Halswell Domain

Halswell Domain
View from the Model Engineers' site in the Halswell Domain

Saturday, December 12, 2015

Familiar Faces: Taunya Kearns

Taunya Kearns is a familiar face in Halswell because is she is often seen in local performances with the Halswell Drama Group and the Halswell Community Choir. This year, Taunya took on the brave task of writing the variety show's script called "Time Flies When You are Having Fun," as well as directing the show, singing, dancing and acting in the show.

Originally from Devon, England, Taunya moved here twelve years ago with husband Paul, and children Shannon and Calym . Paul was in the RAF so they have lived in various places all over Europe. They settled in New Zealand choosing Christchurch "because it felt like home" and Halswell because it was "close to the city but still had a village feel about it".
Shortly after arriving, Taunya joined the Halswell Drama Group to get to know local people. Acting and singing had also been something that she had always wanted to do, and in fact, apart from minor childhood roles, feels that "she had acted all through her life to overcome extreme shyness." This admission comes as a surprise to those who know Taunya today, as she oozes confidence, especially on the stage. Confidence has come as she has set herself more and more daring challenges, including playing a saloon madam and a male private detective. When asked what she loves about doing the shows, Taunya replied, "In acting, you can be any character; even it is is a villain or a character you don't like, you make it believable, entertain the audience and you make it your own."
Various influences shaped Taunya's script writng. Character dialogue was inspired by the questions that former writer and director Marie Manna would ask to encourage the actor's to think deeply about character background. Bertram, one of this year's main characters, was a wealthy man who had never lived "outside of his traditional business world" so re-opening a long-closed theatre was a very exciting new adventure for him. Anthea, another main character, was "money-hungry" and she frequently referred to the risks involved. Taunya had also wanted to focus on the 1970s, but then realised  much of the  audience wouldn't have   been  born by then so the time frame needed to be extended.  Inspiration for the time travel  sequences came from "Dr Who".   She set out to write a show that would have something for everyone: music, mystery, romance, history and humour, and clearly succeeded as the show was very warmly received.
Next year's show is in the planning stages and the drama group is currently advertising  for people in key production roles: Director, Musical Director, Choreographer and so on.  Auditions are in April.   "We are always looking for new talent, new people, especially of the male variety. Don't think about whether you can sing, dance or act; just think about trying. Come along and have a go!" advises Taunya. 

Deb Harding-Browne

Familiar Faces: Pam Fisher

If you have been  a regular to the Halswell Library you will recognise the  friendly face of Pamela Fisher who has been working there for the last five years and also from 1999-2006. Pam, who lives in Greenpark with her husband,  describes the Halswell library as "another home for me" and loves the community here.

Born in Akaroa, and then  later moving to Greenpark with her parents, Pam attended Lincoln High School.  A career in teaching was then considered but it didn't feel "quite a right fit" and  she decided to prepare for library employment by working at Whitcoulls. Once library qualified, Pam worked in  Waimairi /Fendalton library and but has worked mostly at Halswell.  While raising her two daughters, Pam stopped work for a time and then returned to library work when they were older.

It is obvious that Pam's enthusiasm for her job stems  from more than  being very enthused about reading.  She says the variety of her job is very appealing  and  having a flexible personality  is necessary as it is a quite an unstructured working environment where you can be doing several kinds of work in one day.  Making people happier is what Pam really enjoys, "We have a lot of retired people and young families during the day and says a trip to the library can really improve the quality of their day.

While work keeps Pam pretty busy, when she is not there,  she might be  reading her favourite author of the moment  John Boyne, or Scottish country dancing, knitting or travelling.   Fiji, Greece, Turkey and Italy are some of the places she has visited in the last few years.

WORDS: Deb Harding-Browne

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

A place in Halswell that few people know about

This post was prompted by spotting a family of paradise ducks (including about a half dozen black and white bundles of fluffy down) as I biked through Hagley Park last week. The scene sent me back to a favourite place of ours for sitting in the sun, reading, birdwatching or simply sitting. And our daughter will sometimes take her horse there for a change of scene.

The ponds in question sit off Sabys Road, opposite the end of Candys Road. Some of the reasons we really like the place (other than their intrinsic niceness): there are no signs telling you to do this or not do that, no seats, no interpretive sign boards, no toilets - and, so far as the Happy Bicyclist knows, NO MANAGEMENT PLAN. The place just....is. A rare thing in Halswell these days. And it seems that hardly anyone knows about the place, judging by the almost total absence of people when we've been there.

Although there were no paradise duck families that I could see on Saturday, there is always a good diversity of water birds. One of my favourites is the Australian coot. While not exactly rare, one doesn't come across them every day - but there are almost always one or two at the ponds, usually at the road end pond.

So, go have a look for yourself. But please don't tell anyone I told you about this rather special place. It might end up with a management plan.

Sunday, September 20, 2015

The happy story of a former resident of Halswell

Our annual winter West Coast holiday took us on our bikes from Greymouth to Charleston. I have had a research project for many years on a rare seabird, the Westland petrel, that lives in the hills south of Punakaiki. However, the home of the great majority of the population is in "entry by permit only" part of Paparoa National Park, so my wife has never seen these beautiful seabirds close-up.

Bruce and Denise formerly lived just south of Halswell, and now run a tour that includes a small Westland petrel colony on their land overlooking Waiwhero, or Lawson's Creek. So, when I heard that their tour was open, I was keen for both of us to go along.
This picture is far from Halswell! The birds breed on a steep south-facing slope just behind the spur in the photo, and the work that Bruce and Denise have undertaken to make the site easily accessible is quite remarkable.

