Waka welcome the replica of the Endeavour to Meretoto. Photo: Matt Brown.

Shouldn’t a pākehā know more Māori history?

Last month, a national celebration took place – Tuia 250 – commemorating 250 years since Captain James Cook with Tahitian navigator Tupaia first came to Aotearoa. Reporter Matt Brown was lucky enough to be part of the historic event.

The event was billed as an opportunity to hold honest conversations about the past, the present and how we navigate our shared future.

But as the searing Marlborough sun turned my pasty, pākehā skin red and local iwi officially welcomed the guests with haka and speeches, I realised I wasn’t particularly well equipped for the conversation.

I don’t speak Māori.

Travelling to the remote bay in the Marlborough Sounds, children from Omaka Marae singing waiata, the excitement in the air was palpable.

And as the masts of the tall ships appeared on the horizon and dolphins leapt through the water alongside, the sun glittering on the water, I found myself reflecting on the contrast of the Māori people’s connection with the past, and my almost complete disconnect.

Now, I can’t say I’ve spent all that much time thinking about Captain Cook, but I admit I was a wee bit surprised when the Endeavour replica was given the moniker, ‘Death Ship’, in mainstream news.

My history education is sorely lacking, and in small-town, South Island, rural Blenheim – I was brought up to believe Cook was one of the last great explorers. And perhaps, despite his shortcomings, he was.

250 years ago, Captain James Cook sailed into Meretoto, or Ships Cove, to perform repairs to his ship, the Endeavour.

Cook loved the spot so much he effectively made the spot his base of operations – spending more time there than anywhere else in New Zealand.

And on the surface, that was the gist of the celebrations – 250 years ago white dudes ‘discovered’ New Zealand.

There’s so much more than that.

Prior to Tuia 250, I didn’t know who Tupaia was.

I may not have been listening in class – or maybe I was one of the rare teenagers who was correct when I said I thought school was not the be all and end all.

For those who are in my boat, or ship as it were, Tupaia is the single reason Captain Cook’s voyage was successful.

Interpreter and liaison, high priest and skilled navigator in his own right, Tupaia was able to calm waters between the English ‘goblins’ and the native Māori people and created bonds of friendship and respect.

It is little wonder that iwi lamented when, on subsequent voyages, they learned of his death.

The event was moving, the location magical – but in translation, something is always lost.

I asked Omaka Marae manager Kiley Nepia how he thought Marlborough would look in 50 years.

He told me he hoped it had “browned up” by then.

Reflecting on my cultural identity, or lack thereof, I hope he’s right.

Watching people from the various tribes of Marlborough, I was struck by how history is a living thing. To them, the wounds of the past are still raw because the past isn’t an abstract thing.

Fifty years from now, at Tuia 300, I hope not only for more cultural diversity but the casual racism endemic to the region be but a distant memory.

Anton Oliver has been named to lead the MBC First XV. Photo: Supplied.

Best of the best – choosing the top MBC First XV of the professional era no easy task

Soon after Nelson College won the 2019 UC Championship, a group of Nelson rugby folk were inspired to put their heads together in a bid to come up with a team containing the greatest 1st XV players from that famous school, comprised of those who played in the modern era, post-1995.

In the spirit of the festive season, and just for the hell of it, I have endeavoured to repeat the exercise for Marlborough Boys’ College, with a little help of course from some learned rugby followers on this side of the hill.

Leon MacDonald slots in at fullback for MBC. Photo: Shuttersport.
Leon MacDonald slots in at fullback for MBC. Photo: Shuttersport.

Obviously, in such a formidable rugby school, selection was extremely difficult – especially in positions such as hooker and first five where MBC have produced a string of top players.

However, with some mixing and matching position-wise, we have come up with a side that would surely prove far too good for the Nelson College outfit, MBC possessing hard-nosed physicality up front, plus superior skills and pace out the back.

Having five All Blacks in the MBC mix hints at the quality of the side, and how tough it was to make the cut for the chosen XV. Leading the side will be former All Blacks skipper Anton Oliver, who has been chosen at No 8, the position he filled with such aplomb at MBC.

