An Expanded Tolkien Letters!

A truly lovely bit of news. A new Tolkien book, of sorts, is coming out in November, and not one that will be scraping the bottom of the barrel. Specifically, we’re getting an expanded version of J.R.R. Tolkien’s published letters, with some 150 reinserted:

The current edition of 1981 has some 354 letters, from 1914 to August 1973. This will take us up to a good 500 published letters. Which is excellent news, however you slice it – these documents (while generally edited) provided a fascinating snapshot of Tolkien the man, his (often idiosyncratic) writing process, his relationship with publishers, his academic, religious, and family life, and so on. I finished a re-read of the existing edition in February, and I found I got more out of it now that I’m a bit older – I can get a better feel for historical and personal context. Can I also just say that Stanley Unwin had the patience of a saint?

I’ve often joked that I would sell Gollum’s grandmother for an expanded Letters… and, well, here we are. But the funny thing – these additions merely represent those cut from the 1981 edition, due to publishing constraints. There are still other copious Tolkienian Letters that have only come to light in the past 40 years, and those ones will still be omitted from this upcoming volume. And the current edition as it stands suffers from a July 1925-January 1937 ‘black hole’ (between letter #8 and #9). So there is plenty of potential for yet further expansions, further down the line, as ever-more gets unearthed. Of course, at that point, the publisher would probably have to split the collection into multiple volumes.

King’s Birthday Grumpiness: ‘Dame’ Jacinda Ardern

Today is New Zealand’s first King’s Birthday since 1951. It’s not Charlie’s actual birthday, any more than Queen’s Birthday was Liz’s, but it’s a public holiday nonetheless. Until the creation of Matariki, the monarch’s observed birthday marked the start of a black hole in New Zealand’s holiday calendar, stretching until Labour Day in late October. And along with New Years, it’s one of the two big occasions for the Government to dole out Honours.

Hence, we suddenly have Dame Jacinda Ardern.

I have no fundamental objection to acknowledging Ardern’s service to the country, though it might have been more respectable to wait until after the next election – it’d look less overtly incestuous, in the sense that she’s literally receiving this from her own cabinet colleagues. Moreover, Ardern was elected to public service by the people of Mount Albert (and in a moral sense, by the people of New Zealand) in 2020. So far as anyone knew at the time, she was going to serve the three year term, not resign after two years and collect an Honour after two and a half. Again, giving her the Honour in January or June 2024 would have felt more appropriate. In my opinion anyway.

No, my real bugbear is that Ardern decided to take the (female) knighthood at all.

Knighthoods in New Zealand were abolished by the Helen Clark Government in 2000, only to be restored by John Key a decade later (primarily so he could get one himself). But even before then, multiple Prime Ministers were refusing the knighthood for themselves. David Lange, Jim Bolger, and Helen Clark all refused one. From Muldoon (1984) to Key (2017), only Geoffrey Palmer and Jenny Shipley, Prime Ministerial nonentities at the fag-end of their respective regimes, opted to accept. The reason was simple enough: New Zealand was moving away from its colonial past, towards a more independent future, and having our leaders tie themselves to the British awards system ran against that.

(More traditionally, there’s also the optics of Labour and Leftist Prime Ministers endorsing an Honours system rooted in social privilege. Walter Nash did accept a knighthood in 1965, but it took him two years to decide for this very reason. New Zealand’s longest serving Prime Minister, Richard Seddon (1893-1906), refused a knighthood on the basis that he wanted to be a man of the people. Seddon was as ardent an Imperialist as to ever serve New Zealand, but he was also, at heart, a West Coast publican. Seddon’s vision was of ‘God’s Own Country’, where the proverbial Jack was as good as his master).

