So, Thursday last…

So what went down on Thursday last week…?

ANZ at its very worst conduct…

Red Crater on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing

Thursday was the day for hearings into the granting of concessions (licenses) for commercial guiding operations on the Tongariro Alpine Crossing. These have potentially great implications for our small local business community, especially the smaller members. I had made a submission on the concessions and needed to be at the hearing to speak to my submission and hear the other speakers. Community stuff.

I was under the understanding that the final decision on the tender for my home would not be until the following day so felt secure heading away for the day. 

At 11AM, just after the hearing started my lawyer messaged me to read my email. ANZ through its lawyers, Bell Gully, has given us til 3PM to accept another $2.5k in exchange for for a pre-Christmas settlement. ANZ has failed again and again to keep us informed on the progress of the forced sale of my home let alone any of the details. It has largely dumped this off on the young local real estate agent – to me, an act of total and abject cowardice on ANZ’s part. 

Most else that i know of the process I learned from the tenderer.

It was difficult to make a decision when we didn’t know what the original settlement date was. Neither did Bell Gully (yes, really!). We discussed options and advised ANZ that we could beat the tender offer and that there was other interest in the property. We thought this other interest was really as they seemed comfortable with the $380k ballpark figure that Harcourts gave them.

Typically – in our experience  – the Bell Gully letter was full of errors, no doubt due to the source of the information in ANZ.

(a) The Property was marketed for four weeks prior to the auction, and this has been followed by a further two week marketing campaign prior to the tender date. Since the auction, the agent contacted all previously interested parties to ensure they had the opportunity to submit a tender.

“…a further two week marketing campaign …” Not quite. The tender was not listed online until I had Harcourts head office on about the lack of marketing. Signage did not go up until halfway through the tender period. Prospective buyers making general inquiries about the district at Harcourts were not told of the property.

Following the marketing of the Property prior to the auction, Harcourts estimated the sale price of the Property would likely be between $250,000 and $280,000. ANZ also obtained a valuation from an independent registered valuer which put the forced sale range at between $262,500 and $300,000. The Tender price is within these ranges.

The tender price is conveniently at the bottom of ANZ’s assessed range. These figures beg the question “Why was Harcourts telling prospective buyer that the ballpark price for the property was $380k?”

ANZ’s reason for adopting the tender process was due to concerns that, in light of events leading up to the auction (including your client’s social media posts), proceeding with the auction at that time may not have resulted in the best sale price reasonably obtainable for the Property.

Blatantly false. If that statement held the slightest drop of water, why did ANZ wait until the morning of the auction, when people were already assembling for it, to cancel it? Surely it had nothing to lose in running the auction and then opting for a tender if the auction did not bring the result it wanted? ANZ was under no compulsion to accept any offer made in the auction and could have passed it in if it was not getting the bids it wanted. Certainly a tender was unlikely to achieve a better return than an auction.


Credit:Shutterstock / Patricia A. Phillips

The reference “…in light of events leading up to the auction…” can only refer to the questions asked by 1 News the previous day. Questions about it’s dirty laundry obviously make ANZ uncomfortable. Ditto for “…your client’s social media posts…”  I checked regularly and was not informed of any adverse effects. Once again, it seems the only issue here is ANZ’s sensitivity to dirty washing and sunlight…

Potential purchasers have been nervous whether they will be able to get vacant possession of the property on the settlement date due to Mr O’Neill’s posts on social media.

Possibly however, again, this was not ever raised in regular checks with Harcourts. There were however discussions re my willingness to remain as a tenant.

There is a risk that buyers may begin to worry why the house is not selling if the sale is further delayed and moved to an 8 week campaign after the holiday period.

Right back at you, ANZ…surely this was the greater risk in the last-minute cancellation of the auction? That was hardly a confidence-engendering action, was it?

The location of the Property and its history have limited the number of buyers attracted to the Property.

“…The location…”? Situated on the volcanic plateau, five minutes drive from National Park Village, on the periphery of Tongariro National Park, directly overlooking the Raurimu Spiral Scenic reserve, twenty minutes drive from the biggest ski field in New Zealand and the one currently undergoing the biggest development in its history.

This location..?

“…its history…” For those who don’t know, here is ‘its history‘.- actually not much more than a piece of muck-raking from the NZ Herald. The truth is that, when this happened the house was barely ten years old…it has spent a greater period as a happy family homes with kids and dogs running around it…and goats and sheep and chickens…and the odd cat..

Further, we discussed ‘its history’ as part of the marketing plan. As that incident occurred over twenty years ago, the only reason that we decided to mention it was to cover any concerns arising not so much from the incident itself but the body of ignorance around it. But again, the reports from Harcourts were all positive, even though this was an issue that we were actively tracking…

The current Tender price may be “as good as it gets”.

Really…? When we said we would better the tender offer and when there had been other buyer interest in the property that had not been deterred by Harcourts’ $380k ‘value’… For perspective the rating value of the property is $425k..

So coming back to Thursday. It wasn’t til mid-afternoon that we were able to respond to the nonsense in ANZ’s latest – the 3PM deadline was never doable – but my lawyer was talking with them all afternoon. 

