Mark Cross
Mark Cross - Contemporary Realist Artwork




Statement in a FB discussion on art, May 2014 :

Through art schools and institutions, which only exist to perpetuate their own existence, Western art has been hijacked from the creative right brain by the rational left brain resulting in a kind of pseudo-science. So the only true art that is allowed into the hallowed halls of art now are non Western art (eg Aboriginal) and the occasional highly expressive outsider art. These, and the motivations behind them, are remnants of what Western art used to be so allowances are made for them without the institutions losing face. But hallowed halls are mere institutions and who would want to be institutionalised.


Short Aussie Road Trip, FB, February 2014

I don't shy away from Aussie bashing when Aussie bashing is due, but I must say that Ahi's and my recent road trip from Brisbane to the Gold Coast and then up to Hervey Bay revealed a certain politeness on the highways that we do not experience in New Zealand. Indeed even some bikies slowed down for us, although we realised after looking in the rear vision mirror, they were intimidated by a sprinkle of rain and needed to shelter under an over pass. Perhaps they were afraid their P stash would desolve who knows, they where certainly polite and courteous drivers. 

We had one day to catch up with the Dark Force but not connecting we went for a drive down to the Gold coast just so Ahi could see it. This was my first lesson in driving on an Australian Motorway with my long-time Navigator Ahi. Ok we left Fortitude Valley heading south. This is the most amazing thing my wife has every said to me: Mark remember, the road laws are different here and don't get pulled up because you don't know their language. I thought WTF of course I can speak their language. My English is better than their English. But I think Ahi was confused with the time I got caught speeding in Montenegro and they looked at my NZ passport and said "oh, my brother in Australia" and I said yes I know him and with a hug and a kiss we went on our merry way toward Kosovo.

Now let me Aussie bash!. Where was the wild life that the brochures told me about. I paid big rental car and travel insurance to bowl at least one kangaroo. We didn't even squash an echidna damn it. I was keen on an echidna egg for breakfast and couldn't even find a pond where I could get a platapus egg. Ahi said there's a dead kangaroo and I said where! where! but we were going 110km so with safety in mind I didn't do a u-turn on the Bruce highway.

Which reminds me, who was Bruce? Sounds like a cricketer, and even more mysteriously, who was Roy? Who was this famous person called Roy who had a road named after him? Roys Road. We saw it on the way up and argued that he must have been famous then argued again coming back with Ahi saying they left the apostrophe out and it should have been spelt Roy's Road. I said well maybe Aussie's don't know about apostrophes remember it was you who said they spoke a different language.

No reason to Aussie Bash at all, we loved that unfortunately truncated trip meeting great people except for the allusive and mysterious Black Cromancer. As we told James and Wendy of DA'Burger, our colleagues Suzanne and Stephen in Scarborough and our soon-to-return Mozzie friends 
Chris and Steve and family in Hervey Bay, we will return with a 30 foot self contained air conditioned caravan towed by a 5 litre toyota double cab ute with our own surgeon in the back. Grey nomads from hell.

 Mentioned on Facebook, 11.30, Feb 2, 2014.

Nothing wrong with being a slow developer. Your gift to the world is more well thought out due to your patience in not growing up too quickly.

 East/West Polynesian Air Links


Discussion Paper  


Cultural Links

Post colonial Polynesia has never been unified because it has been subject to the strategic military and commercial aspirations of its various colonisers. The Americans in Hawaii and Tutuila, the French in French Polynesia, Wallis and Futuna and the Post- British New Zealanders in Tonga, Samoa and what is now known as the New Zealand Realm, The Cook Islands, Tokelau and Niue. Not forgetting Rapa Nui, Pitcairn, Tuvalu and all the Polynesian outliers in Melanesia.

Separate to this discussion but important to it, is the feeling that a unified Polynesian voice including the irreparably colonised  Hawaii and Tutuila, Aotearoa (NZ) and Rapa Nui cultures, and the many French Polynesian sub-cultures, needs to be developed. Extreme geographical distances have been an obstacle to this but air-travel and the internet are reducing these distances.

 Internet technology and social networking are starting to break down the European language barriers so that through the multitude of Polynesian dialects some commonality and interaction between the Polynesian cultures, at least on a social level, is starting to emerge.

Polynesians themselves have already taken the initiative with well organised ocean going vaka (canoe) projects born out of Hawaii, Tahiti, Aotearoa  and the Cook Islands.

The ethnocentric French, American and New Zealanders still profoundly control and divide Polynesia basing their innate bureaucratic ideas on 19th century demarcation and 20th century military proclivities but all the while, through cultural realisation and modern technology, the Polynesian family is becoming closer through arts festivals, sport, the internet and other cultural exchanges.

Although profoundly important to Polynesian pride and unity, the various vaka projects can never effectively unite the most geographically disparate race in the world. 21st century proclivities of commerce, sport and cultural interaction demand more rapid travel. Although Hawaii is connected by  air to Samoa and Aotearoa and Tahiti to Rapa Nui and the Cook Islands, Eastern and Western Polynesia, except for the occasional charter flight, have not been connected for many years by aviation.

