Posts tagged ‘Whanganui-a-Tara’


Life’s could-have-beens

15.01.2023


 
A Mastodon post about my mayoral campaign policies. No, I didn’t foresee a global pandemic as such (though I certainly was on Twitter perplexed at why the WHO had not declared COVID-19 a global emergency in January 2020), but I did feel there was insufficient resilience in our economy and wanted to advance ideas that would at least put this city right.

I saw the cafés all opening around town, the PM John Key’s support of tourism, and thinking: there’s not enough diversity among these types of businesses, and we’re well behind other cities on the percentage that IT plays. We need more high-wage jobs if we were to increase our rates’ base sustainably, not make Wellington unaffordable by taking a bigger and bigger chunk of incomes that had barely risen in line with the cost of living. All this I stated at the time, and they were trends that stared us right in the face.

Working from home was a way of alleviating stress on our traffic network, or at least help stagger the amount of traffic on the road at any given time. Tied in to that was publicizing real-time about public transport, which I think is starting to happen, to encourage their use.

The expansion of the wifi network meant that Newtown would be next, heading out to Berhampore, the whole idea being to bridge the digital divide for our less well off communities. I had already been into a meeting with Citylink and had a model through which it could be funded. I lived in Newtown as a boy, and I know how little we had in terms of the family budget. And, as we saw in lockdown, internet access was very far from being equal among our communities.

I’m not subscribing to ‘That’s easy to say in hindsight,’ because all these ideas were a matter of record, as well as the reasons behind it. I am subscribing to a degree of cherry-picking but when you consider these were my “flagship” ideas, I’m not even being that picky.

To think we could have set all this in motion starting in 2010 and been ready for 2020. I don’t really sell nostalgia if I’m running for office because that would be disingenuous. You’re being asked to vote on the future, and so many politicians are trying to resell you the past. I’m grateful to those voters who got this and put me in third place twice. We have a good mayor now who’s young enough to get it.


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Posted in business, internet, New Zealand, politics, technology, Wellington | No Comments »


It’s got a picture of the Queen in it

07.01.2023


 
To the best of my recollection, this is the only photograph of HM Queen Elizabeth II and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh that I shot and own. You’ll have to look closely. In fact, you might not even see them at this resolution.

I gave the print to someone at Warehouse Stationery who was a big fan of the Queen, but I came across this scan yesterday. I still have the negative, of course.

This was from the royal visit in 2002, her last to Aotearoa. As Labour was in, and they weren’t big royalists, there wasn’t a huge welcome, and the Queen and Prince Philip were ferried around the back roads from Lyall Bay through Rongotai and Kilbirnie. Here they are in the viceregal Daimler Limousine on Coutts Street: I stopped my car to take the photograph from Mamari Street.
 
Congratulations to those who spotted Graham Payn’s line as Keats in The Italian Job used in the title.


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The expectation of invisibility

03.01.2023

I rewatched Princess of Chaos, the TV drama centred around my friend, Bevan Chuang. I’m proud to have stood by her at the time, because, well, that’s what you do for your friends.

I’m not here to revisit any of the happenings that the TV movie deals with—Bevan says it brings her closure so that is that—but to examine one scene where her character laments being Asian and being ‘invisible’. How hard we work yet we aren’t seen. The model minority. Expected to be meek and silent and put up with stuff.

Who in our community hasn’t felt this?

While the younger generations of the majority are far, far better than their forebears, the expectation of invisibility was something that’s been a double-edged sword when I look back over my life.

The expectation of invisibility was never going to sit well with me.

I revelled in being different, and I had a family who was supportive and wise enough to guide me through being different in our new home of Aotearoa New Zealand.

My father frequently said, when speaking of the banana Chinese—those who proclaim themselves yellow on the outside and white on the inside—that they can behave as white as they want, but there’ll always be people who’ll see the yellow skin and treat them differently. And in some cases, unfairly.

He had reason to believe this. My mother was underpaid by the Wellington Hospital Board for a considerable time despite her England and Wales nursing qualification. A lot of correspondence ensued—I still remember Dad typing formal letters on his Underwood 18, of which we probably still have carbons. Dad felt pressured—maybe even bullied to use today’s parlance—by a dickhead manager at his workplace.

Fortunately, even in the 1970s, good, decent, right-thinking Kiwis outnumbered the difficult ones, though the difficult ones could get away with a lot, lot more, from slant-eye gestures to telling us to go back to where we came from openly. I mean, February 6 was called New Zealand Day! Go back another generation to a great-uncle who came in the 1950s, and he recalls white kids literally throwing stones at Chinese immigrants.

