Plastic debris from pipes beached in Norfolk puts wildlife at risk

The Maritime and Coastguard Agency says pipes washed ashore in Norfolk pose no danger of pollution. Are they unaware of, or simply ignoring plastic fragments scattered along the coast?

The MCA’s announcement on the pollution risk from four gigantic plastic bore pipes washed up on Norfolk’s east coach beaches was reported by The Guardian. Twelve pipes were being tugged from Norway to Algeria when they came loose after a collision with a container ship. While there are reports that the recovery operation is underway, no-one is talking about the plastic fall out on pristine beaches used by seals and rare seabirds.

Little tern feeding a fledgling

Photo credit: Alex Brighten

At the little tern colony at Winterton-on-Sea where I have been a volunteer warden for the RSPB, black plastic debris polluted the beach on Friday along the high tide line and beyond. Larger pieces were grooved, twisted and distorted. Long, thin pieces were sharply pointed while smaller fragments were bound together by seaweed. My daughter helped me fill a large bag from the front of the colony where little terns, ringed plovers, sanderlings, dunlins and gulls feed along the shore.


Our lead warden thought the plastic might be from the pipes. RSPB wardens have been at the colony 24/7 since May and have not seen anything like this. I showed the molten plastic to a couple heading in the direction of the pipes. They thought the pieces were too worn to be from new pipes, but when they returned, they said damage to the pipes looked consistent with pieces being scraped off by the friction of fast-moving wire or chains wrapped around the pipes. Their theory could explain the plastic debris.

At the end of my warden shift, my daughter and I followed the footsteps of many people who had passed by the colony throughout the afternoon. It’s a sad reflection of the general disregard for wildlife when far fewer people seemed interested in the little terns than the big-news pipes. No doubt a selfie next to the 2.4-metre diameter pipes will be more popular on social media than one taken next to the RSPB’s little tern information boards.

Long before we reached the pipes, we continued to pick up plastic, but the closer we got, the larger the pieces we found. We left our bag by rocks to collect on the way back and gathered up the heavier pieces.

Photo credit: Alex Brighten

Closer to the pipe, we piled the plastic by the sea wall, beyond the high tide line, in the hope that it will be collected by a beach clean-up, or during the pipe recovery operation. With the light fading, there was only so much we could pick up, but we wanted to do something to protect wildlife and ease our helplessness at living in a society with a large-scale pollution problem.

Judging by the weight of one bag of plastic debris, it is no wonder that even the smaller 285-metre pipe flattened a metal post by the rocks. The pipe was split in the centre and had marks at one end like those made with a chisel or plane. Looking at shavings strewn across the sand, you can only imagine the force of the sea and metal slicing the thick plastic.

Photo credit: Alex Brighten

The tide was coming in. It was upsetting to think about the plastic that would be taken out to sea. The beaches along this coast are usually clean. When we returned to the little tern colony, a lady asked about the plastic in our hands. On behalf of Friends of Horsey Seals, she was on her way to the pipes to assess whether she should organise a beach clean-up. Maybe if everyone gawping and posing by the pipes picked up a few pieces of debris, the Horsey volunteers would be saved a job.

Only a couple of weeks ago while I was on warden duty with another volunteer, a family told us about a distressed seal on Horsey beach, where the pipe we saw came ashore. The seal was emaciated and in pain. A Frisbee around its neck had cut into flesh and blood trickled from the wound. My friend called the RSPCA, but unless you are at the scene and can give a GPS location, they won’t come out. Given their limited resources, this is understandable.

We will never know if that seal was rescued and treated. Now the seals coming ashore along this coast have more plastic pollution to contend with.

Having seen the debris, I cannot read about this pipe story without thinking of it as another ecological disaster caused by human error. It is not damaging on the scale of an oil slick of course, which may be why the MCA reports no pollution risk, but the cost to wildlife of smaller scale pollution adds up. I am baffled that government agencies seem accepting of ocean pollution unless it is on a grand scale.

Photo credit: Alex Brighten

Surely the Environment Agency would be better placed to assess the ecological risk of the washed-up pipes? The MCA works “to prevent the loss of life on the coast and at sea,” and given their assessment, this seems to exclude wildlife.

Seals, birds and fish are at risk of injury from sharp debris but also from ingesting smaller fragments, either directly or via the animals they feed on. Filter feeders have been found to ingest plastic particles and this, in turn, affects animals higher up the food chain. A Greenpeace research expedition looking at plastic pollution along Scottish coastlines found significant plastic waste affecting seabirds and marine mammals. Our plastic pollution is out of control.

We must ask questions about these avoidable commercial blunders and publicise their environmental costs on social media, otherwise, wildlife will continue to be a low priority for governments and business. Let’s send a strong message that we care more about the wildlife on our beaches than plastic pipes.

Photo credit: Alex Brighten

Photo credit: Alex Brighten

Photo credit: Alex Brighten   

Photo credit: Alex Brighten

Damaged pipe on Norfolk beach

Photo credit: Alex Brighten

Photo credit: Alex Brighten

Photo credit: Alex Brighten

Photo credit: Alex Brighten

Photo credit: Alex Brighten

Photo credit: Alex Brighten


In that desolate place called grief, you’ll not only find bereaved people but lonely people. A different kind of grief but just as real. After years of gradually losing the security of close relationships, my energy and enthusiasm, and my identity, I reached my lowest point.

How different life had looked twelve years earlier when we moved to New Zealand. I was filled with optimism by the exciting life glimpsed on a campervan holiday the year before.

In a whistle-stop tour of North and South Island, we took in the best of New Zealand. On North Island we were charmed by Auckland’s Sky Tower views; Bay of Islands’ magical dolphins, Coromandel’s hot water beach, and Rotorua’s Maori culture and volcanic lakes.

A trip across the Cook Strait on the interisland ferry took us to South Island. We soothed our minds with Marlborough Sounds’ serenity and Tasman’s cobalt bays. We drove down the wild West Coast with mile upon mile of breakers and driftwood calling us to nature. Hokitika’s jade carvings, so exquisite, whispered native stories bound up in this land. Inland, we were dazzled by Wanaka’s autumn splendour, Queenstown’s mountain backdrop, Glenorchy’s Dart River, Milford Sound’s surreal fiords, and Arthur’s Pass snaking the Southern Alps to Christchurch. We soaked up 100% Pure New Zealand, entranced by the peace and beauty of the place.

But living in another country is a different story and ours didn’t have a happy ending.

We weren’t without blame. We uprooted ourselves from a small market town in Bedfordshire and transplanted our lives to a sprawling city on the other side of the world. Leaving nothing to chance, I had researched Auckland life. I knew every suburb’s housing, schooling, sports facilities, nature reserves, and demographics.

Where to Live in Auckland even told me how long people lived in a suburb before moving away. I learned people rarely moved from the East Coast Bays on Auckland’s North Shore – it would be perfect for our family. We could have our English life but with warmer summers, palms instead of oaks, and a safer home for our children as they reached adolescence. Apart from the difficulty of leaving family and friends, I never considered there would be downsides.

