Home' Greymouth Star : November 7th 2014 Contents T
o grasp the
anomalousness of the haka,
it helps to transplant it
beyond a rugby context.
Take the United States
basketball team’s recent
World Cup match against New Zealand,
the wonderfully-named Tall Blacks. The
expression on the faces of Derrick Rose,
Kyrie Irving and company as the ancient
tribal dance unfolded in front of them
spoke not of quavering fear, or steely let-
us-see -what-you-have defiance, but utter
They could not have looked any more
perplexed than if they had just been
treated to an a cappella rendition of
Yankee Doodle by Dame Kiri Te Kanawa.
The blank response was not quite what
the New Zealanders had in mind. For
if nothing else the haka is orchestrated
to stoke fear in the breast of an
opponent, thus eking out a priceless early
It is meant, as the throat-slitting gesture
sometimes used as a final flourish makes
abundantly clear, to be a declaration of
war. But if all it elicits in the uninitiated is
blank incredulity, then what is the point?
Increasingly, the ritual is drifting
from any kind of sporting relevance,
becoming instead a theatrically-rendered
cultural curiosity. It will trigger the usual
paroxysms of excitement at Twickenham
on Saturday — and it is, I confess, sterling
entertainment — but we are suckers for
the choreography rather than the message
it sends. One might argue that the
acrobats of Cirque du Soleil could induce
much the same reaction, just without the
I realise that every Maori curse in the
book will be arrayed against me for the
cheek of that comparison.
For the All Blacks regard their beloved
haka with the utmost reverence, as a
sacrosanct ancestral performance, rousing
the players into a frenzy for the realities of
Given it has been included in every New
Zealand rugby international since 1888,
they reser ve their right to stage it with
But when 15 savage men in black are
threatening to cut your throat — and this
is certainly how the ‘Kapa o Pango’ haka
appears, regardless of composer Derek
Lardelli’s insistence that the offending
motion is a Maori symbol of drawing
energy into the body — it ought also to
come with the right to reply.
The trouble is that whenever the
opposing team invokes this, it leads to
the most frightful diplomatic mess. At
the women’s World Cup in 2010, the
Australians dared to advance on the haka
by a few half-hearted steps and were
promptly fined £1000 ($NZ2069) by the
International Rugby Board. Granted,
Richard Cockerill looked like an idiot
when he went nose-to-nose with Norm
Hewitt at Old Trafford in 1997, but he
resented, understandably, the notion that
he should just stand there like a lemon
while a presumptuous New Zealander
signalled the desire to tear him limb from
Taking a righteous stand never works,
though, where the haka is concerned.
The Welsh Rugby Union tried it in 2006,
demanding that the All Blacks ensured
the dance was all over and done with by
the time Land of My Fathers was heard.
This, after all, is how it is supposed
to be — the visitors deferring to the
hosts, accepting that the Welsh have
the prerogative to put their own anthem
on last. Instead New Zealand, with
that strange air of entitlement, threw
a spectacular fit of pique, refusing to
conduct the haka on the field and agreeing
only to release a video of them doing so in
the dressing room.
A sense built that the haka was, when all
the earnestness about its symbolism was
stripped away, merely a form of arrogant
For it stands alone in sport as a unilateral
statement of intent, to which no challenge
Again the All Blacks complained
loudly when the Welsh decided, in 2008,
that the best riposte to the haka was to
stand motionless and stare. This, too, was
depicted as a grotesque insult to their
All of which begs the question: what
exactly is the right way to react to such a
provocative call to arms? Brian O’Driscoll
ventured this very point when he was
made Lions captain in New Zealand
in 2005, and was told gravely by Maori
elders that his best course of action was
to toss a few blades of grass in the air.
Well, that did him the power of good.
Fifteen minutes later he had his shoulder
dislocated in an illegal spear tackle and
was ruled out of the entire tour.
The haka, sadly, is hidebound by political
correctness, such is the terror at executive
level of offending the world’s No 1 side.
