Co.Starters Pitch Business Ideas @ EPIC Celebration Night

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

The 16 participants in the inaugural Co.Starters programme from Ross to Karamea on the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand came together with programme sponsors, facilitators and invited guests at EPIC in Westport on June 22, 2016, to celebrate the successful completion of their nine-week business development course.


Co.Starters began in Chattanooga, Tennessee in 2008 in a region that was facing similar economic challenges we are currently experiencing in the Buller region. The Co.Starters programme was instrumental in turning the situation in Chatanooga around and renewing the local economy by supporting small business start-ups, fostering entrepreneurial ideas and helping people take their ideas to market. The region is now considered one of the most economically stable in the United States.

The participants had a five-minute opportunity to pitch their business ideas and present their ventures to a captive audience of around 50 people, who had the opportunity to ask questions of the participants after they had revealed and explained their prospective business ventures.


Brett Cottle (left) and Brooke Matheson Pitch Vertigo Technologies



3D printing display of a rocket being formed by Vertigo Technologies

The Buller REAP initiated programme was backed by a donation from Holcim New Zealand and the Buller District Council with some of the economic stimulus funding it received from Development West Coast. Buller Mayor Garry Howard opened the evening and thanked Peter Howard of Buller REAP for his vision in bringing the course to Buller and his determination and persistence in getting the programme off the ground.


Buller District Council Mayor Garry Howard Opens the Co.Starters Celebration Night

The range of diverse business ideas presented on the night included, an indoor adventure barn to attract visitors to Westport and offer them an all-weather activity, an Internet-based menswear delivery service, a house-swap facility for New Zealand teachers and an online marketing company that seeks to help promote Coast businesses.


The real power of the Co.Starters programme is the synergies that develop between the participants, who are all working on different projects, but share a common focus of working through the course material to ready their business idea for a successful market launch. Empathy among the participants soon develops and they discover mutually beneficial ways they can work together and assist each other.


The award for the best presentation on the night went to Fiona McDonald of Fox River Bath Company, who successfully pitched her range of handmade body and bath products and received a one-year Xero accounting package from First Class Accounting, a six-month business membership from West Coast Rewards and $315 in donations from the audience.


Best Presentation Award Recipient Fiona McDonald of Fox River Bath Company


Fox River Bath Company Products

Janis Lennon won the customer count prize of a one-year tailored accounting package from Campbell and Associates for her efforts in talking about her Adventure Barn business idea and getting feedback from more prospective customers than any other participant.

The most accomplished participant award of a weekend retreat for two at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery in Karamea was won by Jye Hawes who started the course with the thought of opening a café, but switched to focus on a polished concrete bench and table-top venture called The Slab.


Jye Hawes (left) pitches….


The Slab

Another course participant, gourmand Frank Wieczorek and wife Kathrin of K&F Enterprises catered for the event and took the opportunity to display their culinary talents by delivering an incredible array of beautifully presented and very tasty delicacies.

Development West Coast trustee Frank Dooley was among the invited guests and said after the presentations that he thought the financial contribution made by DWC to the Co.Starters programme was possibly the best money the trust had ever spent in terms of return on investment. He suggested DWC would continue to support the programme and the people involved and even urged a number of participants to follow-up with DWC regarding additional support.

On the day that saw the final cement boat leave Westport harbour, it was great to see others ready to fill the economic void left by Holcim’s departure and chart a course for the Buller economy on a raft of new business ideas.

CO.Starters Team Photo

Inaugural Co.Starters Course Cohorts and Facilitators: L-R Natasha Barnes-Dellaca, Frank Wieczorek, Brooke Matheson, Nicki Roche, Jye Hawes, Layla Murphy, Holly Roche-Oldham, Fiona McDonald (back), Emma Sherie, Rachelle Hicks (back) Janis Lennon, Cath Hemingway (back) Brett Cottle, KarenBongard, Pete Howard, Paul Murray (back) and Eamon Gimley. (Absent Muri Paekau, George Field) (Photo by Daimon Schwaiger)


The next Co.Starters course will be offered in Karamea from the first week of August and there will be another starting in Westport in September.

