth conditions. Here, you feel as if you were hanging in a horizontal position in straps. You feel as if you are suspended.”*

Ground Control was certainly in suspense until after about 106 minutes  the reentry capsule made a hard parachute landing in the Saratov region of the USSR. Gagarin made a softer one by personal parachute in the same place 10 minutes later, though at the time his detached reentry was kept secret because of what was held to constitute a full manned orbit of the earth. He had to be prepared to both die and lie for his country.

There was no slomo replay of his landing to contradict the official verdict.  A farmer and her daughter observed the strange scene of a figure in a bright orange suit with a large white helmet landing near them by parachute. Gagarin later recalled, “When they saw me in my space suit and the parachute dragging alongside as I walked, they started to back away in fear. I told them, don’t be afraid, I am a Soviet like you, who has descended from space and I must find a telephone to call Moscow!  It was probably a collect call. 

Following Gagarin’s return to Earth he was bubble-wrapped by the Soviet authorities and incessantly paraded around for years as an example of Soviet communist success, helped by the fact that one of his most notable traits was his warm smile “that lit up the Cold War”.

When he visited Manchester in the United Kingdom some time later  it was pouring with rain; however, Gagarin insisted that the car hood remain back and refused an umbrella so that the cheering crowds could catch a glimpse of him, saying “If all these people have turned out to welcome me and can stand in the rain, so can I.”

He was finally allowed to return flying at a somewhat lower altitude but died when his plane crashed during a training flight in 1968 during bad weather, possibly after a manoeuvre to avoid a weather balloon. A legacy of early flight may have brought down the first spaceman.

Though his career as a cosmonaut was brief he left a lasting legacy. His legendary flight into space, four years after the unmanned Sputnik,  triggered John Kennedy’s prescient presidential speech at Rice University on September 12th, 1962 setting the goal of a moon landing by the end of the decade.

Before the shooting for the moon speech there was a period of American despondency, with worries that the spaceflight had won a propaganda victory on behalf of Communism. This was not the time for American boosterism. President Kennedy was quoted as saying that it would be “some time” before the US could match the Soviet booster technology and “the news will be worse before it’s better”. At the same time Kennedy also sent congratulations to the Soviet Union for their “outstanding technical achievement.”  Op-eds in many US newspapers urged renewed efforts to overtake the Soviet scientific accomplishments. 

The public challenge, in contrast to Soviet secrecy, galvanised American education, science and technology and military communities and led to the successful manned lunar shot in 1969. There was no seven year hitch, but a couple of major setbacks on the way including a fatal launchpad fire in the full glare of the media’s arc lights.

Decades later the earlier fierce space rivalry between the two titans was transmuted into an age of international space collaboration across national boundariesandacross disciplines on the international Space Station.** World views had changed, not the least because of the views from outer space first experienced by Gagarin.

His photo is the only astronaut portrait on the wall in the central section of the Space Station, said Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield: “Because we recognize that he is the one who opened the door for all of us.”* In the words of Russian cosmonaut Dmitry Kondratyev, commander of the current mission at the International Space Station, from orbit 12 April 2011, “He is a human who made the first-ever step into outer space, which became a milestone for humankind at large.”

A real time recreation of Yuriy Gagarin’s pioneering first orbit, shot entirely in space from on board the International Space Station, was made this year.  The film combines this new synchronised footage with Gagarin’s original mission audio and lets us see what he saw on his trail-blazing blast.*

Since Gagarin’s epic voyage, more than 500 astronauts from countries around the world have left the Earth. Some have walked on the moon. Many, including Hadfield, have lived and walked in space.

A projectile is a self-propelled missile capable of being impelled forward. In metaphorical terms what drives a project is the energy of its participants. At the national level in New Zealand, which projects are our equivalent lunar challenges?  The Rugby World Cup isn’t a big enough or inclusive enough challenge, nor is the America’s Cup, though both consume a lot of national resources for marginal returns.

We need more than spectator sports to engage and involve people. We need worthwhile projects of national significance and a new world view projecting ourselves forward as a nation, making a quantum leap into a new orbit and expanding our sphere of influence globally by transforming ourselves into the Innovation Nation. 

