RE­VIEW Book dis­cusses pre-tas­man dis­cov­ery of NZ

More pre­ventable drown­ings in NZ last year

Coastal News - - Front Page -

Voy­ages to the Ends of the Earth

By Maxwell C Hill (Whanga­mata) ■ Re­viewed by Peter Charles

This book, of 178 pages, is a lav­ishly il­lus­trated, glossy pub­li­ca­tion which looks closely at the ev­i­dence that sug­gests Span­ish, Por­tuguese and Chi­nese ves­sels vis­ited New Zealand long be­fore Abel Tas­man sailed into Golden Bay in 1642.

In­deed, it is a his­tory of map mak­ing and nav­i­ga­tion which be­gins with the works of Greek as­tronomers, who al­ready had de­cided the world was round, and whose cal­cu­la­tions for the cir­cum­fer­ence of the earth was pretty ac­cu­rate — maybe as close as 400km to the mod­ern mea­sure­ments.

Some of the early maps show a land mass in the south­ern hemi­sphere — hy­po­thet­i­cal at that point, since the rea­son­ing was that there must be a land mass there to bal­ance the earth.

Later voy­agers dis­cov­ered the north­ern coast of Aus­tralia, and prob­a­bly also dis­cov­ered New Zealand.

Even the Bri­tish ad­mi­ralty ad­mit­ted that the Por­tuguese had knowl­edge of our coast­line in 1550 — although they re­moved ref­er­ences to it af­ter James Cook ar­rived.

There is a large po­hutukawa tree grow­ing in a small town in Spain, which sug­gests the Span­ish were also here be­fore Tas­man.

Along the West Coast of the North Is­land, there are a num­ber of ship­wrecks which cer­tainly pre-date Tas­man, one of them be­ing dis­cov­ered by the au­thor, this be­ing the Span­ish Ce­cil­lia Maria, wrecked around 1532.

There is also ev­i­dence of a Chi­nese ship­wreck north of the Hokianga, with lo­cal Maori car­ing for sur­vivors. Bricks im­printed with Chi­nese de­signs add to the ev­i­dence that the Chi­nese were here in about 1400

Around New Zealand, there are a num­ber of rock draw­ings de­pict­ing multi-masted ships, some of them hav­ing iron an­chors. The stone bird Korotangi, which was dis­cov­ered buried in the Aotea har­bour, is con­sid­ered by the Tainui to be from their home­land, Hawaiki, yet refuse to al­low it to be tested to dis­cover where the stone orig­i­nated. Since it was carved with metal tools, it can­not be of Maori ori­gin, and prob­a­bly came from China.

The book then moves on to dis­prove some of the myths of the mass Maori mi­gra­tions to New Zealand from Raro­tonga.

Fi­nally, there are pic­tures of some of the strange stone carv­ings and writ­ings around the Kaipara dis­trict, which ap­pear to use an Early Greek al­pha­bet, along with a Euro­pean woman’s skull found in the Wairarapa, dat­ing from the 1700s, and the wreck of a 412 foot long Chi­nese junk, at least 500 years old.

Some of the map in­ter­pre­ta­tions, I feel, are a bit far fetched, but there is cer­tainly enough hard ev­i­dence to make this book a fas­ci­nat­ing read for any­one in­ter­ested in New Zealand pre his­tory. Pro­vi­sional fig­ures from Water Safety New Zealand (WSNZ) for 2017 show a 13 per cent in­crease in pre­ventable drown­ings on the pre­vi­ous year.

There were 88 pre­ventable drown­ings in 2017 ver­sus 78 in 2016.

“I can’t sugar coat it,” says CEO Jonty Mills. “The water is our play­ground but it’s in­cred­i­bly un­for­giv­ing.”

There is an ob­vi­ous con­nec­tion be­tween drown­ings and the weather and the early on­set of sum­mer in 2017 con­trib­uted to the spike.

How­ever, Mr Mills be­lieves the prob­lem goes deeper than that.

“Most of the time, it comes down to poor de­ci­sion mak­ing in the gen­eral sense. That’s why most drown­ing deaths are con­sid­ered pre­ventable.”

Spikes in the un­der-fives and over 65 age groups are fea­tures of the 2017 fig­ures.

“For un­der-fives, the only fool­proof so­lu­tion is con­stant ac­tive adult su­per­vi­sion. Also, we are liv­ing longer health­ier lives and re­tirees are more ac­tive which adds ad­di­tional risk,” says Mr Mills.

Fe­male fa­tal­i­ties have al­most dou­bled, re­flect­ing higher par­tic­i­pa­tion rates across a wide range of ac­tiv­i­ties and there were twice as many ac­ci­den­tal im­mer­sions in 2017.

“Ac­ci­den­tal im­mer­sions are peo­ple who ended up in the water when they had no in­ten­tion to. This re­in­forces how im­por­tant it is to think about water safety around any aquatic en­vi­ron­ment” says Mr Mills.

Pre­ventable fa­tal­i­ties in Auck­land have dou­bled, while the West Coast has the high­est drown­ing rate per capita.

“New Zealand’s drown­ing prob­lem is a com­plex one. We have a very di­verse and grow­ing pop­u­la­tion with very high par­tic­i­pa­tion rates across a wide range of dif­fer­ent ac­tiv­i­ties and aquatic en­vi­ron­ments” he says.

He also warns of the widen­ing gap be­tween the water safety sec­tor’s abil­ity to meet grow­ing ex­pec­ta­tion and de­mand.

“Sec­tor re­sources are stretched be­yond their ca­pa­bil­ity. This is a sec­tor which re­lies on vol­un­teers and is pre­dom­i­nantly non-govern­ment funded.”

He be­lieves all Ki­wis need to take per­sonal re­spon­si­bil­ity and is keen to work closer with govern­ment at both cen­tral and lo­cal level.

Drown­ing re­mains the num­ber one cause of recre­ational death and num­ber three cause of ac­ci­den­tal death in New Zealand, with a so­cial cost of over $400m per an­num to the coun­try.

“We need to ed­u­cate more to en­sure our kids are com­ing out of the sys­tem with the skills, com­pe­ten­cies and risk aware­ness to en­joy the water safely, as well as run on­go­ing cam­paigns to cre­ate a long-term at­ti­tude and be­hav­iour change around water. We also need to se­cure the fu­ture of front­line water safety and res­cue re­sources,” he said.

Whanga­mata au­thor Max Hill.

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