To register for the August Karamea Course, contact Paul Murray:

Ph: 03-7826-767

Cell: 0272-56-9967


To register for the September Westport course, contact Peter Howard:

Ph: (03) 789 7659

Cell: 021 029 56 498


Posted in Buller District Council, Business, Co.Starters, Economics, Education, Karamea, LivinginPeace Project, Media, Money, New Zealand, Paul Murray, Photography, Social Commentary, South Island, Uncategorized, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Big Fan of Ho Fan’s Photography

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

a4f8e5cc8b56bd62debe7df3efbb9bf2Teenage photographer, Ho Fan arrived in Hong Kong from Shanghai in 1949. He turned his shape eye and lens to the bustling streets of the then English-administered Chinese city to capture the street vendors, the architecture, the morning and evening sunlight playing off the people; the coolies, the rickshaw driver, the fishermen and builders going about their daily lives.

Fan was a pioneer of candid street photography and devoted his life to film and capturing human history in his images.



Posted in Art, Historical, Photography, Social Commentary, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Photographic Tribute to “The Greatest” Muhammad Ali

Posted in Boxing, Historical, Muhammad Ali, Photography, Social Commentary, Sport, United States | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The History of the LivingInPeace Project

Off the Top of my Head

By Paul Murray

In 2002, while working as a journalist for The Daily Yomiuri in Japan, I was actively involved in the international peace movement that was protesting the planned unprovoked invasion of Iraq by the government of George W Bush and the asses of evil Donald Rumsfeld, Dick Cheney, Tony Blair et al…


A million people marched on the streets of Tokyo, the same in New York City, Sydney, London, Rome, Los Angeles, Paris…in cities all over the world, people were united in peace were sending a very strong message to the Bush government that gunship politics was unacceptable, undemocratic and not representative of the people they were elected to represent. I actually believed that for the first time in history, the peace movement might actually prevent a war.


Despite the protests marches being the biggest display of public sentiment in Japan since the Vietnam War, the paper I was working for wasn’t even going to report it. I was incensed and remember having a standing argument with the managing editor of the paper insisting that the protest marches should be front page because that is actually news and we are producing a newspaper…hello!

My efforts resulted in the march going on the front page of the paper, but I was already well aware that what is published in the paper is nothing to do with what is actually going on in the world, but that the corporate media was merely a means of promoting the other corporations and to really understand what is going on in the world, you need to interpolate what is written in mainstream media by thinking, OK, this is what they want me to believe…so why do they want me to believe this? That way, you get some idea of what is really happening.

At the time, I was very interested in Taoism and the writings of Lao Tzu. A spiritual guide that made more sense to me than any religious text I’d ever read. Through this, I came to understand that it was impossible to experience peace if it wasn’t defined by war and that this process was merely and extension of the yin-yang duality of all things. Up has no meaning without down to give it reference and definition. I developed an understanding that some people were always going to devote their effort to war, violence and aggression and that it was paramount that others counter their belligerence through the pursuit of peacefulness, compassion, tolerance and understanding and that it was necessary to balance war-mongering with peaceful pursuits. From this, the LivingInPeace Project was born.


“When people see some things as beautiful, other things become ugly. When people see some things as good, other things become bad.” Lao Tzu

I was disillusioned when the will of the people was ignored by the Bush/Blair hawks and decided to devote my life to the peace side of the ledger to counter their aggression, avarice and violence in the hope that by doing so, others would see a better way to live and come to understand that in this day and age, if you use violence, war and the military to solve problems, you are a failure.

Discussing this with my then girlfriend Sanae Numata at my house in Hayama, Japan as we were preparing dinner one day galvanised my plans and motivated me to risk everything for what I believed in. I asked Sanae to ready the dinner table while I finished the meal preparation. She went into the next dining room, which was not visible from the kitchen. When I brought the food n to the dining room to serve the meal, she had arranged the cutlery, crockery and table condiments into a peace sign and was sitting at the table stark naked! We are now married and have two beautiful children.