As Robert Grudin, author of Time and the Art of Living put it:  “….people with great projects afoot…look further and more clearly into the future than people who are mired in day to day concerns. These former control the future because by necessity they must project themselves into it…”

Into which  future will we project ourselves?

#Feel free to add a comment below and share this post. 

**Alert   Dr Jack Bacon, internationally-known motivational speaker, futurist and technology writer and author of The Parallel Bang is back in New Zealand on a speaking tour in October 2011. He was the United States’ lead systems integrator of the Zarya-the jointly-built spacecraft that forms the central bridge and adapter between all US and Russian technologies on the Space Station. Visit    If you are interested in an in-house presentation contact     


Yuri Gagarin- 50th anniversary of the first …  Vid Russia celebrates the anniversary of the first human spaceflight on 12 Apr 1961.    Vid   First Orbit  Documentary film maker Christopher Riley partnered with European Space Agency astronaut Paolo Nespoli to record a stunning new film of what Gagarin would have seen of the Earth from his spaceship. This was released online in April 2011 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of human spaceflight.
We Choose to go to the Moon Vid  John Kennedy’s speech at Rice University on September 12th, 1962 setting the goal of a moon landing by the end of the decade.   Canadian astronaut Chris Hadfield reflects on Yuri Gagarin’s space trip 50 years ago.  Music vid David Bowie “Space Oddity”.  The making of First Orbit. 

#Lyall Lukey 2 May 2011  My other less serious blog

Texas and TEKS: Remember the Alamo! How about Civil Rights?

June 13, 2010

“… ex-hippie parents had better accept that their children look like becoming yuppies. And then Republicans…” Christopher Ricks  Dylan’s Visions of Sin. 2003

It’s not taxes in Texas that’s the hot issue; it’s the future of History. Conservatives want to revise the Texas History curriculum in order to “amend” teaching about slavery, the civil rights movement and America’s relationship with the United Nations.

The State Board of Education has legislative authority to adopt the Texas Essential Knowledge and Skills (TEKS) for each subject of the required curriculum. SBOE members nominated educators, parents, business and industry representatives, and employers to serve on the review committees. That’s where the fun started earlier this year.

In regards to the American Civil Rights Movement the student is currently expected to, among other things, “identify significant leaders of the civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr.; and identify changes in the United States that have resulted from the civil rights movement such as increased participation of minorities in the political process…”

This latter trend culminated in the election of the present White House incumbent and was all too much for some conservatives who, in their curriculum submissions,  insisted on using the President’s full name Barack Hussein Obama because of its negative connotations. Using the middle name is not the usual style when referring to presidents. George Bush Jr only got a ‘W’, though unkind commentators maintain this was his History grade.

Educators argued that some of the proposed TEKS History amendments would politicise education. Conservatives no doubt argued that they were merely rebalancing what was for them an overly liberal retrospective world view.

 History was refracted through a different lens earlier this year when Bob Dylan performed his classic song “The Times they are a Changin’” at the White House Celebration of Music from the Civil Rights Movement*.

You can’t imagine George Bush Sr or Jr hosting such a gathering. Right wing Republicans have a long history of demonising folk singers like Pete Seeger as reds who were not only under the bed but jumping up and down on the mattress in an unseemly and public way. Members of The Weavers, Seeger’s group, were redlisted during the McCarthy Era in the 50s.

In the 60s, Seeger re-surfaced in public scene as a prominent singer of protest music in support of international disarmament, civil rights and environmental causes. He was most responsible for popularizing the spiritual “We Shall Overcome” which became the emblematic anthem of the 1960s American Civil Rights Movement.

It was also recorded by Joan Baez and many other singer-activists. Baez was literally instrumental in helping to bring this song of Seeger’s (and other countercultural 60s songs by Dylan, her sometime boyfriend), to the attention of the nation and the world, though in retrospect he is a reluctant figurehead of the social and political unrest he chronicled.

