Blended culture

A good example of how blended cultures have become in the modern world – a pizza business run by an Indian immigrant in Otago.

ODT: Working night and day on pizza chain

Energetic young Dunedin businessman Savi Arora continues to expand his pizza enterprise…

Pizza Bella was born last year when he opened in George St, after buying a failed pizza business having spied a potential business opportunity.

He later bought another pizza shop in Alexandra, rebranding it also as Pizza Bella, and recently opened in Gordon Rd, Mosgiel.

Mr Arora only spoke limited English when he arrived in New Zealand from India as a teenager to study business management.

Now happily settled in Dunedin, he has adopted a new slogan for Pizza Bella — Born in Otago — a reflection of how Otago people had supported him, he said.

It’s not uncommon for ethnic styled restaurants and food outlets to be owned and managed and staffed by people of various backgrounds.

Flat breads covered with stuff date back a long time. Bread covered with oils, herbs and cheese were eaten in ancient Greece.

Modern pizza is thought to have evolved out of dishes in Naples a few hundred years ago. Italians took these recipes to the US where they gradually became popular, especially with the avalanche of fast food outlets and franchises.

I first encountered pizza in the seventies in Auckland at Pizza Hut – on my first visit I ordered a steak, something I was more familiar with.

Now you can get pizza with a wide variety of ethnic style toppings. Including Indian.

Dunedin is known for it’s Scottish heritage (although in reality that’s only a small part of the ethnic mix here). I haven’t seen any haggis pizza here yet, but it’s been done – in London.

Fancy a slice of haggis pizza?

A London eatery is offering the bizarre fusion food “haggis pizza” to mark Burns Night

No wonder super blenders have become popular, where you chuck a bunch of stuff in and blend it beyond recognition.

Non-students causing Otago problems

Past ‘student’ riots in Dunedin are known to have been in part at least stoke up by non-student troublemakers, and not all of them were from Dunedin.

Out of 12 arrests so far this year only 2 have been Otago students.

Newshub reports: Non-students causing problems during Otago Uni orientation

Otago University campus police are generally happy with the behaviour of students during orientation week and say outsiders are causing the issues.

There have been more arrests in Dunedin overnight, with orientation week well underway.

Four people were arrested after couches were set alight on Castle St, where around 150 students were partying.

Police say only two students are among the 12 arrests they’ve made since Saturday night, and they’re seeing a growing number of non-students in the area.

“Unfortunately it is a time of the year where the students can get a little bit out of control, but generally they’ve been very well-behaved this year,” says John Woodhouse, campus constable for Otago University.

There’s about 20,000 students at Otago, with about 4,000 First Year. Most are from out of town. That’s a huge influx into a city or about 120,000 (I’m not sure if that is with or without students).

A number of problems were caused by non-students joining in, including high school students, unemployed people and people coming from outside Dunedin specifically for orientation week.

Non-students who like to party, and a minority non-students who like to cause trouble.

A 16-year-old was arrested over the weekend after allegedly threatening another man with a craft knife.

Unlikely he was going to university.

Generally there’s little sign of trouble and a lot of sign of an injection of vibrancy.

Dunedin is quiet after Christmas as a lot students go home or elsewhere to work for the summer, and many residents go on holiday.

It slowly gets busier through January, and goes up a gear as school starts back around the end of the month.

Soon after that the buzz builds as the uni students gradually return, and by now the city is at it’s busiest as the new academic year kicks off.

So far 0.01% of the students have been arrested.

Sutton Salt Lake, Otago

The Sutton Salt Lake is inland from Dunedin, on the Strath Taieri Plain near Middlemarch. I’ve been there a couple of times, it’s an easy walk (allow an hour or so depending on how long you want to potter around) in an interesting landscape.

Photo from my last visit in March 2014:

Sutton Salt Lake reflecting the Rock And Pillar range

has tweeted these pics of the lake with no water right now (December 2015):

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This isn’t unusual in a dry summer according to the Department of Conservation – Sutton Salt Lake Scenic Reserve

Sutton Salt Lake is New Zealand’s only inland salt lake, with water about half as salty as seawater.

