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.
For one year - an exciting, explosive, extraordinary year - Back courted Reiha's attention.
With thousands of text messages and thousands of emailed words, the 41-year-old competed for her time, demanded her attention and consumed her life.
And then she died.
She was 13.
At 7.30pm, my partner and I go for a stroll. The invite declares the party starts at 7.30pm, but she tells us no-one will turn up for an hour. A Previa van is parked at the bottom of the road. Half a dozen boys loiter on the van seats, guzzling from brown beer bottles.
"Oh my God," I whisper, "do you think they're coming?" My partner raises an eyebrow, as if to say, "Are you from the Mennonite community?"
Did she have any advice for her successor? “No.”
What about a successor in 20 years’ time? She couldn’t help herself. “Ask the artist who it’s for. The artist and the audience are of equal importance. I have no time for what I call art in the bathroom.”
Art in the bathroom. She means that thing you do when you stand in front of the mirror and sing with the hairbrush.
“And don’t do the same old crap all the time.”
I start to wonder whether Buckingham sees himself as a kind of latter-day Charlie Douglas. With so much of New Zealand already explored, perhaps finding a bird believed to be extinct is the equivalent of discovering a new species, mapping a new valley, naming a mountain range.
“Charlie’s a cult hero for me; I would have been his best friend, I think!” Buckingham tells me later. They’re both a bit reclusive, both bushmen, both bird-lovers and bachelors. “We have so much in common,” he says. “I was just born 100 years too late.”
Mahana was established on 1978 in the wake of Nambassa, one of the enormous hippy festivals held on the Coromandel Peninsula. The broader hippy movement was already rolling toward its conclusion, as several thousand gathered in the valley for a three-day celebration of free love, peace and music. A film about Nambassa, Dirty Blood Hippies, calls it New Zealand's "last gasp of the hippy dream". But the gasp birthed something. A group from the festival gathered. The root of all human problems, they agreed, lay in ownership of land. They decided to buy a section of land, and set it free
“It’s more than a church to Christchurch, it’s our McDonald’s golden arches, it’s our [city council] logo… it’s what Christchurch is known for throughout the world. It’s like taking down the Sydney Harbour Bridge or the Auckland Sky Tower. It’s like saying we’ll take down the Eiffel Tower because it’s got a bit rusty and we don’t like it anymore.”
We would often run in the rain down slippery Waitakere tracks, jumping creeks in a single bound. Down Black Rock Dam to Piha, up the Pararaha Gorge. I was loving being a new father and now he was getting divorced. I thought Ford had made him do it and it would turn dark and end like Ford’s tales, in tears… It wasn’t easy but he and Robyn made it work. I played an old wind-up gramophone at the wedding while the great sprinter coach and Freemason Joe McManermin married them in the Domain.
Photo: Jon Baldock
Crow, who looks like he has just walked off a set in Guy Ritchie's London, bulky and bald with a brace of fat rings, wasn't born into porn. A former deep sea diver and merchant banker, he used to run a computer company with a sideline in adult games.
"And then the adult CD company passed the computer company for dead. It was like, 'Shit, I'm focusing on the wrong thing here.' So I got rid of the computer company, and the rest is history."