Schools of Thought: The Debate on Homeschooling

Off The Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

Book Review: How to Homeschool: A Guide for Progressive Parents by Miguel Varella-Cid

Published in 2022 by Panorama Press Ltd

ISBN: 978-1-784529-65-9

How to Homeschool: A Guide for Progressive Parents” by Miguel Varella-Cid

Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen. Welcome to tonight’s debate on the pros and cons of homeschooling.

For the affirmative, Mr Miguel Varella-Cid will extol the virtues of nurturing your children’s minds at home and speak of his personal experience. The international established education system will present the contrary position.

Mr Varella-Cid recently wrote a book on the subject and will be our first speaker this evening. He and his wife Yuko lost faith in the contemporary education system in Japan, where they have chosen to raise their two children, daughter Arina and son Akira, and decided to teach them at home. They found the experience both challenging and enlightening. Their satisfaction with the outcome has compelled Mr Varella-Cid to share their findings with other parents who may be considering homeschooling an option for their offspring.

The book’s release coincides with a chapter in history in which every parent worldwide has been homeschooling due to the COVID pandemic and may resonate with people who have found the experience both favourable and disadvantageous.

Not everyone is suited to being a good teacher. Homeschooling requires patience, dedication, persistence and significant investment in time and effort. However, the decision to homeschool involves the children’s future, and I’m yet to meet a parent not interested in that subject. In his thought-provoking and comprehensive book, Mr Varella-Cid quickly points out that the decision to homeschool should involve the children as their life is at the core of the determination.

Reading through the book, it occurred to me that every parent homeschools as children generally only attend formal schools for six hours per day, which leaves them at the educational mercy of their parents for the remaining hours. Not all schooling is academic and much of the responsibility of responsible parents these days is to encourage children to develop their own imaginations and not draw excessively on the creativity of others via digital media. To instil good moral fortitude, manners and social etiquette into their children’s disposition and share life’s lessons to prepare them for adulthood is the role of parents these days. This book is worthwhile for all parents, even those like me, who lack the prowess and zeal to educate their children at home full-time.

“How to Homeschool: A Guide for Progressive Parents” recounts an educational journey involving parents and children. Miguel and Yuko also had to learn to teach and how to inculcate Arina and Akira with a passion for knowledge, understanding and academia. They were fortunate to draw on the three decades of homeschooling knowledge and experience of community member Mr Yukio Furuyama, who became their mentor.

Like most parents, Yuko and Miguel recognised that their children’s characters were entirely different. After initially attempting to mirror the traditional Japanese school system and finding it exceedingly difficult to keep pace with the curriculum, Mr Furuyama encouraged them to foster Arina and Akira’s unique interests and abilities and to “create a bespoke learning environment that suited each child.” He also stated that homeschooling is not easy, but pointed out that valuable life lessons rarely are.

Mr Furuyama encouraged the Varella-Cids to turn traditional teaching thinking around and make education the responsibility of the children to learn in their own way. He urged the passionate parents to take a leap of faith to trust their children and allow them to nurture their inherent abilities and passions.

The book includes numerous personal examples of how Yuko and Miguel met with and overcame challenges during the homeschooling of their children. This is helpful as other parents will likely encounter similar hurdles along their homeschooling journey. Also included in the book is a comprehensive list of resources, including books, Web sites, podcasts and forums where parents can find valuable information, advice and assistance on how to improve the delivery of curriculum, improve homeschooling techniques and learn from the experience of others.

Miguel, an enthusiastic advocate of homeschooling, has also launched a Website ( to provide ongoing support and information to parents considering homeschooling their children. He encourages readers of his book to join his mailing list to receive regular updates and access to his reading list, podcasts and videos. His goal is to build a community of 100,000 like-minded free homeschoolers worldwide. This forum will encourage, support and nurture parents who seek a more wholesome educational experience for their children and assist parents with homeschooling advice, inspiration and advocacy. It will also enable Miguel, Yuko, and other members of the forum to share their experiences and knowledge and make it easier for other parents to replicate the successful home education of their children.

“How to Homeschool: A Guide for Progressive Parents” is a comprehensive and eminently readable book that will appeal not only to people considering educating their children at home, but to parents everywhere who seek to be better at helping their children learn and develop as they grow. 

Reading the book has provided me with numerous insights on how I could be a better parent and help my children develop into well-balanced, intelligent, considerate adults with accurate moral compasses.

Thank you, Mr Varella-Cid; you make a good case for homeschooling. Now, it’s over to the establishment and the modern school system to rebut your contentions…Hello? Anyone there? Sorry Ladies and Gentlemen, it would seem they have taken their children and gone home!

The homeschooling team wins by default. Well done, Mr Varella-Cid; you are tonight’s winner and congratulations on your superb book. I highly recommend this book to any parent who wants to improve how they interact with their children and help them grow into confident, well-educated, inquisitive young adults.

Paul Murray (left) with Yuko and Miguel Varella-Cid (centre) Sanae Murray (right) and their respective children L-R Winston, Arina, Diva and Akira at their home in Chiba, Japan.
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From Little Things, BIG Things Come…

Karamea Co.Starters Graduate with BIG Plans for Business Success

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

In the small rural enclave of Karamea in a community ravaged by COVID, seven local entrepreneurial ladies graduated from a 10-week Co.Starters business course on May 11, 2022.

About 20 people gathered for the occasion at Vinnie’s Cafe in Karamea to hear business pitch presentations from the respective participants. Heath Milne, CEO of Development West Coast (DWC), which sponsored the programme, attended the event. The participants, facilitators and people of Karamea thoroughly appreciated his effort to come to Karamea from his home near Greymouth for the celebration.

Liz Kerslake from WeatherTop Permaculture Retreat Presents her Business Pitch to Fellow Co.Starters Participants, DWC CEO Heath Milne and Members of the Public.

The Co.Starters programme takes a business idea and walks it through a logical series of steps over the course of 10 weeks to prepare the concept for market success. Co.Starters began in an economically challenged community in Chattanooga, Tennessee. The region faced high unemployment and the social issues associated with little hope, penury and lack of life purpose and meaningfulness. The programme was initially run in Karamea in 2016 when the region was facing significant economic challenges. Several new businesses became established, including a Vinnie’s Cafe and a Nature aHead hairdressing salon.

