Category Archives: Education

Michael Bradley

The Chemistry of Creativity

Amy FowlerStory and photos by Amy Fowler.

I had previously only ever experienced any sort of dark-room photography a couple of times, with the world now having moved firmly into the digital realm. The first time was at school, when we spent a couple of days in a dark room processing photographs we had taken in and around the school. At the time I never thought I was going to go into training to be a professional photographer. This initial experience received no more respect for the art than a dismissive grunt before I moved on to other things.

_43A6362In April this year I got to spend a couple of days with photographer Michael Bradley as part of my prize for winning the Canon Eyecon competition.

The competition involved sending in a set of three images, which work together as a series to tell a story. The prize pack included Canon Dollars, real Dollars, a big printer, but most importantly, mentoring sessions with the Eyecon judges Michael Bradley, Aaron K and Danelle Bohane.

The sense of relief and excitement at the resulting image, after it came out of the darkroom, was immense.

A few weeks after posting off my images, I got a call one lunchtime from the Canon Eyecon judging team, informing me I had won the competition. I was absolutely blown away, in tears, and shaking with excitement.

When I spoke to Michael Bradley ahead of mentoring session with him, we discussed my portfolio and wondered what would make for a good day. Michael _43A6382made his name as a sports photographer; we joked about how a day at the cricket possibly wasn’t my cup of tea. I must admit, I can’t even watch a minute of it on television, let alone a whole day! Prior to the call I was absolutely fascinated with haunting portraits on his website that he had taken using a technique called wet plate photography. The conversation inevitably led onto what wet plate photography was and we decided to go ahead and plan for a day doing just that.

First off he decided to make a portrait of me. So we set up the lighting, and I got into place. With a digital camera, we could have snapped the image then and there, then get on with the rest of the day. But with this process, there is a lot to consider. It’s expensive. Every time you take a photograph you use a raft of different chemicals to produce the image. So getting it perfect off the bat is essential. So I sat down and he focused the camera. We had to fashion a makeshift headrest to keep my head very still. The slightest movement results in the image being completely out of focus. He poured collodion (a mix of ether and alcohol once used as _43A6416wartime field dressings) onto a sheet of glass, bathed it in silver nitrate to make the plate light sensitive, before popping the glass into the back of the camera. After refocusing, the back cover of the camera was pulled up, the lens cap came off, the lights popped, the plate came out, and it was ready for developing (using a range of chemicals including alcohol and mosskiller) and fixing. When the plate came out the dark room from having it’s developer bath, the image was there like magic. The intricate detail is incredible. The plate went into the fixer for the final part of the process and my portrait was complete

Prior to the call I was absolutely fascinated with haunting portraits on his website that he had taken using a technique called wet plate photography.

Next it was my turn to photograph Michael. I was extremely nervous. I didn’t want to bugger up the process and come away with no image recorded, or worse still, break one of the plates. We had a practice run with some old collodion on the first plate before moving on to my first real go at wet plate photography. I carefully repeated all of the steps that Michael had showed me. The sense of relief and excitement at the resulting image, after it img146came out of the darkroom, was immense. The day with Michael really inspired me to delve even more deeply into the fine art that is photography.

I’m indebted to UCOL in Palmerston North, where I trained in photography. During my time as a student I was fortunate to win the New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography Iris Awards title of Student Photographer of the Year two years in a row, in 2013 and 2014.

Dr Dave Baldwin

The Flying Doctor

“My great strength is that I ended up a doctor by accident; it wasn’t until I was nineteen or twenty that I had any concept of what I wanted to do.”

The Flying Doctor, Dave Baldwin, has been in the business for more than twenty years now and certainly has no intention of slowing down any time soon. With a medical centre, the Healthy Bastards campaign, the Bulls Flying Doctor Service and his Aerospace Research Centre Dave is kept on his toes, with no two days ever the same.

KnowledgeBrought up north of Porirua in a little fishing village, in his youth Dave wasn’t really one for study. “My mother has always been a big influence in my life, and she always cried when I saw her because she wanted me to be the big family hope. So after a year and a half of truck driving and possum hunting I made a deal with her. ‘If you stop bawling I’ll go back and get my Bachelor of Science, but after that I want to be a deer culler’, and she agreed.”

Dave could see the wisdom in his mother’s eyes. “I wasn’t dumb, I just wasn’t focused. Once I got going I started to get A grades. So when people asked what I wanted to do with my life they thought I was joking when I said a deer culler. Then I thought about being a doctor, it sounded like a good job with good pay.”

You begin to realise that a lot of people dying are dying early because of self-neglect.