With no outlet, Sutton Salt Lake has concentrated salts from surrounding soils as it has repeatedly filled, evaporated and refilled.

Nestled amongst the spectacular parallel rock tor ridges of Sutton, with a backdrop of the Rock and Pillar Range, the lake (approximately 8 ha) occupies an enclosed shallow basin in the schist rock landscape.

To get there:

Drive south of Dunedin to Outram and take SH87, heading towards Middlemarch. Turn left onto Kidds Road before you cross the railway line at Sutton. The reserve entrance is about 2.5 km along Kidds Road, on the left.

It’s easy to find via Google Maps, about 80 km from Dunedin (allow an hour or so travel from the city).

If you want food or drink Middlemarch isn’t far away (about 10 km) and the Kissing Gate Cafe is worth a try, but there are other options as well. Middlemarch caters for the start of the Otago Central Rail Trail.

Even without water Sutton Salt Lake is worth a visit for the surrounding landscape.

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Strath Taeri rocklands, Sutton Salt Lake, Middlemarch…

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Mega Speargrass, taller than me! Sutton Salt Lake…

And from my visit last year:



Typical rocky (schist) landscape of large areas of Central Otago


Sutton Salt Lake, March 2014

Otago shooting threat – hoax or not it’s a problem

Yesterday an anonymous person posted a threat on the 4chan bulletin board of a shooting massacre at Otago University on Wednesday. It was then copied to Reddit and Facebook.


Whether this is a stupid hoax or a serious threat it is causing a lot of problems and anxiety.

What is 4chan?

4chan is a simple image-based bulletin board where anyone can post comments and share images. There are boards dedicated to a variety of topics, from Japanese animation and culture to videogames, music, and photography. Users do not need to register an account before participating in the community.

Seung-Hui Cho killed 32 people and injured 17 at Virginia Tech in 2007.

This afternoon the police put out a statement:

Otago University threat

National News

Dunedin Police are aware of a threat made via an online post that relates to the University of Otago.

Specialist staff are actively investigating the post with assistance from the High Tech Crime Group in Wellington.  Police are also working closely with the Vice-Chancellor and the University.

“Police would like to reassure University staff and students, and the wider Dunedin community, that appropriate measures are being taken in relation to the post,” says Inspector Mel Aitken, acting Area Commander: Otago Coastal.

“Police take any threat seriously while its source and authenticity is being assessed.

“Our advice at this time is to be alert and vigilant but not alarmed while our investigation is ongoing.

“Police will be maintaining a high visibility presence in the area and taking other appropriate steps which we are unable to discuss publicly.

“We are also asking those in the University area to report any suspicious behaviour immediately to Police.

“We understand that a threat of this nature could be concerning to some people. Police, University of Otago and Campus Watch staff will be available to speak with anyone who has concerns.

“Police is experienced at assessing a range of threats and we investigate any matter of concern which comes to our attention. We are also mindful of the possibility of “copy cat” threats following high profile events which occur overseas.   We will deal firmly with any individuals associated with any such copy cat threats.

“Police will communicate any further advice necessary as our investigation progresses, and we will continue to work closely with the University of Otago.” said Inspector Aitken.

So will life go on as usual in Dunedin tomorrow? There are many students and staff at Otago, some of them will have some real concerns for obvious reasons. I know people personally with close associations with the University who have concerns.

Whatever the intent and motives of the person who posted the threat the effects of something like this can be huge.

It shows that in a normally boring old backwater like Dunedin one person can cause major problems without even doing anything real.

And if the person is serious the problems increase substantially.

A state of peaceful living can be easily and quickly be overturned.

The protests and the drilling go on

A flotilla is setting off to meet the gas exploration vessel due to arrive off the Otago coast.

‘David and Goliath’ quest

David killed Goliath, and the Oil Free Otago flotilla set to sail tonight can stop the Anadarko drill ship, the Rev Peter Matheson says.

Mr Matheson said he would be aboard the lead flotilla yacht SV Tiama when it left Dunedin tonight to confront the Anadarko drill ship Noble Bob Douglas at the drill site 65km from Taiaroa Head.