Co-Facilitator Jessie Creedmore Delivers a Speech in Italian at Celebration Night.

The 2022 course was conducted via ZOOM due to meeting restriction protocols relating to the COVID pandemic. Despite initial concerns, it worked out very well for all participants who could join from the comfort of their own homes. The online forum also permitted guest speakers to access the sessions from afar. Guest speakers zoomed-in from Nelson, Hokitika, Mexico and Japan and shared their knowledge and experience about specific facets of business. Participants could also ask questions and interact with the guest speakers.

DWC CEO Heath Milne Enables Guest Speakers, Award Donators, DWC Staff, Buller Mayor Jamie Cleine and COVID Afflicted Co.Starters to Join Celebration Night via ZOOM

The decision to host the programme by ZOOM turned out to have been prudent as halfway throgh the course, many participants, including the facilitators, succumbed to the lurgy and were required to home isolate. However, throughout the course, those who were able got together to discuss the challenges participants were facing and help each other out. The programme’s strength results from the synergies that evolve between the participants and the “better together” concept whereby everyone helps each other out for mutual benefit.

The business ideas were as diverse as the participants themselves, from a night sky star gazing activity (DUSK Dark Unique Skies Karamea) to a peaceful alternative to the Military-Industrial Complex (Peace Inc.). Also, a branch-mulching service (Chip-Chop (We Chip, What You Chop)), Permaculture Retreat (WeatherTop), Hikoia traditional Maori Flax-Weaving, a vegan food cart and artisan cheesemaker Dianne Anderson, who is already winning national awards for cheeses made from her own grass-fed dairy herd.

Ange Cronin Dressed as an Astronaut, Presents her Pitch for DUSK: Dark Unique Skies Karamea.

Seven of the nine starters graduated from the course. It was a great satisfaction for the facilitators to hear the business pitches on “Celebration Night” and recognise how much progress the participants had made in sharpening and consolidating their business ideas into a polished presentation and the confidence they had in sharing their business concepts publicly. Two Co.Starters graduates joined the Celebration Night by ZOOM and did their pitches online.

Liz Kerslake scooped two additional awards for Best Presentation and the Customer Count Award for discussing her business idea with more prospective customers to elicit their feedback. Dianne Anderson won the “People’s Choice Award,” which was voted on by the participants for the best business idea.

Liz Kerslake Presents her Business: WeatherTop Permaculture Retreat
Cheesemaker Dianne Anderson.
Raramai Adcock pitches “Hikoia,” her traditional Maori flax-weaving business.
Colleen O’Sullivan Presents her “Chip-Chop” (We Chip What You Chop) Business Idea.

Co.Starters Graduate Dunford Speaks to Graduates About his Experience Starting and Operating his Business “Vinnie’s Cafe” in Karamea and Presenting all Graduates with a Coffee Voucher.
Celebration Night Feast by Co.Starters Alumni Vinnie Dunford of “Vinnie’s Cafe.”

Many thanks to DWC for financially supporting the Co.Starters programme and to Amy McLaughlin of Tinker Creative for the $400 branding package (won by Liz Kerslake), Business Mentors NZ for a 12-month subscription (won by Dianne Anderson) and Daimon Schwalger of Nomad Audio and Video for a 45-second promotional video worth over $2,000 (won by Liz Kerslake).

Very special thanks also to Rachel Doolan from DWC for her enthusiastic and professional support and the superb guest speakers who freely offered their time, wisdom and experience to the course participants.

Guest Speakers:
• Don Grant, Penati
• Frank Witowski, Hybrid Bike
• Nadine Hickman, Peptalk Media
• Dave Barrett, Thorvald Cheese, Little River Cheese, Kahurangi Wine, The Junction
• Ali Boswijk, Nelson Tasman Chamber of Commerce
• Miguel Varella-Cid – New Era Imports
• Tash Dellaca – EPIC Westport
• Cindy Hopper, West Coast Scenic Waterways
• Rochelle Crossman – Karamea Village Hotel

Posted in Business, Cheese, Co.Starters, Community, Economics, Education, Food, Karamea, Money, New Zealand, Paul Murray, Permaculture, Photography, Social Enterprise, Sustainability, Tourism, Uncategorized, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , | Leave a comment

Fromagère Di Anderson Says, “Say “Cheese” Karamea.” 

Off the Top of My Head 

By Paul Murray 

After 52 years of “running around after other people,” Dianne Anderson said, “Right… It’s my turn now; I want a cheese room,” and, just like that, she started a new career at 69 by becoming a cheesemaker.   

Dianne has been a supportive wife of husband Russell and mother of three on their family dairy farm between the townships of Karamea and Little Wanganui at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. Born in Leeston on the Canterbury plains, her family moved to Waimangaroa when she was 12 years old. She attended high school in Westport and was a community nurse when she met a dashing young farmer named Russell Anderson at a cabaret and has been a Karamea girl ever since.   

Dianne and Russell Anderson at Home in Karamea

She discovered a passion for cheesemaking when asked to make some cheese for a community fundraising effort for Karamea swimming pool renovations. She’d never made cheese before but found herself on a knowledge quest into the art and science of cheese and embarked on a mission to thoroughly understand the craft.   

Through her research, Dianne discovered Waihi-based cheesemaker Jean Mansfield and purchased her book “How to Make Cheese: Learn the Secrets to Successful Cheesemaking.” She also went to Waihi and took a cheesemaking class with Mansfield. 

How to Make Cheese: Learn the Secrets to Successful Cheesemaking,” by Jean Mansfield

On the way back from Waihi, she called in to meet artisan raw-milk cheesemaker Biddy Fraser-Davis in Eketahuna after seeing her on TVNZ’s “Country Calendar” programme.   

