Sunday, 14 August 2016


The illegal truck stop that has North Jersey cops at their wit's end

A tractor-trailer parked on the shoulder on I-287 in Mahwah. Local officials say despite their efforts to keep trucks from parking on the highway, truckers still stop night after night.
MAHWAH — Every night, day after day, hulking tractor-trailers line up here, on the shoulder of I-287, idling for hours at this illegal truck stop.
The drivers come out to smoke as cars whiz past. They stretch and rest on the extra-wide shoulder, just minutes from the New York state line.

Despite tickets, signs and police patrols in the area, the trucks return night after night. Mahwah officials, for their part, say they are at their wit's end with the trucks, and that their efforts to curb what they say is a dangerous situation have proven unsuccessful.
"We come along and move them but an hour later they are back," Mahwah Chief of Police James Batelli said. "We can't continue to allocate resources every night."
Trucks are banned from using the Garden State Parkway north of exit 105, but a reader says he sees them driving on it anyway. What's allow and what's not?
And when confronted, many drivers tell police that they can't drive anymore because they have exceeded the amount of miles they can legally drive in the day, Batelli said.
"If you don't arrive at a truck stop by 1 to 2 p.m. in New York or New Jersey you won't get a spot," Rick Toutges, a truck driver from South Dakota, said Friday at the nearby Pilot truck stop on Route 17. "We can only drive 11 hours a day, and when that's up we can't go anymore because we'll get fined."
Highway America
Kevin Johnson, a trucker from "the great state of Michigan," agreed that it was dangerous to park illegally on the side of an interstate, but also decried the fact that there's very little parking for truckers. 
"Look at where I'm at (now), squeezed in here," Johnson said as his truck stood in a corner of the packed Pilot truck stop. "They need to build more stops."
The shoulder of road where the trucks stop on 287 is particular dangerous due to steep inclines and the merging of the highway from three lanes into two, Batelli said.
He said he would like the shoulder narrowed or removed.
"This is truly a state problem," Batelli said. "I wish the state took more engineering studies of the area."
A spokesman from the state Department of Transportation said the agency has not heard from Mahwah officials about the problem.
"There are a number of private rest stops throughout the state that accommodate truck drivers," said Steve Schapiro, communications director at the DOT. "It's important to remember that it is unlawful to stop on the shoulders of state highways except for emergencies, which makes this a law enforcement issue."
Batelli said State Police routinely patrol the area, but the trucks return soon after they are moved . . . 
Fausto Giovanny Pinto may be reached at Follow him on Twitter @FGPreporting

Peter Blakeborough, a former interstate driver, say truck drivers have three options:

One. They can keep on driving after they have exceeded their legal driving hours, risking a fine, or worse going to sleep at the wheel and killing someone.

Two. They can park illegally when they have run out of hours and failed to fine safe and legal parking, risking another fine and a possible accident.

Three. They can abandon truck driving and let others worry about delivering the goods on time, often to the very people who show no consideration for the welfare of truckers.

It has been clear for many years that governments, federal and state, have no intention to fund adequate parking for interstate trucks. They fail to understand that these drivers do not return to their home depots every night. They are normally on the road for weeks at a time. Many states do provide rest areas close to interstates, but these are few and far between in heavily populated states like New Jersey and New York. In many rest areas trucks are restricted to four hours parking, even though the law requires drivers to rest for ten continuous hours. For truck drivers, whatever they do, they will be damned if they do and damned if they don't.

American truck parking is a shameful fiasco and the main culprit is federal and state governments. For years they have been playing the famous American game called Pass the Buck. It's time the buck stopped.

Saturday, 6 August 2016


Billions could be saved with a permanent Olympic city state

There will never be an end to the waste, cost overruns and the failed political and economic dreams of Olympic host cities, until a permanent Olympic city state is created and made available for all world sporting events.

Once established, a permanent site could generate a surplus of funds that would enable smaller nations and less well-off sports and sports people to participate. Ideally, the site would be situated in northern Europe, northern Asia, or North America in a locality where both the summer and winter climates are reliable. It would also have to be a locality with suitable geography.

Many countries have successful and attractive purpose-built capital cities. That concept has always worked well. Now it is time for the world to build a completely new city state as the world sporting capital.  Transforming an existing city in the territory of an existing country would be a bad compromise that would be bound to fail for political reasons. It would only result in the site having to relocate again and again, as it does now.

While such a city state would likely be surrounded by another country it would have to be independent of that country with its own government, elected parliament, border protection and international airport, and everything else that goes with an independent state.  For the nation giving up a slice of its territory, there would be huge benefits with trade, business and employment. But the new city state would have to be assured of political independence for the concept to work. And ideally it would not be the IOC that would have governmental control of the new city state, but the elected representatives of the citizens of the new state after founding support from the UN and the participating countries.

The funds required for establishing the new city and venues could be met by the participating nations, who would also share the benefits and the profits. A permanent Olympic city could also become the world’s most successful tourist city, and the ultimate place to do business, to be in employment, or to raise a family. The spin-offs could be astronomical.

