The good, the bad and the downright ugly are making the news in the Far North these days. Mind you, what constitutes good and bad news can be a matter of opinion.
One might have thought, for instance, that Ngāti Kurī's plan to fence off the tip of the Aupōuri Peninsula was a good, positive idea. Not so according to those who 'smell a rat' (not clear if pun intended).
Some see the plan as 'another land grab' (by the iwi that owns it!) while others bemoan the lack of intent to keep out the supposedly biggest environmental threat of them all, those with two legs.
How a predator-proof fence might be built without restricting human access to the area north of Te Paki, including one of the country's most popular tourist attractions, remains to be seen, but the idea, surely, is a good one, and well in tune with an increasing commitment to protecting native flora and fauna from the depredations of exotic species that threaten to destroy them.
'DoC's use of 1080, particularly applied from the air, has been contentious for many years, and is not becoming less so.'
SHARE THIS QUOTE:
The reaction to the fence was mild compared with the response to Forest and Bird's Dean Baigent-Mercer's defence of 1080 as the last best (if not ideal) hope of Far North forests, however.
DoC's use of 1080, particularly applied from the air, has been contentious for many years, and is not becoming less so. This newspaper has devoted acres of space to arguments for and against 1080 for decades, and there are no signs that either side has shifted a single solitary centimetre over that time.
How much of the criticism is based on genuine science and personal observation and how much is owed to prejudice has never been clear, and still isn't.
There are still those who claim that 1080 not only destroys possums, rats and other vermin, but also wipes out native birds and insects, although no one ever took up an offer from this newspaper years ago to have a dead bird postmortemed to prove that it died of 1080 poisoning.
Some say forests that are treated with 1080 become silent, birdless wastelands. Others say birdlife responds spectacularly to a suddenly predator-free environment. Some say the indiscriminately applied poison, and dying animals, pollute the water that eventually finds its way into human bodies. Others say it breaks down in water and represents no risk to man or beast.
Yet others argue that this is the only country in the world that uses 1080 for pest control. If memory serves, some countries, the United States included, don't use it because it would kill native mammals, which of course we in New Zealand do not have.
The argument that 1080 kills, in a grossly inhumane manner, species such as dogs, cattle and deer also makes a regular appearance, although keeping domestic animals out of its reach should not be difficult, assuming the pellets are dropped precisely where they are intended to go.
Whatever the rights and wrongs of 1080, those who provide a platform for the various schools of thought still come under fire. A recent Northland Age story based on claims that opposition to the continued use of the poison was gathering momentum attracted a spirited response from the pro-1080 brigade pointing to a lack of balance.
Last week's riposte from Mr Baigent-Mercer attracted an even more vitriolic response from opponents.
Even the arresting of a couple of dozen Northlanders who are allegedly involved in dealing methamphetamine, and to a lesser degree cannabis, was not universally applauded. Some pointed out that those arrested were the smallest of fish, when the real criminals are those who manufacture or import the drug. Gangs, which were merely the distributors, were, according to this logic, unfairly getting a bad name.
Some, encouragingly, praised the police, but others argued that drugs (presumably excluding metham-phetamine), should be legalised and regulated, yet others describing the result of Operation Ghost as less than a drop in the ocean.
Then there was the video of a low-speed police pursuit around the rocks at Te Kohanga, where the quarry got away. Some saw the incident as funny, others not, but there were also those who saw it as a waste of their money. Not so.
The vehicle came to attention because of its perceived unroadworthiness, which is never a bad reason to pull someone over. The fact that the driver refused to stop, and went to such lengths to avoid being forced to do so, must have raised all sorts of suspicions. The police officer would have been failing in his duty had he not pursued the vehicle, and does not deserve criticism.
Had his vehicle not been disabled he would no doubt have got his man; at least he got the car, which is now presumably decommissioned, rendering the roads a little safer for the rest of us.
But amongst all the bad news, if bad it was, there was plenty of good. The Far North is home to some very special, talented, dedicated people, and the last week or two has offered plenty of evidence of that.
A Kaitaia group is doing something positive about reducing the town's dependence upon single-use plastic bags, and is getting a very positive response. Another round of Far North's Got Talent auditions is revealing once again that musical talent, and the confidence to put it to good use, abounds in Te Hiku, and Shine in Kaitaia's star continues to rise.
This organisation, led by young people with some dedicated older mentors in the background, is not so quietly working away to offer its generation all manner of opportunities to get involved in their community, and lighting their own path to a positive future in the process.
The Young Leaders' award they received in Wellington last week was thoroughly deserved, although it's unlikely that their achievement, of the awards in general, will make the metropolitan media radar.
And Whatuwhiwhi man Ezekiel Raui (who can also be claimed by Taheke) ticked another box on his list of life's goals when he met Her Majesty the Queen at Buckingham Palace, where he received a Queen's Young Leader's award, and mixed and mingled with the likes of the Duke and Duchess of Sussex. He's only 20, but he's already made an international name for himself, and will no doubt continue to do so.
Zeke once told this newspaper that his overarching ambition was to be elected prime minister, and no one who knows him is likely to be betting against him achieving that.
But the story that really captured the public imagination over the last week or two was about Kerikeri Bunnings' rainbow lorikeet, Possum, who has embarked upon a new career in the tourism industry.
It was that story, more than predator-free fences, saving native forests, chasing suspect drivers or attacking the meth distribution business, that had by far the greatest appeal (as measured by reach on Facebook).
Animal stories have always been popular, and always will be, which is a good thing. It's a pity though that stories about those, particularly young people, who excel and are making their community proud, don't always earn quite the same recognition.
Take a moment to look at the good that is happening in the Far North, and the qualities shown by many of those who are leading it into the future, and be assured that, whatever battles lie ahead, we are in good hands.