Sanae 2002

So, I quit my job as a journalist and decided to move to New Zealand to make a positive and conscious effort for the rest of my days to devote my life to peaceful pursuits and demonstrate to others that another way of life is possible.

The LivingInPeace Project began in 2003 with the purchase of an 80-acre (31-hectare) property in Karamea, which is a small town servicing a community of about 700 people at the top of the West Coast of the South Island of New Zealand. The initial intention was to build an artist’s retreat on the property, which borders on the Kahurangi National Park and has about 400 metres of frontage to the Karamea River. However, the densely forested block proved unsuitable for such a venture as the many sandflies in the summertime was contrary to the LivingInPeace concept.

It was decided that the sandflies were there to protect the forest from human habitation and the site for the retreat was changed when a more suitable location later became available. The bush block will be preserved for the benefit of humanity and respected for the beauty, diversity, peace and tranquility it holds, as well as to provide a carbon offset to counter emissions produced in the service of the business ventures. Simple walking tracks will be made through the forest to allow people to experience and enjoy the sanctity of the bush without destroying it and upsetting the delicate balance of nature.

The Karamea region is a paradise blessed with natural beauty; forest-covered mountains, long white sandy beaches, broad free-flowing rivers, lush green fields and fresh clear air. The region is effectively a geographical Island. It is 100 kilometres north of the closest major town of Westport and is protected on three sides by the forested mountains of the Kahurangi National Park and to the west by the Tasman Sea. As a result, Karamea is a unique rural enclave, protected from development, commercialism and many of the social ills found in urban communities. People stop and chat with each other when they meet by chance, drivers wave to each other as they pass on the road, the publican knows everyone by name and when something needs to be done, the people band together to share their skills and help each other out. This is the kind of community spirit the LivingInPeace Project seeks to foster and proliferate.


A team of volunteers from around the world has been working since mid-2004 to convert the building into a hostel called “Rongo,” which means “Peace” in Maori. The backpackers business will provide accommodation for the volunteers and a means of financing the LivingInPeace Project. The volunteers receive free accommodation in return for their energy and efforts in helping to develop Rongo and the realisation of the LivingInPeace Project.

Auckland Tramping Group John Catmur

The venture expanded further with the May 2005 purchase of the Karamea Farm Baches, an additional accommodation facility with four houses, three cabins and five self-contained baches, plus a 4-acre farm, which borders the Karamea estuary lagoon and looks west to the Tasman Sea. The farm is the perfect location for the Living In Peace Project, the location is attractive with great views west to the sea and estuary lagoon and back into the mountains of the Kahurangi National Park to the north, east and south. The farmland is well drained, fertile and highly productive and will be converted into a permaculture farm that will provide food for both the people involved in the Living In Peace Project and guests at our accommodation facilities.

Rongo Backpackers & Gallery is a microcosm of the LivingInPeace Project. In effect, it is a test case, or practice run to determine the efficacy of the business model. Karamea Farm Baches is the second stage of the project development and provides accommodation options for a different market while expanding the project’s agricultural possibilities. The farm behind the bach complex is being developed into a permaculture block that produces locally grown, organic meals for our guests. Karamea has enormous horticultural potential, fertile, well-drained alluvial soils, plenty of sunshine and evenly spaced, ample rainfall throughout the year, which alleviates the need for irrigation (a large cost saving in the establishment of a horticulture farm).


Today Rongo has very much become a stepping stone toward the ultimate goal of incorporating the elements of; art, permaculture, tourism into a sustainable business model. The building has been transformed inside and out into a fabulously vibrant, colourful and creatively inspiring place, which now includes a community radio station, organic vegetable and aesthetic gardens, a fire bath and an excellent art gallery featuring the work of local and international artists.


The concept of both Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, Karamea Farm Baches and the LivingInPeace Project is to create an artistically inspiring environment where people can live, as they want in return for helping maintain and develop the venture, with the only rule being to respect the rights of others and to take responsibility for your own actions…common sense. The project is open to everyone, all nationalities, sexes, religions, ages etc, but it is especially hoped that artistic and creative people will come and stay and that the venue becomes an international centre for creativity, invention, innovation and artistic excellence.


