Global Connections. Foxton, NZ

Bar-tailed GodwitPhoto Credit: Andreas Trepte

At a recent work gathering, we were told about a site in the Manawatu-Wanganui Region of international significance. A so-called Ramsar site located at Foxton Beach, roughly two hours north of New Zealand’s capital, Wellington. Apparently the name Ramsar comes from the city where a conference was held to decide on these internationally significant sites – along the same lines as the Kyoto Protocol of which we often hear.

This particular site is the southern migratory destination of the Bar-tailed Godwit which makes the journey from sites located in Mongolia, Siberia, and Alaska in the Northern Hemisphere. What makes this all the more special is the fact that these birds are not sea-birds; meaning that – while they have a single stop off on their journey between these sites – they have no feeding ground along the way. Approximately 90,000 birds make this journey twice each year (although, there are other species of migratory birds that can also be found at this site).

Work is being undertaken at each location to maintain the site, and control other predatory wildlife to protect the Bar-tailed Godwit and its habitat. We were fortunate enough to witness some of the pest-control initiatives underway at Foxton Beach.

Horizons Regional Council, which oversees the environmental protection across the Manawatu-Wanganui Region, runs various plant and animal pest control programs. Animal pests include possum, stoat, weasel, ferret and rat species. The Mustelid varieties are the focus of attention at this Ramsar site.

The work underway at Foxton Beach includes some new initiatives designed to engage the community in a much more tangible and long-lasting way. This initiative, in a large part, owes its origins to the work of John Girling from the Wildlife Foxton Trust1. John approached Horizons Regional Council via its public submission process. Within six weeks, Horizons and the Wildlife Foxton Trust had begun work within the community, engaging volunteers to manage set traps, and working with Foxton Beach School.

The work with the school involves pupils “adopting” a trap, designing and painting a message on it, and keeping a tally of what pests have been trapped in it. The innovation here is three-fold:

  • Decorative traps are less likely to be accidentally run-over or destroyed
  • School pupils involvement should reduce the likely of traps being vandalised (hopefully piquing the conscience of would-be vandals because children are involved)
  • Pupils have increased awareness of the natural value of their community’s environment

In learning about all of this, it struck me that – even in these times of increased ‘connectedness’ at a global level – there are far flung places across our planet that have been connected, in the natural world, for thousands of years. It’s heartening to see communities and local government working together to protect these key habitats. Huge props to all involved.

This is true global connectivity.


  1. Donations to Wildlife Foxton Trust can be made via their website. I have no affiliation with Wildlife Foxton Trust. 

Interesting realisation today.

I was investigating the use of an iPad, Bluetooth keyboard, Jump Desktop+Swiftpoint GT mouse as a replacement for thin clients at work. This includes connecting up to an external 1920×1080 display via the Apple Digital AV Adaptor.

Previously, we’d had trouble doing this as most users baulked at not having a mouse but having to use the touchscreen instead. With the addition of a Swiftpoint GT bluetooth mouse, this may now be a reality.

I also tried using my iPhone 6S Plus instead of an iPad and it worked great too. I even paired a Bluetooth headset to the iPhone and was able to make a call via Siri – while still accessing the RDP session with mouse+keyboard. *Very* cool – and something I’ve been dreaming of for a while.

We’ve got an HP Elite x3 and Continuum dock coming later this year to test this same capability with and see which would present less friction for the users.

Anyways, back story aside, this kind of thing really spins my wheels – I love seeing technology be able to be used to help people and do things in clever ways.

Not an unsurprising declaration coming from a technology geek.

The interesting realisation occurred after this, in a meeting between two teams who have embarked on a journey of increased collaboration and working together. We had a wonderfully useful time; sharing concerns, ideas and efficiencies. I realised then that this *also* spun my wheels – seeing people coming together for a common goal to provide better service to our mutual customers.

Managing people working together has become just as rewarding to me as gadgetry. Excellent.

"Keep Religion out of Schools"… a follow up

Today, we have an interesting development in the ongoing skirmish between some parents and school boards who have allowed the volunteer-run “Bible-in-schools” Programme into their schools.
The article in question appeared on the Stuff website this morning. You can read it here.

It tells the story of a father who successfully campaigned the Human Rights Commission to have the school move Bible class from school time. The school has moved the class to a lunch time session instead (arguably still “outside of school hours”) but that is not good enough.

The school has abided by the intent of the ruling – if not the letter – and it is still not enough. Being so intent on not having something they disagree with in the school, they’ll campaign to remove the right to choose from the other two groups of people involved – those who want the classes, and those who don’t mind them all. I’d warrant that the latter group is actually the larger of the three..

It would seem, then, that the problem isn’t with the Programme being run inside school time at all but that it is even being run.

Another fallacious argument I have been given is that, by allowing these programmes, it is “state-sanctioning of Christianity” and, here’s the kicker, that “it is discriminatory in that no other religion outside Christianity is permitted to come in and teach at these times.” (This is the single part of Peter Harrison’s comment on my previous post with which I do not agree.)

