Mahurangi Matters, October 2015 – Readers Letters

Festival founders

Ken Fearnley

I read with interest Judy Waters’ brief article on the beginnings of the Kowhai Festival. The festival was really the brainchild of Jack Keys; Jack was a very modest man and would never have claimed to be the inventor.

Jack was the driving force, the energy and the creator of the festival. Back in 1970 almost anything done around Warkworth was done by the three main service clubs: Lions, Rotary and Jaycee. Jaycee’s was the most active of the three service clubs, its very nature – young men aged between 18 years and 40 years – ensured the energy required for its many projects. Jack came to me, a member of Jaycee in mid 1970, with the Kowhai Festival idea. He knew that if Jaycee would support the idea, then the other clubs would follow suit.

Jaycee’s got behind the festival with great enthusiasm. A Kowhai Festival committee was formed, its members made up of the three service clubs. I was voted chairman and Jack, representing Rotary, was secretary. It was decided to have a week of fun. We had no money, but didn’t see that as a problem as each event would be self funded or provided by its promoter. My favourite event was the Old Time Music Hall, each of the artists came from the local community, the Town Hall was packed out, beer served and there was much laughter to accompany it. One act has stuck in my memory. The artist was Gordon Cummings, the local Traffic Officer.

Gordon strode up to the microphone and began to sing. The hall went silent as each person there was enthralled by his wonderful singing voice. When he finished the applause nearly brought the roof down. The festival’s beginning took many hours of dedicated activity from those on the committee and the many clubs, organisations and individuals involved. It is wonderful to see the result of those who dedicated so much time and effort to get it off the ground, develop into something that gives so many a great deal of pleasure.

Rodeo wrangling

Paul Grimmer, Warkworth

I write to commend your balanced and informative report, in the September 16 copy of your paper, of events at the Rodney Local Board, when the Warkworth Rodeo Club had to defend the running of the 2014 ball riding competition and the annual Warkworth Rodeo.

The opponents of the Warkworth Rodeo rely very heavily on a propaganda campaign against any event where animals are ridden or handled in public. The first rule of propaganda (best example from the past is the Nazi Command Staff of the Third Reich) is to tell a lie so loudly, and so constantly, that eventually the lie distorts into the truth.

This is their modus operandi at any rodeo event.

They train long-range video cameras (with microphones and timers attaches) at the chute areas of the stockyards, and to all events in the arena.

After the event has finished, they painstakingly trawl through the video footage, slowed down to a frame-by-frame analysis.

If there is foot contact between a competitor and an animal it is branded as vicious kicking. If there is hand contact between a competitor and an animal the label changes to vicious punching.

If in the yards/chutes area they have video evidence that an electric cattle handling device (used by every driver of a livestock transport truck in NZ) is used judiciously and wisely to guide an animal and to prevent it from hurting itself or other animals, the cry from these people changes to evidence of sustained torture of an animal by means of electric shock.

I will make three predictions:
1: Rodney Local Board members Thomas Grace, Steven Garner and James Colville will all be returned to office with heavily increased majorities, after showing wisdom and rural empathy over this matter, at next year’s local government elections.
2: Weather permitting, this year’s bull riding competition and annual Warkworth Rodeo will both be held as normal and there will be record crowds at both events.
3:Although the Anti-Rodeo Action NZ group will no doubt attend both events, and they will have complete video footage for their evidence, and no doubt staff at the Ministry for Primary Industries will again have to process claims of breaches of the welfare code, no person will be named and shamed and there will be no prosecutions for ill treatment of livestock by either competitor or stock handler of the Warkworth Rodeo staff.

Rodeo retort

Ross Miller, Algies Bay

I entirely agree with Elizabeth Foster. Rodeo is manifest sustained cruelty to animals, and should be halted for that reason alone.

There is also the utterly pathetic factor – blokes dressed up in cowboy gear, the whole pseudo culture of Texas and kicking up dust, stunted adolescence.

May the rodeo go the way of bear baiting and cock fighting – along with other mindless blood sports such as bull fighting, dog fighting and boxing. We are better than that … or should be.

Geert Keyaerts, Matakana

Dear car and truck drivers on our horrible Rodney gravel roads, May I ask you to slow down when you see a cycler, runner or walker on these 3rd world country roads?

It would be great to be able to keep breathing while we are exercising or simply getting from A to B.

That little sign of respect is much appreciated.

Thanks a million.

Bumpy ride
Robert Judd, Takatu

Takatu Road is again a challenge for locals and Tawharanui Park visitors alike. Somebody has sprinkled some surface gravel in many of the bad areas in general, but the potholes remain. Please bring on the long promised upgrade!

Rodeo ban supported
Elizabeth Foster, Whangateau

With reference to the article on rodeos (MM Sep 2) I noted with concern the ill-informed and flippant remarks by two Local Board members. In view of my experience and qualifications I would hope to see an immediate ban.I have a lifetime’s association with animals including farm stock and horses. Until quite recently I was a foundation member of NZ’s largest Animal Ethics Committee which wrote most of the rules for ethical treatment of research animals on farms. Any treatment on farm bearing any resemblance to rodeo behaviour would result in severe censure and ending of trials.

There can be no justification for using fear and pain in animals to entertain people. It amazes me that we ban such use of animals in circuses but find it acceptable in the much more deliberate form of cruelty at rodeos.

These animals, especially cattle, are herd animals who experience extreme fear and stress when thrown alone into a ring in what equates to a predator/prey situation.

Horses and bulls experience the same fear and are goaded with the use of straps, electric prods and spurs to encourage them to “perform” in a manner, which is completely unnatural.

Proponents of this activity will not tell the truth about the effects and the means used as they have a vested interest. There is no equivalent behaviour in animal husbandry on any modern farm in this country. Perhaps we should also consider the welfare of those animals used on farms for practising these “skills” where there is no oversight of their treatment. These events have no place in a civilised society.

More comments about the rodeo online

Tree choice questioned
Maureen Young, Warkworth

Auckland Council employs several competent botanists, so I wonder why the parks department doesn’t consult with them before they plant inappropriately?

On the surrounds of the nice new foot bridge, between Birdsall and Ashton Roads, at Whangateau, there has been mass planting of an exotic rush, Juncus effusus, a couple of Kermadec pohutukawas, a purple flax and a kauri. The kauri, on finding itself planted on the edge of a saltmarsh, has understandably turned up its toes.

I also wonder at the planting of dozens of Queensland kauri (Agathis robusta) at Silverdale, Orewa, and now in the park on the new part of Alnwick Street, Warkworth. While the Queensland kauri grows into a very handsome tree, the wisdom of planting so many trees that are closely related to our native kauri (Agathis australis) must be questioned.

I don’t know if this would increase the danger of kauri dieback, but has any work been done on the ability of the two species to hybridise?

My enquiries about the plantings came up with the answer that people like to see kauri trees, and as the native kauri doesn’t make a good specimen tree, the Queensland kauri has been planted in its place. This is a very strange viewpoint, and we have many suitable native trees that could be used instead. Even exotic trees such as plane trees would be preferable.

Also planted at Alnwick Street is the kowhai, Sophora fulvida. This species grows only on volcanic soils at Raglan, the Waitakere coast, Maunganui Bluff and Whangarei Heads. Our local species of kowhai is Sophora chathamica. As far back as the 1970s Dr. Eric Godley, then director of the Botany division of the DSIR, pointed out the folly of planting mixed species of kowhai in Warkworth leading to the possibility of genetic pollution in the naturally occurring species.