After his Bachelor of Science Dave went on to do eight years of study to qualify as a doctor and began training as a cardiologist at Palmerston North Hospital. However, the jets flying overhead proved distracting, so Dave joined the Royal New Zealand Air Force, becoming a Skyhawk pilot and medical officer. It was there that he developed his expertise in aviation medicine. After three years he left the RNZAF to own and run the medical centre in the nearby town of Bulls.

“General practice was the first start to my career, but the spark was whether it was possible to tie in the mountains and possibly flying. I met an old doctor at a conference whose job it was to be a GP doing house calls in his boat. I thought, ‘Hey bro, that’s me!’.

Loving the job“Every pilot needs a medical to fly and the validity of it depends on whether you have a commercial or private licence and how old you are. A private pilot under forty’s medical lasts five years whereas a commercial pilot over forty needs to be renewed every six months.”

Dave began to build up his clientele by recording pilots’ expiry dates on a computer recall system. “A month before they were due I would ring them saying your medical is due, do you want to do it with us? Now after twenty-five years they all do.”

For three weeks every month Dave is flying high, in and out of his base at Palmerston North Airport. “The first week it is down the West Coast to Milford Sound then across to Wanaka and Mount Cook. The second I am in the Motueka, Nelson area and the third week I fly to Blenheim and the Marlborough area. I might do twelve pilot medicals on the airstrip then shoot out to a farm to do some more. But it’s all part of the dream.”

The other major ‘mission in life’ for Dave is his politically incorrect ‘Healthy Bastards’ campaign. It first began fifteen years ago and today Dave tours the country talking about how men can best manage their health.

I met an old doctor at a conference whose job it was to be a GP doing house calls in his boat. I thought, ‘Hey bro, that’s me!’

“I was working away at the general practice and got to really like the people I was seeing, but they all start dying on you. In one week I lost five patients and it starts to get to you a bit. You begin to realise that a lot of people dying are dying early because of self-neglect. I see eighty-year-old commercial pilots and think of the potential in human beings.

“I got a lot of flak for it in the days, I even had some lawsuits on my hands. But people have cottoned on that I am just trying to get to the group who aren’t listening. At least I’m trying to talk in their terms.”

Following on from the success of a best-selling book and entertaining DVD and YouTube clips for Healthy Bastards, Dave was approached by three television companies to do a series, which he turned down. “It just typified to me what happens to so many creative minds in this country. You sign a contract where someone owns you and you’re lost. So I told them where to go. I feel I’m stronger now because I’m not watering down my messages. If people don’t like it they can take a hike, because I know I can speak with honesty.”

Science and artFor Dave the success of his self-funded campaign is all about raising the profile and drawing people in. “When I say ‘bastards’ people actually love that. Sir Edmund Hillary said it at the top of Mount Everest and as soon as you say it the profile of that name is lifted. It is about getting people thinking and raising awareness of the fact that the greatest gift is your body, so take care of it.”

Spare time is unheard of for Doctor Dave, but he wouldn’t have it any other way. “Some people in life work to live, I live to work. I love what I do.

“The key thing is to develop a dream. Whatever it is, if the dream doesn’t scare you then don’t do it, it’s a waste of time. Then within that it is important to keep it close to your chest. People are pretty quick at knocking things, so just chug away because even if you don’t succeed another door will open.”

Karl and his library

Living for the Moment

Growing up, Karl and Rebekah had very separate goals in life. She wanted to be an artist, he a pilot. However, after they met at Victoria University, where they both were studying, they flatted together and, as Karl puts it, “didn’t stay strangers for long”.

Karl and RebekahAfter Karl graduated with a degree in English, and Rebekah with one in Cultural Psychology, they decided it was time to experience more of the world. “In the space of one night we quit our jobs, packed up our stuff and were heading to America,” says Rebekah.

Five years passed, and in that time they settled in the small Charlestown community of West Virginia. “We found ourselves living on 350 acres of land in an old-school Washington family home,” Karl remembers.

Focusing on sustainable living, Karl and Rebekah set up community gardens from scratch coupled with roaming chickens and goats, cooking great food and practising yoga. “We took it upon ourselves to try something different.” Following the success of their unique lifestyle, the couple decided to establish an internship programme, which gave interested people the opportunity to work hard and live off the land. “It was such a good place to learn different things because we saw so much potential. We explored ideas from scratch and it became a testing ground for a lot of other projects we have today.”

Two years ago Karl and Rebekah felt it was time to return home. Having arrived back in New Zealand, Karl bumped into an old friend of his. “He was looking to start up a glam rock tribute band in Palmerston North and I said ‘Sure why not!’”