Early that evening, my mortgage broker, ironically the same one who got us into this property in 2004, said she was confident i could get finance to beat the tender…

Not longer after, this arrived…

This is what getting screwed by ANZ looks like…

It really looks like ANZ was more focused on doing harm that ever realising a realistic return from this sale – it loses as well but that’s how spite works – obviously wanting to send a message about the true cost of standing up to its reckless lending and predatory conduct…It seems to have dead set on blocking an opportunity for me to buy the property back – where it still would have gained more than it got from the successful tender – than ever doing right by its shareholders and seeking the best possible result, which would have been the best result for all concerned…

Dear ANZ, are you listening…?

 

ANZ New Zealand is being offered every opportunity to do the right thing…my lawyer has been busy over the last couple of days…sent to ANZ this morning via Bell BGully…

ANZ is now so shy of adverse media it will seek a less profitable outcome to try to keep its dirty laundry under cover…

From this…

Mr O’Neill’s home, situated at 3803 State Highway 4, Raurimu (“the property”) was scheduled to be auctioned by ANZ New Zealand (“ANZ”) at 11.00am on 8 November. My client instructs that there was considerable legitimate interest in this auction.

However, our client instructs that the ANZ cancelled the auction at the last minute when prospective buyers were already assembling at the auction location. The ANZ has given no reason to my client for this last minute action; and I understand that this may have been a reactive response to questions asked by the media with regards to the sale.

The ANZ has not communicated with Mr O’Neill at all. On 15 November 2018, an agent from Harcourts advised him that because he “had a right to know’ the ANZ had instructed that the property was to be sold by tender. Tenders are due by 4.00pm on 30 November 2018.

My client instructs that two days later, noting the short duration of the tender, he was concerned that an online listing had not been posted immediately and raised this concern with Harcourts head office. A listing appeared early the following week; however, signage on the property was not erected until later that week. There has been no contact with Mr O’Neill to arrange viewing opportunities and/or further open homes for interested purchasers. Mr O’Neill instructs that he has cooperated fully with previous open homes.

…to this…really…?

Mr O‘Neill believes, and certainly there appears to be no evidence to refute this belief, that the ANZ did not intend for him to learn of the tender until it had closed.

The notice period for this change in tactic is of concern, as my client does not consider that this approach will result in an appropriate response being obtained from the market. Also, as mortgagor he may suffer considerable loss because of the approach taken by the ANZ, particularly, at this time of year; and after having cancelled the auction process
that promised the best result for all parties concerned.

It is of concern that there appears to be an ongoing failure by the ANZ to communicate with Mr O’Neill either directly or through me. My client is of the view that the switch from an auction to a tender process by the ANZ is potentially a less effective form of marketing. It would also appear that as the ANZ stands to recover less of the debt via tender process, it could be viewed that this action is solely intended to protect the ANZ from unwanted media interest. If that is the case, then the approach could be considered reprehensible and inconsistent with the obligation the ANZ has under the Code of Banking Practice to “act fairy, reasonably, and in good faith, in a consistent and ethical way’.

My client views the situation for ANZ as being entirely of its own making, which includes its reckless lending; and in its conduct since he first raised his concerns five years ago. If the growing media and political interest is uncomfortable for ANZ, then this is unfortunate; however, Mr O’Neill should not be disadvantaged as a result. I would also draw your attention to the effects upon Mr O’Neill’s physical and psychological well-being, which is resultant from the conduct of the ANZ towards him.

Without conceding our client’s position in this matter, our client considers that an appropriate response is an 8 week campaign for a tender after the Christmas period. Alternatively, our client’s offer to facilitate a resolution remains open.

I await your immediate response.

Brighter days…

An open letter to New Zealand Members of Parliament: Banking conduct in New Zealand

“We’re going to live in the truck?” Cool..!”

Hello

On 5 November the Financial Markets Authority and the Reserve Bank released their joint report into bank conduct and culture in New Zealand On 15 November they released another report into bank incentive structures. Both reports are highly critical of banks’ conduct in New Zealand, find most if not all wanting in terms of their culture and conduct, measures in place to mitigate poor conduct, and the responsibilities of senior bank officers and of boards.

While everyone seems to accept the findings of the reports, no one yet seems to want to ask the questions around making it right. ANZ New Zealand posted a profit of $1.99 billion in the last twelve months, that’s around $5.4 million dollars a day – profit! Should ANZ be required to allocate a proportion of its profits to making it right for the New Zealander who, to be blunt about it,have been screwed by the greed of ANZ and other banks? ANZ was quite happy to incentivise and pressure its staff into making sales that should never have proceeded and now it needs to make this right.

In 2004, I guaranteed my partner’s company for a house for our daughter when we moved away. That property was sold in 2005 and I thought nothing more of it. At the same time my partner was recovering from a serious head injury. When she was working her income was less than $50k a year and income from her company was limited, less than $10k a year. Still ANZ, from 2005-2009, extended credit to her that, by the time I found out about it at the end of 2013, had accrued to $408k. I don’t not believe that she is responsible for her actions in this period. If I did, then I would be taking the appropriate actions.

When I challenged ANZ over this, it said that it had no authority to discuss this with me. That was not true: the loan documents include a specific clause enabling disclosure to guarantors and the Privacy Commissioner also ruled in 2012 that this sort of information can be considered personal information for the guarantor. ANZ said that the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act (CCCFA) prevented it disclosing this information.Again, this is untrue: this Act only applies to personal lending and does not mention company lending at all. To support its position that guarantees are treated differently that security, ANZ then made up information that it attributed to the Code of Banking Practice. Even if that Code did say that, ANZ’s guarantee and loan documents clearly define security as including guarantees.