As a song writer, Seeger is perhaps best known as the co-author of the poignant “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”  Interviewed on his 90th birthday*, soon after performing at Obama’s Inauguration Jan 2009,* Seeger said that he was a fan of small things and small people.  He could have added- and of demonstrating how non-politicians can have an effect by demonstrating.

Bob Dylan didn’t get on the presidential stage at the inauguration but he had the opportunity to reprise one of his most most famous songs at President Obama’s 2010  White House function. He first recorded The Times they are a-Changin’ a month before John Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. This was in his eclectic  pre-electric  folk stage. It’s hard to find an early version by Dylan of The Times on YouTube (but easy to find scores of covers, both amateur and professional). Dylan is diligent in controlling his own recordings, but the White House gig made it to YT.*

The rendition is rather strange at both the start and the finish: before he gets into his musical stride Dylan takes his hand off the neck of the guitar several times and reaches behind him- to what? Adjust his guitar strap? His coat?  A hidden amplifier switch?  At the end there is an awkward half minute after the initial applause. Is Dylan waiting for an encore, a message from the President or someone to relieve him of his guitar? Mercifully, eventually a stagehand eventually does.

It’s still well worth viewing and reviewing. In the words of literary critic Christopher Ricks: “Once upon a time it may have been a matter of urging square people to accept the fact that their children were, you know, hippies. But the capacious urging could then come to mean that ex-hippie parents had better accept that their children look like becoming yuppies. And then Republicans…”

And helping to rewrite the Texas History curriculum?

In the spirit of revisionism I suggest some updated song titles for the Presidential 2011 hootenanny state function: A Hard Oil’s A-Gonna Spill, If I had a Jack Hammer, Slow Train Wreck Coming, The New York Times they are a-Changin’, Rupert the Hardnosed Remainder, Bowling in the Wind, Bye Bye American Piety, Where Have All the Powers Gone? and  Return, Return, Return?

 #Lyall Lukey 13 June 2010

*BLINKS Pr-print    Vid-Video   So-Sound   Mm-multimedia  Pr
Kindergarten – Grade 5   The amended draft Pr  Remember the Alamo   Kingston Trio Vid    A 2008 cover by Tony DeSare, with photos, of Bob Dylan’s  1963 song The Times they are a –Changin Mm Bob Dylan reprises The Times… at President Obama’s  White House function  February 12, 2010 Vid  Peter Seeger at 90-still singing his great songs. Vid  Pete Seeger & Bruce Springsteen  “This Land is Your Land”  Obama Inaugural  19 Jan 2009. Vid Seeger leads the crowd in “Amazing Grace” at his 90th Birthday concert, May 3, 2009 at Maddison Square Garden.Vid
Buy, Buy American Pie   Satirical update of an oldie but goodie-with a reference to Fonterra’s dodgy Chinese milk partner. Vid

Dunkirk-The Great Escape 70 years ago

May 29, 2010

The British nation is unique in this respect. They are the only people who like to be told how bad things are, who like to be told the worst.               Sir Winston Churchill Hansard, June 10, 1941

World War II veterans have begun a series of events to mark the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk evacuation.

It’s just about the last hurrah for the 3% of evacuees still alive. Fifty small vessels have just headed to France to commemorate the anniversary of Operation Dynamo in a poignant pilgrimage, as old soldiers remember the ‘miracle of deliverance’  when 338,000 British and French troops were snatched off the beach at Dunkirk under the noses of the stalled German blitzkrieg by a flotilla of little ships which sailed from Kent to the French coast, often several times, between May 27 and June 4, 1940.

 On the day that Winston Churchill replaced Neville Chamberlain as prime minister, Germany had invaded Holland and Belgium. Churchill was not his keeper’s  brother:  “An appeaser is one who feeds a crocodile, hoping it will eat him last.” 

The Phoney War had finished abruptly; this was the real thing. Unlike the stationary war a generation earlier, which bogged down in the trenches of France, Hitler’s powerful Panzer divisions had quickly punched their way through to the French coast.  On May 26  the order for total evacuation was given.

