E mihi aroha, he mihi manaaki o te tau hou. Kia ora whanau.
Happy new year and great to catch up with you at the beginning of 2013. We hope your Christmas season has been pleasant. To tell the truth, we are still on holiday, visiting my wife's parents in Los Osos, California.
Our tamariki love to visit their Oma and Opa, bringing bags of smiles and boundless energy to them every day.
California is much like Auckland. A big place where you have to drive to get anywhere.
I remember coming to the States back in 2005 and everything was huge - the cars, the trucks, the plate sizes, the serving portions, the personalities. This time around, things are smaller; no actually, they are normal-sized.
The recession took a lot of the confidence and the big-ness away from America and it has been having a really tough time building itself back up.
Los Osos, where we are spending most of our time, is more like Maketu. Los Osos is the Spanish name for the Bears, and is a small coastal community situated a few hours north of Santa Barbara.
On the right is Morro Bay, which houses a magnificent rock the size of Mt Maunganui, to the left, San Luis Obispo, a university town which feels a little like Tauranga.
I am told that Morro Bay used to have a sizable fishing industry in its recent past.
One of the locals, John, talked about the red abalone (paua) and how he would cut class back in 1979 to go out and dive for them. They were huge and could be found in large numbers. His recipe was to catch, cut and pound the raw meat flat, before adding it to some fresh sourdough, lettuce and tomato, making a perfect meal.
However, many years on and population pressures, farm and residential pollution and overfishing eventually took its toll. When otters came down from further north, they ate all the baby paua, while humans ate the larger ones, leading to the local beds being virtually wiped out.
Same story for the black paua and many of the local fishing stock. I was thankful to hear a little bit of history from John but could see the sadness in his eyes. "Preserve the water quality, re-educate people and you might avoid such disasters in your home," he told me before leaving.
So while I'm over here, I did bring my homework, in the form of the Rotorua District Council draft District Plan. New business developments get a look-in and I see how planners might take advantage of the opportunities that arise but, for the whanau of Ngapuna, the Eastern Arterial is still looming like the zombie road that can't be killed.
I heard hints that there could be a 6 per cent rate hike this year, which won't go down too well across the city, especially in an election year.
Coming up for us is the National Rongoa Convention at the end of January in Rotorua. Also the Digital Maori Forum will be converging on Te Arawa to share their Maori ICT knowledge with local hapu.
The National Government want to auction digital spectrum to the highest bidders for at least $100 million but DMF feel Maori interests need to be safeguarded before all of the spectrum is lost to international rich cats. More details on that soon.
Good luck to all whanau as we get closer to Te Matatini 2013 in February, and I personally can't wait to rejoin our Te Arawa waka crew in preparation for Waitangi Day. It's already looking like a busy next few months.
To close, I've been watching a provocative korero lately and it goes like this: would you allow a tangihanga to be live-streamed from your marae or whanau home here in Rotorua to your whanau who live over in Australia?
Be interested to hear your thoughts.
Kia tau te rangimarie, kia mau te Maoritanga ki 2013.