Friday, June 28, 2019


I've done a piece for The Spinoff and Newshub about the anti-Indian hysteria that convulsed New Zealand in 1920, a year that saw a military expedition to Fiji, ethnic cleansing in North Island towns, and the formation of a Kiwi KKK.

Monday, June 24, 2019

Whitening New Zealand

Chris Trotter doesn't think that New Zealand has ever been a white supremacist nation; on twitter I've been disagreeing with him, and posting a few old newspaper articles. Pete George has made our conversation into a blog post.

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Notes from Drury

No one loved the troughs, not even the cows, who would slurp the stagnant water then gape ardently at the clear flowing surface of the fenced-off creek. But after the farm was sold and subdivided the troughs lost their function. They became artefacts, as uselessly beautiful as the wells of a vanished medieval abbey.
Time is a river that flows everywhere, said Marcus Aurelius. But my father's room, at the back of the farmhouse, is a dark rock that water hurries around. A Tripe and Onion Club tie, a paint-splattered, pearl-shaped AM radio, a ripped Golden Kiwi ticket: the objects the room stores are long dead, immortal.
We hadn't visited the farmhouse since that unnaturally warm autumn. The yard's crocuses still opened, like yawning mouths, as doomed bees carried their burdens of tribute. Now it was winter. Silver bees fell from a cloud, clung to the bedroom's glass as though it were the side of a hive.

Tuesday, June 04, 2019

Three photos from an old file

I step into the photo, which is labelled Pioneers Bar, East Tamaki, 1980. I can smell the cigarette butts that have fallen like petals into the potted plant by the bar. I can smell the piss and flat beer in the carpet. I close my eyes. I inhale my childhood.
Clifton Firth may have photographed my paternal grandparents, though I am still to find the image. He was a Marxist modernist famous, and well rewarded for his shots of Auckland's industrial architecture and its bourgeoisie. If you wanted your freezing works or your Remuera debutante daughter photographed, then Clifton was your man. About 1967 Clifton's daughter Ann commandeered his camera, and shot her siblings playing about a half-built Paremoremo prison.
In 1960 these technicians posed at Otahuhu's telephone exchange. There is an ease, a confidence about them. They can read the wires of the vast machine; they are, were, masters of modernity. Now their machine is lost, their skills old folklore. Today's cyber gurus have inherited the technicians' smiles.