So why not make that place the place where it all began so long ago? Unfortunately, Greece does not meet the reliable year round climatic conditions. The winters are too mild. The site must have reliable summer and winter conditions with terrain that is both level and sloping, areas suitable for water events, and rural spaces suitable for building a major city with all that that entails.

Some people have suggested that two sites are needed. For example, the Summer Olympics could be held in Greece and the Winter Olympics in Canada. But in this case two are not going to live cheaper than one, and building one Olympic city and state from scratch will be a major undertaking on its own.

To quote the Washington Post, “The Olympics are bad for cities. So why do we keep asking new places to invest billions of dollars in state-of-the-art stadiums they’ll never use again?” The Post continues with, “The Summer Olympics are one of the biggest spectacles in the world, and come with a hefty price tag. Hosting the Games demands major urban infrastructural investment, new or expensively upgraded sporting venues, and housing for 10,000 athletes (plus thousands of spectators). As the German economist Holger Preuss has shown, this crowds out other forms of public investment, such as spending on education and social welfare that may better serve the long-term needs of citizens.” 

Hosting the Olympics is a dream-boom and a reality-bust business and most host cities later regret having taken up the challenge.

It is often claimed that hosting the Olympics is good for tourism. But, while there may be some possible long-term gains for tourism, this is doubtful. In the short term the disruption to the regular flow of tourist is horrendous and frustrating due to over-stretched facilities and predatory pricing.

So, you may ask, who will use the facilities between the four-yearly events? Firstly, the Olympics could become an annual or bi-annual event. But there is also a plethora of other international sporting events constantly looking for venues.  Here is a list of sports that hold world championships: World sports And what better place would there for holding a conference or convention that at the Olympic World Centre?

More on the permanent Olympic proposal can be read by clicking on these links:

Wednesday, 15 June 2016


Voters hold the key to New Zealand’s housing problems

A 1905 Liberal Government
worker's house near Wellington
A 1930's Labour Government state housing street

It's time for New Zealanders to get over their attitude to social housing. New Zealand has had a housing crisis since colonial days. Homelessness and housing deprivation is not new. It has been increasing for at least 150 years.

Numerous governments from the 1890's onward have attempted to overcome housing problems, but with limited success. First there was worker housing early in the twentieth century, followed by state and council housing.

But Kiwis are obsessed with home ownership and refuse to accept that not everyone is able (or wants) to be a home owner. In many developed countries, particularly in Europe, the attitude is different. Social housing is acceptable and carries no stigma, the way it does in New Zealand. In some countries social housing amounts to 25-50% of all housing stock. In New Zealand that figure is less than 5%.

People at the bottom end of the socio-economic ladder have always struggled with housing in New Zealand. They struggle basically because the average Kiwi believes that they should own their own home, or go without. The state shouldn't have to help them. Alternately, Kiwis will say that a state house should be okay only for the very poorest and only until they get established. Then they should make way for someone else.

When New Zealand had state owned banking, insurance, coal-mines, and airlines, why was it okay to use these services, but not okay to use a government house? Doesn't that show a flaw in our thinking?

Successive governments have known about the true state of New Zealand housing for generations, but have been powerless to fix the problem. In the end government can only do what the voters will allow them to do, and the majority of Kiwi voters do not believe in social housing. A few here and there, yes, but 20% of houses throughout the country? A definite no to that. A program to build the required number of houses started by one government would be abandoned by the next government three years later, and before any real benefits were evident.

Housing in New Zealand will change when Kiwis change their thinking.

Like most countries, New Zealand goes through economic cycles and the cycles contribute to the growing numbers of homeless. When the economy booms, people are homeless because they can't afford the high cost of renting or buying. When the economy slumps, they can't afford to buy or rent because they don't enough income.

Typically, in a downturn, people stop building houses because of reduced demand and trades people leave the country or go into other industries. House prices fall, businesses and jobs disappear. But the downturn is always only temporary. Recovery is just around the corner. During these downturns the government has an excellent opportunity to increase the housing stock ready for the next boom, and to keep the tradesmen in the country and working. But most important, it should be houses waiting for people, not people waiting for houses.

Finally, why does the average Kiwi think that state tenants should have to move on when they can afford to buy a house? What is the point? Did the same Kiwis think that people doing business with the old Bank of New Zealand, or State Insurance, or National Airways Corporation, should be restricted to being customers only for a specific time? They didn't, and it makes no sense to limit tenants in social housing. In fact, I believe they should be encouraged to stay for the rest of their days and to treat the house as though it were their own.

But none of this can happen until New Zealanders re-invent their social housing attitudes. Meanwhile, it won't matter who is Minister of Social Housing. That minister will always be unpopular. Can anyone remember a Minister of Housing who was popular? Like the people Paula Bennett would like to help, she is stuck between a rock and a hard place. In New Zealand it will always be a brave minister who takes on housing, until Kiwis change.