In the case of Ardern, while she took no steps to further New Zealand republicanism during her time in office, she did see the transition as inevitable, and stated she personally supported it. Not undoing Key’s knighthood restoration is one thing – there were, after all, bigger fish to fry politically. But implicitly endorsing knighthoods via accepting one herself? That runs counter to her supposed beliefs, quite apart from the symbolic faux pas noted earlier. Throwing around the term ‘Aotearoa’ is all well and good (though to my South Island ear, it comes across as gratuitous), but not when you’re also running off with that most colonial of awarded titles. I would have expected better of Ardern, to be honest.

2023 More Reading: May

Completed reads for May:

  • Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea, by Jules Verne
  • Gulliver’s Travels, by Jonathan Swift
  • Journey to the Centre of the Earth, by Jules Verne
  • Round the World in Eighty Days, by Jules Verne
  • The Secret of the Island, by Jules Verne
  • From the Earth to the Moon, by Jules Verne
  • The Saga of Bosi and Herraud, by Anonymous

Bosi’s Saga is Hardman’s translation.

May was a combination of ‘reading month’ and ‘real world’ month, unfortunately. Still no update on Old Phuul’s status at this point, though I’ve been told to expect something over the next month. I also went back and re-read the Old Phuul manuscript. A bit heavy on the adjectives, alas – such is the way with these things. I also took to wondering about whether I’d put enough exposition in. I’m more familiar with the world of the Viiminian Empire than most people, so there’s the potential for the setting to be confusing. But we’ll see when the publisher gets back to me.

No writing update on short stories either – it really seems that after my massive writing binge from October to February, I’ve been taking a bit of a break from it. Mind you, I’m still waiting to hear back about the Blackberry Picking revise and resubmit, and generally speaking, the markets seem a bit tougher these days.

A Postscript to the Scribes Bookshop Closure

Back in December 2020, one of Dunedin’s local icons was closing its doors. Scribes Bookshop:

It’s a strange thing to explain to people outside Dunedin – a secondhand bookshop, of all things, forming a part of North Dunedin cultural identity. But such was Scribes, and such is, well, Dunedin. We’re both a well-educated place and a declining place. Decay is as much a part of Dunedin as the University itself – indeed, a local pub is itself closing after 160 years. The pub is actually just along the road from where I used to live (

In the last two and a half years, matters have taken their course. The site that once housed Scribes Bookshop is now a gravel-covered vacant space, surrounded by a plain wooden fence. Whether anything will actually be done with it, or whether it will sit there, like the ruins of Carisbrook, is a mystery (

I write this, because I happened to be passing the post-Scribes area this afternoon. And there, hanging over the fence, was a small protest sign. Not just any protest sign either – it was a sign made from a book cover with the pages removed. The sign itself just read ‘RIP Scribes. Down with Landlord Vandalism,’ as written in red paint (and it’s a shame I didn’t have my phone with me, to take a photo). But the book that supplied the cover?

This one:

A gravel-covered vacancy (that once was Scribes) as comparable to the ruins of ancient churches, temples, and monasteries? That’s a peculiar tribute to a secondhand bookshop, and arguably a more profound protest comment than the sign’s actual wording.

The Song of Saqua: Back to D&D

It has been a while since I last did a write up of my D&D shenanigans. Part of it has been motivation, part of it has been that the more interesting stuff has been in the form of one-shots, rather than long campaigns. I actually DMed a three session sequel to my Galadriel’s Hair outing (, this time called Across the Ice. Yes, I sent my players through the Darkening of Valinor, the Kinslaying, and finally the trek across the Grinding Ice. It even ended on the poignant death of Turgon’s wife, Elenwe*.

*Who had previously been asked by one of the players: “why the hell did you decide to bring your daughter along?” An extremely valid point…

But now I’m back to playing in a lengthy campaign again, as DMed by someone else. And three sessions in, I think it is time to resume the write-ups.

Enter Saqua. The aquatic Dhampir, who has lived in a community of sea-vampires (the Sanguinists) all his life, but now wants to find his human father. Cue jokes about Blood being thicker than Water.