The IRB are even understood to have
protocols decreeing that the All Blacks’
adversaries should not encroach within
10m of the venerable act.
It all adds to the suspicion that the
haka is, for all its vibrancy as a spectacle,
scarcely more than a circus display these
days. For England’s players on Saturday,
the temptation must be to follow the
example of Australian great David
Campese, who would absent-mindedly
kick a ball around in his own 22 while the
haka blew itself out.
Its sheer stage-management is of a piece
with the creeping commercialisation of the
All Blacks — what better way to beguile
an American audience, or to satisfy shirt
sponsors AIG at the match they mandated
in Chicago last weekend, than with a mass
Most would-be converts in the US,
however, seem to share their basketball
stars’ view. Namely, that the haka is now
less a part of the sporting fabric than an
exotic sideshow. — New Zealand Herald
There is no doubt scientists had a lot of
luck on their side in discovering a critter
from the age of dinosaurs that rewrites
our understanding of the history of early
The researchers say they unearthed in
Madagascar the fossil of a remarkable
creature resembling a big groundhog that
lived about 66 million years ago and, at
about 9kg, was enormous compared to
most other mammals of the Mesozoic Era.
Judging from a wonderfully preser ved
skull with a bizarre set of features, it was
an active plant eater with strong jaws, keen
sense of smell, well-developed hearing and
terrific eyesight under low light conditions,
It is named Vintana sertichi. Vintana
means luck in the Malagasy language,
referring to the fortuitous circumstances
behind how it was found.
During 2010 excavations in Madagascar,
the researchers collected a 68kg block of
sandstone chock-full of fish fossils. They
used a CT scan at Stony Brook University
in New York state to peer inside. As luck
would have it, they saw more than just fish.
“ We were astounded to see a mammal
skull staring back at us on the screen,”
Stony Brook University paleontologist
David Krause, who led the study published
in the journal Nature, said.
“It was dawning on me that I was
experiencing the most incredible bit of
luck I had ever been part of,” Joe Groenke,
Krause’s technician and the first to view
the CT images, added.
Groenke spent half a year extracting the
12.5cm long skull from the sandstone, one
sand grain at a time.
Krause called Vintana the second-
largest mammal known from the age of
dinosaurs, when most mammals were
shrew-sized, behind only the badger-
like Repenomamus from earlier in
the Cretaceous Period. Vintana lived
immediately before the dinosaurs were
wiped out by an asteroid that struck Earth,
a disaster that paved the way for mammals
to dominate the land.
Vintana is a member of a poorly
understood group of primitive mammals
called gondwanatherians that lived on the
southern supercontinent of Gondwana and
until now was known only from isolated
teeth and jaw fragments.
Its well-preser ved skull, though lacking
the lower jaw, provided the first good
evidence of this group’s lifestyle and its
relationships to other early mammals.
Its skull boasts a combination of
primitive features and advanced ones like a
cheek bone with a dagger-like feature for
attachment of massive chewing muscles
like in an Ice Age giant ground sloth. Its
down-turned snout resembles a walrus. It
has huge eye-sockets, a big nasal cavity and
fairly small braincase.
“Throw together some anatomical
features from ancient mammal-like
reptiles, Pleistocene ground sloths, an
extant rodent and maybe a few bits and
pieces from the Muppets on ‘Sesame
Street ’ and you might get something that
resembles the cranium of Vintana,” Krause
It is only distantly related to today ’s
mammals and was not a member of any
of the three existing groups: placentals,
marsupials and monotremes. “It is one
of those evolutionary experiments in
‘mammalness’ that did not make it,” Krause
said. — Reuters
4 - Friday, November 7, 2014
We appreciate the value of the Letters to the Editor
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uLetters to the editor
1659 - Peace of the Pyrenees is reached
between Spain and France.
1807 - Russia breaks off relations with
1861 - Archer wins the first
1910 - Death of Count Leo
Tolstoy, Russian novelist who wrote
War and Peace and Anna Karenina.