Fraser-Davis’ appearance on the show drew the attention of the Ministry of Primary Industries (MPI), which took exception to her amateur home cheesemaking business. MPI demanded compliance with their laborious and costly food security, hygiene and safety regulations. Fraser-Davis fought back hard, took on the bureaucracy and forced the government to rethink its policies. This led to a simplified and cheaper set of rules for small cheesemaking operations that enables people like Dianne to operate a legally compliant home business that meets all food safety and hygiene regulations without costing the Earth.   

Fraser-Davis advised Dianne to purchase a book by Gianaclis Caldwell titled “Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide for Home-Scale and Market Producers.” Dianne said, “I bought the book, read it up, and, if I’d known there was so much science in cheesemaking, I would never have started making cheese…I was lucky I’d already started before I read that book!” 

Mastering Artisan Cheesemaking: The Ultimate Guide for Home-Scale and Market Producers,” by Gianaclis Caldwell

Dianne’s culinary skills are legendary in the Karamea region. She is a self-taught kitchen master, having spent over five decades feeding family, farm workers, and friends, catering for community events and fundraisers and spending 15 years running an international farm-stay business on the family farm. Visitors worldwide have enjoyed the Anderson family’s hospitality on their Karamea property and Dianne’s delectable cuisine, mostly made from her home garden and produce from the farm.    

Dianne recently won two awards in the 2022 New Zealand “CHAMPIONS OF CHEESE AWARDS,” which the New Zealand Specialist Cheesemakers Association runs to promote and develop the New Zealand cheese industry.   

GOLD: Curds & Whey Amateur Cheesemaker & Cheese Dianne Anderson, Pine Ash Bloomy Rind   

BRONZE: Curds & Whey Amateur Cheesemaker & Cheese Dianne Anderson, Haloumi   

The Anderson Family farm is wedged between the roaring Tasman Sea and the forested mountain peaks of the Kahurangi National Park. Their 520 Friesian/Jersey cross cows are all exclusively grass-fed on lush West Coast pasture and do not receive any nutritional supplements or additives to their feed. They thrive on the healthy, verdant fields, fresh rainwater and warm West Coast sunshine.    

She is also experimenting with the unique natural botanical flavours of the native bush in the Karamea region. She has also teamed up with a local berry grower and created a hard cheese soaked in blueberry and aronia berries juice and skins that creates a beautiful deep burgundy coating and subtle berry flavour to the finished product. Dianne also has a unique hard cheese made with a New Zealand native pepper coming out soon that her enthusiastic local cheese tasting team have called; “Incredible,” “Amazing,” “Fantastic,” “Unbelievable,” and “Tremendous.” Halloumi, Feta, Camembert, Gouda, Havarti and Cheddar are also in her repertoire.   

Interest in cheesemaking has spread throughout the Karamea community, and Dianne’s superb results have inspired many others to give it a try. The Karamea Cheese Competition evolved from the surge in local cheesemaking, and it is a hotly contested event that attracts up to 80 entries from budding caseiculturists. If you win the competition, you are, apparently, permitted to wear your underpants on the outside for the whole year! No one has ever done that, but the cheese competition has significantly increased local interest in cheese, and cheesy conversations are common in the bars, cafes and restaurants around town.   

Dianne Anderson Nurturing her Maturing Cheese Rounds
Cheese Maturing in Humidity and Temperature Controlled Cabinet at the Anderson Family Homestead

Now that she is a consummate cheesemaker and bonafide cheese champion, Dianne’s next challenge is negotiating the minefield of compliance regulations for establishing a food-processing business. This is particularly treacherous for cheese production, given the need for absolute hygiene and regular testing for pathogens, unwanted bacteria, and other contaminants. The regulations and associated expenses have put the cheese room’s estimated cost at upwards of $70,000.    

The Beginnings of Dianne Anderson’s Cheese Room in front of the Family Homestead: “Mini-Me” Looks On.

Husband Russell, understandably, had some concerns about this, but Dianne was quick to point to his new digger and other farm equipment in support of her argument in favour of the expenditure. Dianne won her day in the Anderson Family Court, and an allocation for her cheese room was added to the farm budget.    

Dianne is studying business via a Development West Coast sponsored Co.Starters course on Wednesday nights in Karamea to prepare her cheese operation for market success. The course is helping her focus and hone her business idea to ensure she has a complete grasp of the cheese business’s compliance, legal, accounting, and marketing aspects before launching the venture.    

Dianne plans to work four days a week when she is in full production, with another day dedicated to sterilising the cheese room. She has a pasteuriser that will enable her to process 100 litres of raw milk per batch, resulting in approximately 10 kilograms of cheese per day. So, each week, Dianne hopes to turn 400 litres of milk from their farm into 40 kgs of artisan cheese. She initially plans to offer the cheese to the local market by stocking the local produce shop and attending the Saturday Market with her range. Her cheese will also, undoubtedly, be popular with visitors to the Karamea region, who are always keen to try local artisan food products.   

So, after over half a century of hands-on kitchen experience, considerable expense and study, Dianne Anderson is ready to present her lovingly crafted cheese range to the world from her home base in Karamea, West Coast, South Island, New Zealand. Cheese aficionados, start your engines! 

Dianne Anderson: Cheesemaker.
Posted in Agriculture, Business, Cheese, Co.Starters, Community, Community-Led Development, Food, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, New Zealand, Uncategorized, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Fine Art Exhibition Pops Up In Market Cross 

By Sanae Murray

(Karamea Pop-Up Gallery Curator)

The Pop-up Gallery exhibition at the old Karamea Hardware building was held on March 25, 26 and 27 and opened with live music performances by “The Scissors” Steve Miller, Seth Doherty, Dave Guppy, and DJ Donna Chambers. 

‘The Scissors” Entertain the Crowd and “Mojo” the dog on Opening Night at the Karamea Pop-Up Gallery
(Photo by Sanae Murray)

On short notice, a fantastic team of volunteers emerged from the community to prepare the gallery and display the art and craft of 18 local artists. Most artworks had never been exhibited before, and the quality of the work on display completely wowed locals and visitors to the area. The show included a progressive painting started by Karamea Area School students Jade, Eliza and Fern and added to over the weekend by a raft of aspiring artists, all of whom collaborated to produce a snapshot of Karamea life on canvas. A stone-painting corner also proved popular with kids and adults alike. 