At the time of writing:

  • Name: Saqua El-Tomoth
  • Race: Dhampir (Human/Vampire)
  • Class: Sorcerer
  • Level: 2
  • Stats: 11 Strength, 12 Dexterity, 18 Constitution, 12 Intelligence, 8 Wisdom, 18 Charisma
  • Spells:
  • Cantrips: Chill Touch, Shape Water, Prestidigitation, Frostbite
  • First Level: Command, Inflict Wounds, Fog Cloud, Silent Image, Comprehend Languages

(In case you were wondering about the peculiar stats… this is a sub-class that enables you to trade HP for sorcery points).

Session I:

We started off in a prison in the city of Neverwinter (which just lends itself to Narnia jokes about whether it is Always Christmas). Saqua was there because he was the unfortunate fall-guy for a gang of burglars and arsonists. Specifically, he’d turned up at a tavern, and obligingly agreed to act as look-out for some apparently friendly gentlemen. So he did, and waited, just as instructed. Then he got arrested by the City Guard, and found himself under sentence of death once they found out he was a half-vampire (turns out humans really don’t care about the “half” part). And now he’s in a prison cell, munching on rats.

Anyway, his companions in these cells (i.e. the party):

  • Sir Goatslayer (Golliath Monk)
  • Milly (Human Ranger)
  • Droxl (Lizardfolk Vessel)

Goatslayer actually has a squire, Oryk the Halfling. The party keeps insisting this squire is an equal member of the party, to the point where he’s basically a DMPC. He gets equal shares of loot and food.

Droxl proved able to craft a pair of bone keys, using his teeth and an available skeleton. Saqua, who is a fellow Bonecrafting artisan, was deeply impressed by this, and more than a bit jealous that his own teeth were unsuitable. But he insisted that Droxl join the Guild of Os Sculptura, the local multi-ethnic, multi-species, governing body for bone sculpting. Saqua’s actually a paid-up member, on account of trading ventures with the Drow and Sea-Elves in certain sea-side caverns. He doesn’t want his new lizard friend to fall foul of Guild enforcers.

So Droxl got us out of the cells, Milly cast light, and Sir Goatslayer found a secret back-passage out into some tunnels. So far so good. Except that these tunnels were inhabited. By giant spiders.

Not trivial for a group of Level 1 (as we were then) adventurers. Luckily, even at that level, Saqua has the ability to climb along the walls. Milly fell into a hidden pit, but our Dhampir showed his usefulness by killing a Giant Wolf Spider with Chill Touch. Then we encountered a guardroom with a dog.

There was much discussion on what, exactly, to do with the dog. Milly has talk-with-animals, but struggled to convince the creature that we were friendly, and not desperate Escaped Prisoners. Luckily, prestidigating a smell came in handy, and we were able to recover our items, including non-prison clothing. Saqua was, however, under strict instructions not to drink the dog’s blood. We also picked up a couple of random potions.

Then it was back into the tunnels. And this time, there was an Ettercap, with quite the collection of spiders. It wanted us to bring food for its family, in return for it letting us past. Saqua thought this was a perfectly sensible arrangement… Milly less so.

But the deal with the Ettercap became rather moot when (after evading traps) we ran into some aggressive arachnids further down the line. Droxl’s fire-casting was highly effective at killing hatchlings, and at incurring the wrath of the Ettercap. And this time round, Saqua proved quite useless, since he was swiftly webbed to the wall of the tunnel, and just could not break out.

The fight ended when Droxl decided to throw those potions, and hope for the best. One of the potions was enlarge (oh dear). But the other? It turned the Ettercap into a fine mist. And thus we were able to escape both prison and tunnel.

Session II

Technically we weren’t quite done with the tunnel. We found an ornate bone-chest with a painting inside. Sir Goatslayer successfully stealthed and knocked out a guard, and Saqua made off with the keys. Then, courtesy of some official bribery, we were able to regain the city. It then turned out Sir Goatslayer had a mission in a far-off land, and needed to board a ship called the Voyage. Under a Captain Greysail.