1920 - Serious famine reported in
1965 - British model Jean
Shrimpton wows Derby Day racing crowds by
wearing a mini-skirt.
1975 - India’s Supreme Court reverses Prime
Minister Indira Gandhi’s conviction on two
1988 - Powerful earthquake just inside
China’s mountainous southern border kills 600
1995 - Three American ser vicemen plead
guilty to raping a 12-year-old Okinawan
uWest Coast yesteryear
uToday in history
Marie Curie, French scientist (1867-1934);
Leon Trotsky, Russian Communist leader
(1879-1940); Albert Camus, Algerian-born
French novelist and philosopher
(1913-1960); Billy Graham, US
evangelist (1918-); Barry Newman,
US actor (1938-); Johnny Rivers,
US singer (1942-); Joni Mitchell,
Canadian folk singer (1943-);
Christopher Knight, US actor of
Brady Bunch fame (1957-); David
Guetta, French DJ (1967-); Mark
Philippoussis, Australian tennis player (1976-);
Tinie Tempah, English rapper and producer
“ Examine what is said, not him who speaks.”
— Arab proverb.
“ You may say to yourself, ‘My power and
the strength of my hands have produced this
wealth for me’. But remember the Lord your
God, for it is He who gives you the ability to
produce wealth. ” — Deuteronomy 8:17-18a.
conference held in
Greymouth has, in
the words of one of its
chief executives, “gone like a bomb”. Mr A D
Smith, secretary of the New Zealand Hospital
Engineers’ Association, told a Greymouth Star
reporter this morning that “there has never been
a better conference” held by his profession.
The conference concluded yesterday with
general discussion after the delivery of a paper
by Mr C J M Choat. Mr Smith said the Coast
“had really lived up to its name” for hospitality
to the conference visitors.
Conference visitors had also been most
impressed after a tour of the Greymouth
Hospital yesterday. The engineers were
enthusiastic about the boiler plant there and the
way it had been planned. Mr Smith said it was
as good as any of its kind in the country.
Chains are quite useless in deterring
Greymouth pedestrians from using the
defuct crossings at the Tainui-Mackay street
intersections in the town’s business area.
Although the two crossings, from Hay ’s
corner to the Dominion Hotel and from the
Commercial Bank to Begg’s, were moved back
many yards from the intersection, the people just
went on jay-walking at the old spots.
So ... the Greymouth Borough Council at last
decided to restore the situation. The crossings
were painted back yesterday morning. A
triumph for public stubbornness.
Tones.— On November 5, 1964, at McBrearty
Annexe, to Pat and Bruce — a daughter; both
Blenkiron.— On November 6, 1964, at
McBrearty Annexe, to Natalie and John, a son;
uFood for thought
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Pike River decision
A name change for the State coalminer
might well be in order. ‘Spineless Energy’
is more appropriate given its decision not
to re-enter the Pike River drift.
The entity may as well surrender all its
underground licences while they are at it,
as working within the coal measures, as
opposed to walking up a stone drift, is far
Methinks the history of a couple
of Aussies closely involved with the
decision-making process, has overly
influenced the outcome.
Through your column I would like to
ask the Grey District Council when are
they going to fix the road in Shakespeare
Street, between Marlborough Street and
Marsden Road? This piece of road on
the left-hand side heading south is in a
shocking mess ever since they put the
new sewer pipes in.
You drive down this piece of road and
you are bouncing all over the place. This
piece of road should have been put back
the way it was. It was never like it is
now, and it can do damage to your wheel
alignment on your car.
It seems to me that the council has
never looked at this road after the work
was finished, and if they had looked at it,
it would not have been left in this state.
1080 conf licts
The West Coast Regional Council
deliberately withheld information from
its ratepayers over the proposed 1080
poison factory in Rolleston because they
knew how contentious this decision
Chris Ingle said, “ The West Coast is
open for business,” but what kind of
business? The council’s business is our
business, and they are also aware that the
majority of ratepayers do not want a bar
In fact, we do not want Ospri-Tb Free
in the same building as the council,
either, using the facilities and staff
sharing — this is already a conflict of
Chris Ingle also said that “DOC’s
‘Battle for Our Birds’ had nothing to do
with the Rolleston investment ”. The plans
had been in place since the Parliamentary
Commissioner for the Environment
convinced DOC in 2011, “they need to
use more 1080,” and cranked the poison
machine up several notches.