My husband’s employer had kindly arranged for us to stay in a motel in Takapuna, a beachside town on the North Shore. Crossing the Auckland Harbour Bridge, the sea below dotted with lazy boats, the glinting glass of the city behind us, and the promise of golden sands stretching up the coast, I was heady with optimism. I would always feel a sense of hope crossing that bridge, even when my life took on the greyness that sometimes dulled that view.

My husband started work with a large food retailer a few days after we arrived in Takapuna. He would have a long commute to their South Auckland offices in an industrial area near the airport. I set to work registering our children in local schools, finding a doctor and dentist, and scouring the North Shore Property Press each week. We lived out of suitcases and spent every weekend in other people’s houses in a busy schedule of ‘open-homes’. In England, seeing one property in a weekend had always felt like a major achievement. The purchase process was fast in New Zealand too.

Four weeks after falling in love with a single-level brick and cedar house, our children started new schools and we moved into our first Kiwi home, camping on air beds until our container arrived. Not only did we have a garden with lawns and flowerbeds, but we had tropical palms and ponga trees. The bush was ours to hide in, meander through, or tame if we wanted. As we looked to the distant ocean from our sunny deck, the future rolled out before us in tropical bush and glittering seas as we breathed happiness from hibiscus and frangipani. When our container arrived, we unwrapped our hopes and put our expectations in place with the furniture.

But after the immigrant’s honeymoon, the high cost of living hit hard. Food, in particular, was expensive. There’s only so much you can find out from websites and books. We moved several times in the next twelve years, one knee-jerk reaction setting off a chain of events that would change our lives for the worse.

If I could go back in time and change one decision, it wouldn’t be the one that led us to New Zealand. It would be the decision to sell our first house, which had become a much-loved family home. I had never felt so emotional about selling a house before. I should have realised the tears as I signed the contract came from attachment, not just to bricks and mortar but to our new life we were building within the walls. We should have tried harder to stay.

We moved to a rented house we thought would be home until our new house was built but we had to move out six months later, on Christmas Eve. With houses snapped up the day of listing, we took a house in an unfamiliar suburb, further away from work and schools.

For nine months we lived in a cold plaster-clad box with the occasional shaft of sunlight. By the time our new house was finished – 18 months after selling our tropical oasis, the strain on our family was showing. Over the next two years, the upheaval of three moves in three years, our daughter’s unhappiness at school, and my husband’s stressful involvement in a company redundancy process picked at our sanity. Our support system was each other, but we all needed support.

During a period of sick leave, he decided to leave his job so we could make a fresh start working together. My optimism returned, so too my energy.

But we had learned nothing from selling our first Kiwi home. I told myself I wasn’t so attached to the East Coast Bays that I couldn’t move away. We had moved to New Zealand, hadn’t we? Moving to the south of North Island would be easy.

But more of me was invested in our new house than I dared admit. The house was smaller than our first Kiwi home, but I had watched it go up from the first turn of the earth, stopping each day after dropping our children at school. We had chosen the smallest plot of land on the site because it was the only plot with trees. The standard design was shrunk to work with the protected native trees and the sloping gradient, but without trees, there would have been few birds in the garden.

A weatherboard house with plenty of light and a garden with birds was perfect, but our relationship was buckling under the strain of not feeling settled in New Zealand. At first, it was like being on holiday. I felt awe every time I drove back from Takapuna, winding around bays on the coast road with views across to Rangitoto Island.

I couldn’t believe this place was home – it was beautiful, yet alien. And that was the problem. Each year we said we would give it more time, but each year the fish-out-of-water feeling remained. We argued constantly. Our family house was an unhappy home and our children suffered because we couldn’t sort ourselves out.

The next new start was a radical one. It was heart-breaking to sell our home, the garden by now flourishing with native plants and birds, and for less than we paid for it, but we didn’t want to miss this new opportunity. Out of the blue, another buyer was ready if we couldn’t meet the deadline.

Looking back, we realise how foolish we were to trust a slick salesman with a briefcase of dirty yet legal tricks, but his enthusiasm had hooked and blinded us. We sunk a big chunk of money into buying a stylish Belgian chocolate café franchise in a city surrounded by flat expanses of farmland.

Close to centre of this city, small by English standards, there was a Victorian park by the river. It was a special place of English and Kiwi fusion that would become a haven for me, but it was the only gold in a silted stream. We found the prevailing local culture of mediocrity, materialism, and conservatism highly toxic.

The words of a customer stick in my mind: “living here sucks the life out of me.” Her words seemed over-dramatic at the time. I had only just moved to the city, excited on opening our store in a new part of the shopping centre. But six long years later, the place had almost sucked the life out of me.

After several months of new-store novelty for shoppers, reality set in for us. The rent we were paying had been set during a retail peak, but with the effects of an economic downturn and an attitude where value was measured by quantity, trade fell away as people sought the biggest bang for their buck. The quality that was our franchise’s trademark was irrelevant in the shopping mall with fortnightly half-price sales and wall-to-wall bargains.

We tried to sell the store, half-heartedly at first. We don’t give up easily. We changed the menu, adding new bread varieties with fresh, tasty fillings, and healthy salads to balance the decadent chocolate drinks and desserts. We were the face of the business, always there serving our customers, making them feel welcome and ‘going the extra mile’ with smiles hiding our misery.

As we propped up the business, we watched the money left over from our house sale dwindle. We had a run of buyers, but their feet turned cold – no doubt they were excited like we had been but not so much that emotion obscured the numbers.

The extortionate rent we had no control over was killing our business and our life. I was becoming more anxious, more depressed. A couple of years earlier, when we knew the situation was hopeless and before we were forced to move out of a rented property yet again, I started drinking. Not much by some measures, but enough to have an impact. It was so unlike me. I was a health nut. I thought back to times when I had family and friends to share ups and downs, laughter and tears. The more I drank, the more helpless I felt.

By this time, our son had been studying in the US for two years – it had been his dream. I missed him more than I could have imagined. My mum no longer came out to see us because of failing health. I had made my first trip back to the UK in October, and by New Year’s Eve, homesick and filled with cheap fizz and despair, the feeling of hopelessness was unbearable. Whether it was just a cry for help, I don’t know, but I frightened my family in a stupid moment with a bed sheet.

Ashamed but resolute, I stopped drinking – a promise to our children. I found ways of coping – running in the park and studying for an English degree. I worked in the café, I studied hard, and I ran. I kept my head above water though I knew it wouldn’t take much to go under again.

With little money now, our son could no longer come home during university breaks. It got to the point where we hadn’t seen him for over two years. After graduating, our daughter took a full-time job and no longer helped out in the café between fieldwork trips. I missed her smile and her support. We couldn’t take a holiday away from the café – even a day off was often scuppered by staff sickness. With so little freedom, it was like being in prison, except we had to watch others lead normal lives. I would feel jealous of mums having coffee with their son after football, or planning a road trip with their daughter.

“After six to nine months you’ll be managing the business rather than working in it,” the franchise rep had told us. He ran a thriving franchise in Christchurch, so with hard work, why shouldn’t we be successful? Six years later, we were still very much café assistants. Some of our young staff were better off financially than we were.