That’s one of the great things about this area; you can live in the country but still have the benefits of a city at your fingertips

Having grown up in Manawatu, Rebekah saw it as a fantastic opportunity to reconnect with family and friends. Moving to a dairy farm just out of town, Karl gained a greater understanding of living close to the environment and with nature. “That’s one of the great things about this area; you can live in the country but still have the benefits of a city at your fingertips.”

Now well and truly settled, a day-in-the-life is still far from traditional for both Karl and Rebekah. Rebekah is a trained teacher in healing and yoga and is also a Zero Balancing practitioner. “Zero Balancing is a system that works with the bones. Bones hold a lot of tension, so it is important to relieve this through movement and the holding of specific points.”

Rebekah splits her time between Library booksNew Zealand and America, where she teaches workshops, yoga classes and therapy sessions. “It suits my understanding of the world. I enjoy learning and teaching a system where the body and mind work together. Sharing in the excitement of seeing the joy on my clients faces when that pain is relieved is priceless.”

Meanwhile Karl operates the state-of-the-art Palmerston North City Library book bus, which he says he stumbled upon by “pure luck”. “I saw the value of learning to drive larger vehicles, so I got my class-2 licence and found a job that combined my love of English and driving really well!”

The mobile library houses more than 100 books and travels to districts around the area serving anyone with a hunger for reading and fun. “I love the variety of personal relationships that I have created. It is amazing how close you can get to some people through what they share with you,” says Karl.

“One day a child stopped dead in his tracks and asked if I was magic. I said, ‘Yeah of course I am!’ As he walked off under his breath I heard, ‘I knew you were magic’. Giving people something to remember, nurturing curiosities and making those connections make me know it is worthwhile.”

In the space of one night we quit our jobs, packed up our stuff and were heading to America

During the time they have together during the year, Karl and Rebekah spend their time “talking until the cows come home”. “We both have enquiring minds, so we chat all about the philosophies of the world. If we go and see a movie you can guarantee we will talk about it for three hours afterwards.”

Managing Rebekah’s time between America and New Zealand has its benefits for the couple. “It is a chance for us to broaden our horizons,” says Rebekah. “I have grown up with my time split between the two countries, so I have my ways of dealing with everything. I travel with the fruits of the season because when it’s ripe it is awesome, like the papaya in Maui and the feijoas in New Zealand. I tend to follow the ripe avocados of the seasons.”

Karl and his library busKarl agrees that although being apart can be hard, it is a great opportunity to recharge. “I refuse to be caught in the codependent phase of a relationship. Although I can’t do what Rebekah does, we have modern technology to help us and I’ll just take the avocados when I can get them.”

For this year Rebekah will be back in New Zealand in December, while Karl will be on the book bus and practising with his band for the upcoming wedding season.

The future is a blank canvas for the two, who believe that maintaining flexibility in life leads to great things. “The world is changing really quickly. We live in a dream world with the ability to go wherever the wind takes us.”

Torn apart

A passion for the hard issues

UCOL photography student Amy Fowler is in a unique position. She has just won the Epson-New Zealand Institute of Professional Photography’s Student Photographer of the Year award for the second year in a row. It is the first time in the award’s history that this has occurred, and Amy says she is still speechless regarding her double win. “The other finalists were so amazing, I just don’t know how they managed to pick. It has been an absolutely overwhelming, crazy period.”

Parents living through their childrenAmy picked up Gold Awards for both of her competition photographs this year. The first, showing a woman ripped in half by ropes, represents “being torn apart by the gender equality issue of women being split between motherhood and their careers”. The second, a bald girl covered in heavy makeup, highlights “how parents try to live through their children by pushing them into something they may not want to do”, and is considered by Amy to be “one of my strongest images”.

Both pieces were created to stimulate discussion, and are centred on wider societal issues. “The images were very personal things that, at the time, I was very passionate about,” explains Amy. “I hit hard on issues that are happening at the moment but otherwise I just try to produce fine art. I trawl the internet for all sorts of different artists and collaborations that inspire me.”

Amy FowlerThis passion is a driving force behind Amy’s work, and is one she has had for most of her life. “Mum had a film camera and I was always the centre of that camera’s lens. I was inspired by that.”

Now, with her Bachelor of Applied Visual Imaging degree almost finished, Amy is working hard to complete a final yearlong assignment, which requires her to write her own brief and create a collection of fine art. “The eight pieces are in the theme of Grimm fairy tales. I am trying to work through the bumps of it, like the backgrounds, the models, the makeup artists and the costumes.”