Although confronting the drill ship of an oil giant on a small yacht was as ridiculous as David fighting Goliath, the outcome could be similar, Mr Matheson said.

”Anyone remember who won?”A similar fight was won by anti-nuclear protesters in the 1980s, he said.

A slingshot from 500 metres might be a bit ambitious.

Also set to board SV Tiama is Bob Lloyd, associate professor and director of energy studies at the University of Otago physics department. Prof Lloyd said he would ask the drill ship crew, via radio on the protest yacht, to halt its New Zealand drilling operations.

He would ask they stop their search and focus on discovering renewable energy, such as solar panels and wind turbines.

I thought solar panels and wind turbines had already been discovered. What doesn’t seem to have been discovered yet is how to make solar and wind energy cost effective enough to supercede fossil fuel, along with all the electric powered transport and infrastructure.

As off Taranaki the anti-exploration protest will get some attention but the drilling will go on. And our oil and gas needs will go on.

David Clark on Otago gas exploration – yeah, nah

Dunedin City Councillor Andrew Whiley has taken a swipe at Dunedin North MP David Clark about his lack of support for gas exploration and potential business and jobs for Dunedin. ODT reports:

A Dunedin city councillor has accused Dunedin North Labour MP David Clark of putting votes before jobs as the debate over exploratory gas drilling heats up in the South.

The comments by Cr Andrew Whiley – a vocal supporter of gas exploration off the Otago coast – were made in his new role as spokesman for the gas supporters’ group Pro Gas Otago.

However, Mr Clark hit back yesterday, saying Cr Whiley’s summary was ”simplistic” and his group appeared to be ”parroting the National Party position”.

That sounds like Clark is putting politics before the people of Dunedin.

In his statement, released on Thursday afternoon, Cr Whiley said a member of the group had met Dunedin-based National MP Michael Woodhouse and Mr Clark to discuss Shell and Anadarko’s exploratory drilling plans.

Mr Woodhouse was ”very supportive” of the industry’s arrival but the group was ”disappointed” by Mr Clark, who ”felt that supporting this industry may cost him votes”, Cr Whiley said.

Cr Whiley yesterday, confirmed he had not been at the meeting, but stood by the comments anyway and urged Mr Clark to do more to support exploratory drilling.

”My view is: the same people who were campaigning for Hillside … should be in support of the jobs that could be created by exploration off the coast.

Publicly Clark (and Dunedin South colleague Clare Curran) has until now been mute on exploration. He responded to ODT:

Mr Clark said it was ”not true” he was putting votes before jobs.

”I did say that North Dunedin people are concerned about environmental outcomes and therefore wouldn’t be willing to support unregulated mining without appropriate checks and balances.

”I think the Dunedin North electorate is sophisticated enough to understand that appropriate development of mineral resources can support decent incomes, but are not willing to support mineral development at any cost.”

His view was consistent with that of Labour leader David Cunliffe, who earlier this week said the party supported deep sea oil and gas exploration ”in principle”, but would toughen environmental protection laws.

That sounds like fence sitting “yeah, nah” uncertainty. He doesn’t mention gas here, just mining and minerals but states something largely irrelevant – “wouldn’t be willing to support unregulated mining” –  mining and drilling are regulated, the question is how regulated it should be.

Clark has not expressed any support for oil exploration business or jobs in Dunedin here, he has vaguely parroted Labour’s vague position and attacked National.

This looks like party politics and elections first, Dunedin and jobs second, or third, or yeah, nah.

The prospects of Dunedin MPs working together for the best interests of the city and region don’t look good.


Dunedin oil/gas support and opposition

In any debate with politics involved there are usually claims designed to deceive and mislead. In an attempt to get a neutral-ish count of people supporting or opposing gas exploration in Dunedin I have set up three posts at Your Dunedin:

If you want to register support, opposition or undecideness please add your name.