Everyone decided to go with him. The city was no longer safe for us (prison-break!) and we all quite liked Sir Goatslayer. Alas, Droxl disappeared this session…

After that, it was meeting with the Harbour Master, purchasing items, and treating ourselves to fine and (thoroughly discreet) entertainments. Good food (described in luxurious detail), good wine… Sir Goatslayer and Milly partook in gambling, with the latter cheating and the former emphatically not. Saqua proved quite the spendthrift, splashing out for the best room and best food. Then there were the other, more debauched, entertainments.

Milly hired someone to talk to all night. Sir Goatslayer hired a goliath and a dwarf. Saqua – rather struggling to grasp the notion of paying for such things – wound up organising an orgy in his room. With extra chocolate sauce. All told in fade to black, of course. But Saqua is easily the most debauched D&D character I have ever played – rather different from Annalax, the tight-fisted, sexually masochistic (but vaguely socially conservative) Drow Rogue who dominates my past history with the game.

The following day, we were out at sea. We discovered that Oryk might have killed someone in an alley… but, well, what happened last night stays last night.

Saqua is a sea-vampire, so he found it more natural to leap off the ship, and mess around in the water. As such, he was first to know we were under attack from sea-snakes… and a sea-serpent.

(As an aside, we played this on a DM-provided map, with the monsters as confectionary).

This was a case of Saqua coming in handy, in a way he didn’t expect. After we’d had a few rounds with these critters (and the DM resolved against a TPK), Saqua rolled a 3 on Insight, and decided that the sea-serpent just needed to be Intimidated. With his high Charisma, he rolled an excellent Intimidation score… and the sea-serpent rolled terribly. So it fled.

Later on, we encountered a Nereid, seemingly offering a strange boon. Saqua did not trust it, but Sir Goatslayer rose to the occasion, and wound up with both a trippy dream and a magical weapon.

Session III

Droxl returned this session, swimming out with a live pig. As one does. He came in handy too. The first part of the session was a pirate attack (yes, also represented by confectionary). Saqua dived into the sea, and flung a Fog Cloud at the ship, which seems to have helped out his friends. Mostly. He was also able to drain blood from a stray pirate who had also made the mistake of jumping overboard.

(But he wasn’t able to use Shape Water to up-end the enemy ship by lifting a block of ice under the hull. Fair enough, Master DM).

Sir Goatslayer got into a tense duel with a large female ogre. So tense that our goliath made a point of doing non-lethal damage. He wanted to make a new friend. But the ogre was less keen, and having been knocked down to 1 HP, she fled back to the pirate ship with her captain. Saqua finished her off with a hit-and-run Inflict Wounds, before diving back into the sea. But the remaining pirates were able to fling some ballista bolts at him, and knocked him down to 3 HP. Ouch. But this was at least the point where Level 1 became Level 2.

(Also, Oryk was not particularly keen on letting a vampire lick the blood off him. For some reason).

The next part of the session involved landing on an island. A small island, as represented by a map the DM had painted himself. On this map was a large stone building, with a warning out front. An ancient vampire – a foul, ancient vampire – was entombed here.

Saqua had heard stories of this mysterious Melcior, and his long-ago disappearance. His initial reaction was to suggest that he return to his home beneath the sea, to pass on this information to his elders. Let them deal with it. But Sir Goatslayer was not having it. And in his infinite wisdom, he decided to cut down the tree that sprouted from the building.

This, alas, proved pointless. The axe bounced off harmlessly. Meanwhile, Milly poking around at a bush summoned forth vampiric blights – that took the form of cacti and vines and random bushes. The cacti needles were thirsty for blood (not Saqua’s, of course!), and did a fair amount of damage. 28 HP at Droxl. They all rushed Sir Goatslayer in the aftermath of the axe attack too. But eventually the party mopped them all up, and ventured inside.