Minister of Social Housing
Paula Bennett

Friday, 10 June 2016


Psychic murder mystery solvers are just another bunch of scammers

The Sensing Murder television program on the partially solved Lorraine Wilson and Wendy Evans case in Australia screened on New Zealand television last night. It is one of Australia’s most famous cases and has been the subject of movies, books, an inquest and numerous television documentaries since the girls went missing in 1972.

Wilson and Evans, aged 20 and 18, were hitch-hiking from Brisbane to Dubbo when they disappeared. Their remains were found in bush near Toowoomba two years later.

When the program was produced in 2006, all of the above and much more was widely known throughout Australia. But the program claimed that two Australian psychics that they engaged to ‘solve’ the case had no prior knowledge of it, even though the psychics had appeared in other Sensing Murder programs, and must have had a continuing interest in unsolved Australian murders. This was dishonest trickery on the part of the producers and the psychics.

New York psychics in prison
Everything that the psychics ‘revealed’ was already known to police and the wider public. They failed to provide any new leads for police to investigate. They gave vague descriptions of the offenders, but failed to identify them or provide an address where they could be apprehended. One of their major ‘revelations’ was that one of the offenders had since died. But it was already known to police and the public that the prime suspect had died in a car crash in the 1980’s.

So why do so many people believe anything that psychics claim to ‘see’ or ‘feel’? It is partly that for some people any explanation is better than no explanation, and good news is more palatable than bad news. When there is no news of an arrest, news of what could have happened, even if misleading or false, can be good news. It can bring hope where there is no hope.

While people believe in psychics and mediums, call them what you will, psychics will continue to profit from false hopes, wasted police time, and torment for the families of victims. Psychics don’t have a very good record of solving murders. They don’t have a record at all. That’s right. Not one murder, anywhere in the world, has ever been solved by a psychic in spite of their frequent claims.

Here is a good assessment of the world of psychics:

But many people believe these con-artists and will readily cite their own psychic experiences. But generally, they only remember when the psychic got it right from a little educated guess work, and tend to forget all the things that the psychic was absolutely wrong with. Suggesting to believers that psychics have no special powers and are either con-artists or self-delusional, is like telling a child there is no Santa Claus. They refuse to accept the reality.

If psychics were genuine they would see the dangers of conning unfortunate people out of their hard-earned savings. They would see that they could end up facing fraud charges. Because many psychics have been convicted and imprisoned for receiving payment for false predictions and other claims. Why didn’t they see that coming?

One of the world’s most infamous psychic scammers is Rose Marks. Here is a link to her Wikipedia entry: She’s currently in prison.



Sunday, 29 May 2016


Smugglers Notch, Vermont, catches many unwary truckers

Perhaps it is the beautiful Vermont scenery that takes truckers’ attention, or perhaps it is misleading or obscure signage, but every year dozens of tractor-trailer drivers get caught out. Some are able to extricate themselves before emergency services arrive.

The Green Mountains near Smugglers
Notch in Vermont
But many get stuck literally between a rock and a hard place on one of Smugglers Notch’s numerous tight switch-backs. Just to make the crisis more critical, the Notch has some exceptionally steep pinches along the way. Only a minority of experienced truckers have made it through, usually with some damage.

Smugglers Notch lies on Vermont Route 108 between Jeffersonville and Stowe, a distance of 15 miles. The road climbs onto the shoulder of Mount Mansfield, which at 4,900 feet is Vermont’s highest peak. The Notch, a series of tight S bends with rocky outcrops, is at about the half-way point.

The name Smugglers Notch came from it being a route for supplying the British Army in Canada during the war of 1812. President Thomas Jefferson imposed a trade embargo with Canada and Britain, something that didn’t sit well with Vermonters. In 1894, the old smugglers route became a formed road and underwent several later improvements. Smugglers Notch reinforced its reputation and name during the Prohibition period as a supply route south for illicit liquor.

This sign is too late for a 70-foot rig
to turn around
Route 108 in Vermont is a scenic area that is popular with skiers, and tourists wanting the catch the fall colours. It passes through Smugglers Notch State Park and snakes around several rugged peaks. Perhaps some drivers have been distracted by the scenery.

Both ends of Route 108 are well-formed and give no hint of the trap that lies ahead for drivers of vehicles over 46 feet in length, the maximum size permitted. Standard US semi-trailers are 53 feet long, not including the tractor unit. A few minutes on Google Street View failed to locate the warning signs for truckers at the southern Stowe end. No doubt they are there – somewhere – among the plethora of business signs.

It is not as though Vermont’s Route 108 is nationally known and every trucker should know about it. On a map it is just one of many thousands of secondary routes nationwide, with nothing to forewarn of its potential for disaster.

Now it's a job for a crane
There can be many reasons why drivers may fail to see warning signs, or fail to correctly interpret signs. The positioning of signs can be critical. Often, as I have driven in unfamiliar areas, it has been hard to know which particular road a sign applies to. Sometimes signs can be difficult to see due to lighting or glare, or obstructions. Some signs are ambiguous. However, the most common signage fault that keeps cropping up is that the sign is located in a position where the driver cannot see it until it is too late. Many has been the time I have turned a corner to be confronted by an obstruction or a sign, and then have had to reverse out against the traffic.