Torn Apart - full versionAlso requiring her attention is her and her partner Kelvin’s new retouching photography company, Novo Retouching. The business specialises in photography and video post-production editing, and has been running for a year. Amy is also looking to expand in the future. “After I graduate I would like to start a photography side of the business and work together. Long term I would love to be in an advertising agency.”

With so many projects and so much potential for the future, it is easy to understand why Amy says, “Photography is literally my life”.

Jennifer Moss

Colouring Lives with Music

Jennifer Moss says she was in the right place at the right time, and recognised a need. Now she uses music to meet that need and colour people’s lives.

Jennifer Moss is first and foremost a musician, then a teacher, and by default in a sense, a businesswoman too. She says she’s never had a proper nine-to-five job apart from a full-time stint in Sydney as a singer with The Song Company, and she’s quite comfortable with that.

Jennifer and one of her ukuleles“I have it built-in somehow that I can cope without the need for total stability as long as I’m doing what I’m passionate about,” she says. “I’ve been lucky I suppose to have such a supportive husband who’s been my rock in so many ways.“

Jennifer and her family moved here in 2004 from Auckland, and before that, Sydney, craving a smaller place to call home that offered a strong sense of community. “We’d done big-city living, and decided on Palmy because my husband was originally from here. It seemed like a happening town. I didn’t really know anything about it, I’d only ever visited, so I took the plunge.”

When Jennifer first arrived in Manawatū she worked as a primary school teacher, having just retrained in Auckland, but soon found that teaching maths and science wasn’t really for her.

I’ve officially stopped counting how many ukuleles I own!

“David Reardon shoulder-tapped me for the position of music specialist at Russell Street School, which was brilliant. It’s a grounding force for me. Working with five-year-olds is very good for my whole being. There are no airs and graces, just lots of freedom, to sing, play instruments and have fun – which is the best way to learn.

“There used to be music advisors supplied for schools by the Government, but there aren’t any more, so a lot of schools struggle with what to do with music,” she says. “I offer professional development for schools to give them a practical idea of how many instruments they need, what to do with them, how to set up a group – all strategies for teaching children.”

DrumsShe has Tui awards to back up her theories. Jennifer’s House and Jennifer’s Garden have both won Best Children’s Album awards at the New Zealand Music Awards.
Starting at Russell Street School coincided with Jennifer’s time spent at a voice camp during the summer. It was from there that she had the idea of starting the Manawatū Community Choir. “A lot of people had been talking about it, yet there wasn’t one here.

“In April 2010 we made it happen and I was hoping that at least 20 people would show up,” Jennifer says. “Literally the night we started I realised ‘wow – there is a real hunger here’ – 85 people came along that night!

“It became really apparent that people out there love music. They want to make music, but just don’t know how or where to start. From there I started the Manawatū Ukulele Group and had a similar response. Eighty people came along, so we just kept going.”

Despite saying that business really isn’t her forté, Jennifer’s musical passion has evolved into just that. She’s managed to create a bit of a brand: Jennifer Moss – Colouring Lives with Music.

Music with freedom is rediscovering joy

“That came about after talking to one of the ukulele players one night at the end of the year, when we’d often have little heart to hearts,” she says. “He said to me, ‘You know, without you my life would be grey’.

“The more I do it, the more I see that it all comes back to the way we’ve been brought up and the contact we’ve had with music. So many people have had negative experiences with music training and tuition. I call it the ‘old school’ method of learning, getting rapped over the knuckles, getting told off – it sets up years of baggage and knocks so many people’s confidence.

“It’s not why I got into what I do, but I’ve discovered it along the way. I have people come to me in tears who haven’t sung in years. Their teachers, or family members, told them when they were 12 that they were horrible singers and shouldn’t do it.

Jennifer loves her work“In a way, for a lot of people, it’s almost like therapy, although I loathe using that word! Music with freedom is rediscovering joy. I give people the freedom to explore and grow musically in their own time, supporting them with accessible strategies and mega encouragement! At the end of the day you let them find their own space within the group and, if you do that, people grow and improve really quickly. They blossom.”

So why did she get into it?

“Being in the right place at the right time and recognising a need,” she says. “A lot of people have ideas but they don’t action them; I’m a little different in that sense I suppose. Naturally I’ve given some things a go that haven’t really worked out, but you learn from it, and it doesn’t stop you trying something different.”
Three ingredients, she says, have made up the essential recipe for the work she enjoys so much. “The timing, the need and having the right skills. Put them all together, add support from family and a wonderful little team, and you have it.”

