Look for the bright side

What a bleak, miserable, cold, wet spring we are having and I'm not just talking about the weather, writes Tim Shadbolt in Southern Focus.


The loss of jobs at Tiwai, the freezing works and in government departments, the collapse of the euro, computer files that are as secure as a third-class cabin on the Titanic, child abuse and oh, how could I forget, Kim Dotcom.

As a nation we've just got to work harder, become more efficient, develop innovative new industries, try to add value to our exports and have more frugal lifestyles. To help us become more motivated, intelligent, creative and healthier we have had a steady stream of brilliant, inspirational speakers visiting Southland over the past few months. So if you want to improve the quality of your life I would encourage you to attend a few of these seminars.

We can also celebrate the success of the Stags, our Paralympians, the Tour of Southland, which has been going for about 60 years, and community events that seem to be thriving during this era of adversity.

Another way of coping when times get tough is to develop a good sense of humour.

Recently I advertised for a PA and one of the requirements was "a superb grasp of the English language". Sure as eggs, the rest of the advertisement contained three grammatical errors. Now I have astute reporters from this paper and student reporters from SIT who have excellent skills in English grammar, grilling me over the advertisement. Thankfully the work was done by an advertising agency and not our own staff. This is only the second time in 16 years I've had to advertise for a PA and there has been a lot of interest, with applications coming in from Australia, Hong Kong and India.

Two weeks ago I was guest speaker at the Police College in Porirua. I was sitting next to a retired tutor, Fenton Wood, and asked him what he did in his spare time. "I've become a wasabi grower," he announced proudly, and he gave me a jar of his product. "Now this is not the bright green horseradish and chemical paste that you get in sushi bars, this is pure New Zealand wasabi," he added. It was delicious and is worth $100 a kilo on the Japanese market.

Our strategy with exports to Asia is to stick with lamb chops, pastry and milk products, and wait for their middle class to switch to western-style food. This is gradually happening but I also believe we have to grow traditional Asian food. Wasabi prefers a cooler climate (12-15 degrees Celsius is considered ideal). Admittedly, it's tricky to grow, but if you go online there are a few really successful wasabi growers in this country and I would like to see it grown in Southland.

I was interested to read that Kim Dotcom cannot be spied on because he is a New Zealand resident. He is more privileged than I am. I recently requested my SIS file and was amazed by the hundreds of pages I received. My file went from 1968 to 1989, so I was still under observation as mayor of Waitemata.

To be honest, many of the reports were quite complimentary and suggested that I wasn't really a threat to anyone except myself. It is still a bit spooky reading about the details of my life, details about my dog, and details about speaking at the Student Christian Movement Congress in Dunedin. It seems that every move I made or speech I gave was recorded and reported to the SIS by someone.

The cost involved must have been substantial, but in New Zealand very little happened as a result. I've a feeling that if I lived in a military dictatorship my life would have been just as exciting but a lot shorter. Now, of course, I'm delighted our spying agencies made such an effort to document my life because I'd completely forgotten about many of the events I was involved in. I'm looking forward to writing my next book.

» Tim Shadbolt is the mayor of Invercargill.

The Southland Times