So, when the Westland petrels started coming into land through the forest all around us just on dark, we were all captivated. I really enjoy the night sky visible from our back yard, but even so it is easy to forget that the night sky we see has been largely blotted out by city lights. We had a good view on our way back to the road end 20 min away.

Sunday, August 2, 2015

The bellbird tree

Of the trees around Halswell in winter, this one outside Craythornes on Halswell Road must be one of my favourites. Although the tree looks like any other eucalypt, the bellbird song cascades forth at this time of year to the benefit of Craythornes' customers (and anyone walking or biking past). This reminds us that it's rather cold up on the Port Hills, and food correspondingly scarce.

We were talking at home this past week about the August 1992 snowfall. At that time, we lived in Kenndys Bush Road along from Halswell School. When we got up on that snowy morning, three goldfinches were huddled together outside the front door, having passed away in the night through cold and lack of food. Our oldest daughter, then four years old, still remembers.

In the old days, before furry mammals turned up, bellbirds could, and did, feed safeky on the ground. With intensive pest control in many Port Hills reserves, this habit is returning. On mammal-free seabird islands, bellbirds have alway fossicked around seabird burrows and in beach-cast kelp along the seashore. Going past Craythornes' tree reminds me both what we've lost in the way of biodiversity and what we've still got.

Tuesday, July 28, 2015


My usual winter companions of ducks and herons are absent this year. It has been too dry for the usual ponds of standing water to form, so the ducks do not gather to ferret out grain spilled by the horses, and the herons do not fly slowly overhead. The beauty of a grey heron flying through a grey sky, croaking mournfully as the sun retreats, is something that I miss. But it is a blessing not to wade through the mud and water that soaks feet and kills grass.
Sunset over standing water, 2013.

Hay prices have been exceptionally high this year. Last season was a bad one for haymaking, with paddocks producing half of the usual number of bales. This has coupled with the drought in the North Island to create a real shortage of supply. I was very fortunate to get some cheap, good quality hay delivered in March, but those who are unable to store large amounts of hay have been left to buy it at ever increasing cost. I am concerned that, should the region experience another bad season, buying hay will be a luxury for many. 

While we have missed out on our usual rainfall, we have not been short on frosts this year. On the worst days the metal gates at work stick to my hands, and the ropes are stiff with ice.

My horse is about to come back into work in preparation for the competition season. Once again we will brave the multitude of dog owners who do not appear to know how to read Halswell Quarry signage requiring leashed dogs in the horse area. There is a horse park being developed in West Melton, which will hopefully remove the need for me to travel to Burwood in search of decent horse trails. One of my favourite paper roads is no longer easy to access following interference with stock on the adjoining farms, and this is a great pity.

Thursday, July 23, 2015

What is the TPPA and why might we care?

People the world over are concerned about trade agreements like the TPPA or the TIPP (the European/ American version of the same thing).   There are movements in all of the countries who are lining up to sign up to the TPPA or similar agreements about the costs of these free trade agreements.  "Free" here cannot under any circumstances be taken to mean trade at no cost!  

In fact the costs are very high:  higher costs of medicines, lower wages, and worse environmental outcomes and a loss of sovereignty (our capacity to make our own rules in our own country and live as we choose in a way that reflects our values).

Those against the TPPA are NOT against trade.  The are worried about the hidden and undiscussed costs of secret trade agreements that commit us to things that may not work for us.  They are concerned at the loss of democratic process.
Here are some of their concerns:
1) Why are we not able to debate this openly with all the information on the table, as you would expect if we live in a functioning democracy?
2) Will the benefits outweigh the costs to average New Zealanders?
3) Why is the TPPA being negotiated in secret and what can we NOT see as a result of that?
4) What are the implications of large international corporations being able to sue our government for loss of earnings if they change laws (and this might include raising the minimum wage, or legislating to ensure businesses don't pollute or damage our capacity to be clean and green or 100% pure) in courts that are not NZ courts?
5) Who exactly will benefit from this and what is the evidence based on the results of previous free trade agreements?

Check out this comic strip from the Pencilsword to see an easy-to-read outline of the issues, or this Press article from some concerned doctors.  If you prefer video then this two minute video gives you an outline. 

This is likely to affect us in far reaching ways for many years to come.  It is worth 10 minutes of your time to find out a little bit more. Check out this website for information about what you can do if you have concerns

Saturday, July 11, 2015

Cycling in Halswell and beyond

A post from a new writer: The Happy Bicyclist.
Most Saturday afternoons, J and I go for a bike ride together that usually ends up at some cafe in the country. Today, though, she was rostered on for work. 

Bicycling on a calm, sunny afternoon in winter can be quite magical. Heading out just after lunch, I stopped at Healthy Harvest in Prebbleton for some mandarins and cheaper-than-usual capsicums. And just remembered the honey that had been forgotten on our previous supermarket visit. Later, on the Lincoln side of Rolleston I added some garlic from a roadside stall. 

Still feeling pleased about the garlic, I swung on and off the completed sections of the Lincoln-Rolleston off-road cyclepath presently under construction. Once finished in a month or so, this will be a real boon for all sorts of folk, people walking as well as people on their bikes.
A piece of the new Lincoln-Rolleston cycleway in the making

Today, I stopped in two cafes - coffee in Rolleston, and herbal tea in Lincoln. We hadn't been to the one in Rolleston, and J wanted me to check it out. It's in the iZone, and you can find it by turning off Jones Road at the yard filled with derelict Landrovers. 

Being on my own, I had a book to read: Robert & Edward Skidelsky's "How much is enough?...the case for the Good Life". Sounds good to me.