Thursday, June 3, 2010

Migrant's Tales - Tauranga "Not As Described"

Continuing in our series of Migrants' Tales - first hand accounts of the migrant experience of New Zealand, taken from locations around the net.

Today's story is taken from a forum called Expat Blog, in it an young American immigrant says that Tauranga wasn't as advertised and likens the small town to the US Midwest - passive aggressive, superficial, insular and drunk...among other things.

Because of this she/he is seeking links with other expats to form friendships. It's a pretty common story and explains why muti-national groups of expats are so prevalent in New Zealand:
"I recently moved from the US to Tauranga and seek my fellow expats. Where in the US? I've lived all over from New England to CA to Texas. I've traveled a lot for someone barely touching 30 and am very educated and seeking depth in friendships, not this superficial film I'm encountering here in Tauranga.
I will now share my experience so far in Tauranga. This may offend some but I'm sure will resonate strongly with many others.

Tauranga was not as advertised, namely clean, friendly, warm, environmentally-friendly, etc. Tauranga seems a lot like the midwest in the US: Passive-aggressive, superficially polite/friendly, standoffish, drunk, and insular.
I've been to social gatherings with other kiwis, including peers in their late 20s and early 30s in the healthcare field. Despite being outgoing and friendly and trying to talk to people, I was struck with how the native kiwis were so passive-aggressive and impolite, masking it with mask of "yeah yeah" as they continued to just spend time with their other kiwi friends and not let anyone inside their little circles.

Conversations center more around rugby, the weather, complaining about the Council, and drinking than anything of any substance. I don't drink, care for rugby or cricket, or like talking about drinking, rubgy, or cricket. Is it me or are the kiwis so insulated in their little world that they lack the depth that comes with experiencing the suffering of others, from travel, from going through hard times, and from changing one's life? Sitting around a table and hypnotically nodding one's head with a "yeah yeah" is not conversation, does not create strong friendships, and lacks depth.

Where are those people who have traveled, who have dedicated their lives to helping others, who seek to grow and mature and become better human beings, to experience life? I meet kiwis who drudgingly do one's job only to 'enjoy' the sugar-high of a drunken-filled existence on weekends only to repeat the cycle until the next rugby match. Kiwis here in Tauranga say they like the lifestyle, but they certainly don't go out of their way to make recent arrivals feel welcome and enjoy said lifestyle. Look, I don't mind if people sip wine, but I don't like being around people who are drunk or who drink enough to alter their personality.

Kiwis are not friendly, they are polite and insular. Friendly means engaging with someone and sharing one's experiences, helping each other, bonding, learning from one another. Being polite means smiling and nodding so as not to appear rude or standoffish, yet the real goal is to be standoffish.

In my experience, the people I bond with are fellow expats, and they have also experienced the above.

I am frustrated with the native kiwis and seek a community amongst the expats. I believe all us expats suffer some form of the above politeness-plague from the Kiwis. One expat colleague said it took her 4 years for the kiwis to open up to her and to allow her into their networks. 4 years!

I seek the educated expat peer group in Tauranga, those who have depth and insight, those that are seekers, ideally age 20-40ish. If you are out there, reach out. We need to create our community because we can't rely on the Kiwis to have one ready for us or to even let us into theirs."

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Cumbria Shooting Similar to Aramoana Massacre

We are shocked to hear about the mass shootings and deaths in Cumbria, UK, overnight.

Our deepest and heartfelt condolences go out to the communities involved and the shattered families who have lost loved ones.

Sadly, incidents such as these happen all over the world and Britain, like most countries, isn’t immune to them.

The Cumbria shootings are very similar to an event that happened in New Zealand back in the 90s and it is sure to stir up memories of the Aramoana Massacre. Read Armed Seiges and Gun Politics in NZ

On one summer day 33 year old unemployed man, David Gray, began shooting indiscriminately at people in the small community of Aramoana with a scoped semi-automatic sporting rifle after falling out with his neighbour.

He shot 13 people to death (3 of them children) and wounded 2 more children and a police officer in the deadliest criminal shooting in New Zealand’s history.

After the rampage people in the community burned his house to the ground, part of a cleansing process.
Today the two countries will be united in their grief and remembrance of those who have died.