The project aims to transcend the paradox faced by all young artists, which is: no one buys their work because no one knows who they are, and no one knows who they are because no one buys their work…which makes it very difficult for young artists to get established and support themselves financially as they attempt to develop their talent and skill. This coupled with the fact that creative art skills and creative marketing skills are generally not found in the same person, and the fact that many artists are uncomfortable selling their own work means that many aspiring and talented artists are forced to give up before achieving artistic success through financial hardship, frustration and despair.




The LivingInPeace Project seeks to assist aspiring artists through an artist-in-residency programme and  by helping to market their work through the gallery, exhibitions, the Internet and other means to enable them to get established and recognized as artists to allow them to continue their work elsewhere. The project is quite ambitious and there is much work to be done. The LivingInPeace Project needs volunteers to come and contribute to the venture in whatever capacity they are able, whether it be building, cooking, making music, making people laugh, painting, cleaning, singing, dancing, or offering financial support…everyone has something they can contribute.

The LivingInPeace Project is seeking financial support from its members to expand further and to build on the foundation we’ve established. Becoming a LiP Project member enables you to be actively involved in the project and to support an innovative venture that is striving to minimise the environmental impact of the business, maximise energy efficiency and create a socially harmonious environment for people from all walks of life to enjoy.

LivingInPeace Project members support the project in an important way. If you are unable to physically come and lend a hand, your financial support is invaluable in helping fund the growth and development of the project, which you can then visit and enjoy. There is significant potential for further growth and your support is greatly appreciated.

Three-year memberships in the LivingInPeace Project are $NZ 1,000. The money raised is used to expand the concept and provide additional facilities and services that can be enjoyed by members and visitors to the project. Memberships include a holiday voucher to the value of the membership and members are encouraged to come and experience the project first hand and see how their money is being used and redeem their investment in food, accommodation, tours, participating in courses and workshops and purchasing artworks.

The LivingInPeace Project now has significant momentum and is more than just a dream. Tangible progress has been made over the past 12 years and, with the support of like-minded people, exponential growth is now possible.

Please visit our Web site for more information, please support the project by becoming a member and come and visit…I look forward to meeting you soon.

LivingInPeace Logo II

Posted in 107.5 FM, Art, Artist, Artist-in-residency programme, Business, Environmentally Responsible Business, Heaphy Track, Historical, Japan, Kahurangi National Park, Karamea, Karamea Radio, Karamea Radio 107.5 FM, LivinginPeace Project, New Zealand, Paul Murray, Peace, Permaculture, Photography, Resident artist, Rongo, Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, South Island, Sustainability, Uncategorized, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Worldly Gentlemen Gather in Honour of the Big Man

Off ZZTop of my Head

By Paul Murray


A wide range gentlemen from all parts of the Earthisphere arrived at Rongo Backpackers & Gallery on a spectacular Karamea evening to celebrate the end of Master Brian “Big Man” Thomson’s bachelorhood.

Yes Ladies, the Big Man has finally succumbed to the pressure of being so awesome and accepted the repeated requests for his hand in marriage from Mitsuyo “Little Lady” Numata and has agreed to be her bride.


A Gentlemen’s Evening for the Big Man

 You are cordially invited to attend an evening of great music, fine wine, excellent food and frivolity to celebrate the ensuing nuptials of Brian “Big Man” Thomson and Mitsuyo “Little Woman” Numata.

It is our collective mission to ensure the Big Man enjoys the last vestiges of his freedom and solitude before he succumbs to an uncertain future of conjugal servitude.

Where? Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, Karamea

When? Saturday, May 21, 2016…4:30 p.m. to Late

Festivities will begin with a BBQ dinner at Rongo followed by a visit for light refreshments to Karamea’s finest purveyors of adult beverages and then back to the Rongo man-cave for the remainder of play…

***In anticipation of the possibility that attendees may consume more than the legal amount of ethanol permitted for legal road use, free accommodation is on offer in compliance with requisite health and safely regulations***

Big Man left this morning for three months in Japa

Brian the “Big Man” Thomson


****BYO Booze and Strippers****

The BBQ was prepared, rocket stove fired up, buns buttered, dough kneaded, decks swabbed and Karamea Radio 107.5 FM playlist sorted…bottle caps popped at around 4:00 p.m.