Feeling trapped and more alone than ever, I started to put my grief into words, a creative process that has helped me cope over the years. Desperate to connect with others, I posted it online. Unexpected and heartfelt responses gave me comfort. It was a tiny boost.

I reached out to our family doctor, who understood our situation. “What would you do if you won a significant sum of money?” he asked. I usually refuse to take part in pointless fantasising, but I trusted he had a good reason for a silly question. I said I would give some to the Yellow-eyed Penguin Trust and the Kakapo Recovery Programme.

“Yes, that’s fine, but what would you do for yourself?” I told him would go back home to England. With genuine care in his voice, he told me that’s what I should do. He made it seem so simple. It wasn’t, but it was a turning point. My doctor had given me clarity for the first time, and permission in a sense.

I had two more appointments with a counsellor and we talked about the barriers to making it happen. For the first time in years, I felt empowered to act rather than wait for something to change. I worried that my husband would say it was impossible, but he too had had enough.

We had no choice but to liquidate or risk serious ill health. It was a devastating time – staff members were like family. We couldn’t tell anyone, which made it worse. I value honesty yet here I was with information that would affect staff and customers. It felt so wrong, but I had to keep quiet if I wanted to get back home. I was in survival mode, saving my own skin.

We borrowed money for the shipping container and flights. We had just one month to finalise the transportation of our belongings, clear and clean the rented house, and clear the store on the last trading day without anyone knowing, such is the gut-wrenching nature of liquidation. My husband couldn’t help on our last late-night trading because he was recovering from a biopsy – another stress in the mix.

I felt like a criminal, captured on CCTV loading stock into a van with my daughter and her two friends. We had been advised to remove all perishable goods from the premises. We gave the stuff away to friends and food banks – I couldn’t bear to look at it. I think security staff, who had got to know our struggle over the years, would have guessed what was happening. They had seen other stores close.

In the final week, our precious cockatiel who had been with us for many years had a serious health scare and we thought he might not be able to come with us. It was the most stressful week of my life. Even though we weren’t breaking the law in leaving, I imagined us being stuck forever. The thought was paralysing.

I wasn’t sleeping. I thought I would crack. Our daughter was struggling with not being able to tell her friends – she had told only her two best friends. This wasn’t fair to her and the guilt was crushing me. It wasn’t how we hoped to leave a country that had given us many wonderful experiences in earlier years, especially with wildlife.

When we first opened the store, we planned to sell up after two years, take a final campervan tour of our favourite wild places before returning to the UK in time for the Olympic Games in London. I had been part of the UK team in the Los Angeles games and hoped to experience the incredible atmosphere again. What a chance to see the games in our home country. The thought had kept me going at least.

Now we faced the possibility we might miss our son’s master’s degree graduation. That was unthinkable. He had been studying in London for two years but the campus, the library where he spent many hours, and the tiny room he slept in, were blank for us. We had waited four years until his bachelor’s graduation to finally see the university in Philadelphia that had been such a special place for him. We had to be in London for July 2016. Our family had to be together again.

We set the date. Our parents were so relieved they could finally expect us home. When we left they were healthy, but now old age and ill-health made returning home more urgent.

I felt no sadness leaving the city known as the suicide capital of New Zealand. I did feel a pang when we arrived in Auckland and even now as I write, emotion swells. I think back to when we first arrived – to the bright blue sky and palm-lined avenue leading from the airport to our new life.

The 23-hour flight to London via Los Angeles was the longest journey as our little bird travelled alone in cargo. To my relief, he had seemed better the last two days before the flight. We couldn’t leave without him but every jolt and judder gripped my stomach. Heathrow couldn’t come quickly enough.

Our homecoming was subdued as we arrived tired from the journey and the stressful circumstances in which we left. There was no-one to meet us as we came through Arrivals – no tears of joy, but we had finally made it home. At the Animal Reception Centre, Rocky was there to greet us so loudly that everyone could hear. It was the best welcome.

Turning back the clock, I would have come home sooner. Living in another country has helped us grow in many ways, but financially we lost everything. I’m anxious about a future that looks nothing like we imagined at this stage of our lives. But we came home with Rocky, each other, and resilience. We can start re-building.

Depression in adolescents: is lack of sleep the problem?

By Tracy Brighten April, 2014

New research published in the journal Sleep suggests a strong link between sleep deprivation and depression in adolescents that could help young people in New Zealand. 

U.S researchers found that up to 25% of adolescents slept for 6 hours or less per night and were classed as sleep deprived. With early school times, weekend jobs and social media, it’s no surprise that adolescents don’t get enough sleep, putting them at risk of major depression.

Allowing for those depressed at the outset, researchers found the risk of major depression to be three times greater for adolescents sleeping less than 6 hours than for those having the recommended 9 hours. They also found the risk of depressive symptoms to be greater for adolescents with short sleep, although this risk was less significant than for major depression.

“These results are important because they suggest that sleep deprivation may be a precursor for major depression in adolescents, occurring before other symptoms,” said lead researcher Dr Robert E. Roberts, Professor of Behavioural Sciences at Texas University School of Public Health.

According to website, one in seven young New Zealanders will experience a major depressive disorder before they reach 24. New Zealand has a high teen suicide rate and depression is the most common risk factor. Dr Safwan Badr, President of the American Academy of Sleep Medicine, warns, “Healthy sleep is a necessity for physical, mental and emotional well-being.”

Previous studies have looked at the link between insomnia and depressive symptoms, as well as the link between insomnia and major depression, especially among adults.

This Sleep study is the first to consider any link between sleep deprivation and the risk for major depression in adolescents. Researchers also examine whether depression, in turn, affects sleep duration.

Researchers examined sleep duration of 4,175 youths, aged between 11 and 17 years, on weekday and weekend nights using data recorded over a four week period. A year later, 3,134 of these participants were followed up.

Data was collected by trained individuals who interviewed participants and completed recognised sleep questionnaires and assessments for depression.

The study also found that major depression increases the risk of short sleep, but only on weeknights, possibly explained by the inability to function normally, as well as lifestyle factors.

Other studies have found reasons for sleep deprivation to include late night jobs and early school start times, which affect the sleep-wake schedule and hours available for sleep.

Dr Roberts and co-author Dr Duong suggest that future studies consider a longer observation period than 4 weeks to compare risk factors of short and long term sleep deprivation. Data that relies on participants’ memory has limitations, so physiological data would be beneficial.

To reduce the incidence of depression, Roberts advocates, “Questions on sleep disturbance and hours of sleep should be part of the medical history of adolescents to ascertain risk.” Adequate sleep could help teenagers either by preventing depression, by reducing the need for medication, or by improving the success of psychological treatments.

Considering our cultural and lifestyle similarities to the US, the findings of this study could help to tackle major depression in New Zealand’s young people.

Journal Reference

Roberts, R. E., Duong, H.T. (2014). The Prospective Association between Sleep Deprivation and Depression among Adolescents. Sleep, 37(2), 239-244.

