The Nelson Mail and the Northland Age were in agreement last week — people should not believe the media.

What gave rise to that profound conclusion was the response of Doubtless Bay Promotions and two local business women to the plight of a 14-year-old Nelson boy who 'lost' his prized tackle box while fishing off the Mangonui wharf.

The youngster, so far known only as Lewis, made an impassioned plea for the return of the tackle box, but was clearly whistling in the wind. Youthful optimism is rarely rewarded, and few who saw the sign he placed near the wharf, appealing to the 'finder' to contact him, believed that his faith was well placed.

"It doesn't matter to anyone but us, however, if a particularly egregious example of failure to evolve into a decent human being is committed by a visitor or transient. The fact that he or she did whatever they did in the Far North tars us all a little more."


So the good people at Doubtless Bay Promotions had a whip round. They came up with $100, Lynette Wilson and Jan Ferguson doubling that, to buy him a sports shop voucher.


Ms Wilson was moved to initiate the gift after phoning Lewis, and being impressed by his attitude and conversation. The Northland Age passed the story on to the Nelson Mail, which at last report was about to contact Lewis and his family.

Meanwhile, the Mail's chief reporter expressed her admiration for the generosity of the people of the Far North. She was assured that this was nothing particularly out of the ordinary. People in these parts are well known for their munificence, she was told, contrary perhaps to the picture so often painted by the media.

The response to Lewis' plight certainly was generous, but was just one example of what good people in the Far North so often do for those who have suffered misfortune.

Mind you, the media — particularly the national media, and not the Northland Age and Nelson Mail — often overlook stories like this. For some reason they are not regarded as especially newsworthy. Much better to focus on murder and mayhem, even to the point of seeking out the negative aspect of what would otherwise be a positive story.

And don't we give them plenty of ammunition? It is unlikely that the Far North is home to a greater proportion of idiots and ne'er-do-wells than any other community, but the eyes of the country always seem to be upon us, just waiting for another example of the Wild West behaviour that they would have the world believe is the norm up here.

The culprits, of course, are not always local, but that doesn't matter to anyone except us. In fact it is very important to us. This newspaper has been informed, often tersely, that an individual who has attracted attention for the wrong reason was incorrectly identified as being from the community where they were living.

Sure, they had been there for donkey's years, but they originally came from somewhere else. They were not 'local,' and should not have been identified as such.

This attitude remains alive and kicking in the Far North, albeit more in some communities than others. Kaitaia has possibly become a little too big to apply it, but many smaller communities do. Doesn't matter how long someone has lived there; if they were born somewhere else they are not truly one of us.

It doesn't matter to anyone but us, however, if a particularly egregious example of failure to evolve into a decent human being is committed by a visitor or transient. The fact that he or she did whatever they did in the Far North tars us all a little more.

Not that we need to import these people. We have more than enough dimwits of our own without relying on others to supply them.

There is very little doubt that the poor excuses for human beings who stole some sheep, butchered them then flung the pelts, heads and guts into Rotokopapa (Coca Cola) Lake behind Tokerau Beach were local. Perhaps they stole in a desperate bid to stave off starvation, although that's a fair stretch.

Stealing any farm animal is pretty low. Unfortunately it is no longer regarded as warranting summary capital punishment, but if rustlers are caught, which they generally aren't, they should expect to have the book thrown at them.

Farm animals are very easily stolen, and farmers need to be able to rely on the honesty of those who drive past their paddocks, although some see rolled lamb roasts and scotch fillet standing there for the taking.

The required level of honesty seems to be on the wane though, if anecdotal evidence that rustling has become something of a boom industry, from one end of the country to the other, is to be believed.

But these clowns did more than steal some sheep. They wantonly despoiled a body of water that has great recreational value, and is particularly cherished by Maori. Even if the lake wasn't popular and precious, dumping offal there would have been nothing less than a gross act of vandalism, another snubbing of the nose to pretty basic social standards.

It isn't only sheep rustlers who are letting the side down though. Some people, many of whom can probably otherwise be regarded as decent, rational beings, behave like Clyde Barrow when they take to our public roads. They have absolutely no regard for the right of others to get where they are going in one piece.

We had another example of that last week, when a police officer was injured, a family of four were terrorised and three vehicles were damaged in the course of what should have been a routine police stop of a moderately speeding car.

We talk endlessly about the virtues of education with the aim of convincing some that they, and their potential victims, are not immortal. What is the point of banging on about the need to drive within the road rules and with regard for others?

What is the point of harping on about the great majority of drownings being preventable, when the people who need to hear that message aren't listening? Those who are listening don't need to be told.

Now we have deluded, if well-intentioned people, telling us that our road toll target should be zero. That's about as hopeless as saying we should be targeting a zero burglary rate, zero drunkenness, zero violence. It's not going to happen, simply because there is an element of society that doesn't give a hoot.

The best we can do is focus on the good people among us, and there are plenty of them. When it comes to life-changing moments, acts like chipping in for a new fishing tackle box is right up there.

Lewis will never forget the kindness shown to him by people he has never met and likely never will meet. By all accounts he is a good boy, undoubtedly from a good family, so perhaps he already believed in the better side of human nature — it doesn't seem to have occurred to him that his tackle box was stolen — but now he has experienced the kindness of strangers.

He earned that experience, by his response to his loss and the phone call from Lynette Wilson, and will no doubt grow into a man who will recognise and take the opportunity to display similar generosity at some point in his life.

Generosity and kindness benefit not only the recipient, but all of us. It makes for a better society and a happier place in which to live.

And if a South Island newspaper and a South Island family have formed a positive view of the Far North as a result of this display of benevolence, then so much the better.

Congratulations to those who turned this boy's negative experience into a positive one. You did well.