Home' Greymouth Star : January 17th 2019 Contents Greymouth Star
In the Garden
6 - Thursday, January 17, 2019
with Gillian Vine
ccording to Ngai
early flowering of
ti kouka (cabbage
trees) will forecast
a long, hot
I obser ved the early and prolific
blooming a couple of years ago
before a hot, dry January, so the
trees (Cordyline australis) clearly
knew what to expect.
Last year, November and
December were so wet most of us
were not looking up but if you did
and saw lots of blossom, it bodes
well for this month’s weather.
Captain James Cook is given
credit for the common name,
cabbage tree, having fed his crew
on the boiled inner leaves. The
name has stuck, although ti kouka
is more attractive. Sometimes
translated as footprints in the
landscape, it refers to the Maori
practice of planting C australis as
route markers. As the trees can
live for hundreds of years, some of
these early road signs still exist.
Ti kouka had other uses. The
tap roots were har vested when the
trees were in bloom and roasted
to produce a form of sugar; starch
came from steamed trunks; while
the leaves were used to make a
skin salve, for sandals and a strong
rope that was more resistant to sea
water than flax fibre.
There now are many cultivated
forms with variegated stripes of
pink, purple, lemon, cream and
green. Smaller varieties are suitable
for containers, while taller ones like
C australis Purpurea and green and
white Albertii are fine landscaping
plants for bigger gardens.
Some hybrids use different
species, notably C pumilio — a
short, grass-like plant from the
northern half of the North Island
— a nd C banksii, the forest
cabbage tree. C kaspar, from the
Three Kings, is a parent of the
green goddess, while red fountain
is a C pumilio-C banksii hybrid.
Ti kouka flowers in November or
December and provide nectar for
tui and bellbirds as well as some
lizards. The white fruit, seen from
March to May, is also favoured by
birds, including kereru.
One pest hits C australis, the
cabbage tree moth (Epiphryne
verriculata), one of our larger
native moths, with a wingspan
of 40mm. Beige in colour, with
attractive patterns of horizontal
stripes that make it hard to spot
on the tree trunk, their caterpillars
are green, night feeders that hit
young leaves, resulting in holes
and notches. Derris dust sprinkled
into the centre of young plants
is effective but will also kill
hoverfly lar va, which feed on small
caterpillars. Taller trees seem to be
above the moth’s flight path, for
they usually show no damage.
Read the long-range forecast
in this newspaper, then check
whether ti kouka agrees.
Cabbage trees steeped in history
Cabbage trees steeped in history
PICTURES: Gillian Vine
Cabbage tree flowers provide nectar for native and introduced birds.
Ngai Tahu believe early and heavy flowering of ti kouka signifies hot summer conditions.
hen, just prior to
Works said it was
scrapping Radio Live
and handing over
its Auckland and
Wellington FM frequencies to its music
station Magic, it appeared to throw in the
towel after years of taking a beating from its
The announcement that Magic would
become a hybrid of talk and music seemed
to lack logic and smacked of face-saving for
various hosts and managers rather than a
Over the past couple of years Radio Live
became something of a power struggle
between Newshub boss Hal Crawford and
Media Works’ head of radio Leon Wratt.
Crawford, who had charge of the station,
quite sensibly wanted to re-brand it as
Newshub Radio and integrate it more with
the news team.
Wratt wanted Radio Live’s FM frequencies
for Magic, which was handicapped by
broadcasting on AM in the key Auckland
and Wellington markets. AM and music are
not a happy mix.
Wratt won — probably because he
convinced chief executive Michael Anderson
that he could make more money out of
Magic, which plays music from the 1950s
and 1960s, if he got the FM frequencies
than could be made from a struggling
talkback station like Radio Live.
The essence of Wratt ’s plan has now
become clearer. Magic has become two
stations — music on the FM frequencies
and talk on the AM ones. The talk station
will carry a full schedule of news and
chat during the week but will switch to
mostly music at the weekends, saving it a
considerable amount of cash.