 For the retreating British Expeditionary Force and its allies, Dunkirk was the only practical point of departure, but its beach was on a shallow slope. No large boat could get near to the actual beaches  so smaller boats were needed to take on board men who would then be transferred to a larger boat based further off shore. 800 of these legendary “little ships” crossed the channel, the smallest being the 18 foot open fishing boat Tamzine.

Despite attacks from German fighter and bomber planes the Wehrmacht never launched a full-scale attack on the beaches of Dunkirk. Panzer tank crews awaited the order from Hitler but it never came. In his memoirs, Field Marshall Rundstadt, the German commander-in-chief in France during the 1940 campaign, called Hitler’s failure to order a full-scale attack on the troops on Dunkirk his first fatal mistake of the war.

One of the reasons put forward for Hitler not ordering an attack was that he believed the BEF debacle would cause Britain to come to peace terms with Hitler and join in fighting the real foe, Communist Russia.

Dunkirk was certainly a humiliation for British forces but thousands of people cheered the bedraggled returnees and  belated preparations were going on apace for the expected invasion. The Battle of Britain was about to begin.  New Zealander Air Chief Marshal Sir Keith Park  was to be in tactical command during the most significant air battles in the European theatre in the Second World War.

The “Spirit of Dunkirk” became a powerful  morale booster at a critical historical juncture. The episode, which relied on the “quiet heroism” of many civilian volunteers, was later described by Winston Churchill as “A miracle of deliverance, achieved by valour, by perseverance, by perfect discipline, by faultless service, by resource, by skill, by unconquerable fidelity.”

 That famous “Dunkirk spirit” has entered Britain’s national mythology and has often been invoked since.  A current newspaper poll is asking whether Britons, potentially at least, still have the Dunkirk spirit in the different society of 21st-century Britain, though victory in something really important like the Football World Cup is probably more top of  the collective mind.

 At least they have finally sorted a permanent memorial to the long unsung Kiwi hero of the war in the air. Sir Keith Park commanded Number 11 Group of Fighter Command, responsible for the defence of London and the South East of England. These were the squadrons which bore the brunt of the Battle of Britain.

The failure to defeat the RAF in 1940 is seen as Germany’s first major setback in the Second World War, culminating in the abandonment of the planned invasion of Britain, though the missed opportunity of Dunkirk was a huge factor and Hitler’s eyes had already turned eastwards:  to Russia, with hate.

The belated memorial statue of Sir Keith, who the Germans rather than the British called, at the time, “the Defender of London” was removed from Trafalgar Square earlier this month. A permanent bronze statue will be unveiled in Waterloo Place on Battle of Britain Day, 15 September 2010.

 #Lyall Lukey 29 May 2010

*BLINKS   Pr-print    Vid-Video  Mus-Music   Mm-multimedia

 News for Dunkirk 70th anniversary Pr Mm

Winston Churchill and the Dunkirk Evacuation  Vid 2.22

Dramatic Dunkirk evacuation anniversary Vid 1.04

The German Blunder At Dunkirk (Part 1/3) Vid 7.03

Park: The Biography of Air Chief Marshall Sir Keith Park, GCB, KBE  Vincent Orange   Pr

Gracie Fields – Wish Me Luck (As You Wave Me Goodbye) Mus 3.01



ANZAC Day-We’ll Meet Again?

April 25, 2010

“We’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when, But I know we’ll meet again, some sunny day.”  Ross Parker and Hughie Charles—as sung by Vera Lynn 

The poignant truth, remembered today on ANZAC day, is that too many didn’t meet again.

This morning I joined the huge crowd who turned out at the dawn service  in Cathedral Square, Christchurch  to remember fallen New Zealand servicemen and women and  to mark the 95th anniversary of the Anzac landings at Gallipoli.

After the ANZACs were landed on the wrong beach New Zealand lost 2,721 dead out of a total 130,784 dead on both sides at Gallipoli in what turned out to be a disastrous sideshow to the main theatres of war in Europe.

Later this morning there was an extra sombre atmosphere after the breaking news of the military helicopter crash north of Wellington, which claimed the lives of three service personnel en route to an ANZAC day parade flyover in the capital.  Military service can be hazardous in war and peace.

