Archive for July 29th, 2013

Monday Moaning

New Zealand pushing plans to drill Middle-earth as Hobbit filming ends

Plans to ramp up fossil fuel exploration, coal mining and sea bed dredging have New Zealand environment groups worried.

Still from The Lord of the Rings, Fellowship of the Ring.

It’s probably safe to assume that New Zealand‘s conservative Prime Minister John Key likes the Lord of the Rings films and is probably partial to a little bit of Hobbit.

After all, ever since the short stumpy bloke with the hairy feet went off to try and chuck a ring down that hole in Mount Doom, New Zealand’s tourism bosses have been as happy as Orcs at an all-you-can-eat Elf buffet.

According to the New Zealand Tourism Board, about 13 per cent of overseas tourists between January and March took part in some sort of “Hobbit experience” while hanging around all those deep blue lakes, snow-tipped mountains and green, craggy valleys that are the cinematographer’s dream. The board credits the film for tens of millions of dollars in tourism income.

New Zealand has long pushed its international image under the signature “100 % Pure New Zealand” marketing brand. Last year the marketing people tweaked the brand to “100 % Middle-earth” to further cash-in on the film series’ international reach. The campaign saw a 23 per cent increase in visitors from the US, seen as a key market.

Filming for the third Hobbit movie ended in New Zealand only last week, with the final installment set for release sometime around December 2014. That leaves plenty more time for New Zealand’s tourism industry to playfully twiddle with Bilbo Baggins’ curly hair.

But just days before filming ended, National Party leader Prime Minister Key – who is also the tourism minister – delivered a YouTube address that made clear he thinks the future for New Zealand lies not so much in filming Middle-earth, but drilling it for oil and gas. He said:

New Zealand’s natural landscapes are part of what makes this country so special and unique. No matter where I am overseas people want to talk to me about how beautiful our scenery is…

I believe that energy and resources could well be a game changer for New Zealand. The next five years are crucial as we encourage further exploration. This is important because if we are to increase our oil and gas exploration by 50 per cent, we could potentially earn Royalties of up to $13 billion, which is huge…

Ultimately we need to grow our economy by increasing our earning potential. That’s the only way that our government can provide the resources that our families need and the jobs our families want.

See the video & read more

See the video & read more


Lord of the Rings which has bought New Zealand so much, and possibly so much more yet is going to be pushed aside for the energy hunt.

New Zealand is often considered as one of the world’s last pristine countries in the western world.

If these plans for mining, oil exploration, etc go ahead, the country’s reputation is going to take such a hammering, it’ll never recover. People will stay away in droves.

Shame really.

Nature Ramble

A bit different again this week.

Let’s look at what happens to sanitised townies when they move to the countryside

A short guide to the country for townies

Those who move to the country should realise it is violent and muddy, horses don’t need road tax and there is no poo fairy

Horse riders on the North Downs Way in Surrey. ‘When [town dwellers] come to the country, they try to sanitise it to make it more like the town.’ Photograph: ICP /Alamy

The gamekeeper on the shooting estate where I have a small country retreat received a phone call from a panic-stricken resident of the nearby village a few weeks ago.

“Is that the ranger?” asked the lady, who had recently moved from suburbia to our little corner of the Surrey countryside.

“Ranger?” said the gamekeeper. “There ain’t no ranger here.”

“Yes, well,” continued the lady, very flustered, “someone told me to call you because you are the person who takes care of foxes.”

“That I am,” said the gamekeeper, now on more solid ground.

“Thank goodness,” said the lady. “I need you to come and deal with a fox in my back garden.”

“Right you are,” said the gamekeeper, and he drove straight over to her large, elegant house, located the fox, and without further ado, put a fatal bullet in it. Upon which the lady came screaming out of her house.

“What did you do that for?” she wailed.

“You said you wanted it dealt with.”

“Yes, but you didn’t have to kill it.”

The gamekeeper then saw that he was dealing with a townie.

Townies, as the cricketer and country-dweller David Gower complained in a recent interview, have very little clue as to what life in the country is about and how one might survive it. Townies think you can deal with foxes by ways other than killing them. Perhaps they think you can hypnotise a fox into the back of a Land Rover and then take it for a course of aromatherapy, after which it will see the error of its ways and desist from slaughtering poultry, game birds, smaller farm animals and family pets.

Gower is right to say town dwellers should be forced to learn about the countryside, but I am not convinced you could make them listen.

When they come to the country, they try to sanitise it to make it more like the town. Where I am, we woke up one day to find that a millionaire who had moved into a mansion with faux turrets had, during the night, resurfaced with shiny tarmac the dirt track bridleway leading to his driveway. So when we ride our horses on it now, they skate down it.

There is also a lottery winner who flies his wife to the pub in his helicopter. All this is very irritating for those of us who try to live as nature intended, which is to say driving to the pub in a beaten-up Fiat Panda rather than landing there in a Sikorsky.

Wearily, therefore, and with no expectation they will heed it, I give townies this short guide to what they should know about the countryside before moving there:

1. It is violent. Get your head around this basic choice: kill foxes or watch them kill everything else. There is no other option.

2. Horses are entitled to walk on roads. Do not shout at riders to ride on the grass verge. This is not legal. And no, horse riders do not have to buy road tax, in case the charming man who once screeched at me to do so is reading this.

3. Wellies may become stained by mud. Get cheap ones for everyday and save your special edition Hunters for best. Ditto Range Rovers.

4. Dogs may defecate in woods. Please refrain from picking up your dog poo in deserted places and hanging it in a small black bag on a tree. There is no poo fairy who comes in the night to take it away.

5. Stiles are provided for your convenience. Do not stand next to them rattling gates and demanding farmers “open up” or you will call the police. If you can’t climb a fence without suing someone for emotional distress and/or going to the European court of human rights, please go back to suburbia.

6. Trees and grass may grow, as part of a natural process. Do not ring the council to complain. They get government money per head of population and if only six people live there, then all you need to know about the local services is this: there are none.


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