Under the Code of Banking Practice, ANZ has an obligation to only extend credit if it is satisfied that the person borrowing the money can reasonably pay it back. Under the same Code it also has an obligation to tell people who have offered guarantees and other security of new or additional lending against that guarantee or other forms of security.  The Code also includes a general obligation for banks to act fairly, reasonably, ethically and consistently. While we might agree that they are consistent in their conduct towards customers, the recent reports from the FMA and Reserve Bank find that ANZ et al fall short in acting fairly, ethically and reasonably. Who will hold them to account for their actions?

The reports find the regulatory frameworks in New Zealand for banking are weak. In part this may be due to gaps in legislation and culture of ‘not our problem’ – have a look and see how many  government agencies with a regulatory output have more content on their websites about what they don’t do versus what they actually do. From my experience with these agencies, this is largely due to inadequate leadership and an unwillingness to get into the fight. Nowhere is this more apparent that within the Office of the Banking Ombudsman. Although not part of Government – something I hope you will consider changing – this office should be the primary watchdog to safeguard ordinary New Zealanders against predatory banks like ANZ.

In November 2016, I submitted a detail complaint (attached)with support documentation to Office of the Banking Ombudsman which initially rejected it out of hand. After three months, it produced a single page response(attached) that did not address any of the issues raised. Acting on advice from the Office of the (real) Ombudsman this year, I submitted a complaint to the chair of the Board of the Banking Ombudsman. Although she did appoint a QC to review my case, he was specifically limited to only review the process applied by the Banking Ombudsman and not the actual issues raised.

ANZ was scheduled to forcibly auction my home on 8 November.I cooperated fully with the real estate agent as, if the sale proceeded, it was in my best interests as much as ANZ’s for the auction to achieve the best possible result. That auction was cancelled an hour before it was due to proceed. I believe that ANZ did this to prevent 1 News screening a story on the auction that night. ANZ did not communicate with me at any time to advice of the cancellation, the reasons for the cancellation or what would be happening next. A week later, the real estate agent called me in tears after she had found out my home was instead to be sold by auction. I don’t believe that I was meant to know about this til it was a done deal. That tender closes 4PM Friday 30 November.

There is probably not much that can be done to deter ANZ from its course this time. Like most bullies, the only things that put it off are a good hard punch to the nose, or being publicly embarrassed. To that end, if you would like to help, please do not go off and punch a banker. Instead, you might wish to ask the Banking Ombudsman or ANZ if they would like to offer some comment on the issues raised in the attached complaint (sorry, it is a bit chunky as there are a lot of issues) or ANZ’s conduct since I first challenged it in 2013 (yes,five years ago) and over its conduct of the tender.

Contacts for the Banking Ombudsman are Nicola Sladden nicola.sladden@bankomb.org.nzor for the chair of the Board, Miriam Dean miriam.dean@barrists.co.nz. Unfortunately I do not have any direct contacts with ANZ other than to direct you towards its totally inappropriately named Customer Financial Well-being Unit.

Longer term, please consider how best predatory corporates like ANZ New Zealand can be held accountable and required to make good, as best they can, the damage their greed has done to so many ordinary New Zealanders.

My suggestions are that we

  • bring the Office of the Banking Ombudsman in as an arm of Government; 
  • ensure that other regulatory agencies like the FMA and Commerce Commission are both empowered and energised to pursue errant corporates; and, most of all,
  • establish a Royal Commission to peel off the scab of banking in New Zealand. I do not believe for one second that the Tasman Sea is a barrier adequate to protect us from the behaviours now being exposed by the Australian Banking Royal Commission.  

Thank you

Simon O’Neill

(yes, the rescue helicopter guy)

In Raurimu (for now)

When the sun shines again…

The decision maker

Values…customer focus…accountability…

Antonia is ANZ’s Managing Director for Retail and Business Banking and a member of ANZ’s senior executive team. She responded to me when I raised my concerns with ANZ’s board a week or so ago…

If you watch this or nay of the other videos of her online, she speaks well and is clearly a smart person who will probably be leading many of the changes looming for New Zealand’s banking industry…

It seems that she is the one who makes the decision…

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Since Antonia’s response, things have gotten a bit wobbly for ANZ and the other big banks in New Zealand. They are being slammed for posting grossly large annual profits, none larger than ANZ’s; and  yesterday’s release of the joint FMA/RBNZ report into banking conduct in New Zealand has surprised few and angered many.

Hi Antonia

Thanks for such a swift response…

My apologies for taking so long to respond…this ‘went noisy’ once the first auction sign went up on my front fence (I was always clear that this would be the catalyst for me to bring this out into the open). In the last week or so, I have been humbled and embarrassed by the amount or moral and practical support from my family and local and professional communities…it has really stretched me just keeping up with emails, messages and phone calls of moral and practical support.

There’s no uncertainty about what may happen to my home. It is being forcibly auctioned by ANZ. In Taumarunui. On Thursday. At 11AM.

But it’s not too late…

Yesterday we saw the FMA and RBNZ release their findings from their joint inquiry into banking conduct in New Zealand. I doubt that there were many surprises there for either of us. It is quite clear that, while perhaps not on the same scale of the findings of the Australian Banking Commission, bank’s management of conduct risk in New Zealand could have been much better and ANZ is up there among those that ‘don’t get it’. I’ve tried to discuss conduct risk with some of your senior staff as part of trying to resolve our current issues, and they just didn’t get the concept…at all…

Even putting aside (for a moment) the original lending that started all this, ANZ’s conduct in my case since this all started in November 2013 (the 11th, so five years ago today week) has not been flash. It certainly has not been what we should expect from a  major banking institution, although the sad truth is that it has probably been exactly what we have come to expect from the major banks.

