From the ridiculous to the sublime...

This week has been a mix of eye-rolling and inspiration thanks to short skirts, escapee octopus, more fresh water disbelief and amazing local women.

My jaw dropped when I read about the deputy principal at Henderson High School requiring students’ skirts to be knee length to “stop boys from getting ideas” – is it the idea that girls have legs, one of my friends asked.

It’s not having a uniform code with certain standards that is the problem – it’s the message that girls are sexual objects who need to be covered up to protect them from boys.  And that boys – and male teachers! – are not able to be around uncovered limbs without being distracted or presumably tempted into some sort of bad behaviour.

We need good quality conversations about respect between young people – not knee-jerk comments that reinforce an idea that what girls and women wear is the problem.

On a lighter note, I was pleased to hear that Inky the octopus escaped his tank at Napier’s aquarium this week and squeezed his rugby-ball sized body down a drain and out to the ocean – go Inky!  Yesterday, my marine-mad six-year-old discovered on Netflix the Blackfish documentary about captive orca at SeaWorld in the US.  It was quite tough to explain to my son the footage of people were separating young orcas from their mums to capture them for entertainment – he was finding it distressing to watch.

So whether its an incredibly intelligent mammal like an orca or a cheeky octopus, it shouldn’t be a surprise that wild animals don’t want to be trapped in a confined space and will make their break for freedom when they get a chance.

I’m not sure whether I should feel disbelief or be cynically resigned to discover that this week 10 of the 12 Horizons Regional Councillors, including both our two Whanganui reps, voted in favour of the shoddy “wadeable” fresh water standard, currently out for consultation.  What planet are they from that water below safe swimming standards is acceptable? 

There have been comments from some people saying that 100% swimmable rivers are impossible so there’s no point setting that as the standard – what rubbish.  In our society, we agree violent crime is unacceptable so we pass laws banning it, even though we know we’re a long way from ridding our communities of violence in practice – it should be the same for water.  We literally can’t live without it. 

But on to the inspirational local women I had the pleasure of meeting this week – the first is doing her bit to help Whanganui place respectful relationships at its heart, in justice, education, community services and workplaces.  Jenny Saywood is the chair of the Whanganui Restorative Practice Trust and it’s exciting to hear that slowly but surely they are making a difference – find out more at www.restorativepracticeswhanganui.co.nz.

Another local woman I was blown away by this week is Tanea Tangaroa, who’s been doing an amazing job cleaning up the Kokohuia wetland in Castlecliff.  She’s spent three years so far, hand-picking out rubbish and planting up the stream edges, to bring health back to this polluted waterway.  It’s another long journey but Tanea is seeing progress – seeing life come back to the stream.  Follow their story on Facebook at Te Ripo Kokohuia.

Finally, I’d like to pay tribute to Central Baptist Kindergarten manager Royce Dewe, who is retiring after 21 years leading the organisation.  Both my boys have attended that childcare centre and it is outstanding, thanks in no small part to Royce.  Fortunately there are two wonderful women able to step into Royce’s hard-to-fill shoes – Jenny Te Punga-Jurgens and Lisa Illife will be sharing the role. 

Thank you Royce for helping many Whanganui children get a fantastic start in life.