Catch 22 for the last 55 Maui dolphins

By Tracy Brighten  September 2014

The set net ban zone will only be extended if Maui dolphins are seen beyond the protected area, but the chance of seeing dolphins is slim while habitat is unprotected

NZ dolphins in gillnet

The campaign to save the critically endangered Maui, endemic to New Zealand, has escalated into an international affair. While environmental groups, marine scientists, the Ministry for Primary Industries and the New Zealand seafood industry are caught in a blame game, with the Department of Conservation mediating, cause of dolphin death is crucial.

DoC sends all Maui and Hector’s dolphins that are intact enough for analysis to Massey University, where Veterinary Pathologist Dr Wendi Roe performs the post-mortems.

As Roe dissects a savoury muffin, her lunch between meetings, she apologises before getting straight into the discussion on post-mortems.   Roe acknowledges the difficulty in identifying bycatch victims.

“There’s nothing specific, that you can say ‘that animal has drowned in a fishing net’… there’s nothing you can see, no test that you can do, that is 100 percent diagnostic of drowning.”

Even if a dolphin is caught in a net, Roe makes sure there is no other explanation.

Roe is reflective. “When you see them come in they’re beautiful, and they’re intact, and that’s sad.” But she doesn’t get emotional about them. “As a species, yes, but not individuals.”

When a dolphin is on the table, Roe has a job to do.

As a pathologist, she’s interested in how they died. Information gleaned from an individual helps prevent others from dying. In her office, she keeps files of dolphin reports on her bookshelf and a tall filing cabinet dominates the wall behind her. A wall map plots colour-coded sightings from Kaipara Harbour to Hawera.

The Maui is a sub-species of the Hector’s dolphin that inhabits South Island. Up to 1.6m long, these tiny dolphins with distinct rounded dorsal fin are among the world’s smallest, and with numbers estimated at only 55 adults over one year old, Maui dolphins are also the world’s rarest.

According to pathology reports held by DoC, dolphin W12-16Ch was a young female Hector’s; a bycatch victim with ‘encircling linear impressions (net marks) over her melon on both sides, and short linear lacerations on the leading edge of the right flipper,’ but an otherwise healthy dolphin.

Considering Maui and Hector’s biology – a female does not reach reproductive maturity until 7 to 9 years old, giving birth to one calf every 2 to 4 years – the loss of a female is significant to species’ survival, particularly Maui dolphins with only 20 breeding females left.

The number of dolphins dying in gillnets is likely to be underestimated. There is no incentive for fishermen to report bycatch, because they risk further protective measures that will affect their livelihood. Beachcast dolphins are generally reported by the public, but as Roe points out, beaches are not busy during winter months. Bodies may be quickly washed away by storms.

However, in the joint DoC and MPI 2012 Maui’s Dolphin Threat Assessment, fishing-related activities were nonetheless identified as the main threat, causing 95.5% of human-related mortalities. The remaining 4.5% was attributed to oil and mining activities, vessel traffic, pollution and disease.

Otago University marine experts Liz Slooten and Steve Dawson predict functional Maui extinction within two decades. The population can sustain one death in 10-23 years, yet the estimated death rate from bycatch alone is 3-4 per year.

Nylon gillnetting is so fine it is almost invisible, and dolphins become entangled. Interviewed by journalist Zoe Helene, Slooten describes what happens.

“A dolphin caught in a net struggles madly to try to escape. At the end of this struggle, the dolphin suffocates. It would take up to five minutes or so to die.”

Like humans, dolphins are social mammals. Slooten recalls, “We’ve seen one dolphin that had died in a gillnet that was covered in fresh toothrakes, many of which were bleeding. It seems that the other dolphins in the group tried to get this dolphin out of the net and failed.”

While acknowledging that the Maui’s dolphin Threat Management Plan revision in 2013 provides some extra protection from set nets, Forest & Bird Advocacy Manager Kevin Hackwell wants more. “The set net ban needs to be extended to all regions where these nationally-critical Maui’s dolphins are found. That includes all harbours and offshore to the 100m depth contour.”

There is international support too. At the International Whaling Commission meeting in September, 26 countries voted for total protection of Maui dolphins from fishing-related threats.

But resistance is strong. New Zealand’s fifth largest export earner, the seafood industry is a dominant player in the conservation game. In January’s contribution to The Fishing Paper, Seafood New Zealand is critical of protection zones in the absence of sightings. “The government has brought in yet more fishing restrictions to protect the pods of phantom Maui’s said to be resident off the Taranaki coast.”

They argue that fishing has a temporary impact on the environment, unlike farming’s permanent impact. But extinction is permanent and dolphin numbers are decreasing as the debate continues.

While the prospect of Maui dolphin extinction is unthinkable, Roe is looking beyond Maui at Hector’s swimming in their wake.

Since the 2012 Threat Assessment, research led by Roe published in Veterinary Parasitology in 2013, identifies another threat. Roe examined Toxoplasma gondii infection in Hector’s and Maui dolphins received by Massey between 2007 and 2011. Toxoplasmosis was identified as the cause of death in 7 of 28 dolphins, including 2 of 3 Maui dolphins. Studies on other species have identified indirect effects on populations, through changes in behaviour, reproduction, and predation risk.

Roe has been frustrated by the slow acknowledgement of the role of disease in declining populations. She smiles and nods at the suggestion that her research hasn’t had as much publicity as bycatch research, and explains that a lot of the research on dolphins worldwide may be biased.

“There are lots of people who research because they want to prove that they’re all dying in the fishing industry, or they want to prove that none of them are dying in the fishing industry.”

Her research was initially seen to excuse the fishing industry by directing the focus away from fishing-related mortality towards toxoplasmosis as the killer.

Roe points out that her findings relate only to dolphins washed up on the beach. She supports scientists’ findings on fishing impacts, but is keen to see disease mortality included in population modelling.

“I strongly believe we need to have strict controls on fishing zones and fishing nets, but the situation is even more important than we thought, because there’s more than one thing killing them.” Roe’s voice is soft, but authoritative.

When asked about Government attitude to Maui extinction, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy is clear in his written response. “Our position is that if there are sightings beyond the protected area then we will review the boundaries, but in 900 fishing trips, there have been no observations of Maui dolphins in these areas.”

The observer program on commercial fishing boats leaving Taranaki is well-intentioned, but watching murky coastal waters for tiny dolphins must require uninterrupted concentration and 20/20 vision.

Barbara Maas, NABU International’s Head of Endangered Species Conservation, criticises economic-driven decisions on protection zones that “reflect fishing interests rather than match Maui’s dolphin distribution.” Maas recently told Agence France-Press that having exhausted the scientific arguments, NABU, supported by 100 conservation groups, is proposing a boycott of New Zealand seafood.

Roe is not interested in extremist action, but believes collaboration is key to Maui and Hector’s dolphin conservation. She is involved in the Maui’s dolphin Research Advisory Group, a DoC and MPI initiative that held its first meeting last June. Including representatives from central government, regional councils, the fishing industry, environmental groups, scientific researchers, and iwi, the aim is to inform Maui conservation decisions through further research and population monitoring.

Roe’s current research is to identify how toxoplasma gondii is transmitted to dolphins. The most likely route into the marine environment is via contamination of fresh-water run-off. Oocysts, or spores, carrying the parasite and shed in cat faeces can contaminate coastal waters via feral cat populations, and storm water via domestic cat populations. Hector’s and Maui dolphins forage in harbours and estuaries and could ingest oocysts from water, or from eating fish and squid.

Declining to speculate about Maui survival, Roe sees their plight as a warning for Hector’s.

“I’m probably a little bit back-to-front on this,” she says, believing resources are best directed at looking after those there are more of.

It may be too late for Maui dolphins with our Government fixed in its position on protection zones like the set nets trapping them, but their endangered relative, Hector’s, could pull through.

“There are lots of lessons we can learn about what we should be doing now. It would be nice to react before there are 55 left.”

Note: DoC now uses “Maui”, but “Maui’s” has been preserved in quotes, document and group names

Image credit: S. Dawson (from NABU International website)

Curriculum Vitae


To use my skills in research, written communication, and customer service to assist a publication, sustainable business, non-profit or education organisation in meeting objectives and representing their brand.


Bachelor of Arts English major (A grade average/3.7 GPA).
Massey University, New Zealand. 2008-2014.
Papers included: English Literature papers plus Health Writing, Creative Writing, Advanced Creative Writing, Life Writing, Travel Writing, Speech Writing, Feature Writing, Editing & Publishing, Investigative Journalism, Professional & E-Business Writing, Business Communication, Philosophy for Children, Environmental Philosophy
Sports Massage Therapy Diploma (Distinction).
London School of Sports Massage, UK. 2001.
Montessori Early Years Education Diploma (Distinction).
London School of Modern Montessori, UK. 1994.
Cambridge GCSE ‘A’ levels: English (A), History (B), French (B).
Goffs Grammar School, Hertfordshire, UK. 1980.


Massey Extramural Scholarship recipient, 2014.
Massey Top Extramural Student in Business Communication, 2014.
Massey Certificate of Excellence in Professional & E-Business Writing, 2014.
Massey Top Extramural Student in Investigative Reporting, 2013.
Massey Top Extramural Student in Speech Writing, 2013.
Massey Pro-chancellor’s Extramural Speech Writing Award, 2013.
Member of Great Britain Olympic athletics squad (4x400m relay), Los Angeles, 1984. 

Written communication experience

  • Science writing. Scientific research communicated in clear, concise and comprehensible prose
  • News and feature writing. Researched articles on conservation, environment, and animal welfare
  • Creative writing. Short stories and poetry
  • Creative non-fiction. Travel stories, health news briefs, health reports, and speeches
  • Academic writing. Expository, analytical and argumentative essays
  • Business writing. E-mails, memos, letters, event proposal, product comparison report, and recommendation report
  • Revising, editing & proofreading. Revising, editing and proofreading university assignments for relevance, clarity and accuracy. Proofreading son’s university Honours thesis and daughter’s Master’s thesis 
  • Forum discussion. Online forums where tone is critical to effective communication
  • E-mail. External communication with café franchisor, retail centre management, suppliers, and customers in café management role. Internal communication with café staff members
  • Work plans. Business plan, study plans, I.T. system test plans, massage treatment plans
  • Social media. Maintain Facebook and Twitter accounts for article and news communication

Oral communication experience

  • Customer service. Ensure friendly and attentive communication, engaging in genuine conversation. Manage potential conflict by accepting feedback as valuable without accepting responsibility regardless
  • Franchise inspection. Listen to inspection feedback and effectively communicate operational issues
  • Staff performance. Praise staff members as appropriate, correcting poor performance privately
  • Sports massage treatment. Inform client of problem, treatment and rehabilitation with sensitivity and clarity

Research experience

  • Immigration to NZ. Research on immigration requirements, health, MAFF regulations, and Auckland schools and housing
  • Franchise business purchase. Research on the franchise process and individual franchises
  • News and features for news websites. Research on conservation, environment and animal welfare issues
  • Undergraduate study. Research on English literature, Western philosophy, conservation, and mental health. Synthesise large volumes of information into a coherent summary with accurate referencing

Business & Management experience

  • Problem solving. Resolve customer queries & complaints, product damage in transit, franchisor issues, and staff performance issues. Look for positive and co-operative solutions for a win-win result
  • Planning & organising. Food menu. New products. Weekly specials. Stock rotation. Ordering
  • Recruiting & training. Job advertisements. Interviews. Trials. Training
  • Rostering. Plan for staff, public, and school holidays, as well as seasonal and local events that affect trade 
  • Merchandising. Source, price, and display products, with attention to seasonal demands
  • Advertising. Promote new products, specials and seasonal products in-store and on Facebook

Computer experience

  • Proficient in the use of Microsoft Word to create documents such as letters, reports and assignments
  • Proficient in the use of Excel to create spreadsheets such as retail product price tables, work plans and rosters
  • Proficient in the use of search engines for research purposes

Employment History

Owner, manager and café assistant. Full-time. 2010-present
Theobroma Chocolate Lounge, Palmerston North, New Zealand.
News writer. 2015-present
The News Hub website.
Science writer. 2015-present
Voluntary basis for Science Nutshell website.
Contract Computer Analyst/Programmer. Part-time. 2005-2006
Progressive Enterprises Ltd., Auckland, New Zealand.
Assignment marker. Part-time. 2003
London School of Sports Massage, UK.
Sports & Remedial Massage Therapist. Full-time. 2001-2003
Self-employed, Bedfordshire, UK.
Contract Computer Analyst/Programmer. Part-time. 1998-1999
Computer Corporation of America, Slough, Berkshire, UK.
Montessori Early Years Education Assistant. Part-time. 1993-1994
Little Cheverells Montessori School, Markyate, Hertfordshire, UK.
Volunteer young athletes coach. 2001-2003
Bedford Athletics Club, Bedfordshire, UK.
Volunteer parent fundraiser and classroom helper. 1995-1999
Firs Lower School Parent Teachers Association, Ampthill, Bedfordshire, UK.
Stay-at-home mother. 1990-2010
Contract Computer Analyst/Programmer. Full-time
Thames Television, 1988-1990. Reuters, 1987. Shell Oil, 1986-1987. London, UK.
Computer Analyst/Programmer. Full-time
Thomson Holidays. 1986-1987. United Dominions Trust, 1985-1986. Tesco Stores PLC, 1980-1985.

References and academic transcript available 

Health Writing

Thank you to Dr Raquel Harper for passing on your experience and skills, and showing how I might combine my long standing interest in health with my love for writing.

Social media: boosting self-esteem or risking self-harm?

By Tracy Brighten

Scientists identify social media use as a risk factor in the rising trend of teenage depression

Girl looking at social media on phone

Olivia checks Facebook to see what’s been happening since she looked an hour ago. It’s 11.30pm. She may spend ten minutes, or it may be a couple of hours if there are lots of posts. Olivia has 453 friends. She posts a selfie showing her Deep Chestnut hair and waits for a response. Three likes come through. She relaxes a little.

Olivia is one of the increasing number of young people at risk of mental health problems from social media experiences. With over 1.2 billion active users monthly on Facebook – and more than 757 million users interacting every day – we are more publicly exposed than ever.

Young people have access to iPods, iPads, smart phones and laptops, with round-the-clock connection to online social circles. Recent news and research has linked increased social media use to detrimental effects on wellbeing as the social media debate intensifies.

Cyber-bullying goes under the radar

Cyber-bullying is in the spotlight. BBC’s Newsbeat recently interviewed a teenager who received counselling after being bullied on question-and-answer social networking site; ‘It really damaged my self-confidence, I was much more quiet.’ With over 117 million users worldwide, half of them under 18, is worryingly popular.

‘The whole idea is to have fun and create a unique online community,’ says, but this ethos has been trampled by bullies. Although safety has improved, and New Zealand’s NetSafe advises young people to use new privacy settings to prevent anonymous questions, still refuses to change the anonymity option.

Talking to BBC’s Newsbeat,’s director of external affairs, Liva Biseniece, defends anonymity where ‘young people can ask questions anonymously, explore important issues and be safe at the same time.’ But just how safe is advice from anonymous strangers?

Teenage suicides linked to online hate and blackmail

Several teenagers have committed suicide following hateful or blackmailing messages from anonymous users.

Erin Gallagher, 13, took her life in October 2012, naming in her suicide note. Daniel Perry, 17, jumped from Edinburgh’s Forth Road Bridge, a victim of several online suicide prompts – ‘let a blade meet your throat’ – as well as an online blackmailing scam. Con artists trick young men into believing they are having conversations with a girl who asks them to strip off in front of their webcam. The blackmailers then threaten to release the video to friends and family.

New Zealand police informed of cyber-bullying several months ago. An Auckland mother whose 14-year-old daughter was targeted told the New Zealand Herald, ‘It’s actually quite addictive, as they want to know what’s being said about them, both negative and positive.’ Young people’s access is often unsupervised but when parents are vigilant enough to check, their stalking is resented.

Social media site in firing line

Parents are calling for social media site to be banned but with advertising revenue topping $32,000 a day, Russian internet entrepreneurs, and founders, Ilya and Mark Terebin, will resist. They blame the fall in moral standards for the suicides but British anti-bullying agencies disagree. ‘Young people are encouraged to say things they would not say face-to-face or if they were named,’ says Emma-Jane Cross, BeatBullying chief executive.

With no controls to ensure real identities, there is an absence of responsibility and users can gang up. The victim may even know the bully hiding behind anonymity.

The Dominion Post reports that New Zealand teenagers urged via social media to commit suicide have needed psychiatric care, and that evidence of abuse has been submitted to a government committee considering tougher laws against cyber-bullying.

Youthline national spokesman Stephen Bell says online bullying is often a manifestation of problems in the real world, but the internet connects to a far wider social circle.

UK teenage suicide trending upwards 

Trolled Nation, a 2013 UK survey of over 2,000 teenagers conducted for, provides statistics showing the impact of trolling with young males representing a high-risk group for suicide. Trolling involves deliberately provoking an emotional response by upsetting people in online environments.

Nineteen-year-old males were top trolling targets with 85% having experienced online bullying. However, only one third of teens report it to social media sites and less than 1 in 5 tell parents.

Psychologist and trolling expert Arthur Cassidy says boys are pressured into bravado, especially via social media, but this attitude, combined with poor coping strategies, increases vulnerability. Of those reporting bullying or trolling, 87% said they had experienced it on Facebook, 19% on Twitter and 9% on

Social media relationships can be habitual and unsatisfying

Social media has changed the way we develop and maintain relationships. Pew Research Center’s survey in the U.S. reveals 27% of 18-29 year olds have 500+ friends. With 10% of users sending messages multiple times daily and 31% commenting on other people’s photos daily, addiction waits in the wings.

Like drinking alcohol or taking drugs, by the time we realize there’s a problem it’s difficult to break the habit.

While social media can satisfy a need to belong, it can also leave us feeling rejected or isolated and negatively impact our self-esteem. Researchers are increasingly interested in the potential consequences of social networking sites that have become deeply rooted in daily life.

New research published in February in the journal Social Influence looks at two potential threats to belonging: lack of active participation and lack of response from others.

Led by Dr Stephanie Tobin from the University of Queensland’s School of Psychology, researchers studied people who posted frequently on Facebook. Participants were restricted in their ability to post and in feedback they received, and then asked about their sense of belonging, control, and meaningful existence.

Researchers found that when active participation in the form of sharing information or receiving feedback is restricted, people feel less important and sense of belonging and self-esteem are affected.

Fear of Missing Out drives social media addiction

Fear of Missing Out (FoMO) describes a concern that others may be having more enjoyable experiences and this generates a compulsion to know what others are doing. Lead researcher and psychologist Dr. Andy Przybylski says FoMO isn’t new, but social media offers a new window into people’s lives.

In this study measuring FoMO, researchers found that people with a high level may become so involved in their friends’ lives they neglect what they enjoy. FoMO was more prevalent in those under 30 and with deprived psychological needs. ‘We have to learn new skills to control our usage and enjoy social media in moderation,’ says Dr. Pryzbylski.

Social media increases feelings of connectedness but not happpiness

Researchers at the University of Michigan (U-M) report that while Facebook helps people feel connected, it doesn’t necessarily make them happier. Published in PLOS ONE, this study led by U-M psychologist Ethan Kross is the first to examine Facebook’s influence on wellbeing over time.

Researchers identified that the more participants used Facebook the worse they subsequently felt, and the more they used Facebook over the two-week study period, the more life satisfaction levels declined over time. Direct interactions by contrast were found to increase wellbeing over time.

‘This is a result of critical importance because it goes to the very heart of the influence that social networks may have on people’s lives,’ says U-M cognitive neuroscientist and co-author John Jonides.  

Socially embarrassing events can go viral

Socially embarrassing situations can have a worse impact on our wellbeing than they used to. A story or photograph that may once have been passed among friends may now find a global audience.

Researchers at Northwestern University in the U.S. observed the strength of emotional response to embarrassing Facebook situations. The most common threats were norm violations, where exposed behaviour could lead to social and emotional consequences, and ideal self-presentation violations, where content posted is inconsistent with a person’s Facebook persona.

Jeremy Birnholtz, assistant professor in the Department of Communication at Northwestern, comments that experienced social media users are less affected by these threats, knowing how to control settings and delete pictures and comments.

People most affected were those with a high level of social appropriateness and a wide network that included family, co-workers, clients and friends, as well as people who valued their online reputation. It’s worth considering a friend’s Facebook audience before posting on their page.

Comparing unfavourably to friends’ online persona causes depression

Although social media enables us to network and connect with distant friends, a 2013 U.S. study led by Brian Feinstein reveals that Facebook can also have unhealthy side effects. After studying 268 Stony Brook University students (average age 20), researchers suggest negative social comparison can lead to rumination – a focus on one’s distress – and then to depression.

The tendency to ruminate is compounded because people tend to post more positive information compared to real life. Facebook users are bombarded with comparison situations – birthdays, holidays, weddings, babies and children – a Molotov cocktail that can ignite inadequacy.