There, they encountered three stairways, and a mysterious message in celestial cipher. Out of game, we had a fair amount of fun cracking the cipher, which read:


A suitably aquatic prayer later, and a door opened…

The Dream of Florian Neame: Published

My 2500-word science-fiction piece about a dodgy alchemist is now out in the wild, as part of the Spring 2023 edition of New Maps Magazine (

I previously published with New Maps back in May last year, with Of Tin and Tintagel. This one owes itself to pondering how the far-future would interpret modernity’s reliance on aqua nigra…

Not Shooting the Elephant in the Room: A Very Strange Flavour of Student Protest

As previously noted, I have something of a history with the Otago University Students’ Association ( Thus, when I heard that OUSA was organising a protest this morning, against the University’s intended cuts to staff, I made sure I turned out in solidarity. Just like old times, I suppose.

We started off outside the University’s clocktower building – seat of the institution’s administration – and marched down to the electorate office of David Clark MP. Then we hung around outside for a bit, waving signs, and calling on the Labour Government to actually do something to fix tertiary education. All told, a worthwhile public defence of tertiary education.

But here’s the funny thing. The entire focus of the protest was directed against the Government in Wellington. And yet, while Government neglect of the sector is a very real issue… the most immediately culpable villains aren’t really them. The real villains are the management of the University of Otago. The ones who have spent up large on themselves, then got their prediction of student numbers badly wrong, then found themselves in a $60 million hole.

So why were OUSA reduced to blaming Labour in Wellington, rather than addressing the elephant in the clocktower in Dunedin?

Simple. This year’s leadership of OUSA are not stupid. Under the current Voluntary Student Membership system (introduced by National in 2011, and not repealed by Labour), Students’ Associations can no longer directly charge students levies. Their funding either comes from commercial investments – or from the institution via annual contracting agreements. OUSA needs funding from the University of Otago to stay afloat each year… so to criticise University management would be to bite the hand that feeds them.

(Worse, actually. It would be biting the hand that feeds you when the University is looking at massive across-the-board cuts. A true cynic might suggest that by going after the Government, OUSA is even running Public Relations cover for the University, by re-directing media attention away from bungling management. But as noted, such cynicism makes realpolitik sense).

Which also means that Labour has only itself to blame. In a world where Students’ Associations do not dare criticise their institutions… that leaves Wellington as the only target for student ire. OUSA can’t criticise the University any more, but it can still criticise the Government. If Labour had repealed the VSM system, and restored the pre-2011 system of universal student membership… one suspects you would be seeing students occupying the clocktower building, like the good old days, while the Government itself would garner less criticism. But Labour – ever the neoliberals – have done nothing of the sort, and as such have earned all the attacks.

And the bungling bastards in the clocktower? They get away with it. Because thanks to National, and now Labour, New Zealand’s Students’ Associations cannot do their jobs.

“Praise God and Pass the Guillotine”: Screw the Coronation

The New Zealand media loves itself some monarchy at the moment. I can’t even have my car radio on without periodic bouts of inane natter. It’s all a bit pathetic, and unlike the Queen’s death in September, we don’t even have a special public holiday to make up for it.

And unlike the Queen’s death – which even gave a knee-jerk republican like myself cause for thinking about her sheer longevity – the sight of Charlie and his expensive bling just turns the stomach. I’m not even hostile to Charles as a person. He’s not evil like his father or his brother, and I have a grudging respect for Camilla. It’s just that the lavish luxury in the face of a cost-of-living crisis (a crisis afflicting both New Zealand and Britain) evokes the ugliness of the class system like little else.

An air-conditioned coronation carriage with electric windows? That doesn’t even have the out-of-time charm like the Stone of Scone, or other bits of customary Gormenghastery (anointing oil!). No, here it’s just unalloyed privilege. It’s the sort of thing that screams an out-of-touch aristocracy, after the manner of Marie Antoinette and her falsified quote about cake. Time to wheel out the guillotine.