Oil opponents overstating support

There’s no doubt there is sizeable opposition to oil and gas exploration around New Zealand and off the Otago coast – they are campaigns with close connections to experienced opposers the Green Party and Greenpeace – but opponents are overstating their support. Talking up their support to the media follows similar tactics of previous campaigns using deliberate misinformation.

There are some actual numbers:

  • The Oil Free Otago Facebook page has 431 followers accumulated since 2 June 2013.  In comparison Pro Oil and Gas Otago started a Facebook page on Friday (10/01/2014) and 658 followers. These are rough indicators but neither are accurate measures of support as they can easily be stacked, and both have likes from around the country.
  • The ODT report that Campaign against oil drilling launched on Friday was “attended by about a dozen people”.
  • The Hands Off Our Harbour – National Deep Sea Drilling Protest at Port Chalmers yesterday (Sunday 12/02/14) – a flotilla blockade that was hindered by bad weather – was reported on ODT as “More than 250 protesters”.

The plastic flotilla of the Oil Free protest, Port Chalmers 12/01/2014

A Stuff report on Sunday claimed many more would attend the flotilla – Dunedin divided over deep-sea oil drilling.

Dunedin is split over the benefits of deep sea oil drilling, as 750 activists plan a blockade of Otago Harbour’s commercial shipping channel today.

One of the organisers, Niamh O’Flynn, has a history of exaggerating support for her campaigns, and yestarday was no exception in Newstalk ZB Otago residents angered by Shell plans:

“People are feeling like, we had 7000 people out on the beaches, we had overwhelming support for the Oil Free Seas flotilla, overwhelming support for this conference, and the Government and Shell suddenly announce that they’re going to do even more drilling than we originally thought.”

“Overwhelming” is overstating. They have significant support but they also have significant opposition.

A report on the flotilla protest Anti oil drilling protesters gather in Dunedin:

Heavy rain and strong wind hasn’t stopped hundreds of people turning up to vent their frustrations at the offshore drilling by Shell and Anadarko.

Oil Free Otago says the strong turn out in the freezing conditions shows Dunedinites don’t want offshore drilling in their backyard.

Language like “shows Dunedinites don’t want offshore drilling” is typical and misleading. Some Dunedinites don’t want exploration. Some do. Some don’t care.

Politicians have also claimed support that is dubious or they won’t (and can’t) substantiate.

Dunedin City Councillor Jinty MacTavish on her Facebook page:

Over 87% of submitters to a recent consultation we held on oil and gas exploration, told us they didn’t support it off our coast. If that is even vaguely close to an accurate reflection of public opinion, it suggests our city collectively opposes the activity.

But using ratepayers’ resources to convince a company whose activities we apparently collectively oppose to choose Dunedin as their base…

Submissions are often part of organised campaigns, they can in no way be taken as a measure of public support and certainly can’t be claimed as suggesting “our city collectively opposes“.

I challenged Cr MacTavish on this and she responded:

 I qualified my statements above by saying things like “If that is even vaguely close to an accurate reflection of public opinion…”

She must know it is not an accurate reflection of public opinion. If she didn’t she does now.

Green co-leader Metiria Turei also makes a sweeping claim on Facebook, commenting on Oil Free Future Summit Registration 2014 she said:

Definitely going and supporting, a much needed chance for us all to send a message that deep sea oil drilling is NOT WELCOME in Dunedin.

I challenged her on this and she didn’t respond, although some of her supporters said she spoke for them. And attacked me, bizarrely I was attacked and accused, for example:

Desi Liversage Obviously Pete, you are the spokesperson for business. You and the ODT.

While I don’t speak for them there are people in business who support exploration and there are other people who support getting gas exploration support business in Dunedin.

And the ODT speaks (with various voices and opinions) for more Dunedin and Otago people than the Green Party and anti-oil activists.

Opinion on gas exploration is mixed. There is strong opposition but there is no indication this is from anything other than a minority of anti-activists and the Green Party, both experienced on campaigning and talking up their levels of support.

The only way of determining levels of support and opposition of Dunedin and Otago people is by measuring it. Unless that is done grandiose claims of major or universal opposition should be treated with suspicion.