For some drivers, even after they realise their mistake, it can be tempting to continue on a little further, expecting to find somewhere to turn around. Backing a 53-foot semi-trailer around multiple hair-pin bends is not an easy option, even for old hands.

Vermont 108 from
Jeffersonville to Stowe
True, most of the drivers that have found themselves trapped in Smugglers Notch, have been inexperienced, and some will say that that is no excuse. Well, it is also no excuse for old hands to criticize the newbies. Everyone has to start somewhere, and they should remember that. Friendly advice and a helping hand is always better than harsh criticism.

But even some of the old hands have been caught out in Smugglers Notch. The authorities and people who know the area will claim that the signage is adequate and there is no excuse for getting stuck. But still it happens and so obviously something is not right and someone is passing the buck. The authorities need to revisit Smugglers Notch with an open mind. They need to understand that some of these drivers may be 3,000 miles from home and making their first ever visit to Vermont.

Meanwhile, trapped truck drivers can expect a $2,000 fine and a bill from Polar Bear Towing’s Jim Grover running to thousands more. Other drivers wanting to use the route can expect delays of at least two or three hours while the cranes move in.
An EBook by Peter Blakeborough
Click  here  for a sample read



Saturday, 28 May 2016


Donald J Trump appears determined to govern America and the world

A controlling interest in business investments around the world may provide funding for his tilt at the American presidency, but Donald J Trump may well turn out to be America’s greatest ever political disaster and fiasco – if he is elected.

Trump campaigning
The Trump name has long been associated with unbridled greed, ambition, failure and clashes with authority.

It goes all the way back to Frederick Christ Trump, Donald’s father. Yes, Frederick Christ Trump, whose mother’s maiden name was Christ. Trump Senior was a New York property developer and wrack-rent landlord who repeatedly refused to rent to black people and was a supporter of the racist KKK organisation. But he famously denied his German ancestry to avoid losing his Jewish tenants. It was claimed, but possibly never proven, that Trump Senior was also a brothel keeper. When Fred Trump died his net worth was estimated at about $200 million.

Donald J Trump, unlike Fred, had no Christ in his name and it is widely accepted that he is in fact a John rather than a Jesus. He joined the Trump empire in 1968 after an entertainment business failure on his own account. He took control of the business in 1971, renaming it the Trump Organisation. He was soon in court for violations of the Fair Housing Act, but the matter was settled out of court, only to be resurrected later for failing to honour the settlement.

Peter Blakeborough
Like his father, Donald Trump has denied his German ancestry while claiming to be Swedish. Again, like his father, he has frequently overstated his personal fortune by as much as ten times its estimated value. In 1968 he claimed to have a personal fortune of $200,000 (over $1 million today) even though his first enterprise was about to fall over.

Donald J Trump was educated at Kew-Forest New York Military Academy, but he suddenly developed feet trouble when it was time to go to Vietnam. Later, he couldn’t remember if it was the left foot, the right foot, or both. Behaviour problems had seen Trump thrown out of an earlier school at age 13.

The period from the mid-1980s to late-1990s saw numerous failures for Trump investments, mostly due to excessive borrowing and inability to meet repayments. In 2005, Trump sued a reporter for $5 billion after the reporter had claimed Trump’s fortune was just $150-250 million, instead of the $5-6 million Trump was claiming. Trump lost the case. Trump continues to withhold publication of his tax returns and evidence to support his personal wealth claims.

Now to Trump the politician. Donald Trump has been a member of both the Democrat and Republican parties, as well as several other minor parties that appear to have fallen by the wayside. He was a possible contender for the New York governorship in 2006 and 2014. He eyed the US presidency in 1988, 2004 and 2012, and was in the running to be George H W Bush’s deputy in the White House.

A Twist of Fate
But people insist that Trump is not a politician and therefore he has appeal for them. This raises an important question. Would the same people submit to brain surgery from a surgeon who claims not to be a surgeon? But when this suggestion is put to Trump supporters they insist that they want someone who is not ‘tainted’ by the ‘system.’ They also say that they want someone who says it the way it is, instead of pussyfooting around.

Trump will build a wall along the Mexican border at Mexican expense. Trump will apply blanket racial and religious bias to immigration and visitor arrivals. Trump will not kowtow to foreign leaders and governments. Trump will run the country like a business, and so it goes. Trump’s political machine is gathering speed as it races towards the Republican Party convention and the White House.

From the usual 10% redneck vote, Trump has cranked up the rhetoric and reckless promises and exploded the redneck vote to an almost majority. He is a great campaigner and manipulator. But he is not a politician? Oh, yeah. Tell me another one.

There is now every chance that Trump will make the White House. If that happens, the very people who are most under his spell, will ultimately be the most disappointed with his record as President. Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely. Donald J Trump has the track record and the personality to destroy the American Dream for a generation. When this writer thinks about the Trump steam-roller running downhill, he thinks about other times and other places where dictators ran riot – Germany, North Korea, Uganda, Libya, Myanmar, to mention a few.