ANZ officers have said that the Credit Contracts and Consumer Finance Act prevented them disclosing information on the company to me. As I am sure you – and they – knew, this Act, by definition, only covers personal lending. It does not even mention company lending, let alone discuss any rules for or against disclosure by banks to guarantors of company lending. Surely we should be able to credit bank officers in management positions with adequate knowledge of the legislation that does or does not apply to different lending environments? Once might be a honest mistake but when the same ‘mistake’ happens at different levels in different locations in the same bank…well… “Mr Bond, they have a saying: Once is happenstance. Twice is coincidence. The third time it’s enemy action.”

Even today, your staff insist that they had no authority to disclose any information on the company to me. I had no access to the company’s documentation for two and a half years, until mid-2106.  When I gain that access I found that the loan documents contained a clause specifically authorising ANZ to release information on the company’s financial position to guarantors. Does ANZ really want us to believe that its staff aren’t aware of the contents of its own loan documents? Really…? Once again, Mr Bond…

Was ANZ also unaware of the Privacy Commissioner’s determination in 2012 that a guarantor’s interests and rights in jointly owned property used as security bring that information within the scope of ‘personal information’. This means that this information should be releasable under the Privacy Act. ANZ staff – your staff – should have known this.

The Code of Banking Conduct is clear that member banks, like ANZ, have an obligation to disclose information about lending to any party providing security for that lending. The guarantee and loan documents are equally clear that, for ANZ, guarantees are types of security. Instead of accepting and honouring this, ANZ invented a definition of the term ‘security provider’ that it attributed to the Code to support its position that the Code’s disclosure obligations for guarantees and security are different. The truth is that the term ‘security provider’ does not appear in the 2002, 2007 or 2012 versions of the Code, not does this term appear anywhere in the text of these documents. What is that about? Did ANZ not think that someone would eventually call it on this quite blatant fabrication? Or would ANZ have us believe that this was just a(nother) mistake, a miscommunication? In a formal letter..? A pop culture beer billboard springs to mind…

At the end of September, I met with ANZ in Wellington at its invitation. The stated purpose of this meeting was for ANZ to discuss the reasons for the mortgagee sale and to address any questions I may have. I was excited to finally have an opportunity to discuss these issues with ANZ. Frustratingly, ANZ was unwilling to discuss any of the reasons for the mortgagee sales beyond repeatedly assuring me that ANZ was comfortable that it had done it could and was comfortable with its position. If that is the case then I would respectfully suggest that there is something seriously wrong with ANZ’s moral compass. I travelled four hours each way, anticipating a frank and open discussion and instead only found staff who were unprepared and unable to discuss the reasons for the forced sale of my home.

And this is what is so frustrating…that ANZ remains unable or unwillingly to justify its position. If ANZ has a serious contrary argument – beyond “we don’t agree” – then I want to hear it. I don’t want ANZ or anyone else to agree with me unless I’m right – and that’s also the question that I have asked friends, professional colleagues, lawyers etc and no one can show me that reverse smoking gun that undermines the position that I have put to ANZ for five years, come next Friday.

If ANZ had been as willing to resolve this in 2013 as it became in 2016; if it had reduced my liability under the guarantee in 2013 as it did in 2016, both our positions would be considerably more favourable. Instead, ANZ embarked on this bizarre course of obstruction (to put it politely) in the apparent belief that it wouldn’t or couldn’t get caught out.  It could have done the right thing then and now I would probably be defending it, as a bank that did the right thing,  over the contents of the FMA/RBNZ report.

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The predicament that ANZ finds itself in now in one solely of its own making. I sympathise…to a point. I think it’s entirely likely that this situation was caused by staff from a bank (NBNZ) that no longer exists now, for whom management oversight was not as good as two banking systems merged. Certainly, I’ve found my personal banking services since NBNZ was finally subsumed totally by ANZ have been a lot better – not perfect, still enough there for me to support the FMA /RBNZ findings, but better – than there were previously. But the fact remains that staff, who ultimately belonged to ANZ, behaved recklessly in their lending processes, and avoided the obligations placed on banks in the Code….

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The obligation to act fairly and reasonably, in a consistent and ethical way.

The obligation to only provide credit or increase credit limits when the information available leads the bank to believe the debtor will be able to meet the terms of the credit facility.

The obligation to inform any party providing security, of the debtor’s obligations when a credit facility is approved.

I know that banks like ANZ are people…people who go home every night to loved ones and normal lives, people who are professional and proud to work for ANZ. From what I have seen of you in the last week, that probably you. It’s unfortunate that this situation was created over a decade ago by people who possibly don’t even work for a bank now; and that even those responsible for the actions above are only the smallest minority of ANZ’s overall staff. Harry Truman said “The buck stops here” and that’s a philosophy that resounds across the communities that I am honoured to be a member of, the community that has rallied around me at a time of difficulty. Leadership and responsibility flow from the top; regardless of where the fault may have occurred, leaders take it on the chin.