Karamea Area School Students Work on the Progressive Painting with Finished Result Below.
(Photo by Sanae Murray)

One hundred and forty people visited the gallery over the weekend, and a holidaymaker from Christchurch purchased one of Svetlana Mickell’s paintings. Several of Tim Harrop’s wooden bowls also sold, along with a flax basket by Hanne Nielsen, a painting by Laura Sonneveldt and a Stewart Miller sculpture. 

Patrons Enjoying the Exhibits at the Karamea Pop-up Gallery: Tim Harrop’s wooden bowls and Svetlana Mickell’s paintings in foreground, with Stewart Miller’s sculptures on the blue shelf.
(Photo by Sanae Murray) 

Exhibition patrons were very complimentary about the quality of the artworks on display, and exclamations similar to, “This is amazing” and “I didn’t know so-and-so is such a great artist!” were heard repeatedly throughout the exhibition. The Karamea Pop-up Gallery is a fantastic opportunity for everyone to express their creative passion and introduce their artistic side to the community. 

The next Pop-Up Gallery exhibition with a theme of “Spice” is set for Easter weekend on April 16 & 17, when there will be more visitors to the area and an excellent opportunity for local artists to reach more people. There will also be winter shows on May 14 & 15, June 25 & 26 and July 9 & 10, and a Spring show on August 13 & 14. 

Thank you to Jason and Juliette James from the Karamea 4-Square for their generosity in providing the venue, Jessie Creedmore & Liz Kerslake for their mentoring and incredible support, and Manatū Taonga and Buller REAP for making the project possible by providing funding for the show. 

Finally, a BIG thank you to all the volunteers who helped make the first exhibition such a great success and to the artists who exhibited their work and showcased the depth of creative talent in our community. 

Svetlana Mickell flanked by Happy Art Collectors from Christchurch.
(Photo by Sanae Murray)
Art by Svetlana Mickell:
Art Patron Chis Mould Chilling Out at the Pop-Up Gallery Exhibition in Quiet Contemplation of the Exhibits.
(Photo by Sanae Murray)
Posted in Art, Artist, Community, Community-Led Development, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Trumpet: The Don Plots Social Media Comeback

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

Former POTUS Donald Trump is planning a comeback from the social media wilderness to which he was cast after being banned from FaceBook/Twitter/Instagram et al. for repeated indiscretions, violations of posting protocols and for allegedly inciting a red-neck insurrection on Capitol Hill at the end of his White House reign.

Exclusion from social media platforms that gave Trump a voice, effectively silenced him by eliminating his principal means of addressing his followers who were hungry for short, punchy chunks of misinformation, vitriol and rhetoric.

At his prime, Trump had 88 million Twitter followers who were regularly enlightened by random snippets of thought posted from the comfort of his “smart” phone to his enthusiastic MAGA audience. “We live in a world where the Taliban has a huge presence on Twitter, yet your favourite American president has been silenced,” Trump claimed by e-mail.

The social media sanctions applied to Trump have muted his voice and given the world a welcome rest from his persistent bullying of opponents, bombastic misinformation and self-aggrandisement. However, this respite may soon end as The Don prepares for a significant comeback to social media by launching his own platform to circumvent the current and any future attempts to dumb the great man further.

Tentatively known as “Trumpet,” Trump’s planned social media service will open new doors for The Don and his followers. “Trumpet will be the greatest ever,” said Trump in a signed press release received in the mail yesterday. “It’ll be more fabulous than FaceBook, more tremendous than Twitter, Tik-Tok and Tumblr, less fake than FOX and more “IN” than Instagram,” he added.

The governors will definitely be off any Trump posts from a network he owns and controls, not being one for self-censorship, social etiquette, accepted norms, nor verifiable facts. First amendment rights will likely be tested, stretched and plumbed as he trumpets his mind to all and sundry from the safety of his own platform.

Trumpet will, of course, be the “best,” “greatest,” and will cast a dark shade over all other “loser” services. Here is a list of things Trump states he is best at: 

Building walls… “I will build a great wall – and nobody builds walls better than me, believe me.” 

Creating jobs... “I will be the greatest jobs president that God ever created. I tell you that, believe me.” 

Being a defender and a champion… “I will be America’s greatest defender and most loyal champion, believe me.” 

Helping women… “I cherish women. I want to help women. I’m going to be able to do things for women that no other candidate would be able to do.” 

Not being anti-Semitic… “I am the least anti-Semitic person you’ve ever seen in your entire life.” 

Not being racist... “I am the least racist person, the least racist person that you’ve ever seen, the least.” 

Having words... “I know words; I have the best words.” 

Handling bad stories… “I don’t mind bad stories. I can handle a bad story better than anybody, as long as it’s true.” 

Understanding debt... “I’m the king of debt. I understand debt better than probably anybody. I know how to deal with debt so well. I love debt.” 

Breaking the glass ceiling… “I was the one that really broke the glass ceiling on behalf of women more than anybody in the construction industry.” 

Beating China at things... “When was the last time anybody saw [the US] beating, let’s say, China in a trade deal? They kill us. I beat China all the time. All the time.” 

Golf courses… “Obama is going to be out playing golf. He might be on one of my courses. I would invite him, I actually would say. I have the best courses in the world, so I’d say, you know what, if he wants to.” 

Social Media Services…” I’m the KING of social media…Trumpet will be bigger, better faster, smoother, louder, punchier, fatter, simpler, fancier, stronger, bitchier and more slanderous than anything ever before.” 

Trump followed up with more back patting…”I went from VERY successful businessman, to top TV Star to President of the United States (on my first try). I think that would qualify as not smart, but genius….and a very stable genius at that,” He said.

