REVIEW Book discusses pre-tasman discovery of NZ
More preventable drownings in NZ last year
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.