The right honourable began to arrive…a mighty effort was made by two fine gentlemen from across the mountains in Motueka to attend the gala event, others came from Germany, Australia, Belgium and Japan….a few of the gentlemen were in fact gentlewomen, but that was of little concern to all assembled…the party just continued as planned and such details were taken in stride.

Coincidentally, a full moon happened for the night and the stormy weather parted to reveal its radiant magnificence, the wind dropped to zero…it was as if the Karamea Gods had smiled upon us and sanctioned the event favourably by providing perfect meteorological conditions for play…and the games began…

Dr David DeBateman was the first to open his legend account…After several long Ranfurly Draughts and considerable heated conversation about subjects passionate to him, Dr DeBateman, who is locally known as “BIGGA,”  was offered a double chance too rich for his Scottish roots to deny…single malt whiskey for free!…He embraced his good fortune with keen avarice.

A short time later, after he’d tangled with the chilly bin (esky for our Aussie readers) and had a bit of a roll around on the lawn in the ice and water before his colleagues managed to place him in a seated position on a bench by the bonfire to dry out two ways. Gravity was the next problem facing our hero, his head gradually became heavier and dropped lower until he succumbed to gravitational force and rolled off the bench head first into a kind of alcoholic happy baby pose before collapsing in a heap and performing vomitus ejecta for the lads. The first casualty of the evening.

The Zimbabwean troubadour was the next to go down…after strumming accompaniment to the GuppStar’s flute and bongos for several hours…he crumpled into a heap at the edge of the bonfire and was soon snuggled into a hastily fashioned swag. Casualty two.

The somewhat sexist and possibly misogynistic cultural tradition of inviting some friendly ladies to dance suggestively and disrobe proved somewhat difficult to honour as such services proved unavailable locally. Attendees were invited to BYO strippers, but all gentlemen rightfully failed to do so…the only member to see a naked woman all evening was DJ DeBell…well played Sir!

After a hard day’s party preparation, DJ Who settled into taking some RedBull and Russian fire water by the horns and embraced the evening with a rare display of ethanol consumption…depravity and lascivious salaciousness ensued, but only in his own mind.

The line of the night belonged to DJ Prospector, when, with delightful irreverence, he questioned the tradition of the Japanese wedding kimono attire and asked of the Big Man, “Who’s gonna strap you into the clown suit?”



The Swiss Ambassador, Yvan “l’ enfant terrible” Bosteels, who had made a tremendous effort to attend the soirée,  managed to descend into a deep post-prandial slumber after a sumptuous repast of local small goods, rocket-stove pizzas and Bambi burgers (BIG thank you to the galley team of Dr BC and “Messers” Schmid and Huth) and completely missed most of the festivities…he did, however, make a midnight appearance to provide sober counsel as to whether the health nurse should be summoned from her slumber to attend the excesses of Masters Bigga and the Troubadour. After much deliberation and consideration of all affected stakeholders…The blower was switched off and Bigga was carted off to the Karamea Radio Shack to allow the passage of time to restore his faculties.

Quite a few gentlemen, including the Big Man himself, did a spot of gardening throughout the course of the evening…Vincenzo spent a bit of time among the garden gnomes and the Groom found himself stuck in a drainage ditch too ashamed to call for help…after extracting himself from the mud, the star of the party returned to the fire only to find everyone-except a roaring DJ Prospector-had gone home to bed.

DJ Crap visited the home of Dr DeBateman the following morning (after discovering his resurrection from his makeshift radio shack tomb) to return his beanie and cellphone…horror awaited as the half-asleep, near-naked, fluoro-white Bigga answered the door in black briefs with half a woody and sick in his beard. After determining that Bigga hadn’t got dead, he hastily and gratefully retreated in desperate search of a more pleasing aesthetic.

