The one where we preserve our heritage lands

Monday 5th August – Issue #13

Shades with Michael J. Gray

Kia ora koutou,

Last week I spent three days at PSA Youth‘s biennial hui. That’s PSAY, the youth network of the largest union in New Zeland—the Public Service Association Te Pūkenga Here Tikanga Mahi. Yes, even at thirty I’m still counted as a youth, believe it or not. I attended the last hui and I was lucky enough to be selected to go again this year.

That being said, I am embarrassingly terrible at social events so why I continue to subject myself to these is another question entirely. But I really do appreciate the speakers and the discussion even if my contribution is lacking and my awkwardness is showing. I know I would enjoy it more if I could socialise properly without being petrified of saying the wrong thing. Anxiety, my old friend.

To make matters worse I helped two others run a workshop for climate justice and by helped, I mean, barely. I need more practise at this brainstorming-workshop-thing. If I go back to Toastmasters, this could be a new focus for me. I am a union delegate after all and that often requires speaking up. So the more I can get out of my comfort zone the better, whether I like it or not.

We had some amazing guest speakers at this hui. Here are my highlights:

Chloe-Ann King, the founder of the Raise the Bar campaign, spoke on unionising the hospitality industry online.

Laura Rapira-O’Connell, Director at ActionStation, spoke on making collective change with digital campaigning tools and telling personal stories using the example of the mental health inquiry.

Ibrahim Omer, a former refugee and now union Organizer at E tū, spoke on his history working multiple low-paid jobs, and his work in getting the living wage for migrant workers.

Asher Wilson-Goldman, a previous PSA communications advisor and standing for Kāpiti District Council, told us unions were dying and well, that was a bit depressing. But if anything it will inspire us to try something different and that the old guard has to make way for new ideas.

Chlöe Swarbrick, Green Party MP, came to our last hui and spoke again on our last day about the hurdles of being a young person in progressive politics.

Qiane Matata-Sipu/New Zealand Geographic


You have most likely seen the news at Ihumātao and the opposition to Fletcher building on the site. Community group, SOUL (Save Our Unique Landscape) believes it is a world heritage site and should be protected. Ihumātao is arguably the oldest continuously occupied Māori village across New Zealand having the earliest inhabitation of people in the country. Food was grown here by Māori to feed the growing population of Auckland.

The land was confiscated from Māori in 1863 who were chased from their lands. Only one of three iwi back the development of those whose whakapā traces back there. While kaitiaki (land protectors) have been protesting the sale and occupying the land since 2016, things stepped up a notch when lines of police moved in to stop protesters last month. Make sure to read and watch the following stories to see just why this occupation has taken place and why this land is worth protecting.

If you have the means you can donate to this kaupapa:


The New Zealand International Film Festival has begun. Here are the first three films I got down to see.

Apollo 11In an astounding feat, not counting the landing itself, archivists 50 years later have managed to restore footage from 1969 filmed on the ground in a format comparable to IMAX. Unfortunately, The Embassy isn’t quite an IMAX screen but it’s the best option we have in Wellington. They also stitched together numerous visual and audio sources to create a timeline aboard the Apollo 11. Without talking heads or a narrator, this is the closest you’re going to get to actually being there. This one’s also been picked up for wider release.

Apocalypse Now: The Final Cut

Standing at a whopping three hours (still shorter than Redux at 3½ hours), this final cut requires patience. And finishing at midnight, this often meditative film did test my resilience. This was the first time I had seen Apocalypse Now in any form, so I am unable to compare it to Redux or the original theatrical cut. Set during the Vietnam War, Apocalypse Now is stunning, brutal and enthralling with some truly out-there characters. Juxtaposed with hypnotic scenes of stillness it certainly puts you in the head of these soldiers in both this unforgiving war and as an interpretation of Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness.

The Farewell

Awkwafina stars in this bilingual film inspired by a real story first covered in a podcast by This American Life. The premise is Billi’s Nai Nai (grandmother) has lung cancer and only has a few months to live but as customary in Chinese culture, her family has elected not to tell her. Her family thus resorts to orchestrating a wedding so as not to let Nai Nai onto the fact of why they’re all there to see her. What follows is a sincere, humorous look at Chinese culture, family, life and death. All of which could be very heavy topics, and at times The Farewell certainly is, but surprisingly I left feeling uplifted and reflective on my own Western culture.

Ackerman + Gruber/The Verge



  • That’s A Bit Racist—a two-part documentary series on racism in New Zealand. It’s not just talking heads either, they have trivia games on the street, a Play School satire with a racist teddy bear and stand-up clips from kiwis of colour. “That’s a bit racist” is the perfect title too. Because people get offended when you call out their racism directly. Ironic huh? Still, it’s a useful phrase to use when you want to call it out.

    My one beef is bringing Don Brash on as for some reason he’s been appointed authority on racism? We’ve heard enough from him and what Hobson’s Pledge represents. I’ve also been checking out some other kiwi television…
  • Golden Boy—the head writer is Alice Snedden and the show stars many of the comedians from the now-ended Jono & Ben. Golden Boy is set in a small rural town where the township worships an All Black played by James Rolleston. But he’s not our main character. That’s Mitch, his older sister, played by Hayley Sproull. Rima Te Wiata, my fave, plays one of their mums. The humour is witty and tightly wound. It’s one of those shows where you might miss something the first go around if you’re not paying attention.
  • Mean Mums—about a mum’s foray into school life with her five-year-old. Morgana O’Reilly plays Jess. It can feel put on at times with the mum stereotypes but the show has a certain warmth to it, and the nods to present-day school life like recycling and food allergies help keep things relatable and fresh.
  • Have You Been Paying Attention?—a cross between a trivia game show and a news commentary. I was excited about this one because of the presenter on board, Hayley Sproull—she’s been busy—and the selection of kiwi comedians. But alas, the format does not do them justice.

    Yet another Aussie import that can be best compared to 7 Days except the contestants are lined up in rows so they can’t see each other. The point scoring is ultimately pointless because they expect joke answers from the comedians they have brought on board. I will give it another shot, to see if they can make the best of the format.
  • Aroha Bridge—an animated comedy from director & writer (and rapper) Coco Solid. Think Bro Town but more specifically Māori. I hadn’t known about this show beforehand but it’s now in its third season and has a number of famous kiwi personalities including Rachel House, Oscar Kightley and Julian Dennison.

If you enjoyed this newsletter, blast it to the moon.

*The horror! The horror!*