It makes sense that Jennifer’s family is perhaps her most wonderful little team. Her husband Sam is a former classical musician, now audiologist. Her eldest son Oscar, who has just finished his first year at Massey in engineering, is a guitarist, and youngest son Jack is the drummer in a band called Nausea. “He’s a year ahead in a couple of subjects and he’s also into parkour (free-running) – talk about utilising the city, I love it!”

She loves that ukeleleWith the Manawatū Community Choir and Ukulele Group, her own performing band Ukephoria, teaching and consultancy work, and Manawatū African Drumming, it’s no wonder she’s considered one of the region’s “Creative Giants”. She’s recently started singing workshops for women called Swirl – Singing Women in Real Life.

“I can’t fit in enough time for private lessons with people, and some people are intimidated by the idea of a one-on-one session – so Swirl is a safe place to have fun, and learn.”

She now also runs “Colour Your Team” for corporate and business clients – a form of team-building with instruments. “I really like that there is so much happening here. It’s so vibrant and there’s so much here to invigorate us.

“I’ve officially stopped counting how many ukuleles I own!”

Sam and his pack

Top Dog – The Pack Life

He’s 22 years old with a 100% success rate. While some may call him the ‘dog whisperer’ he sees it rather as maintaining a balanced state of mind between you and man’s best friend.

“I don’t consider what I do as having a gift for dogs, I consider it as being gifted at being calm. Dogs like calm energy, so they naturally gravitate towards following a leadership structure,” Sam Alderdice says.

Happy dogHaving grown up with dogs, Sam decided he didn’t like the idea of a traditional nine to five workday. Combining his love for the loyal canine and the knowledge he had gained from his overseas travels, he created his dream job.

“I started walking dogs in packs when I was younger, which led to people asking me for help, so I contacted a few people to get more skills, and more pack experience, but no one in New Zealand does what I do.”

Having travelled to third-world countries at a young age, Sam developed a strong understanding of the natural dog pack structure. By watching and studying natural pack dominance with off-leash canines, and through energy and body language, he found he was able to communicate with them.

Dogs think in the present. That is what I learn from them, to focus on the now and live in the now, not the future or the past

“There are trainers but I don’t train dogs, I teach their owners to understand them rather than making the dogs listen to them. I don’t have to say ‘come here’ to my dogs because they follow me naturally. Anyone can have that. I just have to teach them it.”

There is no paperwork or degree in what Sam does, rather knowledge and understanding have got him to where he is today and a belief that what he is doing is effective. “My way is a way and is what I consider the most natural way.”

Cesar Millan, a Mexican-American self-taught dog trainer and expert, has given Sam faith in his method of dog psychology. “I have never had any reassurance that I’m doing something right, but then I see him and he’s the best in the world.”

Sam and the pack

“I’m considered old school but dogs haven’t changed, we have evolved but dogs stay the same. They are still 99% wolf; a chihuahua can breed with a wolf and they are still genetically pack animals. If all humans were to disappear right now, dogs would go back to being pack animals.”

‘Every dog can be helped’ is a philosophy that Sam holds true. His daily routine is based around holding sessions to help his pack of six to 12 dogs, including his own Jet and Nashi, achieve a calm state of mind. “We go for a pack walk or a structured walk, which means that the dogs are physically beside or behind me because I’m their leader. I also push my dogs to do really obscure things in order to get them more relaxed and desensitised in every situation.”

Last year Sam voluntarily worked at Rangipo Prison with the inmates to rehabilitate and rehome retired greyhounds. “That was a big confidence booster. I just haven’t had that respect from people because they think, ‘Oh you’re just a kid, I’m not going to listen to you’. But every guy at that prison respected me because they said that the proof was in the pudding.”

I don’t consider what I do as having a gift for dogs, I consider it as being gifted at being calm

Sam also fosters, rehabilitates and rehomes dogs in his personal time. “If a dog has a bad history or has been abused I give them a new name because it gives them a fresh start and a whole new life. When a dog is born it is balanced; a human’s job is to keep it balanced. If you give trust and respect to a dog they will give you loyalty and will protect you with their life.”

The future is looking very optimistic for Sam. “My biggest goal is just to help dogs. Eventually I want to set up my own proper dog psychology centre with my pack of dogs, where people can bring their dogs and where I run classes and seminars.”

“Dogs think in the present. That is what I learn from them, to focus on the now and live in the now, not the future or the past.”

RKA Founders


A group of pupils at Palmerston North Boys’ High School were finding it a challenge to afford the brands they wanted without being allowed
after-school jobs. It was during an online shopping trip that George Smith and friends decided they’d make their own label – and Rapt Kid Apparel (RKA) was born.