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Tuesday, June 1, 2010

More Knives In NZ Schools

What is it with knives in NZ schools right now? there’s been a veritable rash of knife incidents over the last few weeks.

A few days ago we wrote about how the village was failing the child when kids used violence  to sort out their differences, with some parents even scheduling fights for their daughters  in Northland and fights being shown on YouTube.

School violence is becoming ‘family business’ in New Zealand and it’s time to put a stop to it, before anyone else gets hurt…or worse.  777 teachers were assaulted at work during 2008-2009 and there were 1167 incidents of violence, including 51 grievous assaults last year across all educational institutions, including 14 of stabbing and cutting with a weapon. (Statistics NZ)

Schools in New Zealand have open campuses at present and anyone is able to walk into most school grounds un-challenged.

“A knife has been brandished at a school in Hamilton. Police were called to Fairfield College at just after 11am and Senior Sergeant Greg Dunn says enquiries so far, suggest a 26-year-old man went to the school after his younger brother came home saying he was being threatened.
Senior Sergeant Dunn says when the man confronted students, a larger group converged and he pulled a knife. The man then got back into the car and drove off.
The two brothers were tracked to a nearby house and are currently being interviewed by police. The 26-year-old is likely to face charges.”
It is the third incident involving a knife at a NZ school this month, and the second in Hamilton: A 15-year-old girl from Hamilton Girls’ High School was charged with assault and threatening to kill and teacher Steve Hose was stabbed in the back and shoulder by a student at Te Puke High School, Bay of Plenty.

'Safe New Zealand' is a great place to raise kids. Yeah, right.

Read also a blog from earlier today:  NZ Teachers Facing More Abuse

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Monday, May 31, 2010

The Wanganui truck driver who admitted killing Mia Pusch through careless driving has had his licence suspended for just a year and has been ordered to pay a measly $5,000 in reparation to her family (source)

Mia Pusch, 19, was a German tourist who had been backpacking through New Zealand on her bike “pinkie”. She died on 5  January after being hit by a truck travelling in the same direction whilst riding along State Highway 3 near Bulls.

She was one of many cyclists to have been killed or injured on New Zealand’s roads every year. Shortly before her death she’d written in her blog about the dangers of cycling in the country and the perils presented by passing truck drivers. Some would sneak up at high speed to well within her safety zone (0.5 -1.0 metres)  and then overtake with horns blaring, leaving her shaking with adrenaline:
“When one is a cyclist on New Zealand roads, one is not only torn from one’s daydreams by diving-bombing magpies but is more often threatened by a more nasty species that really requires more attention: truck drivers,” Ms Pusch wrote.
“They swerve past the cyclists who are struggling under their own steam at breakneck speed, mainly within only a half-metre to a metre gap, all the while aggressively honking their horn.”
The sentence, such as it is, will do little to deter other truck drivers, or road users, from cavalier attitudes towards cyclists in New Zealand.Our condolences again go out to Gesa  Marcus and other family members and friends at this difficult time.

Mia’s death sparked calls for mandatory minimum passing distances for vehicles overtaking cyclists – from between 1 to 1.5 metres, but all of them were ignored.

Other cyclists to have to have been killed or injured in NZ recently include the following people, none of the drivers responsible received particularly punitive sentences:

German tourist Stephan Stoermer had been on a cycling world tour since 2006, he had been safely winding his way through 26 countries in Europe, the Middle East, Asia and Australia since early 2006 before arriving in New Zealand. He died a week before his tour was scheduled to end when he was hit by a logging truck near Te Puke in the Bay of Plenty on March 12, 2009.

Another German cyclist died on 6 August 2009 in a hit an run at Leeston, 45 km south west of Christchurch. 34 year old Jens Richardon had been living in NZ for a few years. He must have been quite familiar with the peculiarities of the roads and the local driving habits. His body was eventually discovered by a passing motorist at 7.30pm and police located the offender’s car, a dark blue BMW 3251, 20km away.

The motorist responsible for Jens’ death  was seen slumped over a bar shortly before the crash. Phillip Kirkwood Hamilton, 40, of Southbridge, pleaded guilty on 6 November 2009 to driving under the influence of alcohol causing death and failing to stop for an injury accident. He had drunk around 10 pints of beer at a bar in Rolleston from around 2.30pm that day. He told police he knew he had hit a cyclist but panicked because he had been drinking. 