In the scheme of the 21st century,  Niue will never be strategically positioned in Eurocentric socio-military aspirations because it doesn’t possess a viable harbour for military or cruise ships.  But if we look at the map we notice that Niue is geographically positioned to be the only sensible stop-over link for small to medium aircraft flying between Eastern and Western Polynesia. Indeed, Niue is currently used as a refuelling depot for intermittent military, charter and private flights because of its location and its reliable supply of aviation fuel.

Commercial Cooperation

Besides the cultural connectivity, air-linking Eastern and Western Polynesia will have a powerfully positive affect on true commerce and self sufficiency within the region. It will make the Pacific more efficient for commerce and for NGO and inter-governmental dialogue. While there is no air-link between Eastern and Western Polynesia, this inefficiency equates to long flights and a night or two unproductively spent in Auckland a situation that bona fide business people, if not government and NGO officials,  find untenable.

Because there are no air-links between the East and West, air freight is logistically complicated and economically prohibitive thus preventing any serious inter-island business cooperation and regional trade, particularly between Tonga, Samoa, Niue and The Cook Islands.

The Pacific Island Private Sector Organisation (PIPSO)  (a  sub-organisation of the Pacific Island Forum Secretariat  [PIFS]), should be a leading force in developing this air-linking of East and West because they profess to promote more efficient commerce and regional business cooperation.  

In referring to investment opportunities in the region The Secretary General of the PIFS, Tuiloma Neroni Slade  recently said  “Spread across 14 island countries, six time zones and three sub-regions, investors are spoilt for choice.”  The countries of one of these sub-regions (3 time zones) The Cook Islands, Niue, Samoa and Tonga are not linked directly by air, making it impossible to do business between these countries and therefore, these countries to varying degrees are not spoilt for choice at all, but are very choice deprived.

Of course a major stumbling block to an air-link between Eastern and Western Polynesia is an economic one. At least initially any East-West commercial airline scheduled flights would need to be under-written.

 There is a current aspiration of the New Zealand and Niue governments to have a second Air NZ flight between Niue and Auckland (Airbus A320s). This concept has merit in that it would certainly bring more New Zealand and Australian tourists to Niue, not to mention a more reliable air-freight service, but it will not address inter-Polynesian cultural and sporting interaction nor efficient regional business collaboration. It will not address the desires of the massive Northern Hemisphere tourism market that want to Island hop from Tahiti to Fiji through all the countries in between without necessarily going to New Zealand.

Perhaps this second mid-week flight envisaged, could include a further link East to Rarotonga, thus solving half the problem.

Where the tourism industries of Tonga, Samoa, Niue and the Cook Islands are concerned, there is great difficulty surviving on seasonal short haul business from New Zealand alone. There needs to be  some diversity in source market in order to service the investment and pay the wages year round. The vast Northern Hemisphere market can help address this shortfall but travel restrictions that the lack of East/West air links present, prevent Polynesia from taking full advantage of those markets.

In regards to tourism in the region the PIFS Secretary General goes on to say:

“Indeed, tourism is one of the key economic sectors with which the Pacific Islands have a comparative advantage, allowing some of them to compete on an international stage.”

“The thriving tourism sector provides numerous other investment opportunities in the transport, hotel, food supply chain, specialty restaurants, and other such activities that support tourism sector development in the Pacific.”

"Some of them" is the operative clause and this may be true of Fiji, with international air-links from a variety of countries North and South, but as long as Eastern and Western Polynesia are not air-linked these statements can only be half baked because where the Polynesian PIFS countries are concerned, there is limited access to the Northern Hemisphere market due to the restrictions imposed by the lack of East-West air-links.

The Cook Islands maintains Northern Hemisphere access through the New Zealand funded LAX-RAR underwrite at present, as being the practical way to retain this access to year round visitor flow.  At some point this might be swapped for more frequent flights between Rarotonga and Papeete with connections beyond. NZ seems to understand  this situation already so it should appreciate the benefits if  Niue were to adopt the same approach with connections to Rarotonga in the East, Samoa in the North and Tonga in the West as a means of joining the dots for clients on Circle Pacific and Round the World fares. All these countries are currently losing out to a more introspective, NZ/AUS focus.

New Zealand also has constitutional responsibility to its “Realm” and it makes no sense that these three countries who share the same currency are not connected by an air link. Admittedly, a landing strip in the Tokelaus is a long way off, but both Niue and Rarotonga have internationally approved airport infrastructures.

In recent correspondence between the NBRT and the NZ Ministry of Foriegn Affairs and Trade, Mfat says:

"New Zealand supports the growth of tourism in Niue in consultation with the Government of Niue. New Zealand is also very supportive of the [East-West] links you have suggested, and has previously referred proposals for such links to the Government of Niue. However, this has been, and will continue to be a Niue-led initiative.........[sic] ultimately it is the decision of the Government of Niue on how this goal will be achieved."

This is in line with New Zealand's current underwriting of the LAX-RAR route in Rarotonga's attempts to bring Northern Hemisphere tourism South. It also suggests that the overriding stumbling block to air-linking Eastern and Western Polynesia lies with the Niue Government, that is to say that Niue is the single force in preventing economic growth, sports events and cultural exchange in the immediate region. The NBRT cannot fathom the reasons for this but it is in line with the denial of attempts to establish a scheduled flight from Rarotonga to Niue by Air Rarotonga in 2001 by the then government who wished to develop their own airline (which was a dramatic failure).

