One night in Auckland

Outside the casino, the moneyed and the desperate smoked in the light of the Sky Tower; across the street the secondary industry of the pawnshop had shuttered for the evening. A young Asian man spat heavily into an outdoor ashtray, the Pakeha woman next to him, with a lifetime smoker’s deep wrinkles, looked up from her phone in disgust. An American man in an Aertex shirt described his new cross-trainers to a female companion: “You’re a woman, you wouldn’t understand.”

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How the discussion around suicide ignores crucial voices

Sophie keeps her condition a secret because to other people she appears “normal” and the stigma, despite years of campaigns urging New Zealanders to be more open-minded, is too strong.
“People like me who have long-term mental health concerns don’t want to be a drain on society. I have a great job, good relationships, and am generally doing well — but I know how precarious my situation is. I’m one brain chemical misfire from losing everything I’ve worked for.
“We get shunted aside because we can’t be trotted out as problems that are easily fixed.”

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Sam Hunt: The last outlaw poet

Can you picture Hunt in the downstairs room, declaiming Yeats and Auden to no one? "Pathetic, in a way," he admits. "I remind myself of a character out of Dylan Thomas." 

From the hundreds – no, thousands – of poems and quotes stored in his head he produces Thomas' Quite Early One Morning. There are sad lines about the old contralto Clara Tawe Jenkins, who sits at the window and sings to the sea, for the sea does not notice that her voice has gone.

"F...ing beautiful. I've loved those lines since I was probably 8 or 9 years old.”

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Breastfeeding: Why is it such a battle ground?

Kate’s still angry. “As someone with complex health issues, to have ‘breast is best’ rammed down your throat past the point of reason is crazy, as is not discussing formula. This cookie-cutter stance doesn’t take people with health issues into account.”
And there’s a trickle-down effect. Kate, who visits an Auckland hospital six-weekly for her pain condition, once pulled out a bottle in the Westfield St Lukes parents’ room. “One of two mums there said, pointedly, ‘These chairs should only be for breastfeeding mothers.’ I left, then started bawling.”

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Johnny Cash, Michael J Fox, John Walker...and me

I wasn't sobbing so much for myself as for my girls, Alex who was then six, and Rosie, three. I was sobbing because of my fear for what might become of them if the disease was to progress rapidly — and who is to know how quickly, or how slowly, it will progress, we only know that it will — and I might not be in a fit state to look after them and provide for them. Would I be able to run with my children? Would we be going on the long-promised "someday-when-my-ship-comes-in" trip to Disneyland with me in a wheelchair? How would I be when the children graduate from university?

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The politics of crime - how the hunt for votes filled our prisons and threatens Minister of Justice Andrew Little's plans for reform

Look at those people inside prisons, he says. So many mental health issues, addiction problems, family violence and inmates who are themselves victims of crime.
"If I don't follow my conscience and my political obligations to say we can do different things and better things and achieve better results, I'd be failing.”

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A tale of two currents

For kayakers like Venable, it is the diminishment of wilderness that is the main reason for opposing Westpower’s plans for hydro on the Waitaha—not merely the loss of a kayaking opportunity. Although most of the river would be unaffected by the scheme, the loss of the final reach would mar the experience of the whole—like tearing the last chapter out of a thriller.

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The first WAGs: A 1970s All Black wife on rugby and women’s lib

It’s a freezing mid-week day. There’s an aftermatch function: men only. There’s nowhere for us to go. I approach the door. I say, I have some wives of the All Black team with me, and we would like to come in. Through the comforting cloud of cigarette smoke I can see the players drinking beer, and the officials drinking sterner stuff. The man from the rugby union is resolute. If he lets us in, the floodgates will open. You’ll want fancy stuff to drink, he says. But, he says, moist-eyed with magnanimity, if you’d like to help out in the kitchen with the other ladies, you’re more than welcome.

We go to the pub.

Photo: Barry Durrant

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Sam Neill in Uncharted territory with new series

It's the next morning and Neill is dutifully doing his media one-on-ones at the Hilton. He was staring out to sea when Canvas arrived in the room with the Antipodes sparkling water and mini Whittaker's chocolate bars. Neill has claimed Cook was "a hard man to read". But what to make of this actor who, on the one hand travels with miniature plastic pink pigs he captions for laughs on social media — and on the other champions big and serious causes. Neill has spoken out against cubicle dairy farming in the Mackenzie Country. He recently suggested a boycott of Cadbury's should its Dunedin factory closure go ahead. He is appalled at the Australian Government's decision to detain 1600 asylum-seekers in Papua New Guinea.

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Do our relationship property sharing laws need a radical shake-up?

“Artist Bill* owned a house, whose walls were hung with a lifetime worth of art – both his own and gifts from other artists. When Emma* moved in, she brought a bike and cash.

When they split…Emma claimed the $350,000 art collection in the house was joint property, despite pre-dating her. Bill argued the collection was of such sentimental value it was a taonga and should be exempt, but the judge found the artworks had been used as "household ornaments" and were therefore family chattels.

“The judge said equal sharing would be "repugnant to justice".

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From class clowns to stand-up stars: Is this New Zealand's next generation of comic greats?

The girl with the blonde hair and the glasses is standing halfway up a fire escape in a gloriously graffitied carpark, staring into the morning greyness as a group of teenagers congeals on the concrete below.

Amelia de Farias is one of seven Class Comedians this year. They've got a month to learn how to be funny on demand, before performing their six-minute sets at the Comedy Festival. Those six minutes launched former Class Comedians such as Rose Matafeo and Rhys Mathewson into successful careers. Today could be the start of something.

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Why renters won’t complain about landlords

Melissa understands why few do what she did. “You need that reference to get into your next property. It doesn’t matter how badly things have gone and what the landlord’s done and whether it was legal or not - you do need that reference. It’s terrifying because landlords and letting agents, they’re the ones that hold the power - they’re the ones that decide if you’ve got a roof over your head.”

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I founded Happy Cow Milk to make a difference in dairying. I failed.

I founded Happy Cow Milk to make a difference. But last week I had to admit to myself that I failed.
I made the decision to shut down the business and I faced the hard truth that I haven’t really made any difference at all. So what went wrong?
In a country awash with milk – with so much invested – you’d think a few small changes would be easy. And you’d be wrong.

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