One of this country’s few public critics of police pursuits, road safety campaigner and Dog and Lemon Guide editor Clive Matthew-Wilson, reckons police chase because they enjoy the thrill of it.
“Part of it is because they hate seeing people get away, and that’s natural, but police work by and large is very boring and one of the few things that’s really exciting is chasing someone. And yet it’s one of the least effective ways of catching anybody.”
"I thought by the time it gets to me, I'll be too old to really care. But in the last three years it's just happened so fast," says Gavin Sykes, who lives in Granity.
"People used to use our backyard to have 60th birthdays and all sorts of things. This was beautiful, this backyard. We had plants, nice grass... It was a beautiful area and the sea's just f...ed it.
"Right now, it could be all over for us in a year."
Ana-Carolina didn't get better. She didn't get worse. She didn't go home.
She got older and now, here she is, wearing Kitty Cat shoes that have never been walked in, all silvery-sparkled with green and red lights that would flash were they to be stomped on the ground.
When she couldn't provide her partner's cellphone number ("Since when has it been a crime to have speed dial?") she says police told her that was suspicious and they would have to search the couple's bedroom.
"I was trying to make jokes, cos, yeah, it was hard... I had the four babies. They're normally really boisterous, but they sat still.
"They started asking, `Are we baddies, mum? Is my daddy a baddie?"'
Four months later it's Christmas. We are living in a tiny prefab beside my grandmother's house, one road back from Milford Beach. My father phones. "Come back, Diana," he says, "it's snowing in Vancouver."
I say: "How can we come back? Mum is working six days a week. We don't even have enough money to buy shoes."
My mother takes the phone away.
I am 14, angry, a bitch. He knows how much I love the snow.
Harrow, a pharmaceutical salesman by trade, is sunny and affable. He’s the sort of person who trusts in the kindness of strangers, has difficulty seeing anything as insurmountable, and describes a 12-hour tramp as an ideal Saturday. The mystery of the snow birds was exactly the type of challenge he relished.
It is nearly 25 years since her daughter disappeared. Saturday, October 17, 1992 is a day she relives “year in and year out, over and over”.
“I hate airing my dirty laundry. There are so many people out there who judge me for the things that I have done … but honesty is the best policy,” she says with a gravelly voice.
Incredibly, she is the first woman to hold a regular political cartooning spot in this country. She's still sometimes mistaken for the cartoonist's wife at functions.
She feels grateful for the break in her 50s, given a widespread workplace prejudice against middle-aged and older people.
Actually, the idea of being "past it" hangs over women in many spheres of their life, she says. People used to tell her to get moving with marriage and children or miss out.
"But in fact I married late, and I had a child quite late, and I came to cartooning very late, and they've all been really happy things for me."
Most of the victims were Māori or Pasifika and from the margins of society - the homeless, mentally ill and unemployed - and there seems to have been a muted response to the crisis from Government and the public.
"I wonder if we had 20 kids from wealthy families dying in a very short amount of time what the response would be," says Ross Bell, executive director of the Drug Foundation.
"When I became pregnant at 16, to a boy from church, and we didn't get married . . . I literally left home on that day. I think I was in my school uniform. As harrowing as that was, all those years, what it did give me was the opportunity to have freedom in my life. One, to choose my own religion - which is none, absolutely none - and also to choose my own vocation. I've always wanted to do what I'm doing today, but I would never have been allowed to if I'd stayed in the family fold, because I was expected to study and become a lawyer and that wasn't negotiable."
The wizard has a soft and low voice. He's round-faced, boyish somehow. He and his journalist wife Marion McLeod live in a converted warehouse in central Wellington. (The children, Vanessa and Toby, are long grown up, with their own wordy careers in publishing and journalism.) The apartment is a high, airy space wallpapered with paintings, most of them by Ralph Hotere, with whom Manhire has collaborated since the late 1960s. (''We've always had this arrangement that he can help himself to my words at any time, and I can help myself to his images at any time.'')
"To Doug and Mary Catherall. A son. 1 July 1970. Stillborn," it read.
"They've got my birthday wrong," I whimpered to my mother. "My birthday is July 3, not July 1. And I'm a girl, not a boy."