While being more Melanesia focused, Australia’s  economy is more robust than is New Zealand’s. Although they probably won’t realise the problem exists, as a member of the PIFS,  Australia may be interested in applying logic through aid packages,  in the under-writing of an East/West air-link and might gain some kind of regional geopolitical mileage in helping, by taking up the slack that cash-strapped New Zealand finds itself in during current tough times.

Through the seventies and intermittently until the early 90's, Eastern and Western Polynesian was air-linked with a variety of Polynesian Airline flights out of Samoa. On-the-ground businesses during this time thrived in the countries involved but the cost of running those well-meaning services eventually saw the demise of Polynesian Airlines. In a more challenging world dictated by the cost of fossil fuels, governmental underwrites and the willingness of the countries involved to devote much of their tourism promotional budgets to these air links are the only solutions.

Air Rarotonga currently operate between Rarotonga and Papeete in a JV sharing with Air Tahiti. In conversation with them they say it is taking a of a lot of work to develop enough traffic on this route. Local regional traffic does not sustain the flight so they  must build the visitor traffic. They go on to say that the short haul market ex NZ and to an extent Australia is 'fly and flop' to a Pacific destination for 5-7 days and it has proven difficult to get them to go even to Aitutaki let alone to another Pacific country. That leaves long haul. They believe the solution there is that the regional sector must form part of a continuous itinerary as a code-share with the originating carrier. If achieved, the downside of that traffic is the pro-rate on the regional sector which will be very low and it is sharply seasonal. This traffic does not like to backtrack other than for a short inter-island sector such as the Cooks have Rarotonga - Aitutaki. 

Aircraft Types

The NBRT are not experts on the types of aircraft that would be most efficient and suitable for these routes, but by all accounts it seems  small to medium jets would be the most viable, but of course, only if loadings are substantial. Both Air Pacific and Air NZ possess such aircraft but as already mentioned, considerable under-writes and promotional support from the relevant tourism authorities would be necessary.  Air Tahiti and Air Pacific also have larger turbo propeller ATR Aircraft that could conceivable do these routes. Other airlines in the region, Air Rarotonga, Air Tahiti Nui and Chathams Pacific operate a variety of smaller turbo propeller planes between them, but it is thought that tourists may be disinterested in using these over the distances involved, particularly between The Cooks and Niue/Samoa.

 Distances in Question

 Raro-Niue 1040 km, 644 miles
Tongatapu  - Niue 598 km, 370 m  (Vavau - Niue about 260m)
Niue- Samoa 613km, 381m
Raro - Samoa 1476, 917m

Fleets (medium distant) of  regional airlines: 

Air Rarotonga:
Saab 340  (34 seats)
Embraer EMB11OP1 "Bandeirante"  (15 seats)
ATR 72-500 (69 seats, Owned by Air Tahiti and code shared Papeete-Rarotonga)

 Chathams Pacific (Tonga)
Convair CV580 (50 seats)
Metro Liner (18 seats)

 Inter Island Airways (Pagopago)
Dornier 228-212 (19 Seats)
Dornier 328-110 (30 Seats)

 Air NZ
Airbus A320s

Virgin Pacific, Air Tahiti Niu and Air Pacific should also be mentioned



 So the obstacles to developing East-West air-links are: 

·    The large economic barriers

·    The lack of interest and/or political will from the relevant Governments, particularly Niue

The Solutions are:

·    To convince the relevant governments of the economic and social benefits of such links

·     To  obtain the underwrites necessary for the air-links to be viable - at least initially

·    To direct a portion of the tourism promotional budgets of the participating countries to promoting these links

·   To waiver landing fees in order to make the air-links more viable - at least initially

 We hope this document is a catalyst to further discussion on the subject.

 We also hope that it encourages the individual governments, NGOs and tourism authorities involved, to have the vision to see the wider picture and the longer term benefits of cultural and sporting exchange, business collaboration and tourism right across Polynesia and not just within the sphere of their personal short-term interests.

  Niue Business Round Table, August 2012


Poem and Photo by Ariane Wolteche:

Les silences vagabondent et se déploient, semant des perles de rien ici ou là, laissant le temps entrelacer les vides qui l'habitent, tentant de s’éparpiller dans l’absence de mots qui ne se prononcent pas, qui taisent ce qui ne peut se comprendre, ce qui ondoie dans un flots de sentiments dont les images se perdent en brumes opaques ayant avalé les sons inutiles, laissant trainer derrière eux quelques notes de musique, graves, éparses, impossibles et pourtant si belles tout à la fois, avec la douceur éternelle des battements du cœur… du silence pour parfaire le temps entre deux notes… parce que les mots appartiennent aux autres.

Silences wander and unfold, sowing pearls of nothing here or there, leaving time to interlace the posessed emptyness, trying to spread itself in the absence of unspoken words, leaving unsaid what cannot be understood, which undulates in a flood of feelings whose images are lost in the opaque mists having swallowed useless sounds, leaving a few notes of music to languish, grave, sparse, impossible and yet so beautifull altogether, with the eternal softness of heartbeats… silence to perfect time in between two notes… because words belong to others.

(Photo AWD 10-02-2011 Turbulences d’un silence annoncé...)


By  David Lansing

Saturday, December 6, 2008 in Mark Cross, Niue, South Pacific

See this painting? It’s been driving me crazy. It hangs on a wall of the dining room of the Matavai resort and every morning while I’m drinking my coffee and eating my plate of fresh papaya and pineapple, the woman in this painting accusingly stares at me. I feel like screaming at her, “What the hell do you want? Why won’t you leave me alone?” Even though I’m sure that she wouldn’t answer me even if she were standing before me in the flesh. She seems like the type that likes to suffer in silence.


Mark Cross' oil painting Refuge

You can’t really tell just by looking at this little photo, but the painting is actually quite large—about 6 feet wide and 4 1/2 feet tall. And the detail work is amazing. Sometimes I get my nose just a few inches away from the canvas and admire how each little grain of sand was carefully painted, each square inch of rock meticulously detailed. It must have taken at least a year to paint this.

The artist is named Mark Cross and he lives here on the island. I asked Hemi, the manager at the Matavai, about him and he loaned me this book Mark published a few years ago which is partially about his art and partially about his philosophy on life which, if I had to sum it up in one line would be, “Art is a way to learn how to live.” Which is a Henry Miller quote.

This painting that has been unnerving me for days is called Refuge and, according to what Mark says in his book, he painted it after coming upon “this enchanting glade of sand and salt-weed situated amidst the most hostile environment I had ever seen. This landscape became the perfect stage for my idea that compares the glade with the mother’s womb where the outside world is often hostile and impenetrable and we are safe and ignorant in the oasis of the womb.”

Which might seem a little paranoid until you discover, as I did from the book, that Mark’s eldest daughter, Mishca, died from cancer a few years earlier. And after I learned that, the painting made more sense to me. And I stopped seeing the pregnant woman as angry. Now I just think she’s sad. Because she knows what’s going to happen once she gives birth to her baby.

I asked Hemi if Mark is on the island right now and he said, yes, he has a small art gallery in Alofi where I might find him. So later this morning I’m going to go into Alofi and look him up. And ask him some questions about this painting. Like, is the pregnant woman your wife? And maybe if I’m lucky he’ll tell me about Mishca. But then again, maybe he won’t. And that’s fine too.

The below article is written by renowned botanist W R  Sykes of Lincoln University New Zealand. Among many other botanical books and articles on the Pacific Islands and New Zealand, Bill Sykes authored 'Contributuions to the Flora of Niue'  published in 1970.

Forests of Niue


Niue is an isolated raised coral or makasea island situated between latitudes 18 and 19 degrees south and at longitude 170 degrees west. It is thus at the eastern end of tropical West Polynesia along with Samoa to the north. Islands of this type are very scattered through the tropical South Pacific, most being in East Polynesia (ie. Cook Islands, French Polynesia and with one in the Pitcairn Group. There are no islands really comparable to Niue in Samoa or Tonga.

 Structure of the Niuean forests

 These notes only concern the natural rainforest of Niue and thus they exclude the lower more open coastal forest on the Lower Terrace and the more or less modified scrub forest inland that has introduced as well as indigenous trees. The typical rainforest of Niue is tall and dense with the principal trees to around 30 or more metres high. This forest mainly occurs in the eastern half of the island, especially in Hakupu District towards the south. The trees in the rainforest are evergreen and include some with prominent buttresses or with aerial roots that hang from the trunk and assist in anchoring the tree. Such features are very common in forest trees further west through Melanesia and Micronesia and culminate in the rich and very diverse forests in New Guinea and surrounding areas. Thus these forests are very much richer in species than the rainforest on Niue although this has an assemblage of species not found elsewhere. On the other hand, in East Polynesia the rain forests are lower and less dense than on Niue whilst their principal tree species are fewer and mainly different to those on Niue. Thus the main species in the Niuean rainforest are absent from East Polynesia.

 Components of the Niuean Rainforest

 In most of the Niuean rainforest the main trees are kafika, kolivao, tuale, kanumea, tamanu and kieto, the first three being in the great myrtle or eucalyptus family (ie. Myrtaceae). Despite the opinions of some people all these species do grow elsewhere in West Polynesia and Melanesia but there they are rarely dominant in the forests and usually do not grow together in the same habitat. Thus the uniqueness of the Niuean rainforest is because of the way these trees grow together, as well as their abundance, composition and indeed in the general appearance of the forest, because such a combination does not occur elsewhere. It should also be noted that the few raised atolls to the west have a mainly very modified vegetation cover because of human disturbance whilst as noted above the raised atolls to the east have a very different flora anyway. The coastal forest on Niue does not have such unique features.

Apart from the trees the rainforest contains an important part of the natural biodiversity of species on Niue. This is shown by its understorey plants, especially the ferns, some of which seem to be quite rare. In this connection it should be noted that the climate below the tree canopy is moister than elsewhere on the island, this undoubtedly being an important factor in the distribution of these species.

Invasive introduced plants

An important feature of the rainforest is that apart from the margins there are almost no introduced plants in forest that has had little or no human disturbance. This is in great contrast to the situation in the modified forest stands in other parts of the island. Worst of all from the point of view of invasive plants is the presence of strangling and smothering lianes or climbers on some of the forest margins. This situation was almost certainly exacerbated as a result of Cyclone Heta because the destruction of vegetation, especially in the western parts of Niue, was very marked and thus these invasive lianes could extend their stranglehold. The dense canopy of undisturbed rainforest undoubtedly protects the forest against such unwanted invaders. Incidentally this situation in respect to weeds generally applies to rainforests elsewhere because invasive weeds are usually light-demanding at some or all stages of their life cycle.