It is just over 70 years since Dame Vera Lynn, then 22, visited the Decca studios in London and first recorded We’ll Meet Again. The nostalgic lyrics became one of the best loved sing-along morale boosters during the grim days of World War II.

Voted the original “Forces Sweetheart” she travelled thousands of miles, often at great personal risk, to entertain the Allied troops.

Last year, at 92, she made history to become the oldest living artist ever to have a number one album: We’ll Meet Again -The Very Best Of Vera Lynn.

To make this triumph even sweeter, she even trumped the much-vaunted series of remastered Beatles albums to top the official charts. The moptops might have been more popular than Jesus Christ but they couldn’t knock Vera off this top spot. (When Dame Vera first sang of some sunny day 71 years ago John Lennon had not even been born. He died thirty years ago this December).

 Last November the newly annointed Forces Sweetheart at the Royal British Legion’s annual Festival of Remembrance at the Royal Albert Hall was Christchurch-born Kiwi singer, Hayley Westenra.

Hayley has been a staunch supporter of Forces’ charities since she shot to fame in the UK as a singer seven years ago and she was also recruited by the British Legion to be the face of their annual Poppy Appeal. 

Below is an early and rare video of Hayley Westenra and younger sister Sophie singing Up Where We Belong*  at our SmartNet workshops in 2000 to illustrate the theme of New Zealanders learning faster and working smarter to get Godzone  up the international rankings.

A decade later Hayley has formed a new personal entente cordiale with an unnamed French boyfriend. May the Forces be with her.

 #Lyall Lukey 25 April 2010

*BLINKS     Letter from Gallipoli   And The Band Played Waltzing Matilda 
We’ll Meet Again – Vera Lynn  With WWII  photos   Hayley and Sophie Westenra, SmartNet 2000

Not All Quiet on the Education Front

April 24, 2010

 “The battle over the introduction of National Standards in our primary schools is likely to come to a head very soon. None of it will be pretty and, as always with such disagreements in education, the losers will be the children and the parents of New Zealand…*   Dr. John Langley, Chief Executive – Cognition Education

 On this Anzac weekend it’s refreshing to read a point of view on National Standards that is not lobbed shell-like from one or other of the two opposing lines of trenches. No man’s land is a dangerous place to be in the take-no-prisoners world of education politics and you cop flak from both sides.

 As an interested non-combatant I made a point of going to both the NZEI’s pre-emptive public meeting on National Standards in Christchurch on 9 March and the Minister’s public meeting a few days later at Lincoln, where I had to walk the gauntlet of petition waving NZEI supporters to get in. I pointed out that I had already signed the petition for a trial of the new standards at the earlier NZEI meeting, though with certain misgivings in terms of the associated PR circus, now reinforced by this reception and since by some photographs of the NZEI bus tour.

 An NZEI photo at one school shows the somewhat bemused principal, wearing a suit and tie, lined up with about a dozen protest T shirt-wearing and hand-waving school staff and NZEI bus passengers. In front  a revealing white board sign read: “WE’VE GOT NO STANDARDS! But we do have ethics!!”

 At another school near Christchurch the principal appeared in a photo in The Press wearing a jester’s hat as he greeted the NZEI tourists. I wonder what message readers gleaned from that?  He did, however, turn out to be the best speaker of a line up of seven at the Theatre Royal at the union’s meeting that night.

 This meeting was pretty much a spectator sport in a totally unsuitable venue.  A university contributor would have used a datashow for some rather dense but interesting graphs but none was available.

 At least he’d done his homework. With only a couple of exceptions, there was little coherence and intellectual rigour in the seven 10 minute slots though, with Easter on the horizon, plenty of passion.

The bowling club hall venue for the Minister’s presentation and extended Q&A session allowed a more  appropriate forum set-up and she spoke to a coherent, if sometimes controversial, powerpoint presentation–even if a colleague operated it from the wings. (That’s the kind of ancillary help teachers need).