"There's something I need to tell you," she whispered. And it was then that she told me about my brother, who was born dead two days before my first birthday. And there was more, Mum told me quietly, stroking my fine pigtails with her soft hands. Ten months later, she gave birth to my sister, who was also born dead.
Tamihere says the testimony of the prison informants – including one who gave graphic evidence of how Tamihere allegedly told him he’d raped both the Swedes – sickened all who heard it. He told North & South he knew from that moment he would be found guilty. “With secret witnesses, there’s no defence, and that’s what screwed us. Once the jury heard that, it was over. It didn’t matter a damn what you said.”
I had no way of keeping time, and it seemed to pass incredibly slowly. The lights were always on, all night; there was no way to turn them off. I tried covering my face with the blanket to block them out. A person checking on me through the window called out that if I didn’t uncover my face, the blanket would be taken off me. I wouldn’t have slept even if I was in a more comfortable place and the lights were off. Going through withdrawal from sleeping pills has always left me unable to sleep for a few days. There are not many things more frustrating than being so tired but unable to fall asleep. I had broadly calmed down after an hour or two. I did not feel invincible anymore. The way I was treated made me feel small, powerless, and like an animal.
I can hear the condescension in his voice — the “when-you-get-some-experience-in-the-real-world-you’ll-understand” tone — and, shit, it pisses me off. Sometimes I don’t think my father understands me at all. Worse, I don’t think he bothers to try.
I find myself craving his approval and simultaneously resenting him for this. His One Network News world-view infuriates me as much as my simplistic eco-socialism annoys him. So what he was about to say to me was kinda out of nowhere. As we slosh down the stream back to the car, he says, “I respect your political principles, my boy. You make me think.
“I’m proud of you.”
In Palmerston North, the seeds go into a dry room, which looks like a supermarket’s walk-in beer chiller. There they can stay fresh for at least 20 years – and up to a century – before they need replanting. “We have some cultivars from 1940 that are still viable,” says Ghamkar.
The fridge that stores the seeds is locked, but it is not a fortress. On starting his job as director last year, Ghamkar was horrified to learn that New Zealand did not have a back-up collection in Svalbard, the doomsday vault on an island off Norway, which is built to withstand even nuclear winter. “Even North Korea has a deposit there,” he says.
Is she on synthetics?” I ask the man. He nods.
After a minute her eyes open, and she focuses on my face. She says she thinks I’m beautiful. Her teeth are covered in lipstick, she’s young - early 20s. I try to get out from under her, but my movement frightens her. She passes out, and I wriggle into a squat. Queen St is busy, but no one is helping us.
Some time passes and she opens her eyes. The man asks if she can get up, she takes his hand and stumbles onto her knees. She grabs for her bag, and turns her head to look at me.
“You’re a crazy fucking bitch,” she mumbles, as she swings it into my face.
Clarke never uses dress-ups or attempts an impression. He is always John Clarke, only speaking in a language and tone that you instantly recognise as belonging to the bullshit artist, the bully or the cheat.
It’s subtle and disarming and absolutely consistent with everything Clarke has come to believe about satire and performance: that it should engage the audience in a collaborative act of the imagination; that you write it funny and then progressively take all the jokes out, “because, like life, you should have to decide if you find it funny or not”.
At the mussel beds, empty beach stretches in both directions, a gentle curve snaking back and forward along the coastline. The high-tide line marks the entrance to a driftwood forest—bleached trees the only witnesses to the endless roar of the Tasman Sea. Against the melancholy isolation, the family looks like a band of survivors, the last people on Earth, a warm nucleus of home.
In 2009 I was working as a laundress in the rest home that housed the room my grandad was slowly dying in. This was my first ever proper job. I was 30. I took great self-punishing heart in the term laundress. I listened to the Nutters Club while I waited for the tea towels to dry and wondered if Mike King would be as fun now he was off the waste. After I got home I read a novel a night so I could leave my body and keep up with Kim Hill.
After their 10am briefing, the chefs had set to work, almost shoulder to shoulder in that Lilliputian landscape, and for 10 minutes there had been no sound. Nobody talked about cooking or romantic partners, nobody streamed classic rock from their phones, nobody discussed the latest Nigella or yelled, "Where's my f***ing lamb?" - nothing.