 Even to the casual observer on Niue the size of the trees is impressive, particularly when one realises that they are growing on very thin and rocky coral-derived soils. There is no doubt that the Niuean rainforest forms a very important part of the heritage of the island and its people. On Niue many cultural traditions of its people are linked to the forests in one way or another. They range from the direct use of the timber of particular species for making canoes etc. to providing the home for the peka or flying fox and even the unga or coconut crab. In summary, the rainforest of Niue has evolved there over many millennia and hopefully will continue to play its important role in the future for without this feature the island would be greatly impoverished.

 W. R. Sykes

November, 2006



Comment by Koren Cross

If I can be serious for a minute ....


I don't know much about logging or ... well, much else, but the way I see it the forest in Niue doesn't regenerate fast enough for logging to be viable, surely?  Are they only doing it this once or will they be back (in how ever many years it takes) to strip our land again?  Why is the government even considering this?  Have they done their research?  Where's the environmental impact assessment?  Have they employed unbiased consultants to carry out research and provide reports on this like they do for everything else?  And if so, who are those consultants and where are those reports?  Shouldn’t there be public discussion on practices that involve raping the land and giving landowners empty promises about big money and reforestation?  Don't they know this doesn’t only affect the landowners but the country as a whole?  And why do the Malaysians want to log our little forest when they are already one of the world’s largest timber exporters and the largest exporter of tropical hardwoods?  I'll hazard a guess and say that it's because of their unsustainable rates of deforestation.  They've raped their land and now they're coming to rape ours, and why not?  They know after-all that our decision-makers are fools who will take money any way they can get it without a thought for the people.  The loggers are taking advantage of the decision-makers in Niue just as they know the decision-makers will take advantage of the Niue people. 

 If the government hates being so dependant on foreign aid then why aren’t they doing something that will really bring growth and sustainability to Niue instead of just using the sticky plaster-that-is-easy-money as a quick fix for financial problems which could be at least helped if efforts were placed elsewhere?  And how is the small amount of money received from greedy foreign capitalists for the destruction of the natural environment better than the large amount of foreign aid received, no destruction necessary, from people who are trying to help?  Just because the money is made by Niue doesn’t mean it’s good and right.  And why do they say 'we must start establishing some money-making ventures'?  If they're just starting then what is it exactly they've been doing all this time, besides spending foreign aid on airfares and per diems to go to fruitless conferences?  And why don't they start by supporting the private sector in its money making ventures?  Foreign aid is only as helpful as the decisions made to implement it. 

 Obviously most of these questions are rhetorical and some, perhaps, not very well-informed (is anybody well-informed when it comes to this particular matter?) but the government as it is won't always be the government so they shouldn’t be the select few who get to make the decisions for the future of Niue.  Where are the people?  The little people who in twenty years will have to live with the consequences of the bad choices the present government makes?  Has anybody asked them what they think?  If everyone has to live with the consequences, shouldn’t everyone be allowed to have a say?  It annoys me that the decisions for our country are made by such narrow-minded and greedy individuals. 

 I hope the decision-makers realize that the loggers aren’t going to care what happens to Niue after they're done with it.  I hope the decision makers have also considered the environmental implications of this harebrained scheme.  And I hope the decision makers don’t go to church on Sunday and try to convince themselves that they’re good people just because they put foreign aid in the collection plate. 

 No sin goes unpunished.

 It’s all about the karma.

 be wierd whenever you can 021 2155 437 riverhead : new zealand liku : niue

Logging Plans For Niue



Logging Plans for Niue


For several decades Asian logging companies, mainly based in Malaysia, but also Taiwan and South Korea have been plundering first the forests of South East Asia and more recently the Pacific Islands and in particular The Solomon Islands. They are able to do this by often bribing government officials to sign leases on land that don’t belong to the them and telling the governments they will practice sustainable logging, that is, selective logging followed by a replanting program. They also promise to build hospitals, sawmills and furniture factories but renege on all such promises by clear–felling the forest and quickly shipping the raw logs away. This deprives the country of the huge profits gained from processing their resources themselves. It also leaves the naked land prone to erosion and reefs to silting and degradation and reduces the rainfall that the forest attracts. This in turn prevents the forest from growing back for several centuries if at all. In Niue’s case it becomes fernland as seen by the results of previous deforestation mistakes. This is a blairing example of forest mismanagement that intelligent leader and Forestry department should learn by. When deforestation happens the fragile forest ecosystem is completely destroyed along with its biodiversity, that is its flora and fauna. Valuable indigenous bird species, the Pacific fruit bat, the pigeon and a variety of valuable animals such as the various land crabs become extinct.


The Niue government has recently signed a joint venture contract with the New Zealand based, Malaysian logging company Enrich Corporation Limited and they have formed a company called Niue Timber and Furniture Ltd. Enrich Corporation was listed as a New Zealand company until 2004 when it was struck off the New Zealand Company Office’s list.


The current plan is to bring 120 workers to Niue as well as 10 bulldozers at the end of June or during July this year. The view is to harvest 10,000 cubic metres of timber per month. Pre cyclone figures say there was approximately 120,000 cubic metres of millable timber on the island much of which is in the Huvalu forest a traditional tapu area as well as the core of the Huvalu Conservation area.