Joe Wheeler has been chosen at lock. Photo: Shuttersport.
Joe Wheeler has been chosen at lock. Photo: Shuttersport.

To ensure the playing field is [relatively] level for a hypothetical matchup with Nelson College, former MBC head boy and World Cup referee Ben O’Keeffe would be on the whistle, with former MBC teacher Kieran Keane coaching the MBC combination.

Without further ado, here are the greatest Marlborough Boys’ College and Nelson College 1st XVs of the modern era:


Marlborough Boys’ College

  1. Atu Moli (All Black)
  2. Quentin MacDonald (NZ Maori)
  3. Hamish Cochrane (NZ under-20)
  4. Joe Wheeler (Highlanders, NZ Maori)
  5. Jamie Joseph (All Black)
  6. Vernon Fredericks (Crusaders)
  7. Braden Stewart (Tasman)
  8. Anton Oliver (All Black) – captain
  9. Toby Morland (Highlanders, Chiefs, Blues)
  10. Jeremy Manning (Newcastle, Munster)
  11. Hayden Pedersen (Highlanders, NZ Maori)
  12. David Hill (All Black)
  13. Aaron Bancroft (Highlanders)
  14. Kade Poki (Crusaders, Highlanders)
  15. Leon MacDonald (All Black)


Nelson College

  1. Wyatt Crockett (All Black)
  2. Ratu Vugakoto (Fiji)
  3. Sak Taulafo (Samoa)
  4. Quinn Strange (Crusaders, NZ Schools)
  5. Kahu Marfell (NZ U19)
  6. Anton Segner (NZ Schools)
  7. Tevita Koloamatangi (Tonga)
  8. Ita Vaea (Brumbies)
  9. Mitch Drummond (All Black)
  10. Mitch Hunt (Crusaders)
  11. Leicester Fainga’anuku (Crusaders, NZ Schools)
  12. David Havili (All Black)
  13. Tom Marshall (Crusaders, Chiefs,)
  14. James Lowe (NZ Maori)
  15. James Marshall (NZ Sevens)


As the Nelson side’s selectors [Peter Grigg, Kahu Marfell and Andrew Goodman] suggested, “selecting a team such as this is an art, not a science”.

“There are numerous players with outstanding credentials and this selection is a very subjective exercise. We apologise to anybody we have offended with non-selection but are willing to discuss them over appropriate refreshments.”

The same qualifying terms apply on this side of the hill … let the debate begin.

Rick Ireland. Photo: Supplied.

OPINION: Mayoral candidate Rick Ireland

Rick Ireland is pledging to curb rates if elected.

I’m standing for mayor because rates are increasing every year and are becoming unaffordable for those on fixed incomes, those on lower incomes, and young families just starting out.

Rates are being driven up by massive borrowing which must be paid by the ratepayer. Back in 2005, the Council debt was less than $2 million which wasn’t unreasonable. Now, according to the council, the debt is around $48 million.

In addition, the council has demanded dividends from mainly Port Marlborough, for which Port Marlborough has apparently had to borrow in order to pay. One way to look at this is that the council has been shifting its debt off its own balance sheet and onto other balance sheets.

The council asserts that it’s in good financial health, but then forecasts a total debt peaking in three years at an eye-watering $270 million. This will have to be paid for and the ratepayers will be on the hook. Just the interest, even in these economically benign times, will cost ratepayers about $1 million. Per month.

If the head winds come, and, as most of us know, the head winds will always come, it won’t matter who Marlborough elects to council. The rate increases will go out regardless. There won’t be any choice.

We may buy nice furniture for our homes but we’re all very careful about it because we know it must be paid for. And we’re all unimpressed with those who just stick it on the credit card and then sit at their nice new table wondering how it all went so wrong. The council should be no different.

The debt must not be increased but be reduced. If I’m elected, it will be. As a result, there’ll be no pressure to keep raising the rates. No more elderly people wondering if they should turn the heater off or spending a little less food because their rate demand has increased. No more young families spreading their finances ever thinner because the rates go up far faster than their income increases. No more “credit card spending”.