In other news…Big Phil also bailed quite early when his boss came buy to pick him up and take him home…no doubt who wears the slacks in that house!

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All the best for you ensuing nuptials Brian “Big Man” Thomson and Mitsuyo “Little Woman” Numata.

That’s RIGHT!

Posted in 107.5 FM, Big Man, DJ Crap, Entertainment, Environmentally Responsible Business, Funny, Hilarious, Hilarous, Humor, Humour, Japan, Karamea, Karamea Radio, LivinginPeace Project, New Zealand, Parody, Paul Murray, Peace, Photography, Rongo Backpackers & Gallery, Social Commentary, South Island, Travel, Uncategorized, Wedding, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , , , | 3 Comments

Kawatiri Sculptors Expose the Art in Rock and Wood

Off the Top of My Head

By Paul Murray

“Ogni blocco di pietra ha una statua dentro di sé ed è compito dello scultore scoprirla.”
Michelangelo di Lodovico Buonarroti Simoni
“Every block of stone has a statue inside it and it is the task of the sculptor to discover it.”


The Kawatiri Sculpture Symposium was a hive of activity on Wednesday afternoon as the sculptors worked feverishly to complete their works ahead of the Friday afternoon deadline.

Talented sculptors from across New Zealand and one from France arrived in Westport two weeks ago to begin work on shaping amorphous blocks of marble, limestone and wood into artworks of incredible beauty.

The public is invited to visit the venue at 8A Rintoul Street, Westport at 3-5:00 p.m. daily to watch the sculptors at work and to attend an unveileing ceremony on Friday May 20 from 6-8:00 p.m.

Many of the works from the symposium will be placed at strategic locations throughout the Buller region to artistically enhance our beautiful environment and urban landscape.

If you are in the region of Westport the week, please stop by and check out the action at the Kawatiri Sculpture Symposium, or attend the presentation of the completed works on Friday.


Buller Arts Development in association with the Buller Arts and Recreation Trust and Tai Poutini Polytechnic is hosting the 10-day sculpture symposium in Westport between 9th – 20th May 2016.

The symposium has been developed to assist in the cultural rejuvenation of Westport and the wider Buller region. Arts have been identified internationally as a major contributer to creating a healthy and vibrant community. The impact of which has flow-on effects to regional economic development through providing a positive cultural atmosphere, attracting an educated workforce, tourism and business / industry investment.

In the last 2-3 years Buller has been hit hard with a massive economic downturn, with large redundancies in mining, low dairy prices and the up coming closure of Holcim cement works. This injection of public art is critical in the cultural and economic transformation of the Buller area, enhancing our urban landscapes to take advantage of the increasing tourism industry and providing a positive environment for residents.

The Kawatiri Sculpture Symposium is based around providing Tai Poutini Polytech – Hard Stone and Jade carving students an opportunity to participate in a real world scuplture symposium. These certificate and diploma students will work alongside over half a dozen established and local sculptors. Working over a 10 day period to create limestone, hardstone and wooden large scale sculptures, we expect that this will result in at least 12 large sculptures for placement throughout the Westport and wider Buller area.



Version 2


Posted in Art, Artist, New Zealand, Sculpture, South Island, West Coast | Tagged , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Scottish Artist Andy Goldsworthy Enhances Nature

Scottish sculptor Andy Goldsworthy creates transitory works of art by arranging leaves, sticks, rocks or anything else he can find.

“When I make something, in a field or street, it may vanish but it’s part of the history of those places,” he said in an interview. “In the early days my work was about collapse and decay. Now some of the changes that occur are too beautiful to be described as simply decay. At Folkestone I got up early one morning ahead of an incoming tide and covered a boulder in poppy petals. It was calm and the sea slowly and gently washed away the petals, stripping the boulder and creating splashes of red in the sea. The harbor from which many troops left for war was in the background.”


Andy Goldsworthy, Touching north, North Pole (1989)

Andy Goldsworthy, Touching north, North Pole (1989)




Posted in Art, Artist, Conservation, Environment, Environmentally Responsible Business, Nature, Photography, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment