Santa in the City

Santa on QueenAn early Sunday morning wander (actually, a slow limp as I’ve hurt my back) through Aucklands CBD, Queen Street, featured a familiar face. Old Farmers Santa. A bit of old iconic legend in Auckland, this 20metre tall, 4500+kg jolly man is now 53 years old!

I recall his pre-facelift years where he had a summoning finger and winking eye – characteristics which brought about the title of being the worlds creepiest santa last decade (the size and design reminds me of Stay Puft from Ghostbusters) . Since his ‘facelift’ in 2009, his finger no longer moves, and his eyes stay wide open. A bit of a shame, but equally, probably for the best.

I don’t recall the reindeer in earlier years. Imagine the warehouse needed to store this lot when christmas is over!


The Corner Dairy

The Corner DairyGrowing up as a youngster, the corner dairy was a staple Kiwi classic. Before the growth of massive supermarkets, and petrol stations that stock all but the kitchen sink, the old corner dairy was the place to go for some supplies or milk (assuming you didn’t have the milk man deliver it to your door in glass bottles…why did the glass bottles ever stop!?).

Gradually over the years I have seen a massive reduction in these little stores. Culturally, at least in the big city of Auckland, its always been interested to look at ownership of these small businesses. When very young, they were generally western owned around my local area. As I passed through school, your typical Indian businessman/woman/family seemed to have brought up a good number of them. Now its often more the Chinese families. Living accommodation directly behind the counter, its always interested me in the fact that these businesses are simply a way of life. Open 7 days a week, long hours, often family owned and run…never a day off! – I admire their brute dedication.

Back when I was little New Zealand still had 1 and 2 cent coins (10 cents is now the smallest). Before the concern of germs (well, not really before), dairy’s would have glass displays of 1 and 2 cent lollies. 20 cents in hand,kids would choose those 10 or 20 candy treats, the dairy owner picking them out with their fingers that had touched who knows what else all day long. Ice blocks and ice cream in summer. Milkshakes, chips and fizzy drinks like leed…oh the memories.

Whilst many corner stores are still open all over the country, it must be a hard life. Many buy their products from supermarkets and hence have to charge high prices in store. Competing with large supermarket chains, also in every suburb, must be tough. Still the best place to go for an ice cream in summer though!


Zorki 1

Zorki 1No longer with me – in a moment of weakness I sold it (possibly in a moment of weakness I brought it!) – My old Zorki 1.

The ‘poor mans Leica III’, and competent rangefinder camera in its own right, we dont see too many of them down here in NZ. I’ve imported a few Zorki and Fed’s (Soviet Rangefinders similar to the old Leica) over the years. The above being the best copy of a Zorki 1 I have ever had – complete with box and manual!

With its collapsable M39 screw mount 50mm lens, its really a very small, fully manual camera. Great for those with a light meter in their eyes, or at least to practice the sunny 16 rule.

Being over 50 years old now, its amazing how many are still available to buy – lets see any of the current digitals being sold fully working in 50 years!

For the tinkerers among us, these are great cameras to get to learn about CLA (clean lube adjust). And done right may go on for another half century. The shutter curtains are often the first to go – getting pinholes in them. One can use a little thinned down silicone painted on, or simply replace (simply probably an understatement as thats the biggest job one would do on such a camera).

Might just have to go on the hunt for another copy. My sunny 16 skills are fairly junior. I have a light meter. I just wish it had a built in one. Fantastic vintage 35mm camera for the coin!


Nga Toki Mate Whenua

painting 2Between bad weather an coming down with another bug, just a quick post today from a recent visit to the Auckland Art Gallery.

Nga Toki Mate Whenua – Axes Felling Trees, Kill the Land
Tony Fomison (1939-1990)

“I became attracted to Maori culture because here was this culture produced in the country – an oral culture based on the love of the land, and love of the old and the young ones. In other words, a past, present and future.”

City – Devonport – Rangitoto – Beyond


A beautiful clear day it was, todays image sees us looking out over the lower part of the city, across to Devonport on the North Shore, and beyond that Rangitoto Island (also a different part of the country way past that).
Rangitoto, a volcanic island, stands out in the Auckland landscape as the island that looks almost the same from any angle of Auckland. Its name, Maori, translates to Bloody Sky. Estimated to have largely formed 550-600 years ago (although possibly also over 1000 years intermittently). This recent forming (in the grand scheme of things), lives in the memory of local Maori, and evidence of human footprints between Rangitoto and its adjoining island Motutapu have been found.
Move forward a few hundred years from its creation, and into European settlement time, Rangitoto was purchased for the grand sum of 15pounds by the crown in 1854, and by the late 1800’s had become a popular day trip location (and a growing batch/alternative community). Further building was banned in the late 1830’s, and today only a small number of houses remain in this park area.
A great place to visit while one stays in Auckland – if you do go, remember to take a water bottle with you. Naturally sparse in water supply, walking up the volcanic path to the summit (unless you get the tractor) the climate is often hot and dry.

That concludes my wider views from the Sky Tower for now. Really a must do for visitors to Auckland – simply to soak in the views of the countries largest city.

Over to the North Shore


Looking to the North of Auckland, we can see the Auckland Harbour Bridge to the left of the image. Crossing that, we reach Aucklands North Shore. Prior to the bridge being completed in 1959, the North Shore, although in clear line of sight, was actually a fairly large land journey to reach the Auckland City area. A number of ferries ran services (and passenger ones still do), but the area was of relatively low population prior to the bridge – being used both for the rural community, and a weekend holiday area for its stunning beaches.
Upon the opening of the bridge, the population steadily boomed. Within the first decade of the opening, the bridge use was three times that of the original forecast, and by the end of the decade, the ‘Nippon Clip-ons'(named from their Japanese construction) were made, adding two extra lanes each side. Originally given a 50 year lifespan, ongoing maintenance ensures they are stretching that life estimate to its limit! – large/heavy trucks and machinery are no longer permitted on the clip-ons.
All the while this was happening, the North Shore was growing in population. With a size of ~130 square KM, the population is somewhere in the region of 230,000 (although census results should be available later this year).

Down there is Queen Street

Queen Street Above

Perhaps unsurprisingly, New Zealand being a country of the Commonwealth, Aucklands main road in the CBD is Queen Street. During the week, a hustling and bustling street, lined with various retail, food and entertainment shops. Its also the main street for any wider Auckland parades, graduation walks, and protest walks. An early development in Aucklands young town years (1840), a stream ran down it. This was soon directed via a small canal, and then buried underground by the 1870’s. The lower half of Queen Street was also reclaimed from the sea (reclaimed being an always off term to me as it always make me feel like we are taking back something lost rather than never had).

Looking down upon it from up in the Sky Tower, one gets a sense of how small things are from above, We saw a number of gulls flying up near us at 300m, catching the wind currents. You can also see how cold Queen Street can get with the surrounding shadows of the buildings.

Tomorrow, keeping ‘up high’ we will venture our view out a little more, past the goings on of the CBD.

Aucklands Spaghetti Junction

Spagetti Junction

All big cities seem to have their own Spaghetti Junction. A confusing series of motorway on/off ramps, twisted and turned like a bowl of spaghetti. Auckland is no different.

Shot again from the Sky Tower, looking down upon the city, I focused towards part of our spag bowl. Technically titled the ‘Central Motorway Junction’, Im not sure I have ever met anyone who has called it such. Without reference, my understanding is our spaghetti junction was built in the 1960’s to assist traffic flows and congestion in the central meeting point (CBD). When being built in the 70’s, it seems as there was some cost cutting, as I recall a number of pilons sticking up, going nowhere. I the 2000’s it was finally completed (or extended depending on ones position of opinion).

Unfortunately for Auckland, and I am sure other areas of the world, a plan for traffic and traffic flow in the 60’s had no way of being able to accurately project 50 years into the future. The spaghetti may be well sign posted, but its still a muddle, and best to keep clear of any time around rush hour traffic…unless you want to more slowly and admire the engineering that is.

And another shot from above tomorrow!

Mount Wellington

Mount WellingtonAs any of you who regularly follow me may have noticed, I have been running series images from single outings a little of late. Im in the process of moving, and also have had a bit of a boost in work business at the moment, so have not had the daily photo fix I usually enjoy. Combined with this, sometimes when out and about I get multiple images I’d like to share and putting them in a series makes sense.

Todays shot is from near the summit of Mount Wellington. The title both referring to the peak and the surrounding suburb, it received its English name from the Duke of Wellington. Local Maori know it as Maungarei.

Of interest, as well as the amazing views when there, is the massive water reservoir (45,100 cubic meter) built in the 60’s – its the flat part to the left of the image.

As with many volcanic craters around Auckland, people often use the stones in the craters to write messages that can be seen from the summit (or higher).


Natural Gas

Gas PipesWay back (in New Zealands short history), in the 1860’s, coal was mined and burnt to make gas at the local gasworks around the country. This was used to light all the street lamps (before electricity) in those given towns. Skip forward to the 1970’s and natural gas from gas fields began being shipped around the country. Present day, gas is one of NZ’s primary energy resources.

For quite some time (again, looking back) CNG – compressed natural gas, was used in New Zealand to power cars. I believe at one stage, per capita, we had the most CNG powered cars in the world. A locally supplied and produced fuel source, it both helped us during the fuel crises periods around the world, and in theory offered a locally regulated fuel option for the country, which potentially could lower motoring costs since we didn’t have to purchase it offshore. It was also a little less harmful on the environment.

Between expensive conversion costs, space taken up by tanks, and perhaps lack of support from our government, CNG has all but died out in NZ. LPG is another option in vehicles, but even though we largely produce our own, prices are set at an international level. Between this, and the limited support in finding a local petrol station that can fill your car, it looks like this too (for vehicle transport) will sadly fall to the side, leaving us with the internationally priced crude option.

Image shot on the Sony Nex. Using Gimp I slightly bumped up contrast and saturation.




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