So there was no way I would become a banana, and give up my culture in a quest to integrate. The parents of some of my contemporaries reasoned differently, as they had been in the country for longer, and hoped to spare their children the physical harm they endured. They discouraged their children from speaking their own language, in the hope they could achieve more.

As a St Mark’s pupil, I was at the perfect school when it came to being around international classmates, and teachers who rewarded academic excellence regardless of one’s colour. All of this bolstered my belief that being different was a good thing. I wasn’t invisible at my school. I did really well. I was dux.

It was a shock when I headed to Rongotai College as most of the white boys were all about conforming. The teachers did their best, but so much of my class, at least, wanted to replicate what they thought was normal society in the classroom, and a guy like me—Chinese, individualistic, with a sense of self—was never going to fit in. It was a no-brainer to go to Scots College when a half-scholarship was offered, and I was around the sort of supportive school environment that I had known in my primary and intermediate years, with none of the other boys keen to pigeonhole you. Everyone could be themselves. Thank goodness.

But there were always appearances from the conformist attitudes in society. As I headed to university and announced I would do law and commerce, there was an automatic assumption that the latter degree would be in accounting. I would not be visible doing accounting, in a back room doing sums. For years (indeed, until very recently) the local branch of the Fairfax Press had Asian employees but that was where they were, not in the newsroom. We wouldn’t want to offend its readers, would we?

My choice of these degrees was probably driven, subconsciously, by the desire to be visible and to give society a middle finger. I wasn’t going to be invisible. I was going to pursue the interests that I had, and to heck with societal expectations based along racial lines. I had seen my contemporaries at college do their best to conform: either put your head down or play sport. There was no other role. If you had your head up and didn’t play sport at Rongotai, there was something wrong with you. Maybe you were a ‘faggot’ or ‘poofter’ or some other slur that was bandied about, I dare say by boys who had uncertainties about their own sexuality and believed homophobia helped them.

I loved design. I loved cars. Nothing was going to change that. So I pursued a design career whilst doing my degrees. I could see how law, marketing and management would play a role in what I wanted to do in life. When I launched Lucire, it was “against type” on so many fronts. I was doing it online, that was new. I was Chinese, and a cis het guy. And it was a very public role: as publisher I would attend fashion shows, doing my job. In the early days, I would be the only Chinese person amongst the press.

And I courted colleagues in the press, because I was offering something new. That was also intentional: to blaze a trail for anyone like me, a Chinese New Zealander in the creative field who dared to do something different. I wasn’t the first, of course: Raybon Kan comes to mind (as a fellow St Mark’s dux) with his television reviews in 1990 that showed up almost all who had gone before with his undeniable wit; and Lynda Chanwai-Earle whose poetry was getting very noticed around this time. Clearly we needed more of us in these ranks if we were going to make any impact and have people rethink just who we were and just what we were capable of. And it wasn’t in the accounts’ department, or being a market gardener, serving you at a grocery store or takeaway, as noble as those professions also are. I have family in all those professions. But I was out on a quest to break the conformity that Aotearoa clung to—and that drove everything from typeface design to taking Lucire into print around the world and running for mayor of Wellington. It might not have been the primary motive, but it was always there, lingering.

This career shaped me, made me less boring as an individual, and probably taught me what to value in a partner, too. And thank goodness I found someone who also isn’t a conformist.

When we first met, Amanda did ask me why I had so many friends from the LGBTQIA+ community. I hadn’t really realized it, but on reflection, the answer was pretty simple: they, too, had to fight conformist attitudes, to find their happy places. No wonder I got along with so many. All my friends had stood out one way or another, whether because of their interests, their sexuality, how they liked to be identified, their race, their way of thinking, or something else. These are the people who shape the world, advance it, and make it interesting. They—we—weren’t going to be pigeonholed.
 

With fellow nonconformist Stefan Engeseth in Stockholm, 2010


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Posted in cars, culture, design, interests, leadership, marketing, media, New Zealand, politics, publishing, Sweden, TV, Wellington | 2 Comments »


Thank you to VUW’s Alumni as Mentors programme

21.09.2022

It’s not every day your Alma Mater gives you an award. I was very humbled to be recognized tonight by Victoria University of Wellington for my contribution to the Alumni as Mentors programme. The hard work is really the VUW team’s, who do such an amazing job matching us with students, and providing resources and support throughout the duration of our mentoring. Tēnā rawa atu koutou.