It's time for Americans to wake up to Donald John Trump. He has nothing to offer America and the world, other than disappointment, misery and chaos.

Footnote: If this post should disappear from the blog, it could be because Trump’s lawyers have been active.



Saturday, 7 May 2016


Bob Asker’s life is in danger as he hunts a murderer

A short read from A Twist of Fate, a crime novel by Peter Blakeborough and available as an EBook from Smashwords

After three months at the Brisbane office Bob Asker’s income from his own sales had declined slightly because of the demands that management made on his time. But the volume of sales from the large sales force guaranteed that his combined income from commission and overrides had tripled. The longer established Sydney office serving a population four times greater than Brisbane was only a third higher in sales volume and Asker was the driving force behind the success. Tyler asked him to transfer to Melbourne to start a new branch there.
A Twist of Fate
‘I’m reluctant, Tony,’ he replied.
‘Why? It would be like a step up for you. You’ve done well in Brisbane but you could never expect Brisbane to be bigger than Melbourne or Sydney.’
‘I agree. But until the new branch gets established I’d be on a reduced income and it could take a year to catch up to where I could have been by staying in Brisbane. I’m not saying no. I’m simply asking for your best offer.’
Tyler eyed him quietly for a moment.
‘Okay. So you want to keep your Brisbane level of income in the interim. Is that it?’
‘Something like that.’
‘In that case I’ll have to look at bringing forward a plan that I had in mind for further down the track.’
‘What’s that?’
‘I was planning to appoint a national sales manager in about six months and I had you penciled in as the front-runner. The successful applicant would receive overriding commission on all branches – Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney and other branches as they are opened. It would be a license to print money.’
‘If I’m the front-runner, who is the runner-up?’
‘Well, I can think of several names that could be ready soon.’
‘But they’re not ready yet?’
Peter Blakeborough
‘Not quite.’
‘In that case let’s talk specifically about the money, Tony. What are you offering?’
‘Let’s talk about it over some lunch.’
Two weeks later with Roy Hardie appointed as Brisbane manager, Asker put his few personal possessions into the Bedford and drove to Melbourne with stops at Lismore, Wagga Wagga and Griffith on the way.
He liked Melbourne from the start and the new sales office was soon opened. As usual it was close to the storage building of the trucking company that delivered the television sets from the factory. Asker handled everything including administration, recruiting, training and sales until the new team gained experience and new leaders emerged. After that he had time to visit the other branches and leave selling to the salesmen. He sold the Bedford van to a new recruit and purchased a new Holden.
As he drove the car to his flat he thought about the refinements that had been added since the earlier model. It had a more modern appearance and handled better too. He stopped at a traffic light and waited while a young woman and two small children crossed over in front of him.
He got a shock.
The young woman looked almost exactly like Heather, like the girl he had seen at Beechworth. She was attractive with blonde hair and a beautiful figure. The children, a boy and a girl, were aged about four or five but their ages appeared so close he could not tell which was the older. They had their mother’s features and blonde hair. The little boy saw that Asker was watching them and he stared back as the woman tried to coax him over the crossing. She had the same face, the same walk and she appeared as he would have expected Heather to look five years after he had last seen her alive. But Heather had been dead five years. For a moment he froze and when the light changed it took a blast from the driver behind to get him moving. His imagination had once again played a cruel trick on him.
After three months in Melbourne Asker drove to Adelaide to launch another new branch, leaving Antony Martini in charge of Brisbane while Roy Hardie took over in Melbourne. In Adelaide he had help from an experienced man from the Sydney office and he was soon able to move on to Perth, Newcastle, Hobart and Townsville. It was a busy and challenging life, frequently flying across the continent one day and shooting off somewhere else the next day. He gave up having a flat after Melbourne and lived permanently in hotels. After a year as national sales manager the business seemed to reach a plateau and Asker found the challenge less exciting. His share portfolio had grown dramatically and diversified and his private businesses and the Foundation were flourishing too. But too late he had realized that some opportunities had slipped by while his attention was taken up by the television sales business. It was time to return to his own businesses, and the business of catching Bryce Russell.


Wednesday, 27 April 2016


The challenges of growing New Zealand’s visitor numbers

All the world wants to come to New Zealand to experience the wonderful scenery, the outdoor adventure activities, and world-class friendly service for which the small country Downunder is famous. But more and more, the No Vacancy sign is showing. For a large part of the year New Zealand is full.

Lake Wanaka is a magnet for touring photographers
Tourism, directly and indirectly, is a great generator of business opportunities and employment. Tourism can be such a successful industry that some nations prosper solely from it. New Zealand has many industries that earn foreign exchange, but in recent decades tourism has taken the leading role. Now the industry and government have declared that they are embarking on a record-breaking period of growth and expansion. Industry forecasts are predicting that the numbers, particularly from Asia, will grow by millions per year.

But what will New Zealand have to do to achieve the new goals?  Is it just a simple matter of bringing in the No Vacancy sign? No. Not by a long shot.