  • I am the most successful person ever to run for president. Nobody’s ever been more successful than me. I have the best words. I am the most fabulous whiner.
  • I am the best builder. Nobody builds walls better than me. I build the best product. Nobody can build a wall like Trump.
  • I’ve always had people say, “Donald, you have the most beautiful hands.” I have the steadiest hands. I have a very good brain.
  • Somebody made the statement that Donald Trump has built or owns the greatest collection of golf courses, ever, in the history of golf. And I believe that is 100 percent true. I have the best courses in the world.
  • I went to one of the best schools.
  • On trade, there’s nobody more conservative than me.
  • I’m the most conservative when it comes to military, when it comes to the border, when it comes to security, when it comes to illegal immigration: all of these things.
  • I think I’m the most conservative person there is. I am the only one who can fix our southern border. There is nobody more against Obamacare than me.
  • I could fix TV talk shows that are doing poorly. There is tremendous talent out there waiting to be tapped, and nobody sees it!
  • I am the worst thing that ever happened to ISIS.
  • I will be the greatest jobs president God ever created. Nobody knows jobs like I do. I will create jobs like no one else!
  • Nobody has more respect for women than I do.
  • No one has done more for people with disabilities than me.

After making numerous unsuccessful attempts to circumvent his tweeting ban regain his status at the Twitter podium, he concluded that going it alone was the only way to reclaim his social media mantle.

Should Trumpet achieve Trumps self-promotional aspirations, he is apparently planning a full orchestra of self-aggrandising mechanisms, including “Saxophone,” a mobile communications service, “Euphonium,” which will be dedicated to creating euphemisms and “Drum” an advertising and promotional instrument.

A jubilant Trump said in a postcard from Mar-a-Lago, Florida,” I’m totally excited to have this opportunity to again lead the world with my big brain and my little fingers via social media and this time, I will be able to say exactly what I want without pesky censorship or stupid rules and regulations.”

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Go ON Max Gawn

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

As captain of the All Australian Football team and Melbourne Football Club, one of the teams competing for this year’s AFL Grand Final, Big Maxie Gawn is having his best year EVER!.

Max Gawn Leads the Demons into Battle  (Photo by Mark Kolbe/AFL Photos/via Getty Images).

Born in Australia to West Coasters from Greymouth, Max spent some of his childhood in Greymouth and at now 6’10” (208 cm) and 108 kgs (about 17 stone), had he stayed on the West Coast of the South Island, his now red and blue #11 guernsey would likely be All Black number 4 or 5.

In AFL, being selected for the All-Australian team is a high accolade and Max Gawn was made captain of the team this year after previously being selected four times. All-Australian captain is the gold medal of AFL and is secondary only to the Brownlow Medal for the fairest and best player of the year.

2021 All-Australian Football Team Captain Max Gawn (centre) Flanked by Fellow Demon Guns Mid-fielders Christian Petracca (left) and Clayton Oliver.

Gawn was working as a pizza chef for Dominos when selected by the Melbourne Football Club as pick #34 in the 2009 draft. He became a stalwart of the team and now its ultimate leader becoming captain in 2020. This year, BIG Maxie has led his team to the Grand Final for the first time since 2000 with a spectacular individual performance in the preliminary final against Geelong kicking five goals. The club hasn’t won the premiership for 57 years.

Pizza Chef Max Gawn Celebrates his Selection for the Melbourne Football Club with his Kiwi Parents.

Ironically, due to COVID lockdown and quarantine restrictions, the AFL Grand Final will be played in Perth, Western Australia and not Melbourne’s home ground the MCG, so many Demon’s fans will not be able to travel to WA to support their team against another Melbourne-based team, the Western Bulldogs.

Melbourne fans have had a long wait for their team to take home the ultimate prize of the premiership cup, maybe this is the year for the Demons to rise under the leadership of Gawn and bring the flag home to Melbourne this weekend (COVID travel restrictions permitting!)

Long-Suffering Melbourne Fan Anticipating a Flag

AFL Premiership Winners

YearPremiership teamRunner-up
2019RichmondGWS Giants
2018West CoastCollingwood
2016Western BulldogsSydney Swans
2015HawthornWest Coast
2014HawthornSydney Swans
2013HawthornFremantle Dockers
2012Sydney SwansHawthorn
2010CollingwoodSt Kilda
2009GeelongSt Kilda
2007GeelongPort Adelaide
2006West CoastSydney Swans
2005Sydney SwansWest Coast
2004Port AdelaideBrisbane Lions
2003Brisbane LionsCollingwood
2002Brisbane LionsCollingwood
2001Brisbane LionsEssendon
1999North MelbourneCarlton
1998AdelaideNorth Melbourne
1997AdelaideSt Kilda
1996North MelbourneSydney Swans
1994West CoastGeelong
1992West CoastGeelong
1991HawthornWest Coast
1978HawthornNorth Melbourne
1977North MelbourneCollingwood
1976HawthornNorth Melbourne
1975North MelbourneHawthorn
1974RichmondNorth Melbourne
1971HawthornSt Kilda
1966St KildaCollingwood
1965EssendonSt Kilda
1950EssendonNorth Melbourne
1945CarltonSouth Melbourne
1936CollingwoodSouth Melbourne
1935CollingwoodSouth Melbourne
1934RichmondSouth Melbourne
1933South MelbourneRichmond
1918South MelbourneCollingwood
1914CarltonSouth Melbourne
1913FitzroySt Kilda
1912EssendonSouth Melbourne
1909South MelbourneCarlton
1907CarltonSouth Melbourne
1899FitzroySouth Melbourne
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In for a Penny, Out with a Pounding

Off the Top of My Head 

Book Review: “The Last Front Line: Building the Paparoa Great Walk” by Brendan O’Dwyer 

By Paul Murray 

It’s a long way from Tipperary to the wilds of the Paparoa National Park on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. However, Irishman Brendan O’Dwyer found himself with an opportunity to work with a team of hardy backwoodsmen to tame a chunk of wilderness to allow the general public to experience its wonders by creating the first purpose-built Great Walk/Ride track in New Zealand.   

Once the job was done, O’Dwyer decided to write a book about the trials, triumphs, tribulations and tragedy that he encountered in a place that perhaps only Maori hunters and his intrepid forbears may have experienced fossicking for gold in the rush of the 1860s.  

His book, “The Last Front Line: Building the Paparoa Great Walk” was recently released at a book launch in Punakaiki on December 5, 2020, and has proved a popular Christmas stocking filler selling out quickly up and down the Coast.  This is understandable as the very personal, blokey account of the almost three-year endeavour to tame the bush and allow access for trampers and mountain bikers to enjoy is a bloody good read indeed.   

The Paparoa Track is a 55-kilometre purpose-built walking/mountain biking track over the Paparoa Ranges between Blackball and Punakaiki. The track was conceived as a memorial to the 29 miners who tragically lost their lives in the Pike River mine explosion on November 19, 2010. Their bodies remain deep underground to this day with all attempts at retrieving their remains have been thwarted by logistical challenges that have, thus far, been determined too dangerous to overcome. The track will be a lasting tribute to the tragic loss of life of the miners and may help to overcome the grief of the families of those lost. The Paparoa Track will connect with the Pike 29 Memorial Track, which is currently under construction and will include an information centre that chronicles the incident and provides a lasting reminder of the inherent danger of coal mining and the bravery of those who work the seams.  

The $12 million project was authorised under the National government in 2016 and construction work was managed by the WestReef Environmental Projects team based in Westport.   

The story begins with our protagonist as an enthusiastic greenhorn determined to earn his stripes among the hardy and hardened bushmen he joined to help get the job done. In the process, the experience developed into a rite of passage where a boy became a man and gained the confidence only adventure, experience and hardship can muster. The labour of love became a love of labour, and the tale is about the camaraderie developed among the men thrown together in a challenging environment and unusual circumstances to achieve a common goal.   

O’Dwyer makes occasional reference throughout the book to the quandary he felt about damaging the bush and unsettling the balance of nature to achieve the goal of completing the track. He has numerous interactions with nature and the wildlife living within it and details his love and appreciation of the natural wonderland that became his “office” for two years. Also recounted is the fierce power of nature and exposure to the elements. He and the lads endured numerous storms, floods, gales and had to tolerate almost constant rain on their quest to construct the track and the associated facilities. However, the team soldiered on regardless and, despite many setbacks, including the loss of a couple of diggers and other equipment, a broken arm and several near-death experiences, they never gave up and turned adversity into motivation, thinking only of the endpoint.   

Along the way, O’Dwyer makes mistakes, learns a lot, gets a promotion, becomes an accomplished digger operator, manages to name two sections of the track after his children Odin and Quillyn and develops a genuine love and great respect for the Paparoa Ranges. He emerges from the adventure with a sure sense of pride at having been involved in a project that will leave a legacy for future generations of New Zealanders and international visitors to enjoy the scenery in some comfort without the hardships of the pioneers.   

The book is also an autobiographical account of O’Dwyer’s childhood, coming up hard in penury in the bogs of rural Ireland. It was here he inherited a work ethic that gained him acceptance into the team that triumphed over inclement weather, bureaucracy, moral dilemmas and geographical and geological barriers and considerable adversity to establish New Zealand’s 10th Great Walk/Ride; the Paparoa and Pike29 Memorial Track.   

For more information about the Paparoa/Pike 29 Memorial Track:

Posted in Adventure, Book Review, Brendan O'Dwyer, DOC, Environment, Historical, Karamea, Mining, Mountain Biking, MTB, Nature, New Zealand, Paparoa, Paul Murray, South Island, Tourism, Tramping, Travel, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Karamea Property Report 2019

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

After almost two years as a land agent here in Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand, I have learnt a lot about property, our region and the intricacies of contract law, LIM reports, titles, easements and a raft of other complicated legal implications involved in the transfer of a property from seller to buyer.

I’ve approached the real estate business as a professional service rather than a sales job and attempt to help my clients through a property-purchase process to make it as smooth, transparent and stress-free as possible. As a property purchase is, for many people, one of their most significant investment decisions, it’s essential to get it right, and I enjoy helping people through the process.

I’m pleased to report I have found buyers for over 40 properties since I started with Property Brokers and have thoroughly enjoyed the challenge and learning experience and the satisfaction of helping my clients sell their properties and welcoming new people into our region.


Karamea has a robust demand for rental properties as well, and I’m finding quite a bit of interest in the market from investors looking to get their money out of the banks and into property where the perception is that their returns will be higher and their cash safer.

The Buller region has the best rental returns in the country as property here can be purchased much cheaper relative to other areas. According to, the average price of a three-bedroom home in the Buller region is currently $205,794, and average rent in the region is $280 p.w., which provides a rental yield of around 7.5%. This is an attractive return on investment, particularly when the long-term capital gain potential is also considered, but be prepared to invest for more than five years for a rental property to avoid paying capital gains tax when the property is sold.


New Government Valuations (GVs) will be publicly available around the middle of January next year, so it will be interesting to see which way they go. I suspect (speculatively) that GVs in our region will increase as properties have been selling well for prices significantly higher than the current GVs. This indicates strong demand in the market and buyers are prepared to pay over and above GV to secure property in this emerging and attractive region.

Rateable valuations, government valuations and capital valuations are fundamentally the same thing. The valuations are an attempt by the government to standardise the valuation process across the country to give buyers, owners and sellers confidence in the capital value of land and buildings. These valuations are calculated by local authorities and also used to assign rates for the property. That said, GVs in the Karamea region were generally higher in 2008 than they are now, and I’m yet to hear of anyone who has had their rates decrease!

Prospective buyers use GVs as a gauge of a property’s value, and people often ask why the GV is lower than the asking price. Government valuers assess property value based on general factors for the region that don’t include such considerations as improvements to the property, the condition of land and buildings, chattels, renovations, views, aspect, location etc.

Property owners in Karamea have been quite frustrated by the lower GVs assigned to their properties in recent valuations, which have been linked to the economic malaise being experiences in Westport and other Buller districts resulting from the closure of Stockton and Reefton mines, Holcim Cement moving to Timaru, which impacted on Buller Electricity and Westport Harbour as Holcim was their largest client.

In addition, the dairy industry also simultaneously went udders up, and another of the region’s main economic drivers suffered a downturn. The loss of jobs in the Buller that resulted from these events led to a sharp drop in Westport property values and the GVs in the Karamea region also declined by association.

As our local economy is mostly independent of Westport, I consider the downturn is of little relevance properties in our region given its excellent location, quality and appeal. I explain this to prospective buyers to assure them that asking prices for local properties are justified.

As GVs are only calculated every three years, they can be very inaccurate as the market can change quite quickly, and the GVs can be left behind as the market progresses. People often say, “A property is only worth what the market will pay for it,” and this is very true. Buyers and what they are prepared to pay for a property determine actual property values. My role is to find that magic figure between buyers and sellers that is acceptable to both parties, and I’m pleased to be able to say that the prices achieved for my vendors have been well above GV in most cases.

Average House Price October 2019 v October 2016 (Source
August/September/October, 2019 sales figures for the Buller District: (Source:

If you are interested in an assessment of the current market value of your property, please give me a call, and I will do a free appraisal for you based on recent sales of comparable properties and other market developments.

It will be interesting to see what the new GVs for our region will be when they are released. I suspect they will begin to tick up again on the back of robust property sales in the region, but I hope our rates don’t follow suit!

Thank you to everyone in the Karamea community for their support and encouragement. I’m really enjoying my new role, and if I can be of assistance to any readers, who are thinking of buying or selling property in the Karamea region, if you have any questions or need some information relating to property, please contact me anytime.

Posted in Advertising, Buller District Council, Community, Economics, Karamea, Paul Murray, Property, Property Brokers, Real Estate, South Island, Uncategorized, West Coast | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Artists Plan New “ArtofNature” Exhibition for Tokyo


Original ArtofNature Montage Image by Paul Murray ©

Off the Top of my Head

By Paul Murray

This photograph really started something.

It was taken on the Heaphy Track in the Kahurangi National Park at the top of the South Island of New Zealand in 2005.

Paul jpg

Paul Murray

I’ve always been interested in the concept of photography as art and try to incorporate a metaphor in my abstract nature images to increase their artistic merit and suggest something other than what is.

In this image, I see an exponential staircase that represents a person’s passage through life. There are some triumphs, trials and tribulations, some challenges and pitfalls, but overall, progress is made.

The photograph is a mix of straight lines that creates a curve, much like a natural Spirograph and it occurred to me that the image could present a completely different feel when rotated and viewed from another perspective. From this, I also saw potential for a new image to be created by rotating, inverting, mirroring and flipping the image and rejoining it to create a kaleidoscopic montage.

I lacked the requisite graphic design skills necessary to realise my idea, so I asked my Belgian artist friend Arnaud “PsoMan” Vanderkerken, who is also a computer graphic specialist, for help.

tumblr_static_avatarArnaud was staying with us in Karamea, New Zealand as a resident artist at the LivingInPeace Project and was painting and developing his artistic style. I asked him if he was able to take my photo and combine it different ways to create a series of new images. He took the project on and we collaborated on the “Exhibition of One Photograph” whereby we used a single abstract nature photo to create a series of entirely new artworks.

Technological advances in software and app development have enabled me to create my own images and I have developed an idea of a new body of work called “ArtofNature Montages.” I am now able to take my abstract nature images and create simple montages and plan to exhibit these in Tokyo.


Since our collaboration in 2006, PsoMan has been travelling the world brightening walls, buildings, public spaces with his incredible murals. He has been prolific and established himself as an internationally renowned artist. His style is easily recognisable, unique, original and brilliant.


I would like to again collaborate with Psoman for a Tokyo exhibition to recognise his contribution to my artistic evolution and to showcase his talent as a muralist and graphic designer. We’d like to share my ArtofNature Montages and Psoman’s Murals with the people of Japan. In order to achieve this, we need your help and financial support. Please join our crowd-funding campaign to raise the necessary money to host the show. We promise a mind-blowing display of artistic excellence, see you there!


Posted in Art, Artist, Artist-in-residency programme, Belgium, Heaphy Track, Japan, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, LivinginPeace Project, Nature, New Zealand, Paul Murray, Photography, Resident artist, South Island, Uncategorized, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Business Opportunity Knocks in Paradise

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray 

In the Spring of 2006, German traveller Lena Fischbach happened across a remote Marlborough Sounds lodge, met Kiwi journeyman Mike MacMillan and ended up with two kids living in Karamea at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand.

Together, they have made a life for themselves and their young family by establishing two businesses; Nature aHead Hairdressing is Lena’s contribution to the family coffers and Mike set up Baker’s Creek Automotive, a successful company that provides mechanical repair services to people living in the Karamea region. The workshop is Warrant of Fitness (WOF) accredited, and this is an essential service for Karamea people to keep their vehicles roadworthy and compliant. It also provides a steady year-round cash flow for the business.

Lena Nature aHead

Lena Fischbach at Nature aHead at The Cross in Karamea

Lena Nature aHead II

Hairstylist Lena trained with Vidal Sassoon in Germany and keeps the ladies of Karamea in the latest style and the men looking tidy, while Mike ensures their vehicles, tractors, farm equipment and are all warranted and well maintained. He also provides a light engineering service that is of great benefit for the local community, who would otherwise have to travel out of the district for such work.


Kohaihai River mouth at the entrance to the Heaphy Track, Karamea. 

Together they set up a dream lifestyle that allowed them to live in a place they consider to be “paradise” and earn a good living to provide for their family. They enjoy the peace and quiet, the fresh air, the birdsong, the clean rivers, the forests and beaches, the many scenic attractions like the Oparara Basin and Heaphy Track in the Karamea region, which is western the gateway to the Kahurangi National Park. Mike loves fishing and Lena is always on the tennis court, mountain biking or hiking on the Heaphy Track or surfing at Little Wanganui.

Their kids Trevor (8) and Tilly (7) attend Karamea Area School and are actively involved in extracurricular activities like kapa haka, Irish dancing, hula-hooping, exploring the forest trails, swimming in the river, fishing and motorbike riding on the beach.