However, the council does need to spend money in the district. We should do it the old-fashioned way. Attract more people and businesses to Marlborough which will increase revenue, and then wait until we can afford it.

Changes are now in place to revolutionise the delivery of junior rugby across the top of the south. Photo: Shuttersport.

Rugby for all, not just elite young players

The Tasman Rugby Union recently announced there would be no representative teams at under-15 level and below this season. CEO Tony Lewis explains the underlying reasons for the change, and the research on which the decision was based.   

Our decision was made in response to concerns about elitism and high-performance rugby programmes at junior level, the negativity of non-selection, the coaching process and the declining participation from this age group.

It was based on a business case developed by TRU staff and a considerable body of research that suggests children’s sport is increasingly driven by adults’ ambitions.

Playing JAB and age grade rugby has clear social, physical and mental health benefits for children, but evidence illustrates that youth sports in NZ society have become increasingly controlled and regulated by adults, which takes out the fun for many children.

An in-depth study was undertaken with all stakeholders including, most importantly, the young playing group themselves, including those players who were or were not selected, in our representative teams.

We have received mainly positive feedback from our stakeholders, although the real proof will be the delivery of the new programmes. Some responses fell back on the argument that political correctness had gone mad, a common response that tends to close off any meaningful debate.

Tony Lewis. Photo: Supplied.
Tony Lewis. Photo: Supplied.

There were some people who believe that this decision will effectively close off a “career pathway”. Seriously, the only pathways kids should be on until well into their teens are footpaths. The idea that a 12-year-old is on the pathway to a professional sports career is ridiculous and speaks only to parental obsession, not reality.

This year the Mako Development camps, which replace the rep programmes, will start on Sunday, July 28, with all the Mitre 10 Cup and Farah Palmer Cup players involved in the delivery. In what I believe is a NZ rugby first, our camps will be for both male and female.

The TRU based its decision on research over the last three years that shows young people play rugby primarily to have fun and play with their mates; to receive good coaching and good refereeing; to play in a meaningful competition and for the sheer joy and exhilaration it provides.

What will surprise many is the fact that that winning hardly received a mention.

Adolescence is the time most associated with drop out from sport with a commonly-cited reason being that sport stops being “fun”.

In the US, researcher Amanda Visek found that “fun” for children meant up to 81 different things. “Getting compliments from coaches” was No 1, “Playing well during a game” was ranked second and “Winning” came in at No 30.

The TRU have implemented positive changes over the past couple of seasons following feedback from local players of various ages, genders, and experience levels on what they want out of the game – namely, meaningful competition, development (learning new skills) and enjoyment.

Bold changes by the TRU involve removing the structures that encourage a ‘win-at-all-cost’ mentality, while emphasising and expanding on the reasons kids play sport in the first instance.

Some of these changes include:

  • Eliminating big score blow outs (cricket scores) by implementing a win/loss points system, removing point differentials.
  • Encouraging meaningful competition by introducing a bylaw that allows team management to work together to create a competitively balanced, enjoyable game.
  • Introducing an exciting 3-4 week ‘TRU Cup’ to conclude the season, giving all teams the chance to win the grade.
  • Another positive initiative has involved Tasman Rugby rewarding fair play and sportsmanship with prizes.

These changes have had a positive effect on the delivery of teenage rugby in the region and is a step in the right direction to a greater understanding on how coaches, managers, and administrators can deliver rugby.

This was backed up by the following statistics – 60 percent of coaches and managers saw an improvement in sideline and player behaviour from 2017-2018 (Age Grade Survey), 80 percent of referees reported  an improvement in player and sideline behaviour (2018 Referee Report) and there was a 38 percent decrease in yellow and red cards issued due to improved player behaviour (2018 Card Tracker).

A key focus was to inform parents, coaches, teachers and volunteers through the clubs and schools that rugby are putting structures in place to ensure a quality sporting experience for a young person every time they play. Representative teams at early ages have often been associated with over-the-top adult behaviour and selection biases.

It is the belief of the TRU that there is a need for a culture change in rugby if we want to grow our game and make it a game for all in the Top of the South.

We should never forget that junior rugby is the children’s game, not ours.