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I’ve seen that episode of Hustle

16.09.2022

A young man who reminded me of a confidence trickster I knew (who is now serving time at His Majesty’s pleasure) approached me today on Lambton Quay.

‘I wonder if you could help me,’ he said. ‘I’ve just had my 25th birthday but woke up with all my stuff gone. I live in the Wairarapa and I’ve been walking around for eight and a half hours. I just want to go back and see my daughter.’

That’s a lot to hit someone in a few seconds, but my instinct was to find a way to help him, despite my wanting to meet my other half as I was holding some of her things, having dropped her off a few moments earlier while I looked for a car park.

I explained this to the young man—and wished him happy birthday—but said I could return this way. And I didn’t carry any cash. I offered to find a way to get him home.

‘The fare is $20 back to the Wairarapa.’

‘I’ll tell you what. I have to meet my missus but if you wait here, I’ll drive you to the station and buy you the ticket myself.’

‘Could you not get $20 out of an ATM? If you give me $20 and your account details, and I’ll give you $50 when I get back. I’ve got lots of money.’

This is when alarm bells ring, because I’ve seen those episodes of Hustle. And then everything else became implausible.

Obviously if he was out of town for his birthday, he would have friends. Real friends.

There’s no way that in Wellington you can wander around for eight hours with no one rendering you assistance.

Whomever is looking after his daughter would have already called the police. He could have just walked into a station and explained what happened.

And no, I wasn’t going to go to an ATM. ‘I don’t want $50. I’m old school, I’ve barely used those. Let me just get you the ticket and get you on the train.’

‘How will you pay for it if you don’t use ATMs?’

‘Credit card. I can get you the ticket. Let’s go to the station.’

‘Nah, I’ve troubled you enough.’
 
Couldn’t he do the flop instead? As far as short cons go, that wasn’t very good.

But also a sad indictment on all of us that we’ve let society come to this, where a young man falls through the cracks and feels he has to con.


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The Lucire tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II

09.09.2022

I wrote the below in Lucire—even though plenty of publications have covered our monarch’s passing, it still felt right to acknowledge it. After all, she had appeared in Lucire a few times.
 
With the passing of HM Queen Elizabeth II on Thursday UK time, it would be remiss of this magazine to not mark this world event.

During the 25 years of Lucire, the Queen has featured several times, mostly from events that she attended. We weren’t around when she was newly crowned in her coronation gown by Norman Hartnell, and wearing the latest British fashions in her youth, a glamorous symbol of a new Elizabethan era that lifted the United Kingdom’s mood after World War II and continued rationing. But it is easy to imagine the coronation in 1953 being a dazzling, colourful event, and indeed it was covered in the likes of British Vogue at the time.

Her era has seen unprecedented change. As the longest-serving monarch in British history, she presided over an era which saw television become mainstream (a technology that she embraced with her Christmas message), many former colonies gain their independence, the dawn of the World Wide Web, the end of apartheid in South Africa, and both her country’s entry into and exit from what is now the European Union.

Much has already been said about HM the Queen’s sense of duty, and how she still read her red box’s worth of papers as head of state right to the end. On Tuesday she asked Liz Truss as the new prime minister—the Queen’s 15th, having begun with Sir Winston Churchill when she ascended to the throne—to form a government.

Here in Lucire the late Queen has attended events we happened to cover, beginning in 2008, with her last appearance at the Cartier Queen’s Cup in 2017.

I only caught a glimpse of her during a state visit to New Zealand in 2002 during her golden jubilee. It was her last visit to Aotearoa.

The visit was very subdued and HM the Queen and HRH the Duke of Edinburgh were whisked from the airport round the back roads of Rongotai, past the main street by Lucire’s then-HQ. I managed to photograph them as they drove by.

A neighbourhood shop had a staff member who was a diehard monarchist. I mentioned I had a photo of the royal couple and later gifted her my print. I still have the negative somewhere.

At the time, my sense was that our Labour government had republican leanings and downplayed the royal visit, hence ferrying them in the viceregal Daimler past industrial areas; it was a far cry from an earlier visit I witnessed in 1981 when as a school pupil, my schoolmates and I lined the drive at Government House to welcome her.