L-R: Trevor, Lena, Tilly and Mike

Mike sustained a back injury in 2014 that has seriously impaired his ability to run his business, and he has regrettably decided to sell it to focus on healing and overcoming his injury. This provides a great opportunity for someone keen on living in a wonderful location, to have a great quality of life and a means of earning a good living by providing an important community service. This is a chance to take the reins on an established business that has real growth potential that enables the owner to live in the paradise that is Karamea. “I love the challenge of the business, but I’m not able to keep doing it and I wouldn’t be selling it if I didn’t have to,” said Mike. It’s a great opportunity for someone and I’d love to pass it on and keep it growing,” said Mike.


Trevor Mike and “Max” at Baker’s Creek Automotive

“My business is satisfying, it’s everything I wanted as a person and as a mechanic, it’s productive, profitable and the work is diverse, which keeps it interesting, but I’ve, unfortunately, come to a point where I am unable to continue,” said Mike. “The business is integral to the community, and I want it to continue. I’m happy to assist a new owner to get established in any way I can…I just can’t be in the front row, I am physically unable to continue,” he added.

Baker’s Creek Automotive is housed in a modern purpose-built workshop on that could be leased or purchased and comes with full plant and equipment necessary to immediately take over the shops many existing clients and have an immediate income. The workshop is on 1.62 hectares of land that includes about an acre of pasture land, a couple of acres of native bush and a large carpark for customers’ vehicles awaiting repair. It is located about four kilometres from the Karamea township on Oparara Road and is easily accessible and the grounds low maintenance. It includes office space and lunch room and will soon be connected to mains power.


Baker’s Creek Automotive


The Workshop


Karamea is the warmest, driest region on the West Coast. It is located about 100 kilometres north of Westport and is the Western gateway to the Kahurangi National Park, the Heaphy Track and the Oparara Basin. The community of about 600 people consists of farmers, horticulturalists, tourism operators, people with Internet-based vocations and retirees all of whom have a need for automotive and mechanical services. It’s also a wonderful place to raise a family.

“The kids are not inside, behind a fence or on digital devices, they’re out and about running around, playing on the beach, at the river. It’s such an awesome place for the kids, we’ve got a great school, a great community and we love seeing our two growing up with independence and freedom,” said Lena. “After eight years here, I still love it. I get up in the morning and go for a walk, listen to the birds and the sound of the river and sea and I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world.”

Business ownership options include; lease, lease-to-buy and outright purchase of the property, buildings, stock, plant, and equipment. For someone with a broad understanding of mechanical machinations, sufficient experience and with a burning desire to run your own business and live in a fantastic community surrounded by good people and spectacular scenery, great hunting, fishing, mountain biking, and a nice warm climate…This is for you.

IMG_8586 (1)

Tropical Nikau Palms are a feature of the Karamea landscape

One of the challenges of living in paradise anywhere in the world is to be able to support yourself and your family financially. Karamea is certainly a paradise and Baker’s Creek Automotive is the means for a qualified mechanic/engineer to be able to live and work in the region and the opportunity to take on and grow a business that is already established and viable.

Opportunity is knocking, all you have to do is open the door.

Please contact Property Brokers Agent Paul Murray if you have any questions, require more information or to arrange an inspection of the property, plant, equipment and the Karamea region.

Paul Murray

Ph: 0272-56-9967



Property Details:


Rating Valuation

Capital Value: $158,000
Valuation Date: 1 Sep 2016
Land Value: $112,000
Valuation Reference: 18780/10315
Improvements: $46,000
Legal Information

LOT 14 DP 351316
Title: 214775

Bakers Creek Automotive Plant & Equipment Schedule:

2 x 4-tonne Hoists (1 new)

17CFM New Compressor

Strata 255 Welder (new)


Office and Smoko Room Equip

Tyre Changer & Wheel Balancer


Jacks & Drill Press

Vices & Bench Grinders

Petrol Water-Blaster (new)

40A Plasma Cutter (new)

Beam Setter & Brake Meter

Gas Plant & Sundries

Drop Saw

Pressure Testers, Tap & Die Sets, Reamers

Brake Tool Equip, PortAPower, Axle Stands

Press, Grease Guns, Drum Pumps, Jacks

Light Stands, Ramps, 40 L Sand Blaster

Shelving and Storage Containers

Diesel Workshop Heater

3x Spray Guns, Protective Gear, Bolt Cutters, Clamps

Air Hoses, Regulators, Battery Load Tester

Jumper Leads H/D, Fire Extinguishers

Gas/Arc Welding Consumables

Tig Consumables


12/24 Cebora: Jump Start/Battery Charger

Engine Stand

Back-Up Diesel Generator

Transmission Jack

Electric Water-Blaster

Grinding Equip & Associated Consumables

Numerous Air Tools

WOF Certification


Stock: Filters (various), Bearings, Seals, Gaskets, Heater Hose, Sealants, Paint, Fluids & Oils, Steel Plate, Clamps, Nuts & Bolts, Connectors, Wire, Lights, Tyres & Consumables.

Property Information and Ownership Options:

RE: ECO INVESTMENTS LIMITED (“ECO”) – Sale of Business: Baker Creek Auto Ltd

To Whom It May Concern

Bakers Creek Auto Ltd is currently operating at the premises of Lot 14 Sunset Heights Karamea, title number 214775. There is no formal agreement to lease in place. The current owner of the land (“ECO”) wishes to provide to the potential business purchasers some certainty in respect of ongoing arrangements by providing the following options:

Option 1: Purchase the business and enter into a formal standard ADSL lease with the owner of the land for a term of 3 years with two further rights of renewal of 3 years each, an annual rent of $17,182.61 plus GST and outgoings with rent reviews on each renewal date.

Option 2: Purchase the business and enter into a sale and purchase agreement for the land with a 20% deposit payable and vendor finance for the balance, ie vendor mortgage on terms to be agreed

Option 3: Outright purchase of the land and buildings for the price of $235,000.00 plus GST (if any)




Posted in Business, Children, Community, Economics, Environment, Heaphy Track, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, Marriage, Money, Mountain Biking, Nature, New Zealand, Oparara Basin, Oparara Valley Track, Paul Murray, South Island, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment