Category Archives: Published Work

NZ’s Evolving Cafe Culture

By Fred Lunjevich (Originally published in Cafe Culture– February/March 2009.)

The “credit crunch” is real. I know because I haven’t got the dream writing job I want and therefore I am currently plying my coffee making skills for Rivet Cafe in the little slice of Wellington we call Ponsonby, Auckland.

Three-months ago, my fiance and I returned to New Zealand after 18 months of living in Birmingham, England. While Birmingham is a cool place to live, its major benefit to us was that its airport is extraordinarily well connected to Europe.

That means we got to experience several European countries – food, language, music, history – and of course, cafes. It is from this European vantage point I now view New Zealand’s cafe culture in its young and evolving state.

Unlike New Zealand, European cafe culture has been evolving for more than 300 years. This becomes abundantly clear when one begins exploring a European city. In Krakow, Poland there is the Singer Cafe, a small off-the-beaten-track establishment that has Singer sewing machines bolted to the tables and only candles for internal lighting. In Prague, one might step into the brilliant art nouveau ballroom hall cafe “Kavárna Obecní Dům” in the municipal building complete with period chandeliers and stunning mosaic exterior.

European cafes reflects the region’s vastly multicultural and rich history. Many cafes survived through turbulent economic and political change and served as meeting places for many of the best known and most influential figures. Franz Kafka was a regular at the Louvre Cafe in Prague while Cafe Central in Vienna boasted the likes of Russian revolutionary Leon Trotsky.

European cafes were often meeting places for academics, artists, bards and scheming political activists. Local thinkers would often congregate to debate and exchange ideas.

New Zealand’s cafe culture can’t boast the same history nor can our cafes claim to have regular patrons of such world changing significance. Our cafe culture is still in diapers relative to our European cousins.

What I can say, from my observations behind the coffee machine, is that cafes seem to be couldrons of a mixture of different people. While New Zealand cafes have a unique charm to them, we are still watching our cafe culture evolve. Even so, our cafes seem to mirror the European style in that they are havens for creative people and deep thinkers.

During the past three months as a Rivet Cafe barista I have had a myriad of discussions about philosophy, politics, science and culture. I have seen many actors studying lines with the intensity of a teenager in an exam.

I’ve talked to artists and musicians and even landed myself acting classes from highly regarded acting teacher Sally Spencer-Harris. All of these people have enriched my life in some way and I would never have met them if it wasn’t for the credit crunch, as it has allowed me to temporarily stave off an office job.

Cafes in New Zealand certainly offer modern alternatives to the fringe benefits often associated with bars and pubs. The association between cafes and relaxation often means people allow their defenses to drop to an extent. This puts the barista in the position of the mythical barperson who can offer a sympathetic ear to the patron with a story to tell.

And while New Zealand doesn’t have the 17th century architecture to house our cafes, we do have a way of creating a uniquely Kiwi atmosphere. We know that Rivet could use a makeover, but we take a strange sort of pride in the scarcely painted beams that complement the retro-atmosphere created by the orange “boogie nights” wallpaper.

Effluent Scrap Lands Brothers In The…

6/05/2004 12:00:00  


IT’S just a joke, says North Waikato farmer Bill Cox in response to a $900 fine imposed on him for obstructing two Environment Waikato officers investigating a complaint.

Mr Cox’s brother Don was fined $500 and the pair were ordered to pay $452 in legal costs at the Hamilton District court recently.

The council officers and and two police offers turned up at the Cox property in May 2001 to check on a report of illegal spreading of effluent on a tanker track.

“They were worried about effluent getting into water courses, which is why I confined the spreading to the tanker track,” Mr Cox says.

He says he denied access to the officers because they wouldn’t sign his OSH book.

He also says the effluent spreading was within the framework of his resource consent.

“These guys haven’t been through safety courses and they don’t respect personal safety policy.

“Everyone else rings up and makes an appointment, but these bureaucrats think they can just march on to your property. Farmers are sick of it.

“They say I am belligerent, but if they went down to my cowshed without my consent and were electrocuted, who is belligerent then?”

Despite losing the case, Mr Cox says the issue has now gone to Parliament, because people are not legally required to sign on entry to business premises.

He points to the 1994 death of beekeeper Ken Richards, as a result of a bridge collapse on Keith and Margaret Berryman’s King Country property, as a case where an OSH book could have saved the farmer plenty of unnecessary heartache.

“At some point there will be major injuries in the rural sector, because these council guys aren’t trained.

“It’s not a question of if, but when.”

Environment Waikato Resource Use manager Chris McLay says the council took a serious view of “unwanted and aggressive behaviour towards its staff”.

The council sought the maximum penalty of $1500 and an order for Mr Cox to do an anger management course, which he says he is not going to do.

The case has cost Mr Cox $18,000 and is one of many between the regional council and himself.

He says he and his lawyer have reason to consider taking legal action against the council soon.

How to Afford The Family Farm

4/07/2005 8:33:41 AM
RURAL property prices have ballooned too far for the next generation to be able to afford the family farm.In many cases, it’s just not feasible for children of farming families to buy the property off the parents.

Recent figures from the Real Estate Institute of New Zealand show the median farm price in May was $930,000.

The median price for a dairy farm was a cool $2 million.

These are hefty figures for anyone, let alone an aspiring young farmer. When faced with the prospect of being chained to a huge debt during several years many just can’t see how “the hell” they can do it.

This puts the parents at odds ,because how can they go on to retire with adequate funds behind them and keep the farm in the family?

Traditional ways of financing the farm could be to lease part of it, and therefore compromise farm production.