 There was close to a hundred attendees, about the same number as at the NZEI’s  meeting but with a bigger percentage of the public. They expressed a wide range of views from supportive to critical.  The Minister more than held her own, at one stage  staunchly defending teachers from some sweeping criticism from the floor.

 I certainly agree that in rejecting a trial and development approach the Minister or her advisers haven’t learned from the secondary system’s tortuous experience in introducing new assessment procedures from the early Nineties.

They have, however, learned from the experience of other countries who run a single test system. In this country, the use of a range of existing assessment tools and the weight given to the professional judgement of teachers should allay at least some of the more exaggerated fears.

John Langley’s contribution (below*) reminds us that it is important to get beyond the rhetoric on National Standards, lift the level of informed debate and provide neutral forums for it.

 My two blog posts* were written before the two meetings. The second draws heavily on the excellent article by John Hattie posted on the Cognition Institute’s website* before Xmas.

 #Lyall Lukey  24 April 2010


A Step Too Far – Opinion Piece by Dr. John Langley   World War One Trench Warfare

2010-The Shrinking Decade

January 6, 2010

“ my friend and i are having a little chat…
i say 2000-2009 is a decade,
she says 2001-2010 is a decade.
we both agree there is no 0 AD, but i’m certain 2010 is a new decade…”

The  questioner may be certain-but he’s certainly wrong!

 I just arrived back from a 6 day bike trip to Lake Taylor and Loch Katrine in the North Canterbury High Country. My ride, into the teeth of an old man Nor’wester,  spanned the New Year. It was also a trip back in time which covered half the ground traversed first by Maori en route to the West Coast pounamu and then by the Europeans on their way to the West Coast goldfields in the 1850s before the  Arthurs Pass route supplanted it.

 I emerged from a phone, newspaper, TV (and, until late at night radio) blackout to discover that, in a clear case of premature exhortation, the mass media had jumped the gun by a year in celebrating the arrival of the new decade. Magazines, newspapers, radio and television programs were filling the holiday white spaces with interminable “Best of the Decade” lists.

Having failed to pin the nauseous nickname “The Noughties” on the allegedly completed first decade of the third millennium,  wordsters  were already suggesting even more  dreadful terms like the “Twenty Teens” for the second.  At least they used capital letters.

 If you accept that the third millennium began on 1 January 2001 the last decade has suddenly shrunk by 2 years-ie it covers the period 2001-2009. (Certainly, it seemed a whole lot longer, but that was only because George Bush II inhabited the White House for a good chunk of this abbreviated time span).

But when does the new decade really begin?

Okay, strictly speaking, a decade can be any period of ten years, but for the concept to be of any historical use there need to be certain agreed conventions about when it really begins. It’s a matter of knowing how to count to 10. Perhaps the Government’s new numeracy standards need to be broadened to cover media mavens.

If you want to number from the beginning of the Common Era, C.E. (it’s a bit tricky using AD- most biblical scholars  are now agreed that Jesus Christ was born anachronistically around 4 BC) and you agree that there is no year zero, the first year was 1 C.E. and the 10th year, or the last year of the first decade was 10 C.E. Extrapolate from there. Years ending in 1 are the first year of the decade. Years ending in 0 are the 10th year of the decade-ditto for centuries and millennia.

Richard Brody in a blog “When Does the Decade Really End?” persuasively develops the argument that the new decade doesn’t begin until 2011:  HINT- There Never was a Year “0”. Since there never was a year “0,” the first decade was Years “1-10,” and the first century “1-100,” and thus the first millenium was “1-1000.”

It seems as if the wrong headed view of the majority, misled by the media, is squeezing out the logical voice of the minority.

Of course, if the Mayan calendar and prophecy is correct we won’t need to go through the same logical and semantic contortions in 2021.  The Mayan Calendar is more than just a system to mark off the passage of time;  it is above all a prophetic system. The Mayan word is that Close Of Play for The World is going to be either December 21 or December 23, 2012, the end-date of a 5,125-year-long cycle. (The 22nd must be a rain day).

No matter into whichever of the two numbers in the celestial roulette wheel the ball drops, the decade debate will stop once and for all.