And that’s pretty well where we are now. In the last week we have seen the chair of the ANZ board and the CEO of ANZ Group both speak out for a better banking culture. We have seen ANZ post an annual profit disproportionate to its market share, a profit of almost $5.5 million a day (for context, I average around $100/day, maybe a little more if I pick up some guiding work in summer). We have seen the FMA and RBNZ release a joint report that finds significant weaknesses in the governance and management of conduct risks in the major banks in New Zealand and conclude that the overall standard of banks’ approaches to identifying, managing and dealing with conduct risk needs to improve markedly.

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Home

These events are not just catalysts for improving the conduct of our banks into the future; they are also a call to repair, as best they can, the damage that has been done in the past and the decisions to start that process can only come from the top, from you and your colleagues on ANZ’s executive team and board. And it’s not hard – it may feel hard but it’s not really: the anticipation is always worse than taking the plunge – you can do the right thing in not much time than it would take you to offer any comment on me or the horse I rode in on…in April 2016, ANZ said that it accepted my position. My position had been clearly stated and ANZ did not feel a need to qualify its acceptance in any way. All you need to do is just honour that statement…it might even look something like this:

Hey, team, I’ve reviewed  this again and were not gaining anything by pushing this. We said we accepted Simon’s position two years ago and we didn’t conduct ourselves that well leading up to that point. All this springs from the time that ANZ was absorbing the National Bank and it’s likely that there were some cultural conflicts in the at process. Let’s just get it sorted and not inflict any more of this on Simon, his family and ourselves. We’ve got enough on our plate now with the FMA/NBNZ report and this is now just a distraction…

Up to you…it is the right thing to do…

The email version didn’t of course have any pix…but who wants to look at a wall of text where avoidable…?

Just to keep the record complete, here’s the original email I sent to Antonia via LinkedIn:

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Six Days

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The SAS assault on the Iranian Embassy in April 1980 is still one of the seminal moments in special operations and counter-terrorism. Although the obvious inspiration for Lewis Collins’ 1982 Who Dares Wins, this action has been largely ignored by the entertainment community. Until the Bin laden raid in 2011, this lack of attention has probably not seen as a bad thing by the special operations community.

We had Ultimate Force with the bloke from EastEnders, and then The Unit led by the melting moments Terminator but it wasn’t until Six that we started to see some credible small screen special operations. On the large screen, Blackhawk Down was really an anyman story of soldiers at war, The Great Raid was pretty tame and also the tale of a large scale operation. The Odd Angry Shot is an Aussie classic but more COIN than SO. For the most part, the most significant of special operations have been largely ignored by credible story tellers…Even the first that I remember, Entebbe, has only been told  well once and that is the Israeli Operation Thunderbolt (still worth a watch if you can find it on Youtube)…

I read Bill McRaven’s (the ‘make your bed’ guy)  Spec Ops when it was first published – passing the time during a week in Waiouru Hospital in 1996 – and it must have been a tough decision to note include it as one of the case studies. It contains all the elements of McRaven’s theory of relative superiority and would certainly have survived scrutiny against his principles of special operations: simplicity, security, repetition, surprise, speed and purpose.

I was discouraged from buying Six Days for a long time because of its 90 minute run time: 90 minutes or less always suggests to me ‘made for TV’, never a good sign; and I was wary of whether it would be worth watching or just be loosely based on reality.

I need not have worried. It is very good and gets all the key elements of the story into 90 minutes without feeling crammed or forced. Watching the credits (as I may do if the remote is beyond my reach), I could see why as I recognised, with surprise, some of the consultants’ names. More so when further credits revealed that this is very much a Kiwi movie production-wise as well: another result of Helen Clark’s decision to invest in and support our fledgling movie industry in the early days of the Lord of the Rings saga.

Six Days is a great account of a small team that pulled off a nigh impossible task under the most challenging conditions, not just those of a task never attempted before but one conducted under live TV cameras and global scrutiny. All part of Margaret Thatcher’s hard line of terrorism, and a harbinger of that same hard line two years later when Argentina invaded the Falkland Islands.

Searching for it just now, I was pleased to still be able to find Spec Ops on a shelf. When we Bookabached the Lodge while living in Waiouru, we pitched the library as one of its features. That was a little naive as library holdings diminished over that winter – a good reason to inventory everything so you actually know what might be missing and not just tearing the place apart looking for something that’s no longer there.

Nana doing Nana stuff 010.jpgMoving here was the first time  that I was able to have all my books unboxed and shelved since leaving home. Having to rebox it all up again for an indefinite period will be like losing a bunch of old friends:  Kindle just isn’t the same has holding old paper in your hands or glancing around for a reading target of opportunity…

Bill McRaven did much more than just write a book but it may be most remembered popularly for his ‘make your bed’ speech – better than ‘Wear Sunscreen’…

Part of the reason behind this big writing jag at the moment is that I was disappointed to see that my blogging efforts for 2018 fit onto a single WordPress preview page. The rescue helicopter campaign was unexpected – a reminder that stupidity can break out anywhere at anytime – and consumed way more time and effort than expected. I was writing so much in support of our helicopter bases, that it was a challenge to take up the keyboard for anything else…making up for that now…getting back into the swing of a post a day if I can…setting challenges to get me out of bed and keep me of the couch…

Should I stay or should I go now?

