Sunday, November 24

Waveboard weekend

My brother’s built a new house. His family moved in three weeks ago. They now live a new, booming sub-division at Papamoa, 12km south of Tauranga. Last week I was in Wellington on business. I took advantage of the relative proximity to fly north for the weekend.

I couldn’t have picked a better time to visit family. While Sydney was inundated by cold, wet and windy weather, both Wellington and the Bay of Plenty were enjoying gentle winds and lots of sunshine. While in Tauranga I enjoyed a walk around the base of Mount Maunganui and a BBQ at my brother’s new digs.

My nieces also took great delight in teaching me to wave board. In fact, I showed my age by professing complete ignorance as what a wave board was. I’ve certainly seen them around but had no idea what they were called. For the record, they’re a type of skateboard with a single wheel mounted front and back on a deck with a central pivot. Rhythmically wiggling the around its pivot deck propels the rider forward while maintaining their balance. It’s a lot like rollerblading while standing on one leg.

Friday, November 22

Going green

Sea lettuce is a naturally-occurring green algae that grows in coastal regions around the world. It grows in sheets that sometime resemble the leaves of butter lettuce. At least one rather stringy species is native to New Zealand where seasonal blooms can clog harbours and deposit thick, rotting mounds along pristine beaches.

Last weekend, while visiting my mother in Mount Maunganui, I found the main beach carpeted by fresh deposits of sea lettuce. I’d never seen such an extensive bloom before. At least a hundred metres of beach front had been inundated by a sea of green. Mum says these blooms have become more frequent in recent years. I vaguely recall small deposits along the shore as a child, but nothing as extensive as the sight the greeted me in the weekend.

Critics claim nutrient rich run-off from surrounding farmland is to blame. However, research reveals a surprisingly strong correlation between blooms and El Nino weather patterns. During an El Nino winds blow predominantly from the west. Persistent winds push warm coastal water along New Zealand’s east coast away from the land. Cooler, nutrient rich, deep ocean water rises in its place and blooms swiftly follow. These verdant reproductive bursts go unnoticed until stormy weather washes tones of green deposits along the shore and into sheltered bays.

Debate currently focuses on the impact of global warming on the frequency and strength of El Nino weather patterns. The phenomenon is a result of extensive warming of the Pacific Ocean’s surface along the South American coast. This heat sink draws the planet’s atmosphere away from Australia and New Zealand, creating warmers temperatures and drought conditions in these nations.

It’s shame to see the beauty of Mount Maunganui’s beaches desecrated by these blooms. Even more so as the Summer cruise ship season gets underway. Tourism is a regional growth industry and the city’s stunning beaches constantly surprise and delight visitors.

Saturday, November 9

Delicious Melbourne

I was in Melbourne this week for work. The city was considerably cooler than Sydney. Sydney’s forecast for today predicts a high of 31C, while Melbourne will only reach 15C. Melbourne’s climate encourages a lifestyle reminiscent of our time in London. The cooler weather encourages a more diverse wardrobe. Melbourne residents are better dressed and retailers sell a wider variety of fashions. The city’s laneways also encourage a wonderful cafĂ© culture.

The food scene in Melbourne is superb. This week I enjoyed conveyor delivered sushi at Sakura Kaiten Sushi. The dishes on offer rivaled those of a far more up-market restaurant. The quality and variety was impressive; delicious sashimi, tasty Takoyaki and elegantly presented nigiri sushi combinations.

I also had dinner one night with the Group Finance Director at Cecconi’s Cantina, a cozy Italian restaurant on Flinder’s Lane. The ingredients are always fresh and seasonal. We enjoyed some wonderful fresh pasta and risotto before retiring for a cocktail at RU CO bar in the Grand Hyatt.

Finally, I caught up with a old friend for a glass of wine at the Script Bar.  We reminisced about life in Europe and our plans for the future while soaking up the casual cafe atomsphere that Melbourne does so well.