The judge took pity on him a gave him a sentence of home detention.

But soft sentences are the norm in crashes involving cyclists in New Zealand.

Drunk driver, 71 year old Alison Downer, bagged a lenient two year sentence for her 4th conviction after she hit and killed Frank van Kampen as he was cycling along State Highway 1 in Te Horo on September 18 2009.  Mr van Kampen’s partner wept through the hearing at Palmerston North District Court and said that she was disgusted by the sentence. Can you believe that Downer’s defence lawyer was alleged to have told the judge that “this was not the worst type of offending because there was only one victim.”

And in the ‘Tamaki Drive Carnage’ a female student lost her licence for 6 months and was ordered to pay $1,000 to each of her victims after she ploughed into a pack of cyclists travelling along Tamaki Drive, Auckland. The cyclists, one of whom suffered long term brain injuries and may never be able to work again, said that the sentence was far too lenient.

North Shore doctor Graham Robinson was struck and killed whilst cycling outside of Helensville. The driver of a white Toyota Hillux sped off after hitting him and police have yet to track him down, despite having an excellent description of the vehicle.

Reporter Heather McCracken complied a report with details of cycling fatalities and high number of injuries that she was aware of on NZ’s roads during 2009:
Fatal cost of riding your bike
Seven cyclists have been killed so far this year on New Zealand roads.
Last year 10 riders were killed and almost 900 injured, with most crashes occurring at intersections on urban roads.
Last weekend cyclist Frank van Kampen, 46, was killed after being struck by a car near Otaki.
A 34-year-old cyclist was killed last month in a hit-and-run accident near Leeston, Christchurch.
Another Christchurch crash took the life of a 19-year-old cyclist in July.
Two cyclists have been killed in the Bay of Plenty, one in a May accident at a Mt Maunganui roundabout, and another following a crash involving a logging truck near Te Puke in March.
Two Dunedin cyclists have also lost their lives – one after colliding with a car in the city in March, and another in a crash outside of Mosgiel in June.”
Pretty awful figures for such a small country. NZ does have the worlds highest car ownership – 720 per 1000 people, even more than the United States’ 675 per 1000 people (in 2005) and when that’s combined with intolerance towards other road users the weaker and more vulnerable need to be better protected than they are at present.

We suggest a national network of safe cycling routes, in which bike riders are protected from collision hazards with motor vehicles and more publicity given to visitors about which roads are dangerous for cyclists, so that they may plan out their holidays around those routes before they leave home.
Something has to be done to re-educate NZ drivers too, perhaps a national advertising campaign to make them more aware of the difficulties cyclists face and that the roads are for all to share, a revision of the driving test and tougher penalties for dangerous driving causing death or injury. The introduction of mandatory safe passing distances and stiffer penalties are needed desperately, because at the moment cyclists are seen as fair game.

For other information about NZ poor road death and injury statistics see “Road death toll increases” and “NZ’s roads described as killing fields”

See also our post: Facebook group set up in memory of Mia Pusch and other posts tagged Mia Pusch.

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New Zealand A Great Place To Raise Kids? Porirua's Midnight Express


New Zealand is a great place to raise kids.

That's the reason that many people cite for wanting to relocate their families to New Zealand, or they'll say that NZ is a place where 'kids can be kids for longer' but how realistic are those aspirations and what's life really like for young people?

Children in New Zealand get a pretty raw deal - the country is ranked joint third in the world by UNICEF for the highest number of child maltreatment deaths (1.2 per 100,000 children) only the US and Mexico have more. Young young people also feature highly in crime statistics, both as perpetrators and victims.

Kiwi youth suffer some of the worst health outcomes in the developed world. New Zealand youth have higher rates of mental illness, suicide, teen pregnancy and suffered more injuries than young people in other OECD countries. (source)

In addition to an alarming teen suicide rate kids also have a problem with alcohol. So much so that the Chief Coroner says he is shocked and frustrated by the high number of very young teens (some as young as 13) who drink themselves to death in New Zealand. It’s another symptom of the country’s hard drinking/binge drinking culture and a bored, disaffected youth.