New Zealand desperately needs to improve its infrastructure. It must also include all the population in the pride that holds tourism as the nation’s most important industry. The clean, green image must become clean, green, capable, efficient and safe, where no-one does it better. It’s one thing to get visitors into the country once. It takes planning, dedication, expertise, service and variety to get them back again and again.

Peter Blakeborough, the author of nine books, has been a
 tour driver, guide and tour operator for 37 years
The whole nation, every individual, needs to be aware that it may only take one incident (unprofessional, unsafe or unfriendly) to destroy tourism and employment for a generation. Every individual, whether employed directly in tourism or not, must be ready to protect and defend tourism and the tourist. Without tourism, New Zealand would be ranked as one of the world’s poorest nations.

New Zealand needs more than a forecast to make tourism grow. There needs to be a comprehensive plan to expand the tourism infrastructure. Rotorua and Queenstown cannot continue to cope with the growing demand for beds, excursions and adventures. Milford Sound is at the end of the country’s longest no-exit road, and in the location most exposed to accidents and natural disasters. That is a potential calamity that needs urgent attention. In the meantime, the Milford Road should only be available to holders of full New Zealand driver licences. There should also be a plan to build an alternate highway into the Sound from Jackson Bay in the north, that would not rely on the Homer Tunnel. Such a highway, making a round-trip possible, could improve safety while increasing visitor numbers.

The road to Milford Sound is full of scenic delights, but it
 is not a road for distracted amateur drivers.
The tourism plan should also include upgrading existing roads in places like Coromandel, Northland and Urewera National Park to mention a few. Tourist highways should always provide for round-trips. Most tourists, when faced with a choice between a round-trip and a return on the same road, will almost always opt for the round-trip. Time costs them money. This is a prime reason why the Bay of Islands has failed to compete with Rotorua. It’s great scenery with every hill and corner, but doing it all again on the return journey makes it tiresome. Why would anyone want two consecutive sittings of the same movie?

New and improved highways in scenic areas will quickly attract hotels and attractions, and take some pressure off Rotorua and Queenstown. But the highways must come first. The new highways will also give visitors another reason to make return visits to New Zealand.

When people travel to foreign lands they like to think that they will be served by people who know what they are doing. Tourism, travel and hospitality courses are readily available and many people enrol in them and obtain a diploma. But that is of little use if their future employment does not put them at the coal-face. Too many tour drivers and tour directors are untrained and unqualified. Many are merely outgoing personalities with initiative, who will make an impression and survive anywhere. But these same individuals can also fail spectacularly through a lack of training. Every tour guide in New Zealand should have a tour guide licence.

In New Zealand there is a great opportunity for a tour coach operator to become an innovator. Normally, they hire a coach and driver to a tour operator, while the tour operator engages the tour manager or guide, and finds the passengers. Often it is the blind leading the blind. Someday, soon I hope, a coach operator will contract to provide both driver and guide, one senior and one junior, one teaching the other, both eventually capable of doing both jobs professionally. A captain and co-pilot team working together, each with his or her own level of certification.

The one thing that most tourists want to know about, more than anything else when they book their travel, is safety. Destinations that become unsafe, for whatever reason, are avoided like the plague.  New Zealand has its share of potential natural disasters, so we must work extra hard on the hazards that can be reduced. Road accidents in New Zealand cause more deaths and injuries for tourists than any other cause, and the tourist plan must include improvements in road safety.

New Zealand drivers, 90% of whom believe they are of above average ability, are well below average ability for drivers in developed countries. This is reflected in our road crash statistics. The reasons for this are many and varied, but can be briefly attributed to poor knowledge and training, lack of respect for the law, and inadequate roads. In recent years there has been a growing trend to blame tourists for accidents, particularly tourists who inadvertently drive on the wrong side of the road. But with 90% of the worlds roads build for travelling on the right, I believe that it is us who are driving on the wrong side. As self-drive international travel explodes in the future, New Zealand and other similar countries must address this killer problem. Changing sides, as a nation, is not as difficult or as costly as it may at first appear. The best way to make our roads and drivers safe for tourists will be to adopt the best international standards.

A tour coach like this can carry a load equal
to ten full cars, but only requires
four car spaces for parking
Central government may also be obliged to take over some of the responsibilities of local government if the tourism industry is to continue being successful. Already parochial policies are restricting tourism growth with unfair and discriminatory treatment of freedom campers and parking for tourist coaches. This is a nationwide problem and needs a national solution. Any place that is available for parking a car without restriction should also be available for parking a self-contained camper or a tour coach without restriction.

Auckland, Wellington, Rotorua and Queenstown all have insufficient parking for tour coaches. In Rotorua, tour drivers required to take visitors to city restaurants, must drive to the edge of town to park. This means that the driver will miss a meal or will keep the visitors waiting while he has a mandatory 30-minute rest period. Another predicament for tour drivers is signage that limits parking time to minutes or two or three hours, even though a driver is required to have a 10-hour rest period in each 24-hour period.