 

When this all blew up at the end of 2013, I’d just left the Air Force. Had I known of this mess before my departure, I may have looked at staying on but after eighteen months working for a sub-optimal boss, I pretty much just wanted to be gone…

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Happy Air Force days…

Looking back, then, I wasn’t that attached to this place, the area, the district…the whole time that I had been living up here, just over nine years at that point, I had essentially been working out of the district – the only people I had any sort of relationship with was whoever was pumping gas at the National Park Service Station. Seriously…

Looking back through my albums, most of my pix are either here in Raurimu, or around New Zealand or the world…no pix of National Park Village at all

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Not National Park…

I didn’t really want to move back to Auckland or Wellington…I still think that central Wellington is a great location centrally but after ten years here, Wellington’s become “…a great place to visit but wouldn’t want to live there…” I was applying for jobs in the provincial centres, mainly in my local or central government comfort zone…I saw myself eventually living in the rural periphery of someplace like Hamilton or Tauranga, possibly a South Island centre but never really looked that far…

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Happy Meal treat

Staying north or moving south…either way, it’s moving away from and towards family. It probably seems silly but a lot of the decision making revolved – then – around these guys…any solution that didn’t include them was unlikely to be a goer, more so since this was well before I discovered Tracy’s Rottweiler Rescue & Rehoming New Zealand as a means of rehoming the fur babies if it came to that…

My Air Force role had been pretty intense and so, like when I departed the Army, I granted myself some headspace time before actively seeking something new. I’d enjoyed working as a census collector for the 2013 census as this was a license to explore my local patch and so when DOC advertised a casual role , I thought it’d be pretty good to get paid to wander around the Park over summer 13/14. That’s when my roots started to grow in volcanic soil…

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I never thought for a second that I’d have been able to fend off ANZ this long and the uncertainty has been part of me over this five year campaign…now the question really looms…

Do I stay or do I go now…?

A four power tool weekend

It wasn’t that restful but it was a good weekend. An early start for an ambulance shift in Taumarunui saw an extension into the afternoon after two jobs in the morning…no more eventuated but the afternoon was a good opportunity to get some hands-on with the on-board monitors. I got home with the best intentions of starting on the lawns but my pre-mow poo patrol took us into twilight.

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“Never repeat”? I wish but unlikely…

That, with a 4AM alarm, saw an easy dinner of sous vide corn beef with another crack at Jen Rice’s broccoli and cranberry salad.

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Sous vide brings out the colour in red meat…

The original recipe on the Anova website recommended cooking for 48-72 hours (gives a whole new meaning to slow cooking!) but the follow-on comments suggested that this was over-cook and likely to result in a mushy mess. As the uncooked beef felt a little mushy, I let it run in the sous vide for ‘only’ about ten hours. I’ve mastered by sous vide technique and use clothes pegs to secure a shopping bag around the top of the cooking pot to prevent the water evaporating and then stack a few tea towels on top to keep in the heat. Comfortable that running low on water during an untended sous vide won’t be an issue, I could have left this on much longer – just would have needed to have a Plan B for dinner on Saturday night…

While nice, the corned beef was still a little gristley…I expect that a 3-4 times increase in the cook time would address this…Unlike the normal cooking method for corned beef i.e. in a pot of water, sous vide traps all the fluids and flavours in the bag. With corn beef this means that the salt taste is much more defined…not so much stronger as sharper…definitely onto something with this dish! The salty beef works so well with the sweetness of the cranberries and the bitter effect of the balsamic broccoli.

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Dessert was a nibble on these coconut almond cookies – sweeter than the ones I made last year – than leaven the coconut almond meal (which is quite heavy) with homeground flour and coconut flour. It also has more sugar so are a tad sweeter. These are really filling and it only takes a couple to fill any post-main gaps…They’re based on this recipe from Celebrating Sweets but modified to lighten the heavier meal left-over from my nut milk production…

I’m not sure what scales exist for measuring the satisfaction of an outdoor working day but the number of power tools used must surely be one of them. Sunday was a glorious bluebird day that boded well for getting on top of lawns and clearing the scrubby self-seeds from the lounge windows outlook. Four power tools this day…I fired up the cheap Chinese chainsaw and diced up the logs that had been sitting opposite the garage for months, then laid into the scrub in front of the lounge.

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The plan is to eventually open access into all the punga groves in front of the lounge…

Powertool #2 was the dropsaw mounted on an old school desk that we use for dicing up wood for the chippy, anything less than about five inches in thickness. It makes reducing logs to chippy-sized chunks a breeze and the saw dust goes into the compost bin as a dry mix to offset the wet mass waste from the kitchen.

The old reliable mulcher was #3 into the mix, converting leaves and smaller branches into four bags of mulch to fill out hollows in the ground for later landscaping. The mulcher has had a long hard life but keeps on keeping on. It’s more than paid for itself in unpaid dumping fees at the transfer station and the associated fuel costs for the round trip with the each trailer load of green waste…

It’s been a very wet not-summer – the recent break of ten days or so of sunny weather were the longest such break we have had for the better part of a year – and I have resorted to using the big ride-on to just keep on top of the lawns and prevent them totally running away. Even they were quite long and it felt good to finally be able to power up the mower and knock them down to a respectable level. Even more satisfying to be able to mow around the area when the now diced logs had been residing for so long. The many loads of grass went with the mulch to smooth out hollows in the ground for later compacting and shaping….