Meanwhile it’s back to the future. While you are waiting around go for shorter investment terms and longer mortgages.

Before it goes all black in 2012 the All Blacks just better make sure they win the Rugby World Cup next year.

#Lyall Lukey  6 Jan  2010


When Does the Decade Really End? – Associated Content … 

Mayan Calendar – 2012 and The Mayan Calendar

20 years on Tomorrow’s Schools are history

December 5, 2009

“Effective management practices are lacking and the information needed by people in all parts of the system to make choices is seldom viable.”  Picot Report May 1988  

It is an incredible testimony to the power of a label that people still refer to “Tomorrow’s Schools” 20 years after the administrative earthquake of David Lange’s education reforms.

 We all know that tomorrow never come and neither did Tomorrow’s Schools in respect to some of its original interlocking architecture. Nonetheless the changes were portentous. The fall of the Department of Education and local education boards  was not quite as momentous as the near simultaneous fall of the Berlin Wall but it was still a bureaucratic big bang event-and most bureaucrats hate change.

Earlier in the eighties the government had called for a review of the curriculum. The public were consulted but the initiative was overtaken by reforms of the administration of education. Two major reports appeared. The first had the Tom Peters-inspired title Administering for Excellence and had much input from business and industry, reflecting the neo-liberal agenda promoted rather ironically by the Labour Government. It was known as  the Picot report after its leader, Brian Picot, a supermarket owner.

 The second report called Tomorrow’s Schools was the Minister’s blueprint for the process. The government replaced the Department of Education with a ministry and turned schools into autonomous entities, managed by boards of trustees. This was a  world first.  The fact that it does not appear to have been replicated elsewhere  may speak volumes.

Picot had found that the education administrative structure in 1988 was over centralised and made overly complex by having too many decision-making points  It was a pain just to replace a broken window. It was purported that the relevant “fix it” papers went through 14 pairs of hands. The lesson was if it’s broke don’t fix it.

I  recall,  during a short  teacher recruitment  stint in the Department of Education well pre-Picot,  encountering  former principals and school inspectors chained to musty office desks in the historic old wooden Government Building in Wellington  while they handled tactical tasks such as approving new light bulbs.

 Lange saw the light. He regarded the dinosaur-like Department of Education beyond evolutionary adaptation and new organisational forms and drastic reforms were needed in the shape of autonomous school boards.

 In Picot’s words “The result is that almost everyone feels powerless to change the things they see need changing.  To make progress, radical changes now required.”

 Radical they indeed were. The trouble was as part of this process teachers in their professional dimension were sidelined. In education and health and elsewhere the politicians  fear of the day was professional capture.

 Managerialism was the answer du jour. Bus companies, hospitals, government departments-they were all amenable to the management span of control. Brain surgeon or bus driver? Bring them on. It’s all grist to the MBA mill.  And millstones were what we sometimes got. The missing part of the equation was professional credibility. It is true that some people skills are eminently transferable. But it is also true that credibility resides not just in what is said but who says it and in their background and experience.

 In the laudable rush to get community input and involvement the professional voices of  teachers were muted. (It didn’t help matters that the 1980s tactics of the teacher “unions” -the professional terms “association” and “institute” were used less and less frequently- were on a par with the Cooks and Stewards Union, the difference being that  the latter chose the school holidays for their stoppages).

 Tomorrow’s Schools was a more radical change for primary schools than their secondary colleagues, who already had the right to appoint their own staff. It led to a nearly 3000 autonomous school boards, without some of the regional and national connecting structures envisaged by the Picot Report.  

Autonomy led to an atomised educational landscape with “clusters” of schools providing limited local connectivity. Important professional supporting roles like national in-service programmes and curriculum and resource development became fragmented or non-existent for a number of years. Curriculum reforms were postponed and it is only now, near the end of the first decade of the new millenium, that a new 21st century curriculum is finally being implemented.

In the meantime societal shift has happened big time. Today, Tomorrow’s Schools are very much last century.  

Lyall Lukey 6 Dec 2009

Blinks   Shift happens-2009 update