There are current moves in government to change emigration law to enable foreign workers to obtain temporary work visas to enable such projects to be carried out. The agreement between the two entities says that as far as possible and reasonably practicable the new company will employ Niueans. This means that it may employ Niueans but not necessarily. Indeed the agreement between the Niue Government and the (struck off) Enrich Corporation is full of words such as “as far as possible”, “as far as reasonably practical” and “to their best ability” to do this or that. This means they don’t have to do it at all and therefore they are provided with the ideal loopholes to renege on nearly all of their obligations. A disturbing example of this are the words saying the joint venture shall “…….as far as possible comply with the Niue logging code, selective and sustainable harvest, rehabilitation and restoration of the Niue forestry and environment, and preservation of conservation areas.” This means that the new company does not necessarily have to do any of these things and therefore opens up the forests of Niue to clear-felling. After all, they tried to do these things but it was not possible, reasonably practicable or beyond their ability.


Niue has a “Code of  Harvesting Practice for the Indigenous Forests of Niue” which says “The provisions of the code of practice are intended to be legally binding on all parties involved in licensed harvesting operations and all legal non-licensed harvesting operations. Contractors shall be held responsible for compliance with the provisions of the code and shall be responsible for meeting penalties which may be imposed as a result of any breaches” There seems to be no legislation to make this binding.


The Niue Government owns no forested land and to date, few if any land owners have been informed of the plans which is leading to speculation that the Niue Government will over-ride the rights of land owners and to proceed to log the forests at will. Disturbingly the Government has undertaken to “take appropriate measures to facilitated access and entry by the company into forestry areas”. Indeed this has happened in a number of well documented cases in South East Asia and the Solomon Islands where loggers have arrived at a forest location only to come up against the land owners who realise they are getting a bad deal. This in turn has lead to violet clashes between land owners and police. 


In the case of Niue, there may be willing land owners who are prepared to sell their grandchildrens’ inheritance  by excepting what looks like a lot of money but in fact will be gone within a few months having been spent on food and other consumables – or migration. It is also a common practice of these logging companies to continue to log beyond the boundaries of their leases and in Niue’s case this would be an easy strategy. There seems to be no provision to monitor and hence avoid this.


Besides the trees, the new company has allowed itself to take other products from the Niue forest. It is unsure what this might be but Coconut Crab and Pigeon spring to mind.


Apparently a trust fund will be set up in New Zealand initially with $100,000 as an environmental guarantee followed by a levy of $1 per cubic metre of harvested timber, but with a maximum cap on it of  $500,000. With a maximum of 120,000 cubic metres of millable timber on Niue this amount can never be met. Again similar provisions in other countries just have not been adhered to because the companies have slipped away in the night so to speak. Even if the $500,000 was in the bank no amount of money would be able to replace the forest of Niue and its biodiversity. Many countries through history have learnt this lesson to their detriment and the Niue Government through desperation seem reluctant to learn from the experience of others.


Over recent years the Niue Government with the help of a number of non-governmental organisations and foreign governments has instigated three projects requiring the establishment and development of new departments. The first, who has been in existence for nearly 20 years, is the Niue Tourism Department followed in the late nineties by the Environmental Department and then in October 2004 launched by the Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark with great fanfare was the Taoga Niue – a repository for Niue’s heritage. All three of these departments have important stakes in the sustainability of the environment of Niue. The Environment Department for obvious reasons, The Tourism Department because Eco-tourism is a well established focus of marketing for them and Taoga Niue because it is understood that Niue’s biodiversity is the central core of what makes Niueans who they are. Its forests, reefs and sea are central to their Being. None of these departments have been consulted with while the logging negotiations have been going on for the last few years. If the motives of the Enrich Corporation Ltd and the Niue Government were totally legitimate, surely these three departments should have been central to any and all negotiations. The simple fact is, and this is why there has been no consultation, that the Niue Timber and Furniture Joint Venture is the antithesis and is counter to the well-supported and positive objectives of these three departments. It is opposite to the objectives of these three departments and in a very negative way.


Finally, when such positive institutions such as Taoga Niue are opened, great eloquent speeches are made lauding the possibilities that Niue’s heritage may be retained and environment sustained. And the endless requests for tourism money suggests that the Niue Government embraces this focus on Eco-tourism. But now these three departments and all those who cherish the Niue environment, its people and their future, have been left out of the equation and all see now that saving this beautiful country was never ever on the agenda of this Government.


Mark Cross

Liku, Niue

May 06


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 South Pacific Regional Evironmental Program







  Letter from Letterdude in Canada

Hi Mark,   I've just been swamped since my return to work!  Being the 'go-to' guy has its' down side.]  

We all must deliver...........Hey put that on your postie teeshirt!  

After reading your last email, I'm left with the impression that there has been a great deal of thoughtful consideration given to Niue's objectives, as well as to the means in which financing might be found in order to achieve them.   

It seems so easy. All we need is about 4 million that will kick off the Air Raro link and build enough beds to  make the trip viable.  Air NZ and Polynesian would be bolstered by this. Common sense. Tourism Niue would not be pulled into the equation nor NZ aid because both would give us a bad name.