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So nice to finally clear this area…the baths will go up on blocks next…

It’s been a long time since I had such a satisfying day in the garden: I crashed with a V (a now rare sweet treat!) to start on the next series of JAG (so shoot me!) as my reward…

Painless

The fireplace has been running a tad inefficiently, oh, ok, then it has started to smoke a bit recently. Getting a sweep in is always a bit problematic due to the shape of the roof and the fact that some of the locals are fraidy-cats when it comes to heights…

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Due to the H-cap on top, they really need to get up top and take this off. casting around for alternative ideas, I stumbled across this: the Gardus Inc RCH205 Sooteater Rotary Chimney Cleaning System.  Normally the cost of shipping large items from the is a major reason for not ordering something like this but I couldn’t find anything even close anywhere closer and the shipped price wasn’t much more that the price of conventional hand brushes bought locally. Because the flue is so long, I thought it was also a good idea to invest in a set of extension poles.

Delivery down under only took five days, something of a record I think, especially since that involved rural delivery as well. Even though they arrived two weeks ago, I’ve had to wait for a nice day off to try them out.

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Less the drill this is what you get: six poles = two more in the extension set, the rorating head, comprehensive instructions in English and French; and a sheet of clear plastic to cover the mouth of the fireplace to keep the dislodged soot in.

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There’s also an adaptor that connects the poles to any common hand drill; and a hand tool for depressing the detent on each pole to release it from its mate and allow the assembled poles to be broken down. There are no Allen key-ed parts so the Allen key on the not-pointy end is a bonus.
Assembly and preparation was easy, taking only a few minutes: the lines on the rotating head had to be trimmed to fit the diameter of the flue – a handy cutting guide is provided…

.DSCF9270…and the poles had to be assembled. This is a simple clip system but I had to make two sets as I didn’t have room in front of the fire place to lay the whole length out.

DSCF9269I didn’t use the plastic sheet but placed drop cloths over the couches just in case things got messy. As it happened I needed have bothered. The whole process was pretty painless. I had the garage vac running in the fire box – while it didn’t pick up a lot of the debris as it fell, it was great and sucking up the dust and keeping that bfrom floeing into the lounge.
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Use was easy – don’t know why I was worried about this.

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Hooked the drill up to the first length, guided the cleaning head into the chimney and away we went. After working the heading up and down a couple of times, I added in the next length of four poles and up we went, all the way to the top. As expected the greater amount oif debris came from above the roof line we I suspect the colder air and metal has been encouraging the smoke to scale against the insides of the flue – certainly the second half resulted a lot more debris coming down.

The shaft spun easily in my hands and runs up and down the flue with no problems or stoppages. Once the the flow of sooty debris ceased, I reversed the process and brought the shaft out by sections. It had cleaned out a lot of soot and scale, enough to fill a vacuum bag, maybe 2-3 kilograms. The only question is whether there are any obstructions in the H itself – hope not as otherwise we will be needing to get someone in as this is not a roof to be casually scaled – the test of that will be tonight. If the H is part of the problem, it’ll be replaced with a conventional straight through cap so the shaft can push all the way out the top.DSCF9271 The set all broken down –  took less than five minutes – and ready to go away. Clean up inside only took another five minutes or so.

I don’t know why a tool like this is not readily available here as it is a quick and simple way of performing a dirty task that also keeps homes safe by reducing the risk of chimney fire; and contributes to home health by enabling fires to burn warmer and more efficiently.

The Story of O



OK, OK, minds out of the gutter…the WordPress Daily Prompt a couple of days ago was “You just inherited $1,000,000 from an aunt you didn’t even know existed. What’s the first thing you buy (or otherwise use the money for)?

Well, even though that sounds like a whole lot of money, these days it’s probably not as life-changing as it may sound…It would really help at the moment but for the most part, I’m thinking small for my top three…

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This is my PC keyboard – the camera is a harsh mistress and (in theory) does not lie but it isn’t really as dusty as it would appear here – it has given long and trusty service and I have finally started to wear through the markings of some of the keys…N was the first to go, followed by O and then I; T and A will most likely be next…A clever cryptologist who cares about such things might be able to develop some stunning insights into my writing patterns from this wear pattern…or maybe these keys just weren’t as well-manufactured as the rest…who knows?

What this means though is that the number of unmarked keys is directly proportional to the number of typos in my work – if I am not careful. And as careful as I am – I still have that difficult transposition habit between ‘now’ and ‘not’ (just play around with that for s second and you’ll see the potential) – the occasional error still slips through and the one that has been slipping through the most is substituting O for I…so a million dollars would mean a new keyboard and the end of the subliminal recounting of the Story of ‘O’…

Second

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I would give these guys a full makeover and invest in a pallet of Purina One food for them. I won a year’s supply of this at the end of last year in the annual Purina contest; even though even Purina admit that it’s a year’s supply for a much smaller dog, this has been much appreciated while times have been a little tight, and has been, literally, a lifesaver for Kirk. At the end of last year, he was getting very sore and stiff around his hips, getting up off his mat was a real strain for him, and I was having to seriously consider that one-way trip to the vet’s.

In less than four week’s after going onto the Purina One food, all stiffness and pain had disappeared and now, almost six months later, he has only indicated pain in his hips once and that was after his older sister shoved him into a post when they were playing (older siblings…it’s so good to be one!!!). It don’t really get into 100% product endorsements but this has made a massive difference to Kirk’s quality of life and thus my own. It is not that much more expensive but in this rural area, the larger more economic bags are hard to find.