I have not heard of, nor have I seen any articles regarding, other religions outside Christianity not being permitted to come to schools – at this or any other time. In fact, there was a case of a North Shore school which spent actual school funds building a prayer room for their Muslim students. No outcry from the “Keep Religion out of Schools” folks over that one I might add.

It certainly looks more like the other religions are busy doing things that are important to them rather than wanting to do this and being excluded from entry.

Please, if anyone has some real proof that other religions are not allowed, let me know in the comments below. Oh and, if you feel the need to post some snarky response and that makes you feel better, be my guest.

"Keep Religion Out of Schools" …. unless it’s my Religion

This morning, I read the article entitled “Kids ‘punished’ for opting out of bible class” over on the TVNZ news site.

I have met Peter Harrison and respect him greatly. He has done (and, no doubt, continues to do) many excellent things for the Free/Libre Software movement in NZ. A man with wonderful debating skills – and a passion for what he believes in.

I must admit, I also thought him to be a much more rational man than the above article would suggest.

Surely if a child is feeling ‘punished’ when opting out of any class – be it religious, sport or whatever the context – that should be the responsibility of the school to correct, rather than whoever is running the programme being opted out of? Should the facilitators of said programme provide the 2nd class for those who’s parents have opted them out? Would those parents not also protest that class?

But no, the answer – as presented by the comments in the above article – is to cancel the programme entirely. To me, this shows some larger motive underlying the comments rather than what you might expect – which is evidenced by Peter’s Facebook group.

The larger issue appears to be that having the option to opt-out of something we don’t agree with is no longer enough – we now have to campaign to have that which doesn’t line up with our beliefs, expunged entirely from existence. This harks back to many nasty periods of mankind’s history (some – though not all, and certainly not as many as popularly portrayed – perpetuated in the name of God).

I am certainly not accusing Peter himself of wanting these periods of history repeated, but that does seem the common end to this train of thinking.

(For what it’s worth, I find it surprising that any biblically based teaching would say that “dinosaurs don’t exist” – there are, in fact, many references to ‘dinosaur’ like creatures in God’s “archaic document”.)

[EDIT 5th Feb 2014: Gosh, this certainly generated some interesting comments. I had thought the title of this post was self-explanatory but it appears easily twisted to mean something else. Of course, I was referring to the Secular-Humanism religion which is obviously not the focus of being kept out of schools.

Anyways, I decided to leave all the comments and not delete any of them as I think they tell a good story. There was even one on the Facebook group page from someone saying ‘look – this guy says he’s a Christian – he obviously has an ulterior motive!’. Ironic.

Also, many thanks to Peter for his well reasoned and logical comment – which I mostly agree with – in which he was able to expand on what the media was presenting.]

a poem..

My lovely wife wrote this poem for me – I wanted to share it with ‘the world’.

If I asked for you to hold my hand
And sit with me a while
If I asked for you to see my heart
And breathe with me
If I asked for you to hold
all that I hold, very dear
And cradle it
And keep it safe
Protect it from my fear
I hope you know that I would too
Embrace your humble soul
Comforting and keeping you
For our life makes me whole.

a donkey by any other name

When I first joined Twitter, back in July 2009, I was somewhat disappointed to find that the closest I could get to my nickname of choice, was nz_d0nk3y. (IRL my nickname is Donkey – after the annoying talking smart ass from Shrek).

Recently, due to two years of inactivity, I managed to score the twitter nickname I wanted. Now, I am @donkey – the only ‘real’ donkey in the world! Muwahhahhaa! (well, on twitter anyway – and it also now matches my account over at identi.ca).

It’s been an interesting ride since then with all sorts of extra followers – like, apparently real people rather than the obviously fake accounts that new followers invariably are.

This past weekend however, it got even crazier.

A couple of tweets came in from some people I’d never heard of – obviously with a friend called ‘Donkey’. I normally wait for it to die down and then reply to them all with a Donkey quote from Shrek – just for a laugh – which I also did in this case. A little later, I noticed that I suddenly had about ~25-30 more followers which seemed odd.

Even stranger was the fact that they were all young ladies – and all from Canada (Oh, Canada). One of them happened to mention a name that had shown up in all of the tweets I’d received earlier. On closer inspection, this twitter account had nearly 140K followers and appeared to be some kind of celebrity.

Turns out this fellow, Jacob Hoggard had been a contestant in Canadian Idol and had gone on to front a band called Hedley.

Apparently, they have a friend called Sean (who also has the nickname ‘Donkey’), and it was he whom all these people had mistaken me for. The new young female Canadian followers continue to arrive at a rate of a couple a day – a few which I have conversed with (Kirsten; Marylou; Tricia) , all of which seem wonderfully nice and very friendly.

Isn’t it interesting the things that happen when you throw millions of people from all around the world into an online community – shared names, perceived shared experiences, mistaken identities and all…