As someone who chose to retain my British nationality (I dutifully renew my passport every 10 years), as well as adopting my New Zealand one in 1980, I admit to having a tremendous amount of respect for HM Queen Elizabeth II and her unwavering sense of duty. Some of us born in Hong Kong in the 1970s, whose parents had memories of less pleasant times behind the Bamboo Curtain, appreciated the freedoms, although they stopped short of democracy, that we enjoyed in a Crown colony. Up to a point: my father said he could have worked harder to lose his Chinese accent after fleeing Taishan for Hong Kong after the communist revolution of 1949, but he chose not to as he didn’t want to be seen as sycophantic to the colonial power.

It was thanks to the Commonwealth that my Hong Kong-born, but China-raised, mother was able to obtain her nursing qualification from the General Nursing Council for England and Wales. When we emigrated to New Zealand, that made her transition into her job that much easier, as it was considered a notch above the rest. (Having said that, the Hospital Board put her on a lower pay grade than what she deserved, leading my parents to fight for it, with the help of Sir Francis Kitts, a family friend and the former mayor of Wellington. We won.)

When we came here, one familiar thing was that the currency had the Queen on it, and it was her constant presence that told you that there were, in principle at least, shared values. While we can rightfully critique the Empire and what it was built on, at least for this chunk of history, it was a reassurance for us as émigrés that there would be the rule of law in our new country, something that, as my parents could attest, China lacked during the difficult years of the war and immediately after.

My father’s preferred form of governance was social democracy, but he appreciated a constitutional monarchy; and my own studies at law school concluded that while an imperfect system, it was one which I, too, valued. The prospect of one of our own being president, at least to the law student me in 1992, seemed unfathomable and potentially divisive.

The success of the system does depend on our faith and trust in the monarch. HM Queen Elizabeth II gave us that sense, as one who placed duty first. As this nation enters into a period of official mourning, we also wonder what her successor, HM King Charles III, will bring to the table, with his interests in the environment and a UK government that he might not see eye to eye with.

Whatever the future, we pay tribute to HM Queen Elizabeth II and mark the close of this second Elizabethan age.


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On the mayoral races in Wellington and Toronto: Tory for us, not for them

06.09.2022

Almost makes you want to run for mayor again.

I had a look at my 2013 manifesto during the weekend and it wasn’t half bad. And, with respect to our candidates in Wellington, each of whom I know socially (and politics aside, actually like), it goes into more detail, and is arguably more visionary, than what I’ve seen from them to date.

It was quite uplifting to read this from Stephen Olsen writing in Scoop, covering the 2022 mayoral candidates’ meeting at St Peter’s Church last night:

To be honest the lack of rigorous thinking made for a lacklustre event. It even had me pining for the 2010 and 2013 Mayoral campaigns of an outsider, Jack Yan, who did reasonable and intelligent things like put forward a detailed manifesto and who did justice to the role of an articulate, knowledgeable and expressive candidate. (A disclaimer being that I was on the Back Jack team of 2010 and a supporting advisor three years later).

It was written without bias, and evaluates each of the three leading candidates.

Stephen concludes:

Tory Whanau did have a few Jack-like moments in calling as forcefully as possible for more democracy, more boldness, more engagement of citizens and more community-based co-design opportunities to rejuvenate Wellington. However for her campaign to get some wind under its wings it will need far more amplitude on those basic but vital notes. It’s not a time to pull punches.

In both of the elections I contested, I said we could not have politics as usual. I stand by that, because look at the lack of progress between 2013 and 2022 when voters choose politics as usual: rising rates, little change in the industry make-up (which is another way of saying very few high-value jobs have been created as a proportion of the total), which leads to a lack of economic resilience (and things being unaffordable for Wellingtonians). I said as much nine years ago.

Paul and Andy represent the old guard, and are conservative. Tory is a well read woman—I recall seeing Richard Rumelt’s Good Strategy, Bad Strategy in her office, among others, and she is aware of the world outside politics. She is the same age Mark Blumsky was when he was mayor, and the same age I was when I first ran. A good age, young enough to articulate a vision and have the energy to carry it out.

Whomever took a jab at her ‘inexperience’ as detailed in Stephen’s article obviously does not know her history or background. That person evidently does not know Wellington well enough, either, or just how well the last 30-something mayor we had improved the place. Maybe their memory’s playing tricks on them now and they’re out of touch. I mightn’t have agreed with everything Mark did, and maybe there are some rose-coloured glasses at play—but I do agree with the digital advancement this city made under him. Anyone miss the wooden bus stops along Courtenay Place? Anyone? Bueller? I thought not.