You must realize that, as long as there is no 'at source' taxation system put into place, and that the collection of taxes is - largely - left unenforced, Niue will never be self-sufficient.  As distasteful as the issue might be, a modern society has a financial pricetag.  But, I suspect I'm not telling you anything that you don't already know.  

This is what I am pushing for. Trouble is when the country is on the dole how can you expect anyone to pay tax. We need to break this chicken and egg cunumdrum as well as a few others. I went proselytizing my thoughts of getting this show on the road through taxes at the public bar where most of the business people drink. When I wasn't laughed at I was threatened. I simply don't want to try to change things under these conditions. The wild west will prevail. We remain on the dole but a few of us thinkers will make Niue important.

 The issue of emigration...particularly the example of avoiding the 'haircutting' ceremony...needs to be meaningfully addressed.  I'd be interested in learning more of this phenomena.  

Its a traditional way of Niuean's shurking their responsibilities (like the tax issue). Through colonial mismanagement (which is ongoing through dependence) and the consequential self government, a culture of demanding that having one's cake and eating it too has taken hold. We all think that the world owes us a living and this complex method of traditional wealth distribution isn't exempt from this attitude. If you read Diamond's chapter on how all Polynesian cultures are influenced by their geography, Niue falls into the atoll catagory but not quite as it has its own idiosyncracies. They were hunter-gatherers with the odd taro plot that was often plundered by stronger family groups and so the system of chiefdoms and therefore the concept of tribute to a central power never arose. Niue is staunchly egalitarian which is good and bad. Societal harmony was created through this reciprocal exchange mechanism and central to this was the ultimate celebration of the young warrior's coming of age. In pre European days this was celebrated by the cutting off of the foreskin (Pilitome)a practice that the missionaries were able to change to cutting of the hair grown since birth(Hifiulu). Because of the western method of merchantilism these celebrations have gotten out of hand, because traditionally it was based on how many taros you could grow which proved the measure of your wealth (and metaphorically, your potency).Now people get loans to pay for their so called traditional commitments. As I say, a spiral that pulls the whole culture into an autocatalystic debt. Niueans are NZ citizens, have NZ passports and when the going gets hard  they wimp out by simply going to NZ or Aus where they can obtain their anomnity that a small Island can't  offer them.

 A matter that was discussed with me, while in the Cook Islands, is of some significance.  In a funny way, it's a holdover from the old 'hunter/gatherer' tradition.  Several business people (of North American origin) complained that much of their help - domestic & skilled trade - were in the habit of working only long enough so as to acquire a particular thing.  A new scooter or sound system.  Then, they'd stop showing up for work.

   YES, yes. I did a painting years ago when I realised that I could actually do a beautiful image AND  inject it with a social message. I called this painting 'Means to an end' and it was of a beautiful young girl who used to hang around our house in the 70's, pollinating passionfruit with a paint brush. So by doing this tedious task she was enabling the passionfruit flower to bear fruit, thus a means to an end. But I also knew that by her hard work in doing this that the money raised from the sale of the fruit would be enough to send her father to NZ to work in a factory which in turn would create enough income to bring the rest of the family down to NZ. As I say, at another level this image spoke volumes about what you are talking about. A short term project to get a ticket out. Indeed if it wasn't for this phenomonen I would have never met my wife. Her uncle grew Kumara (sweet potato) for export and made enough money to get him to Auckland and the factories. Which in turn raised the money to bring Ahi to NZ. I broke this terrible cycle by falling in love with her and dragging her back to Niue ('78) after her only being there for 4 years. Our life has been such an adventure because of this reversal. I might add that that the soil of that kumara land was destroyed buy the disk plow, an idea proferred by naive NZ 'experts', but now I am symbolically reserecting this unfurtile land by planting scultures on it. Art never takes away from the environment but only enhances it.  

The European/Asian work ethic is not a tradition of the people in Oceania.  For any enterprise to succeed, however, they must adopt it.  I don't know, Mark.  'Island time' is an endearing element of the South Seas.  Except, if you're trying to get something done!  Your thoughts?

  I think that is a falacy as it relates to Niue. There are no lazy people sipping coconuts in the shade here. Most people 'work' in offices and knock off at 4pm and then go to the bush to tend their plantations till after dark. There aren't too many boozers like me in bars during the week. There is very little strata in Niue society. Everyone goes to the bush, both for traditonal and pragmatic reasons. It cuts down on the food bill which frees up money to pay for your SUV, home renovations or ticket out. Niueans are ultimately diligent workers not in the Euroean sense but working slow with long stamina. If I can use an analogy here; marathon runners as opposed to the 100 meter sprint. Diamond again proves true. Once Niueans are unleashed on the wider world there are no barriers to what they can do. There are several examples of this  high level success which I'll talk about another time. But suffice to say that this hard professional work ethic has taken its toll on the homeland in the form of the Brain Drain.  


 Finally, while it seems that so much thought has already gone into bringing some financial prosperity to Niue, how much has moved beyond discussion?  Where are you folks at, currently?  