In Queenstown, with few exceptions, tour coaches are forbidden to park anywhere in the town overnight. Daytime parking is severely limited. However, in all these cities and towns, cars get the first preference for parking. The attitude in some councils appears to be, we want your tourist dollars but just send us your money without actually travelling with it. Central government should take control of parking in the national interest, or at least lay down some firmer rules for councils to follow.

Good planning and a population dedicated to making tourists welcome, safe and satisfied will go a long way to making 5-10 million visitors a year a reality. And the environment would not need to suffer in the way it would if the same income was earned in any other way.






Wednesday, 6 April 2016


The New Zealand Tour Commentary

by Peter Blakeborough

The following are extracts from the revised edition of this handbook for New Zealand tour drivers and guides


Chronology of New Zealand History                                              6                                           
The Tour Commentary                                                                    39
Sample Commentary – Auckland                                                 48
Sample Commentary – Wellington                                               78

Tourist Routes – North Island
Auckland-Waipoua Forest-Bay of Islands                                    88
Treaty of Waitangi                                                                          100
Auckland-Waitomo-Rotorua                                                        109
Pokeno-Rotorua via Coromandel                                                127
Rotorua-Wellington                                                                       148
Taupo-Wellington via Hawkes Bay                                              159
Government in New Zealand                                                        167
Tourist Routes – South Island                           
Cook Strait                                                                                       174
Picton-Hokitika                                                                              178
Hokitika-Queenstown                                                                   193
Queenstown-Milford Sound                                                         207
Te Anau-Dunedin                                                                           217
Dunedin-Omarama                                                                        228
Queenstown-Christchurch                                                            235
Christchurch-Picton                                                                       254
Notable New Zealanders                                                                261
Population, Mountains, Rivers & Lakes                                       271
References & Acknowledgements                                                 273        
Index                                                                                                  275

From the Chronology of New Zealand History (Starting on Page 11)

1832 James Busby, a minor clerk in the New South Wales Government, is appointed British Resident in New Zealand. His status is less than that of a consul and the appointment is regarded as a sideways shift rather than a promotion.

1833 Busby takes up residence in the Bay of Islands.

1834 Without authority, Busby encourages 25 northern chiefs to adopt the United Tribes flag.

1835 Again without authority, Busby encourages 34 northern chiefs of the Confederation of United Tribes to sign the Declaration of Independence of New Zealand. Ngati Tama and Ngati Mutunga invade the Chatham Islands where they kill or enslave local Maoriori. William Colenso lands New Zealand’s first printing press at the Bay of Islands and prints New Zealand’s first book, which is also the first book to be printed in Maori.

1836 The Confederation of United Tribes fails to meet in assembly, or pass any laws, and becomes defunct as tribal warfare continues.

1837 The first Australian possums are released in New Zealand to start a fur trade. Baron de Thierry returns to the Hokianga with 60 followers and declares himself the Sovereign King of New Zealand.

1838 Busby becomes increasingly isolated in his efforts to establish a form of self-government in New Zealand. He is regarded as irrelevant by the authorities in London and Sydney, and by Maori and white settlers. Rabbits are first released in New Zealand.

1839 William Hobson is sent to New Zealand to establish British rule as a dependency of New South Wales. The first honey bees arrive with a Miss Bumby (Correct spelling).

1840 William Hobson, with assistance from his clerk James Freeman, and Busby, drafts the Treaty of Waitangi. Missionary Henry Williams translates the document into Maori. Hone Heke is the first chief to sign Hobson’s Treaty of Waitangi on 6 February. Three women also sign the Treaty. Eight copies of the Treaty are produced in Maori for signing in other parts of the country. The copies are not exact replicas of the original. The first New Zealand capital is established at Okiato, near present day Opua and named Russell. French colonists settle at Akaroa. Rawiri Taiwhanga becomes New Zealand’s first dairy farmer near Kaikohe. The first bank, the New Zealand Banking Company, opens for business in Kororareka. The first New Zealand Company settlers arrive in Port Nicholson. The first newspaper The New Zealand Gazette is published at Petone. Petone carpenter Samuel Parnell declares he will not work more than eight hours a day.

1841 The capital is moved from Russell (Okiato) to Auckland. New Zealand is separated from New South Wales to become a British colony in its own right, and Hobson’s status changes from Lieutenant-Governor to Governor. The first European settlers arrive at New Plymouth.

1842 Governor Hobson dies and his place is taken by Robert Fitzroy. William Martin is appointed by the Colonial Office in London as New Zealand’s first Chief Justice and establishes the New Zealand Supreme Court. New Zealand is no longer subject to the laws of New South Wales. Maketu Wharetotara is hanged in Auckland, witnessed by about 1,000 Europeans, for the murder of the Roberton family at the Bay of Islands. This is New Zealand’s first official execution and sets a precedent in which British law now applies to Maori also.

1843 Twenty-two European settlers and four Maori are killed in a land dispute at Wairau. The first thoroughbred horses are imported from Australia.