Invisible risk of high social media use, inactivity and lack of sleep  

Published recently in World Psychiatry, a large international study by researchers at the Karolinska Institutet highlights an invisible risk for depression among adolescents identified by a combination of lack of physical activity, high social media use, and decreased sleep.

This risk group showed the same mental health problems, including suicidal thoughts, identified in the high-risk group of alcohol and drug users. First author, Vladimir Carli, warns that parents and teachers are probably unaware of this invisible risk but 30% of adolescents in the study were in this group.

According to, one in seven young people in New Zealand will experience a major depressive disorder before the age of 24. Scrutinised, compared and judged more than ever, teens and young adults are vulnerable.

However, positive outcomes of Facebook use identified in other studies, such as decreased feelings of loneliness and increased connectedness, suggest that it’s the way we use Facebook, as well as our personality and emotional state that determines a positive or negative experience.

With better awareness of how social media experiences can negatively affect self-esteem, we can take control and protect ourselves and others from anxiety and depression. We can protect vulnerable young people like Olivia.

Image credit: Girl looking at phone on Pixabay

Let’s put the pure back in New Zealand

by Tracy Brighten  August 2013

A Massey University Speech Writing assignment. Please skip to ‘Speech’ if you don’t need the background.


Margaret Thatcher is invited to speak at the imagined 2013 Massey Student Conference on Sustainability where students and staff present papers to discuss new ideas, research and critical issues on sustainability. Her topic is the discrepancy between the clean, green image created by the ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ campaign and the environmental reality. The purpose is to inform the audience of this discrepancy; to persuade them that it is economically damaging as well as morally and aesthetically unacceptable; and to motivate them to take action. The audience will be university lecturers, students and parents with a mix in age, gender and nationality. Mrs Thatcher would like the audience to feel affirmation, enlightenment, surprise, or shock even at her examples of environmental neglect. She wishes to tap into their pride in their country, respect for nature and self-respect as conscientious individuals and motivate them to find out how they can help. As a scientist and politician she will suggest the importance of commerce, government and environmental groups working together to give substance to the ‘100% Pure’ mantra.

In ‘The Lady’s not for turning’ speech,[i] Mrs Thatcher uses appropriate and subtle humour: “The peer that reaches those foreign parts that other peers cannot reach”, a play on the Heineken slogan. She regularly uses triads, “I do care about the future of free enterprise, the jobs and exports it provides and the independence it brings to our people” and alliteration, “dithered for decades”, to enhance rhythm. To make the message indelible and persuasive she uses anaphora, “You can…”; antithesis, “they must look into the hearts and minds of the people whom they seek to govern. I would add that those who seek to govern must in turn be willing to allow their hearts and minds to lie open to the people”; rhetorical questions, “what can stop us from achieving this?”, as well as metaphor, “economic religion which demands this unemployment as part of its ritual?” In her speech to the United Nations she uses statistics, more frequently used by men, to give scientific evidence.[ii] I would like to write a speech that reflects her style.

Mrs Thatcher speaks with a slow pace and clear diction that helps comprehension. The danger is that the slow pace, although authoritative, can be soporific. For example in her speech to the United Nations in 1989 there is no audience response, although the speech is more concerned with informing and persuading than calling to action. The silence may be audience etiquette. Her speeches at Conservative party conferences and in parliament are more lively with changes in tone, pace, emphasis and emotion. Cast as the “Iron Lady”, she isn’t restricted to feminine language, but can mix masculine and feminine words, sounds and imagery, as well as sentiments of toughness with those of empathy. She does not appear to use contractions and her rate of speech in the two speeches analysed is 120 to 140 words per minute.


Good morning lecturers, students and parents. It’s with great pleasure that I’ve taken time from my schedule of bungee jumping and white water rafting to speak to you at this Student Conference on Sustainability. Many of you here today weren’t even born when I was Prime Minister of Great Britain, but I’m rather hoping that you will have heard of me. You may not have heard that I was a scientist before I was ever a politician and the environment is close to my heart. When I addressed the United Nations in 1989, I warned that climate change was a global issue that all nations must confront. Today, with sustainability on the lips of economists and environmentalists alike, I will discuss the discrepancy between the airbrushed ‘100% Pure New Zealand’ campaign and the environmental reality.

In 1999, the New Zealand Tourist Board launched ‘100% Pure New Zealand’, since hailed as a highly successful global marketing campaign. Responding to the question “Who in the world cares about New Zealand?”, the Tourist Board promotes a desirable experience that reflects the country’s purity.[iii] But is this simply empty rhetoric?

For those living in New Zealand, the campaign images of pristine scenery and prolific wildlife don’t stack up against images far from pure: freshwater fish floating in polluted rivers; Northland Kiwis slain by dogs on the loose[iv]; forty Yellow eyed penguins found dead[v]; Hectors dolphins suffocated by set nets[vi]; albatross chicks starved to death, their stomachs clogged with plastics washed up on beaches[vii]; the golf complex threatening the last nesting site of the NZ Fairy Tern, perched on the brink of extinction[viii]; the monorail that would cut through world heritage wilderness carrying yet more tourists to Milford Sound[ix] and China condemning Fonterra’s contamination crisis. The world is waking up to reality – species decline, habitat loss and food scares are out of kilter with the ‘Pure’ campaign. The question we should be asking is “Who in New Zealand cares about New Zealand?”

Environmental experts say New Zealand can’t continue to fool the world when biodiversity, beaches and rivers are in declining state.[x] Indeed, river quality is significantly degraded by dairy farm effluent and fertiliser runoff with no controls in place.[xi] As science links antibiotic resistance in humans to antibiotic use in farm animals, there’s a global need to clamp down on overuse in agriculture, as well as medicine.[xii] Turning a blind eye could see an apocalyptic scenario where surgical patients die from minor infections[xiii] as resistance grows faster than we create new antibiotics. With intensive farming methods the norm, how clean and green are dairy, poultry and pig farms? Yet we know good hygiene, husbandry and housing eliminate the need for routine use of antibiotics in animal feed. In a global marketplace we face a new challenge that rivals climate change, yet commercial interests continue to control policy.

I disagree with The Right Honourable Mr Key that the ‘100% Pure’ campaign should be taken with a pinch of salt. This smacks of ‘fast food’ mentality, style over substance. But with annual dairy exports to China at $3 billion dollars and eco-tourism vital to the New Zealand economy – I’m told a breeding pair of yellow-eyed penguins could be worth $60,000 to Dunedin[xiv] – the campaign must be taken with a large dose of responsibility. How much of the wealth generated by this campaign is re-invested in conservation? And how much consideration is given to environmental concerns when they conflict with economic interests? A healthy environment benefits a nation’s economy, but let’s not forget that a nation’s economy must support that healthy environment.

It’s time not just to showcase New Zealand, but time to show New Zealand’s purity inside out. Time to show it’s not just pure marketing genius, but the pure in unspoilt and in truth. Change is needed in national attitude, change to shake off the shackles of ignorance, of complacency. You have this marvellous, marvellous country and the opportunity to do things your way. With your contained geographical location and your manageable population, you can be an example to other countries – and what an example you could be. Massey community – with your intellect and your conviction you are ideally placed to lead that change. As well as leaders in business, let’s be guardians of our landscape, custodians of our wildlife. Let’s protect the planet for generations. Let’s put the pure back in New Zealand.