“We were pretty rapt with the idea,” George says, hinting at the origin of the RKA’s name. “From there we just started designing our own things, making our own clothes and it all just came together.”

RAPT-2The year 13 students all met in the College House hostel as boarders, play for the school’s first XV rugby team and have been friends ever since. They are also now partners in an endeavour that’s gaining momentum.

The RKA range includes printed tees, hoodies, sweatshirts and caps, with dress-shirts and chinos recently added to the mix. The group pride themselves on sourcing New Zealand-made goods and having the apparel printed locally.

At the moment the boys sell through the school and the label’s Facebook page. They’re currently in discussions with outlet stores and surf and snow shops that are interested in stocking the range.

“We’ve made quite a few sales through school and we see those boys wearing them around, so hopefully it will catch on at other schools,” George says. “We’ve sold to a few boys at Rathkeale; they’re trying to get sales going down there.”

He says the school has been very supportive of the venture, with the commerce department guiding them along the way. “Our mentor Sean Kenzie has a vast knowledge of commerce and is definitely our secret weapon.

Our point of difference is that these are designs by us for people like us.

“When we had the designs done and printed up, we put them on Facebook and people seemed pretty interested in them. We’ve had really good support the whole way, and our business teacher approached us to ask if we wanted to enter the Young Enterprise Scheme and get ourselves some university credits. We took that on with open arms and here we are now.”

The Lion Foundation Young Enterprise Scheme is a year-long experiential business programme for years 12 and 13 pupils. Teams have the opportunity to put theory into practice by creating their own businesses, developing real products or services and making real profits or losses.

Assisted by a teacher, a regional coordinator and a business mentor, pupils experience all the challenges and triumphs associated with business ownership.

As part of RKA’s involvement in the scheme, coordinated locally through economic development agency Vision Manawatu with the Young Enterprise Trust, the boys had to front up to a
“Dragon’s Den” and pitch their idea to a panel of judges for a share of $1500 sponsorship money.

“We had to present to the judges who we were and what we were trying to do, and show them our products and stuff like that,” George says. “We had to show that we’re different from other groups – that we are different from all the other brands out there, and that we have a point of difference.”

RAPT-3The “Dragons” Lyn McCurdy, director of business agency Third Bearing, Manawatu Standard Editor Michael Cummings and UCOL Chief Financial Officer Darryl Purdy heard from each team for five minutes and each had $500 to award to the one that impressed them the most.

They awarded George’s presentation the Dragons’ share of $1000, with the remaining $500 going to a team from Wanganui Collegiate who had developed support services for people needing computer and technology advice.

“Our point of difference is that these are designs by us for people like us,” George says. “We’re trying to have more affordable prices than all the other branded gear out there and it’s something we want to stick to.

“To have people believe in our vision and buy into what we’re trying to achieve is a big motivator for us,” he says.

To have people believe in our vision and buy into what we’re trying to achieve is a big motivator for us.

And motivated they are. Turning up bright and early for their first professional photo-shoot with a full kit of gear, the boys enthusiasm took over both in front of, and behind, the camera. Keeping their loyal fans in the loop, a behind-the-scenes snapshot was uploaded to the brand’s Facebook page in no time.

The boys embrace their different walks of life, and while they’ll be venturing out into various fields such as forestry, teaching, aviation and business when they finish school, they’re committed to keeping RKA alive.

“We’re serious about this. Our goal is to establish the RKA brand as a leader in the New Zealand fashion market among some of the greats such as Federation, Huffer, RPM and Lower.”


Teachers being kept in the dark

Rachel Bradley and Elizabeth Manson form a duo that aims to make an impact on the education system. On the lawn of St Mark’s and St Andrew’s Presbyterian church in Palmerston North, lies the unassuming, prefabricated office building of SPELADD, an organisation committed to teaching and helping those with learning difficulties.

The pair warn that teachers across the country aren’t being given the skills needed to teach children with learning difficulties like ADHD and dyslexia. One incident observed by Rachel saw a teacher shouting at a student with ADHD. “The student couldn’t help bursting out because she hadn’t been helped, and the teacher was shouting at her in a voice that you wouldn’t use on your dog. It broke my heart,” says Rachel.

Dedicated teachersManawatu schools are mostly highly cooperative in assisting SPELADD with these children; however, Rachel outlines that one school denied her services, free of charge, telling her that the teacher had the necessary skills to deal with it. “They think they know what they’re talking about, and they really don’t, it’s just stubborn,” says Rachel.

Rachel explains that one of the most rewarding aspects of the job is being able to resolve misunderstandings between children and teachers, “to show they’re not bad kids, and to show them how they can help,” says Rachel.