1844 Hone Heke begins the War in the North.

1845 George Grey becomes governor.

1846 The War in the North ends at Ruapekapeka. The first Constitution Act is passed by the Imperial Government paving the way for New Zealand to be divided into the provinces of New Ulster and New Munster. Grey refuses to implement the provisions of the Act.

1847 Wellington is granted a Lieutenant-Governor.

1848 Dunedin is founded by Scottish settlers. Coal is discovered at Brunner. A major earthquake in Marlborough damages most Wellington buildings. Land is set aside for the creation of Hagley Park in Christchurch, to be named after Hagley Hall, the home of Lord Lyttleton.

1850 The first organised settlers arrive in Canterbury.

1851 The first deer are released near Nelson.

1852 Another New Zealand Constitution Act is passed providing for an elected General Assembly and six provincial councils. The first navigation beacon in New Zealand is established at Pencarrow Head. Charles Ring discovers gold at Coromandel, but the gold rush quickly ends.

1853 New Zealand’s first general election is held on 4 July with the voters including about 100 Maori. Only male land owners are permitted to vote. The first ministry (cabinet) is led by James Fitzgerald (the office of premier is yet to be created) with Henry Sewell, Frederick Weld and Thomas Bartley as ministers.

1854 The first meeting of the General Assembly (parliament) takes place in Auckland with 37 Members representing 24 electorates. The powers of the Assembly are severely limited by the appointed Legislative Council and the British Government.

1855 An 8.1 magnitude earthquake strikes Wairarapa and Wellington resulting in a ground movement of 17 metres. Adhesive postage stamps are on sale for the first time. Robert Wilkin introduces hedgehogs.

From Auckland-Rotorua via Coromandel Section (Starting on Page 134)

Mercury Bay was named by Captain James Cook (actually Lieutenant Cook) when he landed here in 1769 to claim New Zealand for King George III of England, and to observe the transit of Mercury. The Maori name for Mercury Bay is Te Whanganui-o-Hei which translates to the great bay of Hei.

The main purpose of Cook’s first voyage of discovery was to claim New Zealand and Australia for the King, while observing the transit of Venus and later Mercury, was just a front to disguise the real intention from the French who were also interested in the region.

Cook had earlier landed near the present day city of Gisborne after land (Young Nicks Head) was first sighted by 12 year-old Nicholas Young, who was rewarded with five gallons of rum. History has not recorded how long it took young Nick to polish off the rum, or indeed, if the rum polished him off first, but, because of this rum transaction, the lad could have rightfully claimed to be the first person to sell New Zealand.

Cook’s landing and observations were commemorated in 1969 with a re-enactment of the historic events at Shakespeare Cliff on the southern side of the bay, and the unveiling of a plaque. Taking part before a large crowd were Queen Elizabeth II (as Cook) and this writer’s uncle, Harold Brown (as a Maori chief, even though he was born in America), who was the then chairman of the former Coromandel County Council. Unfortunately, it later transpired that the original landing was more than a kilometre away at the other end of Cooks Beach, and so Mercury Bay could also be known as the place where VIPs got lost.

 Mercury Bay is a popular game fishing place with marlin being present. The fishing is boosted by the location nearby of Cathedral Cove and its associated marine reserve where fishing is prohibited, but fish stray from the protected zone and get caught in large numbers.  Yachting is also popular here and the Mercury Bay Yacht Club was the official club of challenge for New Zealand’s first America’s Cup challenge in 1987.

From Te Anau-Dunedin Section (Starting on Page 221)
Milburn, since 2007, has been the site of a correctional facility with almost 500 inmates.

Meanwhile, Milburn limestone is known all over New Zealand for its use in cement and fertilizer.

Unlike Milton, Milburn was named after a person; Morris Milburn, born in the north-east of England, arrived here in 1858 after walking 450 kilometres from Christchurch.

Waihola The spelling for Waihola, and nearby Lake Waihola, have been corrupted with the passing of time. The true Maori place name is believed to be Waihora, which means spreading water. There is no letter L in the Maori alphabet.

The shallow lake is tidal and connected to the sea, five kilometres away, by the Taieri River. The lake and nearby wetlands are popular for water sports including water skiing, sailing, fishing and hunting. About 60 species of native birds inhabit the area.

Mosgiel, once a borough with 10,000 people, is now a suburb of Dunedin City.

The name Mosgiel comes from Mossgiel, the Ayrshire farm of Scottish poet, Robert Burns. A nephew of Burns, the Reverend Thomas Burns, was one of the founders of the Otago settlements in 1848.

The district got a boost from the discovery of gold in 1861 and Arthur John Burns, a son of Thomas Burns, founded the Mosgiel Woollen Mills. The mill was a major employer and nationally recognised brand until its closure in the 1980’s. For a time Mosgiel had a factory producing white ware but distance from the larger population centres forced its closure also.

Copies of The New Zealand Tour Commentary can be ordered from Gypsy Books, PO Box 110, Ngatea 3541, New Zealand, for NZ$45.00 including postage.
Telephone 07-211-9876 or 021-115-0543.