"It helps everyone focus," Sahrawat said, eventually, of the silence. His chefs didn't look up.
Jessica is 24, all baby-faced and boobs in a girly pink top. She struggles to remember the first time a man paid her to have sex but she remembers one time a man tried to suffocate her. She doesn't get nervous standing on Manchester St too often these days, unless it's a client that looks like that man. She doesn't take drugs and hardly drinks so the money goes towards the daughter she adopted out last year. Dyslexia and dyspraxia mean she's never held down an office job, she wants to spoil her daughter with toys and Manchester St is the only "office" she's never been fired from.
At the bottom of the drive his wife and my dog conducted a brief but passionate affair, while Paul and I shook hands, made vague promises of future contact, and said goodbye, most probably for ever. And I went back up to the house thinking thoughts. Trite ones for the most part, truisms you hear when young and never quite believe. Like how fast time passes. And more particularly how it accelerates to a blur, so that you can no longer remember who you met last week but you can still spell an impossible surname from 40 years ago. And also how we summarise a life with just two facts – how you made a living and whether you reproduced. The rest, the love and misery, the fear and laughter, is fiddle-de dee.
The case of Chris Robinson, the insurer IAG, and the burnt-out Kerikeri mansion is much stranger than a standard tussle between disgruntled policyholder and suspicious insurer.
Aside from the printer-ignition theory there's blackmail and bankruptcy, and allegations of conspiracy. There's a side-plot involving poisoned land. The IRA and a fake Irish priest make cameo appearances. It's a story whose various interpretations differ so drastically that someone, somewhere, must have told some lies.
It’s another level of remoteness from what Joy knew growing up, but she’s had it easier than her mother-in-law Heather, who arrived as a 20-year-old bride from Auckland to a house without electricity or telephone. Yet even with satellite internet, twice-weekly visits from the mailboat and a fast boat, living this far out still requires a healthy sense of self-reliance. Like her own mother, Joy has had to school her kids, years of correspondence lessons at this very kitchen table.
“That’s been the hardest thing about living here,” she says of educating the girls, both of whom are now in their 20s and have left home. “It was such a big responsibility, and you never knew whether you were doing it well enough.”
Whatever the story, each case touched a nerve. I can give a crime tour of Auckland, pointing out the locations of death and suffering. My doors are always locked. My favourite game to pass the time while waiting for someone's appearance is to remember the names of all the lawyers in the courtroom, and then name the clients they've represented. Occasionally I search for victims of crime online, hoping they're doing OK.
An unreliable, flickering inner mental video reveals changes to the gang of strangers since I joined them nine years ago. Bellies have swollen and receded, or just swollen, beards have grown, school kids have grown up, dogs have died. Although numbers have doubled, many have vanished. Some may have shrugged off the monthly-pass fare and relocated to Titirangi. Some may have simply lost their jobs. And I have, sometimes, seen the full-page obituary you get in the Gulf News when you die young.
"Young people here grow up real fast and nothing is happening,” said 20-year-old Kaitaia local Mariah Herbert who lost her sister to suicide in 2008, her friend in 2016 and has attempted to take her own life twice. “They see people getting really far in life and look at themselves and say, ‘I can’t do that’. You need money or to look a certain way to get somewhere.
“It’s about feeling useless or not wanted or feeling silent and like nobody sees or hears you. Suicide is the easy way out - or sometimes it feels like it’s the only way out.”
Their school looked familiar to me, but many things about this Auckland were not. In one shop, the students insisted I eat a stodgy pancake that looked and tasted like a doughnut. They showed me the red fabric and flowered cross that would lie on a Tongan coffin, and the blazer patches for the many different churches of the area. This Auckland has existed my whole life: I grew up in Te Atatu South, attending mixed-ethnicity schools – decile fives, these days – with Polynesian churches in the neighbourhood. From my Māori grandmother I inherited a fondness for plastic flowers, especially a lei or hair ornament. I thought I knew Auckland. But I knew nothing.
The next morning, Moss held a razor to his wife’s face, twice, asking, "Shall I shave you?"
Mary shrugged him off. "Don’t be silly," she said.
Her nonchalance masked a colossal unease.