Speech word count excluding references: 733


Listening to Ravel’s Bolero[xv] for inspiration, the continuous tempo of the snare drum holds attention. This rhythm is overlaid with serene wind and string melodies, in my mind reflecting pristine landscapes and endangered species, contrasting with sombre, sinister brass melodies, reflecting environmental crises. The piece starts softly building to a loud finale involving most instruments. I hope to build audience awareness and response with each melodic change representing a new paragraph and as more instruments are added, so more weight is added to the argument. I would like the conclusion to reflect the uplifting and stirring finale.

The speech is organised in a logical topical order with an introduction that opens with light humour to break the ice, influenced by Stephen Fry’s BAFTA award opening. A brief reference to Mrs Thatcher’s background establishes credibility and respect and the topic, or thesis, is made clear. The first body paragraph defines the campaign’s origin and questions its truth. The second provides images that contradict this pure image and then turns the NZTB around to ask rhetorically if New Zealanders care about their environment. The third body paragraph informs of experts who do care then opens up to a global view, highlighting the relationship between commerce and government and linking to the fourth that considers John Key’s topical comment about the campaign, intending to persuade of the reciprocity of economy and environment. The conclusion aims to create urgency and to motivate by stirring emotions of pride and responsibility.

I have written with Mrs Thatcher’s voice and position as economist and environmentalist in mind. I have used alliteration to help the rhythm, and anaphora to re-inforce the message and ideas, particularly in the final paragraph with “time to”, “change” and the triad, “Let us”. I used anadiplosis, “A healthy environment benefits a nation’s economy…” to emulate Mrs Thatcher’s “Without a healthy economy”.[xvi] I used parallelism, “should be taken with a pinch of salt….must be taken with a very large dose of responsibility” to convey the seriousness of the topic.   I have tried to use imagery to maximise emotional impact with “airbrushed” questioning the slogan’s truth and “perched on the brink of extinction”, conveying not only that the nesting site is at risk but the species itself. I like the powerful effect of ABBA reversal and could perhaps have worked it into the conclusion, but decided on a power phrase that I hope will be memorable.

The last line of the speech is the power phrase, inviting and inspiring the audience to take action, and playing on Mrs Thatcher putting the ‘Great’ back in Great Britain.[xvii] I am relying on audience open-mindedness about Margaret Thatcher discussing New Zealand affairs. As most will not have lived through some of her more controversial economic and foreign policies, I hope they will value her opinion and identify with a leader who is strongly patriotic and who cares about the environment. I am aware that the speech is a little longer than the 700 words that Mrs Thatcher might deliver in five minutes based on two speeches that I have timed, but I was inspired by her speeches as well as this topical subject.


[i] Thatcher, Margaret. (1980, October). Speech to Conservative Party Conference (‘the lady’s not for turning’).  Retrieved August 26, 2013, from

[ii] Thatcher, Margaret. (1989, November). Speech to United Nations General Assembly (Global Environment). Retrieved August 26, 2013, from

[iii] Tourism New Zealand. (2009). Pure As. Celebrating 10 years of 100% Pure New Zealand. Retrieved August 26, 2013, from

[iv] Donnell, Haydn. (2012, February). Dogs blamed for mass kiwi deaths. August 30, 2013, from

[v] Daly, Michael. (2013, February). Unknown cause for mass penguin deaths. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from

[vi] Forest and Bird. (n.d.). Hector’s and Maui’s dolphins. Retrieved September 2, 2013, from

[vii] Schiller, Jakob. (2012, August). Plastic-Filled Albatrosses Are Pollution Canaries in New Doc. Retrieved September 2, 2013, from

[viii] Te Arai Beach Preservation Society. (n.d.). What is this all about? Retrieved September 2, 2013, from

[ix] University of Canterbury. (2013, July). Monorail proposal conflicts with NZ tourism brand. Retrieved September 2, 2013, from

[x] APNZ. (2013, August). Advertising watchdog defends 100% pure catchphrase. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from

[xi] Field, Michael. (2013, August). New Zealand’s 100% Pure campaign rubbished by UK press. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from

[xii] World Poultry. (2013, June). Antibiotic use to take priority at G8 summit. Retrieved August 26, 2013, from

[xiii] Mc Carthy, Michael. (2013, March). Chief Medical Officer Dame Sally Davies: resistance to Antibiotics risks health ‘catastrophe’ to rank with terrorism and climate change. Retrieved August 26, 2013, from

[xiv] Yellow Eyed Penguin Trust. (n.d.). Value to the economy. Retrieved August 30, 2013, from

[xv] Ravel, Maurice. (1928, November). Bolero. Conducted by Andre Rieu July, 2008. Retrieved September 2, 2013, from

[xvi] Thatcher, Margaret. (1980, October). Speech to Conservative Party Conference (‘the lady’s not for turning’). Retrieved August 26, 2013, from

[xvii] Kelly, Jack. (2013, April). Thatcher Put the “Great” Back in Great Britain. Retrieved August 26, 2013, from

What Are Mates For?

Re-take on Albert Square

“Thanks for coming Linda. I could really do with a friend right now.”

“You look terrible Sharon. What’s up?”

“Well, just as I’m getting back on my feet after Phil hired two thugs to smash my spleen, and Shirley nearly killed Phil on our wedding day and I found out he’d slept with her, and Phil was arrested for the crash that killed Emma and put Ronnie in a coma, and Ben handed over the Arches to Max, and Abbie moved in and rifled through my drawers, the scriptwriters have dug up my real mum to haunt me.”

“I’m just gonna knit my eyebows and pout for a bit, but carry on Sharon.”

“Well, I’m in a pickle now. I’m not likely to get work elsewhere – not like Ian who’s got some decent acting under his belt now he’s been given some believable scenes to play. Except Bobby being the killer of course. God knows where that came from.”

“True Sharon. But you’ve got a better deal than me. I admit I used to have it easy, looking glamourous with Mick following me like a lapdog. But that’s all changed. I’ve been raped by my brother-in-law and now Mick’s done him over; I can’t hold a wedding at the Vic without a shoot up, babies born in the loo, or the bride and groom disappearing while we carry on celebrating; and worst of all, I’m pregnant and it’s spoiling the line of my dresses.”

“That’s what I like about you Linda.”

“What’s that?”

“You’ve got a knack for helping me see when I’m well off.”

“Well, what are mates for, eh?”



Silent rows of empty seats, no comfort here
White coat exudes sterility, dictates efficiency
Ultrasound eye coldly penetrates, threatens to confirm
Black screen darker than a moonless sky, endless
Sentence passed with alarming deficiency
No room here for sentiment or sympathy.
Scarlet statistics stain the whiteboard, blaming maturity
Expectant eyes pleading for leniency, helpless
Textbook theory delivered with tactless timing
Guilty of dancing too fast. No music now.