The other unpleasantness to come out of the coronation is that nonsense about a public loyalty oath. Which quite apart from its North Korean overtones, really shoves the feudalism in your face. It’s one thing for Charles to be the old duffer on the coins (and I’m rather looking forward to the coinage changeover, to see the design). It’s quite another for some inbred prat a world away to assert his status as Your Lord and Master, as though the pink-coloured maps of yester-year are still current.

Screw that. At this point, it’s not about appealing to “progress” – frankly, we’ve been socially regressing for years, and I’m familiar enough with history to know that it does not actually bend the way some people seem to think. It’s about appealing to basic human decency. Or in this case, pointing out the implicit lack thereof. While the rich old man is getting adorned with fancy head-gear, just think of all the homeless and the hungry. The people who die of heart-attacks because underfunded health services can’t cope. There’s symbolism there, and it ain’t pretty.

2023 More Reading: April (+ Writing Update)

Completed reads in April:

  • White Fang, by Jack London
  • The Call of the Wild, by Jack London
  • Darkness (poem), by Lord Byron
  • 1984, by George Orwell
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit, by Beatrix Potter
  • The Rape of the Lock (poem), by Alexander Pope
  • An Essay on Criticism (poem), by Alexander Pope
  • The Three Musketeers, by Alexandre Dumas
  • The Bull from the Sea, by Mary Renault

Dumas is the Barrow translation.

April was definitely a reading month, rather than a writing month – apart from the pending publication of my Florian Neame story, there has been little to report in terms of my own writing, beyond receiving one rejection and one revise and resubmit request. The revise/resubmit story, Blackberry Picking, was accordingly rewritten (it now sits at a meaty 4750 words) and sent off. It’s acquired some mild influence from C.S. Lewis’ Till We Have Faces.

No further updates on the fate of Old Phuul either.

Of Universities and Hospitals and Political Failures: A Very Dunedin Crisis

Well, that escalated quickly. I have previously commented on the University of Otago looking at axing the German language, on account of a shortage of cash. I have also commented on how that makes the University of Otago look like hypocrites on account of the $670,000 wasted on the proposed new logo. Unfortunately, that was just the tip of the iceberg:

Yes, the University of Otago, the behemoth that sits astride the city of Dunedin, is $60 million in the poo. That’s some 7% of its annual spending. So now? It’s not just poor old German on the chopping block – the University is looking at cutting hundreds of staff. First via voluntary redundancies, and then… well, it’s not pretty. Not pretty at all. And while blaming the logo is to blame just 1% of the problem, that whole episode is looking like a public relations disaster – the timing was just terrible.

The University is blaming a decline in student numbers. It had budgeted for an increase, whereas in reality there was a decrease. However, here’s the issue: a majority of New Zealand’s eight universities are experiencing a drop in student enrolments, and Otago is far from the worst. A drop in enrolments on account of New Zealand’s tight labour market actually should have been predictable, with students enticed away by jobs. And this is not just a matter of international student numbers still not quite recovering after Covid and border closure – it’s the domestic student numbers that are down.

In short, there is more than a whiff of incompetence about University management here. And not just for its budgeting screw-ups – in a situation where $670,000 goes on logos, and where the Vice-Chancellor of the University earns more than the Prime Minister? That’s a matter of poor-quality spending and overly bloated bureaucracy, and it is quite understandable that the teaching staff are furious at having to bear the brunt of any cuts. I am reminded of the increased expansion of administration costs being used as the excuse to go after German.

(There’s also the point that one year of bad enrolments should not have precipitated a crisis. This really looks like an institution that had zero contingency planning).

In addition to the voluntary redundancies, and rejigging of papers (there are currently some curious cases of overlap between departments, in terms of what is offered), one suspects the University will be lifting the cap on international students in a desperate attempt to plug the financial gap. Of course, that sort of thing would really only be buying time, since 2020-2021 amply demonstrated the danger of relying on international students. Really, what is needed is for a serious Government look at how it funds tertiary education in New Zealand, after a long period of neglect.