“It’s a human right to have access to education and in New Zealand we are supposed to have free education for all, but because of these children’s specific disabilities, they can’t access that education,” says Rachel.

For several years Rachel attempted to help a child with his spelling without success, “I caught up with him one day, and he told me that he was doing a course at UCOL. He said that he still couldn’t spell, but that I had helped him realise that it didn’t mean he was stupid. I thought I had failed this kid, it was a huge boost for me,” says Rachel.

Everybody’s different, the system doesn’t suit everyone; once you get into the real world, you can shine. Entrepreneurs, celebrities, all kinds of amazing people have learning difficulties.

Rachel’s goal for the next few years is to strengthen the organisation, training new staff as the organisation enters a transitional growth phase. “We are presently very limited and localised, and we want to get out there, and be more active,” says Rachel.

Elizabeth and Rachel rely on grants, donations and the fees collected from parents, explaining that they reject government funding as they feel the Government actually hinders them from helping these children. “The government didn’t even recognise dyslexia as a learning disability until 2007,” says Elizabeth.

Rachel describes the support of local business as invaluable. “It’s the people with passion who get behind it, because they know the struggle that these kids are going through,” says Bradley.

Plant to Plate

A generation growing food for the soul

Some might take for granted the ability to grow and prepare their own meals, but when retired school principal Ros Powell plants a seed, she’s passing knowledge to generations of people who are learning, for the first time, how to garden and cook.

Most weeks of the school year, Ros Powell and fellow volunteers take vans with gardening equipment and a mobile kitchen into schools, inspiring young people to be more involved with what they eat.

Home grown goodnessEstablished four years ago as a charitable trust, Plant to Plate Aotearoa is a community programme, free to all primary schools across Palmerston North and the Manawatū district. The programme is led by teachers and assisted by experienced, enthusiastic volunteers who enjoy passing on their skills to children and their teachers.

The programme was started by several retirees who saw a need in their local schools. “We began with nothing, purchasing items from our own pockets and catering for several events to cover costs,” Ros says. “People donated goods to us and further assistance came from Awapuni Rotary Club, Palmerston North Inner Wheel, Pioneer New World, the Palmerston North Environmental Trust and the Palmerston North City Council.

“Our first morale boost came early when Awapuni Nurseries donated seedlings to Plant to Plate Aotearoa used in each school we visited. Other highlights were a substantial three year grant from The Tindall Foundation and the gift of a vehicle from Awapuni Rotary Club. In 2010 Plant to Plate Aotearoa won the Palmerston North Trustpower Community Award for Volunteerism, which really validated the work we do.”

“Our mantra is seasonality, thrift and independence.”

Plant to Plate volunteers are invited into schools to give a minimum of three gardening and cooking sessions to a class of children. The children build the gardens themselves using
simple wooden boxing; they learn how to plant seeds and seedlings, make compost and care for their school gardens.

“Our mantra is seasonality, thrift and independence,” Ros says. “For the cooking side, we use staple ingredients from the home store cupboard and produce that is in season, to
create simple, delicious meals together, while having fun.”

Menu items include soups, breads, salads, muffins, miniquiches and potatoes in several forms. The class is divided into two groups during the three-hour session, with one half gardening and the other cooking, before swapping over so that each child participates in both activities.

Ros says that even teachers have been surprised at the response from children, who are so enthusiastic about food growing and cooking – possibly influenced by the proliferation of cooking shows. “The surge in TV cooking shows has certainly been good for us. The kids are excited to get involved and don their aprons – boys equally as much as girls.”

Fun making food

Each session concludes with a sit-down meal. Tables, aprons, tablecloths, cutlery, glassware and dishes are all provided, and the children are taught to lay place settings for the meal – a skill that Ros says is surprisingly rare these days.

“A large number of families no longer eat at the dining table, so this is something new and exciting for some of our kids. They call it their ‘restaurant’. Plant to Plate sees eating together as a social skill, so we place importance on good manners and friendly conversation at the table.”

To date, Plant to Plate Aotearoa has worked with more than 3500 children from 36 primary schools across the region – sometimes visiting more than one school in the same week.
“We’re thrilled when we’re invited back to a school to see that the programme’s teaching has become ingrained,” Ros says. “Connecting with the Earth keeps children healthy and encourages economic and physical independence.

“What we do isn’t unique, but our mobility and the way that we operate across the schools in Palmerston North and district are,” she says. “Our vision is to teach as many children as we can life skills around the growing and cooking of food, and help them to learn ways to care for the environment and Earth’s resources. It gives us back something as well – a real sense of contribution and achievement.”