Our choices this year are Tory boys or Tory in name. Tory Whanau would make a fine mayor and (finally) the city’s first non-white mayor, too.
 
It wasn’t nostalgia that had me looking up my 2013 manifesto. It was one Jack Yan running for mayor this year. Not me, but the guy in Toronto.

Jack’s finally got his website up and got in touch, in good humour, as he saw the crazy coincidence of not just the name but of running for mayor of one’s city. I naturally forwarded on the emails I received thanks to mistaken identity. Out of interest, I had a look through what I wrote back then and sent it on out of interest. Just helping a brother out.

He probably doesn’t need it, as he has good, comprehensive policies tailored to his city. There’s a Tory called Tory running there. Torontonians have way more candidates to choose from. To the folks there, give the guy a chance and check out his website at jack2022.ca.


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The missing second verse

16.06.2022

The second of three verses of the Scots College school song appears to be missing from the web. I posted them once on Facebook, back when people used Facebook, so of course it doesn’t appear in Google.

We sang it, but I understand that the generation before, and the one after, didn’t sing it. We seem to have been the anomaly.

In the interests of having them somewhere searchable on the web, and as the Secretary of Scots Collegians:
 
We’ll keep our tryst from day to day
And pledge our honour bright,
To follow truth’s unerring way
And march into the light.
Let God and right and the watchword be,
Let Scots have honoured name,
For joy be ours to know that we
Were heroes of its fame.
 

Corrections are welcome; these are to the best of my recollection.

The move to co-education at Scots several years ago means the song has had to change with the times, though I imagine that enough of us remember the lyrics to the other verses as they once were, and the old choruses, for me not to need to record them.


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Don’t put your events on just Facebook—they won’t be seen

31.12.2021

We’re probably far enough along from the event for people not to know which one I am referring to, as I’ve no wish to embarrass the organizers.
   Earlier in 2021, we saw a weekend event that would take place at the ‘Johnsonville Community Hub’. No address was given other than that. Both Duck Duck Go and Google seemed to think this meant Waitohi, the new library and swimming pool complex.
   We arrived there to find that no one knew of this event, but maybe we could try the community hall next door?
   No joy.
   There was the Collective Community Hub on Johnsonville Road but their website made it clear that it wasn’t open at the weekend.
   We hung round Johnsonville for a bit and decided we would check out the Collective place, just to see it up close.
   Sure enough, that’s where the event was—it was open at the weekend—and we got there after everyone had packed up.
   They were very apologetic and we told them the above. They had noted, however, that there had been more information on Facebook.
   To me, that’s a big mistake, because I don’t know what their Facebook page is, and even if I did, there was no guarantee I would see it for a variety of reasons. (Try loading any fan page on Facebook on mobile: the posts take unbearably long and few people would have the patience.) A search for the event on both Duck Duck Go and Google never showed a Facebook page, either.
   A similar event posted its cancellation on Facebook exclusively, something which we didn’t know till we got there, and after getting puzzled looks from the party that had booked the venue, I randomly found one organizer’s page and clicked on his Facebook link. Again, nothing about the event itself came up on Duck Duck Go or on Google.
   In the latter case, the organizer had the skills to make a web page, a normal one, so was it so hard to put the cancellation there?
   You just can’t find things on Facebook. They don’t appear to be indexed. And if they are, they’re probably so far down the results’ pages that they won’t be seen. If you’re organizing an event, by all means, post there to those who use Facebook keenly (a much smaller number than you think, with engagement decreasing year after year), but it is no substitute for getting it into properly indexed event calendars or on to the web, where regular people will put in search terms and look for it.
   Facebook is not the internet. Thank God.


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Life in the capital

21.11.2021

Amazing what sort of press releases come in. I had no idea that Auckland is our capital, and I was surprised to find that Toronto and Antwerp are as well in the same release.

Essential Living is a British firm, from the looks of it, and no, we won’t be publishing this in Lucire.

   You’d think the PR firm might check as well, but maybe post-Brexit they don’t really care about other countries any more?
 
Meanwhile, on Twitter. It’s getting nutty toward the end of the year. Just today we saw a motorcyclist come off his Suzuki in Johnsonville, and a Toyota van almost losing control altogether in Tawa. ‘Driving to the conditions’ doesn’t seem to be a thing any more. On Friday, it was this:

Usual story on Facebook. I had better report this fake account with a fake name!
 

 
   Facebook says: it’s fine, nothing to see here.
 

 

Why do people continue to believe their user number claims? They’re rubbish.


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