And speaking of the Government, this just shows the inherent stupidity of both Voluntary Student Membership and the 7 Year Limit on Student Loans. Two policies enacted by the last National Government, and subsequently left in place by the current Labour Government.

The former policy has put Students’ Associations utterly at the mercy of their institutions for funding – and one suspects the University of Otago’s funding for the Otago University Students’ Association will not be untouched by this. Under the old system, OUSA would only have been negatively affected in the sense that fewer students means fewer levies coming in. But now? The students are about to be affected by the radioactive fallout coming from the University, as they see their own funding savaged.

The latter policy, of course, has made it harder for students to pursue long-term tertiary study in New Zealand. The University (and others like it) have been forced to fight for a share of the diminishing pie of new students each year, rather than encouraging the ones they already have to stay. This is one issue where one cannot blame University management, but rather the political decision-makers in Wellington, and one ought to note that the Minister for Education for most of the last five or so years has been Chris Hipkins. The bloke currently running the country as Prime Minister.

But that is not the only crisis currently afflicting my home city.

There’s the Hospital too.

More specifically, there is copious angst in Dunedin that the new Hospital rebuild will involve cuts to health services. In reality, those services are already precarious, due to lack of staff, and there are stories of people having to wait ludicrously long in the waiting room at Accident and Emergency. Having extra beds and extra room doesn’t exactly make up for a lack of qualified doctors and nurses. So really, what we are seeing is a downstream reflection of the wider problems with New Zealand tertiary education – not enough young New Zealanders are wanting to be doctors and nurses, and those that do have to put up with ludicrously long hours and mediocre pay.

In practice though, we’re looking at the (literal) ambulance at the bottom of the cliff. Dunedin is genuinely worried. There are petitions set up in both the Public Library and the Dunedin City Council offices, protesting any cuts. Today, I saw a car with a “THEY SAVE, WE PAY” bumper-sticker, referring to the issue. Again, this is a very, very bad look for the incumbent Labour Government in an election year.

Or it should be.

Because that is the curious thing about this. There is copious reason to be disappointed about Labour’s handling of Education and Health. It’s just that this is Dunedin, so everyone knows that National will only be worse, so far as funding goes. National might mock the length of time spent on the Hospital rebuild, but no-one (even their most loyal supporters) would expect a National Government to protect the city’s health services from cuts. Indeed, one imagines that the party needs periodic reminding that Dunedin actually exists.

(As an aside, it is also worth noting that our Tartan Mafia Tory Mayor has not exactly come across as outraged over the proposed University cuts. One would have thought that blaming Labour in Wellington would have been an easy target for him. But he’s been fairly quiet. Almost as though he wants to cut the City Council too…)

That leaves the Greens. Who, in theory, ought to be blanketing Dunedin with reassuring messages that only the Greens can be trusted to properly fund the city’s University and Hospital.

But they’re doing nothing of the sort. The New Zealand Greens never talk about their Health and Education policies, preferring to focus on the esoteric and (dare I say) irrelevant. If the Greens focused less on humourless social dogma and harassing farmers, and talked about the core issues Labour has abandoned, they’d be polling substantially better. As it is, they are not only utterly silent on the crisis facing the South Island’s second-largest city, but they’ve only got one South Islander in a winnable party-list position going into the election. A cynic might suggest that this is because Dunedin’s neglect cannot be twisted into a tortured narrative about colonisation.


So yeah. Poor Old Dunedin. A city already hollowed out by 140 years of genteel decline now finds its remaining twin pillars – Tertiary Education and Healthcare – under threat. Sure, local management is culpable here – but we are also seeing something going wrong at the political end. A feeling that something has come unstuck, as underfunding and neglect has caught up with us. And based off the behaviour of New Zealand politicians, that does not seem likely to change any time soon.