“The kids are excited to get involved.”

Ros says the volunteers range in age from retired people to part-time workers, volunteers from the Multicultural Centre and international students from Massey University.

“It’s so rewarding for us to have such a worthwhile project in which to invest our time and energy. The international volunteers from China, Korea, the United States, South Africa, Russia and Britain have been wonderful and really enjoy the opportunity to integrate with our community – and we learn something from them as well.”

While the programme is a rewarding one, she says that at times it can be confronting. “We do see children for whom food security is an issue, particularly at a time of recession as we have now. There are genuinely hungry children out there, and it’s important that we as a community appreciate the circumstances our children are faced with every day, in order to make a difference.”

Making that difference, she says, is part of a unique privilege that is creating a lasting legacy. “Parents sometimes stop us in the street to tell us they’ve started their own gardens at home, or are using our recipes for their meals.

“We’ve been so grateful to have wide support for something we are so passionate about, in the form of volunteers, grants, donations and sponsorship. This is work that is is good for the soul.”

Steve Maharey

The Man Behind the “Power House”

It has been four decades since Steve Maharey crossed the bridge across the Manawatu River from Palmerston North to enrol at Massey. Back then Steve was enjoying life, but thought becoming a student might lead to even more interesting opportunities. Today the sociology senior lecturer turned cabinet minister is in his second term as the University’s Vice-Chancellor. When Steve talks about the transformative power of education, and education as “a long-term passport not a short-term visa”, it is his personal experience he is drawing on.

As Vice-Chancellor, Steve presides over a substantial enterprise. Massey University, which this year celebrates its 50th year as an autonomous degree-granting institution, has three campuses, 3,000 staff, 35,000 students – with around 17,000 of them studying through New Zealand’s longest-established distance learning programme – and a multitude of research alliances, here and overseas.

Steve MahareyThe result, for Steve, is a life that is a whirlwind of meetings, openings, speeches and interviews, and a frequent flier’s schedule of international obligations. He makes himself determinedly available, but even so he sees himself as a transitional figure. “I try to travel to the three campuses, but eventually it will defeat someone. If the game plan comes off, Massey will become a global player.”

It will also, if Steve has his way, play a significant role in creating a better, more prosperous “new New Zealand”. Hence initiatives such as FoodHQ, which, with the support of the Palmerston North City and Manawatu District Councils, is creating a super campus comprising AgResearch, AsureQuality, Fonterra, Massey University, Plant & Food Research, the Riddet Institute and the Bio Commerce Centre.

If New Zealand is to hit the Government’s target of having food exports reach $60 billion by 2025 – trebling 2009’s result – Massey’s input as a “science power house” will be key.

FoodHQ will principally draw on the expertise held in Massey’s College of Sciences and College of Health, but Steve is also sure that the University’s Colleges of Business, Creative Arts, and Humanities and Social Sciences will have a role to play in making Massey “the engine of the new New Zealand”.

“You need an environment in which people want to constantly stretch themselves.”

As a former sociologist, Steve has a particular fondness for the humanities and social sciences. These disciplines are areas he thinks have been unfairly neglected in recent times.

“I think the humanities and social sciences have a lot to offer, informing social policy, creating effective, competent citizens in a democratic society, promoting critical thought, and helping people to live full and satisfying lives.” In late 2013 the University launched the WH Oliver Humanities Research Academy to boost research in the humanities.

Managing such a large and varied organisation is not a simple task. A commercial enterprise would allow for more direct management. In a university, things are not so simple. “Good universities pride themselves on their independent academic staff,” says Steve. “Management needs to be light-handed and
strategically focused.

Massey University“You need an environment in which people want to constantly stretch themselves,” says Steve. Once you have that, it is simply a matter of “running along behind them and
being supportive”.

Away from Massey, Steve tries to keep active. “Our dog manages to get us out of the house for a walk every day. That provides some fitness for mountain biking and tramping”.

Every year he and his wife Bette try to tick off another adventure. “I used to do one long mountain bike race or something like that, but in the past few years we’ve done the Milford, Tongariro, Queen Charlotte and other shorter tracks.”

Mountain biking was something he took up “during my midlife crisis”; tramping was at Bette’s insistence. “I have to say it is one thing I never thought I would do,
sleeping in huts. I think, you know, if there are perfectly good hotels, why are we staying in a hut? But I actually enjoy it now; I enjoy the whole camaraderie of meeting other people, cooking your food and sitting there in the dark at night time. I think it’s fantastic. I can’t believe I’ve left it so long.”