Mayor and councillor aligned on oil ethics

Dunedin City councillor Jinty MacTavish has been promoting classifying the oil industry as “unethical” alongside the tobacco and armaments industries. Mayor Dave Cull has used similar terminology.

MacTavish on her Facebook page:

Working to attract unethical industry to our city (and expending ratepayers’ resource to do so) feels to me a highly dubious activity for Council to be engaged in. I would very much hope we wouldn’t do it for cigarettes or munitions – what’s the difference with oil and gas, when science tells us the fruits of that industry will also erode the livelihoods of, and cause misery for, millions of people?

(Water erodes the livelihoods of, causes misery for millions of people. Is supplying water unethical?)

I’m curious to hear your perspectives, folks. The Waipori Fund is designed to provide a dividend to Council, to offset rates. It’s currently not invested in tobacco or armaments, presumably because the fund manager considered these unethical. Personally, I question the ethics of $1.7M of it being invested in fossil fuel companies. Council will be considering whether we need to adopt some formal ethical investment guidelines for the Fund, later in the month. What, if anything, do you think Council should be avoiding investments in?

Dave Cull interviewed on One News – Dunedin invests $1.7m in oil companies:

Up to this point the policy has been that the treasury company can invest in a number of things including oil companies, there are probably a number of things, the parameters off the top of my head would not allow them to invest in, for example armaments or tobacco or whatever, but up to this point that’s been the policy.

Are these comparisons, or are Cull and MacTavish working together on this?

“Up to this point” is presumably a reference to the ethics of investments being under review.

MacTavish seems keen on making investments in oil and gas banned as unethical.

But using ratepayers’ resources to convince a company whose activities we apparently collectively oppose to choose Dunedin as their base, feels to me as unethical as it does stupid**. If Council is in the business of wooing multinational coorperations to set up shop in Dunedin (which seems a questionably approach to economic development anyway) we could at least choose one that enhanced our brand and city offering, rather than detracting from it.

In my view, Council investments (whether staff time or cash), should be informed by its community’s views on what it’s right and ethical to be involved in. Thanks to submissions made to last year’s Annual Plan, we’ll be considering a ethical investment guidelines for the Waipori Fund in a few weeks time (will keep you posted on that). Perhaps there’s merit in considering extending those guidelines to cover other areas of Council investment (like staff time).

She is also proposing that any council involvement in oil and gas be ruled out as unethical.

How involved with this strategy is mayor Cull? Is there a wider plan to exclude any involvement with oil and gas?

Turei on offshore exploration

Green co-leader Metiria Turei makes here position on offshore exploration clear on Facebook, commenting on Oil Free Future Summit Registration 2014 she said:

Definitely going and supporting, a much needed chance for us all to send a message that deep sea oil drilling is NOT WELCOME in Dunedin.

I asked her “Who are you speaking for? I think you’ll find that there is a wide range of opinions and there is quite a bit of support for business opportunities and jobs from drilling in Dunedin.”

Two people indicated she spoke for them. Turei didn’t respond directly but added a general comment:

Well, as much as I like to keep my opinions to myself… I am quite disgusted with the oil industry attempt to divide and rule both within Dunedin/Otago and between Otago and Southland.

According to the ODT, they haven’t decided which Southern city is most deserving of their economic largesse, Dunedin or Invercargill. We have to compete for their financial affections apparently. I am aware of a couple of finger gestures that would indicate an appropriate response…

That’s a curious angle. There is very divided opinion on whether exploration should happen or not but I don’t think that’s driven by the oil industry, it’s driven by an anti-oil lobby, a pro-business lobby and a general wish for more jobs in Dunedin and Otago.

A two fingered salute from Greens isn’t surprising, but they don’t speak for all of Dunedin or all of Otago. From feedback I’ve had a few two fingered salutes are being returned.

An ‘Anadarko – Wish You Weren’t Here’ campaign was launched in Dunedin yesterday. It was attended by Green energy spokesperson Gareth Hughes – and about eleven other people according to an ODT report – Campaign against oil drilling launched.

That small ‘not welcome’ message was only from a small part of Dunedin, with a political import.