Third

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There wasn’t a door here on Friday morning…

I would get someone in to finish the bathroom. It probably would have been done already if this year had not presented its unique blend of cash flow challenges. The electrician came in on Friday to reposition the light switch that had been hanging down from the centre of the ceiling since we pulled out the partition that enclosed the second shower. That turned into removing the wall between the shower and the bathroom…progress of a sort. The ultimate plan is to replace the current windows with glass (double-glazed) down to the floor so that one can sit in the bath and gaze out at the scenic splendour outdoors…once there’s some minor relocation of the clothesline and some ugly scrubby stuff…

PS Just saw the trailer…I’d go and see this in 3D as well…

Gone with the Windfall | The Daily Post.

View from a roof

…we have guests in the Chalet at the moment, indirectly the cause of my drenching on Thursday morning; being the top host that I am, I had gone to set the fire prior to their arrival so it would be cosy inside. I couldn’t get the damn thing to burn not even after half a pack of Lucifers and bringing some guaranteed dry wood over from the Lodge – the air would have turned blue if the room hadn’t been full of smoke  already. We’d only had the chimney swept a couple of months ago so I was not impressed and with the crap weather there was no way I was going up to check out the flue in any detail.

With the return of decent weather (finally) over the weekend, I made myself the ACC poster boy yesterday  and hopped up to see what the story was and discovered some enterprising sparrow had managed to cram 8 inches thick of pine needles down the flue – and it was crammed: I had to chip it all out with a screwdriver…

View from a roof 009This is not a journey I intend making too frequently so I made the most of taking a few pics from this vantage point…it’s always difficult to get good shots of the Lodge due to the bush and this isn’t one of the better ones…not until Lotto Day when we can go fully down the Alternate energy path and tell the Lines Company to get their crappy lines and poles off our property!!

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Once that happens it will be a major improvement all the way round. The TV aerial on the far side needs to go as well – it has been years since it has done anything but rattle in the wind – the only reason that it is still there is that it is a long way up (and down) on that side of the Lodge…the spa area on the far right is about to get a major ‘tough love’ pruning effort as it is just a little too encroached by scenic beauty at the moment. The two windows are the spare room on the right and the bunkroom on the left. In the next round of renovations, the bunkroom will become the study/library, and the current study/library will become another bedroom on the sunny side. The mega-renovations planned for some time will lift the roof from a point around the top right corner of the spare room window to enable the installation of en suites and walk-in areas – the extra head room will also allow a proper rear staircase with a mid-level landing…

Fish for Dinner again…

Dinner last night was a bit of a mixed bag….fish again because Carmen had the same ‘let’s have fish‘ flash as I on Friday and had picked up some snapper on her way back from Te Kuiti…I found a recipe in the Healthy Food Guide book and semi-modified that to suit. I say ‘semi’ because I didn’t actually adjust it as much as I should have; in fact, apart from halving the quantity of fish and pan-baking instead of oven baking it, I kept all the quantities of spices etc the same. As the twins would say ‘uh-oh’…I served it up with a good serving of tabouli but, man oh man, it was hot!! Too hot for the taste of the fish to really come through. I have some issues with the recipe and wonder if the HFG team actually made it before they published it as the picture in the book just looked like normal baked fish (clean and white) when the marinade is actually very dark. I wondering perhaps if they have skipped out a key ingredient like some form of cream to take the marinade from a paste to something that will actually be enough to cover the fillets AND be poured over the fillets – even using twice the quantities there was barely enough to paste over each fillet…

In Other News

I was checking the blogstats with morning and noticed an incoming link from an unfamiliar site – thinking perhaps I had made a break-through in the blogspace I clicked on it. While it was beyond me to find any connection between it and The World…, M|O|N|G|K|O|L was a fascinating  and diverse read; Memoirs of Saigon brought back many memories of my brief time in Vietnam a decade ago, in particular the bubbling friendliness and hospitality of the people of south Vietnam – I don’t think the writers  of the Lonely Planet on Vietnam had ever visited the place, or certainly gone any further than the bars of downtown Saigon. My deepest regret is that I did not purchase the painting I saw in a  gallery in Saigon: using just four colours, the brown of the rivers, the orange of the dust, the bright green of the foliage and the blue of the sky, it encapsulated my first image of Vietnam as we made our approach into Tan Son Nhut. I was saddened by Cambodia: A Country For Sale – at the time I was in Vietnam, it was still relatively untouched by the depredations of the big corporates and multinationals. One of the reasons that I am not sure I want to return is that in ten years all this may have changed and I don’t want my memories tainted by sights of such a beautiful nation going the same way as so many others…Coming Anarchy this morning has a graphic image of that way….

The Strategist has also picked up on the ‘Always Blow on the Pie‘ story – if you haven’t had a look already, please do…Peter’s latest post regards ‘modern slavery‘: I am less than sympathetic…these people choose to have these lifestyles and it reads to me that greed (in the form of £200k bonuses) is the primary motivator. If you can’t stand the heat…but before jumping out of the pan and emigrating to New Zealand…(to be continued)…

Cheeseburger Gothic has the next of JB’s insights into the perils and pitfalls of being a writer: anyone with aspirations of writing even casually should track both these posts and the ones on a similar theme by Steven Pressfield. Having collected a lot of DIY writing material of varying standards and usefulness over the years, I can recommend both as key resources for budding or even experienced writers…

B-4

I have been fairly consistent in my stated aim of doing some minor work on the B-4 each night. It has turning out to be a rewarding and fun build: although relatively simple in construction, each sub-assembly looks delightfully complex. I’m working on the assumption that it should be able to be assembled almost fully before painting so except for some minor fiddly bits I will put on last – to save me refixing them last after snapping them off with careless handling – I am building it pretty much out of the box…progress so far:

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