It is an inhumane, unsafe, disgraceful
industry and people are getting poisoned
from it. The two women from Reefton are
still very sick, I believe from a 1080 aerial
operation at Kokiri in May that they did
not know was happening, on a public
road and minding their own business, as
is their right.
These women had the helicopter in
their faces, dusting them directly. The
dust is probably the most toxic part of the
operation. There is lots of it and it gets
into airways, eyes, skin and affects major
organs. It spreads itself up to 2km outside
GPS boundaries, all over trees (that is
how bees and other nectar eaters get it)
and you, if you are exposed to it.
We have written to the medical
officer of health and the Environmental
Protection Agency repeatedly about the
dangers of this 1080 dust.
Why, when these women were, in
my view, clearly poisoned, ignored and
initially dismissed as being in the “wrong
place”? There is no wrong place. We have
freedom of movement and there are so
many operations happening you just
cannot be in a ‘right’ place.
Was there concern and responsible
behaviour shown to these women? No.
Did Tb Free offer to pay for blood tests
and medical care? No. In fact, why did
not Cheryl Brunton, the medical officer
of health, at the highest point of the
consent process, not launch an immediate
inquiry and investigation?
It had to come from a doctor, new to
the area, who knew nothing about these
We have the right not to be poisoned
and-or affected by a poison policy using a
class A toxin that is being dropped on the
heads of our people and spread all over
This is an industry that breaches
several government Acts: the Resource
Management Act, the Animal Cruelty
Act, the Wildlife Act and Human Rights.
Kumara Environmental Action Group
Council’s $7m fund
I refer to your two front page articles
(Greymouth Star, November 4), that both
contain incorrect statements.
Both front page articles state that the
four councils were each given $7 million
as compensation, and $120 million was
provided to set up Development West
The truth is, that a total of $120m was
gifted to the West Coast to offset the job
losses that occurred with the West Coast
Accord being legislated out of existence.
Out of the $120m came $28m, divided
equally between the West Coast ’s three
territorial councils and one regional
This left $92m to set up the West Coast
I also remember the strict guidelines the
then settlor, Michael Cullen, laid down
for the $7m each council received, on
how the gift was to be used.
I was a bit surprised to see that the 25th
anniversary motorcycle street races could
only manage page 8 of the Star.
Is there an event that brings more
people into the town or fills more motel
rooms? If there is, then I must have
Motorcycle street races are a rare event,
especially when they have such a great
safety record and involve such a large
amount of voluntary labour.
The icing on the cake is the fact that the
motorbike crowd is always well behaved
and leaves little rubbish behind (unlike so
many other large events).
The races were on the Sunday of Labour
Weekend and due to the holiday we did
not publish again until the afternoon of
the Tuesday, by which time it was not
front page news. We did publish a full
page of photographs of the action. While
we agree that the street racing is a great
event for the town, high-octane bike
racing is not everyone’s cup of tea.
An artist’s impression of the head of Vintana sertichi beside the skull found in
Prehistoric groundhog mix of Muppet, rodent
Ahead of the All Blacks v England match at Twickenham this weekend, the chief sport writer at Britain’s Daily Telegraph, OLIVER BROWN, has attacked
the All Blacks’ use of the haka. Far from being a vibrant display of power, it is, he writes, “hidebound by political correctness, such is the terror at executive level
of offending the world’s No 1 side”. Brown has form — he caused upset last year when he revealed the motivational mantra on the All Blacks’ team-room wall
ahead of an All Blacks-England clash. The Herald re-posted his piece on the haka.
Haka ‘circus display’
The haka has been described as an ‘exotic sideshow’ by a British writer ahead of the All Blacks match against England this weekend.
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