Wratt has a reputation as a Machiavellian
operator but he is also the smartest radio
manager in the country and has been for
a while. Under his watch, Media Works
stations like The Edge, The Breeze, The
Sound, More FM and Mai FM have seen
the company get on top of its competitor
NZME in the highly profitable music
Now, it looks like Wratt wants a crack
at talkback too, and he might have got his
The changes at Newstalk ZB this year
open up a window of vulnerability, albeit a
Kerre McIvor’s move from the afternoon
show to replace Leighton Smith and the
arrival of Simon Barnett and Phil Gifford
to take over her previous slot will change
the complexion of the station. Fans of
Smith’s right-wing musings might be
unsated and if any of them summon up the
energy to move the dial, then Magic Talk
has a chance.
The combination of Peter Williams and
Sean Plunket, if they can replicate a ZB
‘pace’ and not the rambling delivery that
bedevilled Radio Live, might have enough
of ‘the grumpy old white man’ factor to draw
some of the audience that is looking for
reinforcement of its own worldview.
It will be interesting to watch Williams,
who is now nearing the end of his career.
He was a highly professional broadcaster at
TVNZ but remained a rather grey, robotic
figure who brought little spark to his
Those who have worked with him say he
holds strong opinions. Wratt will be hoping
these come to the surface quickly and
Williams replaces the highly likeable but
rather bland Mark Sainsbury. Bland does
not work on talkback where provocation and
outrage are the main audience drivers.
Plunket is a very good broadcaster but
he has a habit of burning bridges with his
employers, often by openly criticising them.
When he parted ways with Radio Live
three years ago he had pretty much run
out of broadcasting options and ended up
promoting former political aspirant Gareth
Morgan and his Top party.
Whether he holds it all together this time
round will depend a lot on Magic Talk’s
new station manager, Kim Blair. If Blair
and Plunket get on the same wavelength
then the former RNZ Morning Report
host could yet be a major asset in the fight
Plunket, Williams and early morning
host Duncan Garner are all “names” but the
drive-time host Ryan Bridge is not.
The 30-something, ponytailed Bridge
seems to be the odd man out (the line-up
is all male apart from Leah Panapa 7pm
to midnight) in that there is no hint of
curmudgeon about him.
If Wratt really wanted to give it a red
hot go he would have tried to get Mark
Richardson into the drive-time slot occupied
The reality television host has become
skilled at upsetting the PC types. He would
have probably thrown too much cost into
the mix and upset the balance of the AM
show for Anderson’s liking, but he would be
Plunket and Williams would not have
been expensive acquisitions but they will not
draw publicity like Richardson would.
Wratt has another thing in his favour —
he controls the marketing budget of the
radio stations and he can enforce cross-
Radio station programme directors do
not like promoting other radio stations for
obvious reasons but Wratt and Blair can
start with Magic ’s own music programming
which is aimed at prime talkback targets —
Media Works will also use its unsold
television inventory and potentially the
billboards of QMS — the out-of-home
advertising company it recently took a stake
Newstalk ZB’s hosts enjoy a near-constant
presence in the New Zealand Herald
through a combination of the editorial
columns they write and straight-out
How strongly Media Works counters this
will reveal the seriousness of Wratt ’s intent.
A strong marketing effort could see Magic
Talk become a formidable force; a feeble one
will send it down the same meandering road
as Radio Live.
The Radio Live experiment lasted 15 years.
One way or another the Magic journey will
be a lot quicker.
This story first appeared on Newsroom
(www.newsroom.co.nz) and is reproduced
here with permission.
Media Works brings in the grumpy old men
Media Works’ decision to hire Peter Williams and re-hire Sean Plunket for the latest incarnation of its talkback radio
offering shows that it has not given up all hope in its battle with Newstalk ZB. Co-editor of Newsroom
MARK JENNINGS reports.
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