One thing we've noticed over the last year or so are the increasing numbers of children involved in violent crimes such as armed robberies and muggings. The latest of which was the gang of teenagers that held up the Ranui Food Bar and Takeaway with hammers and a gun in West Auckland last night, just as the shop was closing at 9pm. Their ill gotten gains included of all things a fresh stock of ice creams from a freezer. (source)

"...A girl wearing a cap and hoodie pulled over her face pointed a gun at owner Yunan Zheng, who was vacuuming the front of the shop.

"The girl with the gun said, 'Hurry up, give us some money'," Zheng said.

Two others brandished hammers as they rushed into the shop and filled backpacks with icecreams from a freezer.

One tried to take cash from the till but was unable to open the drawer.

The group were caught on security camera, but wore hoods pulled over their head, and scarves or T-shirts wrapped around their faces.

Zheng said at least three of the robbers were girls, and suspected two were the same pair who robbed the shop on New Year's Eve, when they made off with cash from the till.

The two robberies were the first incidents in five years at the Swanson Rd business..." more

The Herald went on to remind its readers that shops had been robbed by sweet toothed gangs of armed kids before in Auckland:

"It's not the first time young offenders have held up Auckland shopowners for lollies (ed. sweets) and icecreams.

In March last year three boys robbed the Edendale Superette in central Auckland at gunpoint, filling a bag with icecreams and chocolate and taking cigarettes and about $400 in cash.

Shopkeeper Shazia Hussain was alone in the shop with her two-month-old baby at the time.

The boys had been captured on security camera in the shop earlier that day with their faces uncovered."

But sometimes these gangs of kids become excessively violent and injure their victims, and they're not all looking for lollies and icecreams either as other recent robberies have demonstrated:

Asian businessman Richard Tang was stabbed eight times by a gang of bandana wearing youths who stormed into his dairy in Papakura, they escaped with just $200.

In Papkura a gang of five kids (two aged 17 and three aged 14) held a pistol to the head of Ben Sun as they robbed his dairy in New Plymouth.

Pregnant woman, Mrs Sarah Fergusson, was robbed by a 16 year old youth wielding a knife at her fruit and vegetable shop, also in New Plymouth.

The rise in youth offending has been attributed to the breakdown of family life in certain areas of New Zealand, the effects of the recession, grinding poverty and kids being treated far too leniently by the justice system.

There's an excellent feature article written by Matt Calman in the Dominion Post, in which he talks about The Midnight Express that patrols the streets of Porirua (an area popular with western immigrants) their mission is to keep youth - mainly between 11 and 18 - safe in the "unsociable" hours of the night and early morning.

It's worth reading the entire article, if you dare. We'd consider it to be mandataory if you have children and are thinking of moving them to NZ for a 'better life'.

If you're already living there, what are your kids doing this evening?

"It's a Safe Ride on the Midnight Express"

...Ms Barnden says every time the team heads out, there is the potential for danger but it is not the youth they fear. "It's not actually the kids that are dangerous. It's the environment. We don't know who does carry a knife. It's purely because there's no structure at night."

It ticks past 11pm as the van drives past the three teenage girls huddling beside the Hill 16 bar. One yells out: "Get lost Midnight!"

"...When they reach Calliope Park the youth workers leave the van for about an hour and chat to a 20member group aged mainly 15 and 16. As they arrive, two drunken teenage girls stumble, arm-in-arm, towards their friends gathered in the dark near the play equipment. The park is one of the most popular meeting points for youth in Porirua East...

...Ms Barnden says the main threat to youth late at night is from adults, particularly a small number of suspected sexual predators they have seen approaching teens.

The youth workers carry suspect- description forms, provided by a security firm, and take details of potential offenders to pass on to police.

When they see these men talking to the teens they will enter the conversation so the men know they have been noticed.

One man in his late 40s or early 50s carries a motorcycle helmet and tells teens he is a tramper from Titahi Bay. He offers them cigarettes and his jacket and carries $200 cash with him...

"He plays cat and mouse with intoxicated girls," Ms Barnden says. "Apparently he has been seen in Johnsonville now."

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