Throwaway culture at odds with our No8 wire identity

As we head to the end of July I’ve been reflecting on my, admittedly not very successful, attempt to complete Plastic Free July. Aimed at reducing and ultimately eliminating single-use plastic for at least one month a year, this movement originated as an initiative of the Western Metropolitan Regional Council, Perth, in 2011. By 2013 they’d thrown the challenge open to the world.

Just to be clear this is not aimed at eliminating all plastic, it’s specifically about single-use plastic, such as their top four list – throw-away plastic bags, bottles, takeaway coffee cups and straws.

I used to think I was doing really well; over ten years ago I removed plastic wrap, tin foil and baking paper from our house and have been managing fine without this. Unfortunately I’m struggling with two of the top four above. I do have reusable coffee cups but don’t always remember to take them with me and I’m still far too prone to accepting plastic shopping bags. I guess just the fact that it’s caused me to stop and think, and reassess my own practices is something, but I’ll definitely strive to do better – and on a permanent basis.

It’s an interesting dilemma when you think of where we started, our ‘number-eight wire’ culture, of making do with what we had and finding ways to repair and reuse virtually everything. We currently have two works on display which reference this. No. 8 Wire, a work by Nigel Brown, conveys a sense of nostalgia for an identity built on practical ingenuity and the simple life working the land. We also have a work by local artist Ben Pearce, Stone Age Eight Gauge, which recently won the Fieldays No.8 Wire Award. This award celebrates the resourcefulness of New Zealanders, particularly the ability to make do with any available resources. Resembling ancient artifacts, such as spearheads and stone tools, Pearce’s work shows that the number 8 wire mentality was global – transcending time and place.

And yet now, we’ve become a plastic throw-away culture. In the early 20th century, when plastics were developed, they replaced other plant and animal products, such as the use of ivory and tortoiseshell. However come the 1960’s the use of plastics for durable items spread to disposable plastic packaging.

And it can be really frustrating, plastic is everywhere! As a busy person I tend to shop at supermarkets for time convenience (usually late evenings when markets aren’t open) but I object to finding cucumbers now completely wrapped in plastic, pumpkin quarters the same, and so on.

I’m really rather pleased therefore that one of the films in the NZ International Film Festival this year, Tomorrow, is focused on environmental issues. Not from a doom and gloom viewpoint but a more optimistic look at what we, as individuals and communities, can do. I’ll certainly be making time in my diary to see this film – showing on Thursday the 8th of September at 6pm. The film festival will be on at the Century Theatre from the 1st of September through to the 18th.

No. 8 Wire, Nigel Brown

No. 8 Wire, Nigel Brown


Laura Vodanovich – Director, MTG Hawke’s Bay

Published in Hawke’s Bay Today Saturday 23 July 2016


Regret at Your Departure

Precious items are often gifted into the museum collection by generous members of the public. One such recent donation is an ornate and beautiful illuminated address, found unceremoniously slotted between a desk and a shelf by a member of the Port Ahuriri Bowling Club while cleaning out their clubrooms. It was kindly gifted to the Hawke’s Bay Museums Trust after the Port Ahuriri Bowling Club closed. This illuminated address is both a decorative piece and an important historical manuscript connecting our community with the past.

Illuminated addresses were created to mark special occasions or celebrate a person’s achievements. They are formal greetings with beautiful handwriting and fine decoration.  The word ‘illuminated’ refers to the use of gold or silver and bright colours in the tradition of medieval manuscripts. Often the decoration was personalised with miniature pictures relating to the life and work of the person honoured. The presentation of an illuminated address was marked by a formal ceremony during which the text of the address was read aloud.

This particular illumination was in honour of Edward Crowley who, after 35 years, was leaving Napier to take up a new position in Tauranga. The address celebrated his many years of valuable service to the township of Napier as a Napier Borough Councillor. While on Council, he was closely associated with the development of the Municipal tramway system, which opened in 1913 with five trams, travelling from the depot in Faraday Street to the Port Ahuriri terminus. The line was damaged in the 1931 Hawke’s Bay earthquake and never restored.

At his farewell on 4 May 1914, with over 100 people in attendance, his former business partner (and opponent in a slander hearing) Mayor John Vigor Brown, handed Crowley a purse of £165 sovereigns with goodwill. Vigor Brown stated that an illuminated address was being drawn up and that, as it wasn’t completed, it would be forwarded to the Mayor of Tauranga to present to Crowley on behalf of the citizens of Napier. Crowley said that his nine years on the Napier Borough Council had been a “labour of love and he was leaving Napier with many regrets.” The illuminated address was finally presented to Crowley on 29 January 1915 at the Tauranga Bowling Club – a fitting place because of his keen interest in the game of bowls.

The address was designed, handwritten and painted by Henry Charles Adolphus Wundram, who was renowned in Hawke’s Bay as an illuminator. Wundram was also a Napier Borough Councillor and Inspector of Public Buildings. On the right hand side of the illumination he incorporated five images of Napier. Traditionally miniature paintings decorated the address, but Wundram instead used beautifully cut-out oval images from coloured postcards. On the left, he personalised the life and work of Edward Crowley by incorporating the Municipality of Napier crest and the Napier Bowling Club flag. The Mayor, Councillors and Presidents of four bowling clubs signed the address at the bottom and finished with the statement that they “wished Crowley the best of health, happiness and fortune for the future.”

Detail of Edward Crowley’s illuminated address

Detail of Edward Crowley’s illuminated address

Written by Gail Pope, Curator – Social History MTG Hawke’s Bay