My 'Observer Status' at the aid talks on Monday opened my eyes to the method of operations of the Niue government which simply equates to begging. But the 'Wellington' bureaucrats never offered any antidote to this terrible disease. They just sat there saying yes you can have that money or no you can't. I was there as an observer for the Niue private sector. The NZ high commission who was chairing questioned why I was there and tried to have me removed. I didn't open my mouth, but our Minister calmly told this niaive young bureaucrat that I was representing the future of Niue and that I was there because I have sacrificed my life for this country and who the F*@k are you to say that Mark can't sit in. Well not quite like that but thats what I would have said. But I digress. The Brain Drain has really buggered us and so we are so dependent on Budgetary aid. If I had 4 mill I could change everything using tourism. I'd let the  tourism office to continue to bludge but wouldn't have a part of it because they only exist for the self - perpetuation - very dishonest all round. Taxation is a neccessity but no one pays it. The 5 businesses that do put in a tax return are Palangi's (Europeans) and they see that as a neccessity for their continued existence on Niue.

There is a small but dynamic attitude though brought about by a few young Niuean 'returnees'. One of them Willy says to me, 'Why do you waste your energy on those people, you and I are going to change this country without them' meaning that I'm trying to make this thing work from a palangi perspective Chamber of Commerce and Aid talks etc. To Willy, Niue is the wild west and if the building inspector comes around he simple says 'Who the F are you? This is my land I'll do what I like with it' Its harder for me to do this because I am a palangi but hell I think Willie's anarchist philosophy  is the best thing going for us! and I will revert under his leadership eventually. He is outside everything and is the most successful businessman on Niue.  

As I write, Ahi has just come back from town and met up with Willy. He's worried about me. He says 'we are the future of Niue because we are a product by virtue of our passion, creativity and independence of all rules' I love the guy and so anarchy rules over this damn official buffoonary. Yay, the Wild West. Thanks for inciting me to putting things into perspective sending me towards this capitulation to how Niue once was - the raw survival. Yes we ARE unique so why should we follow other societal models? A good idea would be to increased the membership of parliment from 20 to about 600. That would insure no one leaves because they'll all have a job. When politicians don't get back in they just simply leave. Where is the commitment to their heretage let alone the future???? Dumb.  

Just an unrelated annecdote: One ex principle of the Niue high school is now a shelf packer in a West Auckland super market. He tried to mustle my kids out of Niue high school because they were more intelligent than him. Now they go shopping and simply say 'Hi Pepa'  with a terribly successful smirk on their faces. Pay back time which must come from their Niuean side - us English are above this you know! But the point is that nepotism might work on Niue but never in the raw hard real world

When you have the dregs left over from the brain drain running a country and a bunch of sad bureaucrats who wouldn't be bureaucrats if they had an ounce of imagination. You haven't got much to work with. A famous NZ nuclear physicist Lord Rutherford said in the 1920's 'Well  we haven't got any money so we'll have to use our brains'

Another Niuean mentor of mine is the musician Tingi Ness. He wrote this song about humanity whose main line was 'We're doing it again and again and again' meaning we haven't learnt. NZ Aid hasn't learnt, Niue self governance hasn't worked. Tourism Niue is hell bent on not making it work because they might find themselves out of a job one day. They are all just doing it the same way over and over again. No imagination or innovation. and again and again and again and again et infinitum


 The von Holtzbrink  Coexistence Award

Riverhead, Feb 21, 06

Back in November 05 the artist Richie Boyd-Dunlop drew my attention to this award and exhibition and it seemed to me to fit nicely into what I had been doing for the last twenty years, ie to comment on the fiobles of humanity. I saw that the required medium was open and that digital graphic work was acceptable and so I went through my painting archives to find a work that could be manipulated so as to fit the Coexistence theme.


In front of the winning entry

The painting Terra Sarcoma wasn't my first choice but I had a very high quality digital file of it so I proceeded to play around with this image on PhotoShop and then printed it out to the required A3 size on my large format printer. To take it a little further and to add a hand rendered quality to it I spent a good day highlighting the print with oil paint on the canvas.

I entered the work in the competion with a day to spare and was pleasantly surprised to learn a few of weeks later that I was chosen with  6 others as a finalist.

I flew to Auckland a week before the Gala opening presentation and I was told to be available for TV interviews. Now by that time I hadn't been told I'd won the award and wondered why, when I went to the exhibition site I was surprised to see my entry enlarged and being erected. In meeting the Curator Raphie Etgar I told him that he should know that I didn't know that I'd won the award and he told me that he didn't know that I didn't know that I'd won it also, but I knew now and so the surprise was out of the bag.


With Geoff Budd, Auckland Mayor Dick Hubbard and Curator Raphie Etgar

 Now a few weeks prior to arriving in New Zealand I had scratched my legs while mowing lawns and gone swimming in reef pools many times and as a consequence of this and a lack of care I had some tropical infection in my right leg. Somehow, or maybe because of a touch of gout, my second toe on my right foot became infected and all that week preceeding the award ceremony I was on my feet running around in pursuit of my 15 seconds of  fame. Gradually the pain increased until the night of the award when I was in excruciating agony. A few asked why I was limping to which I replied, 'a shark attack' which sounded more glamorous than gout and tropical sores.


Receiving award

But it is suffice to say that the permanent smile that covered my face on the night of the award was a cleverly disguised grimace of pain. And indeed when I arrived home in agonising celebration and proceeded to investigate the source of the pain, I was amazed to find a rather nasty looking blister covering about a quarter of the top of my foot. But that is another story so watch this space.