The answer: Well, one company is taking popular theories about farm succession and turning them upside down. In fact, it has come up with a plan so shrewd it should receive a PhD from Cambridge.

NZSE-listed Blue Chip New Zealand devised a succession planning solution that uses equity from a rural property for investment in the fast-growing residential property market.

This not only keeps the farm in the family without burdening the children with massive debt, but also allows the parents to retire on a nice income.

The spin-off is that there is no need to subdivide the land for maximum return, which as I mentioned last week, has got to be a good thing.

Blue Chip general manager Jonathan Woodhams says farm succession is a common dilemma for many rural families.

“A farm is more than an investment to farmers. There is much emotional decision making in these matters that is too hard.

“Each family has different requirements, depending on the number of children and the structure they want to set up, but all our clients have the same objective – to create long-term wealth and financial security without having to sell the farm.

“Using non-farm assets is something no other company offers.”

He says an individual plan is formulated, depending on goals, asset base and present farm income.

“It’s about showing farmers a smart way to achieve their goals. It can be tailored to how much risk someone wants to take on.

“It’s totally passive from the clients’ point of view – it’s totally managed.”

Blue Chip advisers guide clients through the process and even inform their accountant and solicitor on how the plan works.

Mr Woodhams says it’s all part of keeping plans as simple as possible.

“Our aim is to allow people to make investments that are as low risk as possible, with an easy exit strategy.

“We also put plenty of effort into improving our corporate governance, because clients need the assurance that the company will be there for the long-term.

“Saving and investing is a long-term plan and the sooner people start planning the sooner they achieve their goals.”

For you local Blue Chip consultant visit

Blow Out Investigated

17/08/2004 12:00:00 AM
FOLLOWING disasters, whether natural or man made, there are always questions asked.On Sunday morning, July 18, a 100m stretch of the Rangitaiki River stopbank just north of Edgcumbe gave way under the volume of water that three days of consistent heavy rain produced.

This occurred just hours before a peak flow 5m above normal levels. Water poured through the stopbank and on to farmland, roads and houses on the Rangitaiki Plains.

The Fonterra Dairy factory just out of Edgecumbe was also hit by the floodwater.

No one doubts that this is a huge volume of water, but questions have arisen because Rangitaiki River stopbanks are made to 100-year flow standards.

Environment Bay of Plenty has commissioned an independent investigation to find out why it was breached.

“We need to know exactly what happened so we can take steps to ensure it doesn’t happen again,” says EBoP chief executive Jeff Jones.

“This is extremely important to EBoP and the communities living in the shadow of our stopbanks.”

Mr Jones says the stopbanks are designed to hold floodwater — not to fail.

“The Rangitaiki River stopbank should not have breached like it did, even with the huge amount of pressure that was on it,” Mr Jones says.

“It didn’t fail because water overtopped it, as can sometimes happen, it just blew out.”

The Edgecumbe earthquake in 1987 and major floods in the region in 1998 have raised concerns about Rangitaiki stopbanks and their stability.

They have been investigated and reinforced during the years to prevent the kind of breaches seen last month.

The Government will provide more assistance to flood-affected parts of Bay of Plenty, including agricultural recovery, repairing schools, fixing roads and giving direct help to low income earners and people who had to be evacuated.

This brings the total Government support to an estimated $30 million.

Northern Farmers Find Enlightment at Levet Field Day

13/11/2003 1:00:20 AM

A LARGE audience packed into Gordon Levet’s woolshed near Wellsford in Northland last month for a serving of knowledge from a respected line-up of speakers.

Celebrating 50 years as a sheep breeder, Mr Levet brought together a group of scientists who had come to know him through his contributions to science of worm and footrot resistance to name a few.

“He certainly has challenged conventional thinking — question everything, accept nothing is his catch-cry,” says Lincoln University geneticist Jon Hickford.

“It’s a miracle an event like this can happen. You wouldn’t be able to get this sort of turn-out if it was held at Lincoln. You would be lucky to get people from the next department to come to it.

“It shows the level of respect there is for Gordon and what he has done for farming and science.”

The speakers at the October 22 field day included Amy Bell (CSIRO), Jon Hickford (Lincoln University), John McEwen (Invermay), Nick Nicholson (Wool Exporters Council), Chris Morris (AgResearch Ruakura), Professor Brian Kirkpatrick (University of Wisconsin) and Mr Levet himself.

After a farm tour at mid-day and a light lunch, attendees found a wool bale to sit on, ready to be enlightened.

Former Northern sheep breeder John Reeves kicked the event off, before Mr Morris talked about breeding for resistance of worms, ryegrass staggers and parasites.

Mr Nicholson followed up with his comments on the fickle and unpredictable state of the wool market.

Mr Levet spoke about his experience in breeding for resistance and how to go about building a flock tolerant to footrot and resistant to worms.

Mrs Bell talked about CSIRO’s Armidale findings and success in breeding for worm resistance, with particular reference to barbers pole worm.

Mr Hickford spoke about the gene marker test he and his colleagues have come up with for breeding for footrot tolerance.

Professor Kirkpatrick discussed his studies into twinning genes in cattle, with reference to Mr Levet’s cow that has produced two sets of triplets.

Finally, Mr McEwen backed up the ideas of some of the other speakers on disease resistance and production.

Mr Levet’s stance on breeding for resistance as opposed to resilience was a big talking point.

“Resilience is no good for barbers pole, because it’s a blood sucker, and while you have that you are going to get dead lambs — it’s as simple as that,” said Mr Levet.

“It might be good for South Island farmers who don’t have high occurrences of barbers pole worm, but for the North Island it’s different.

“I know farmers in the Waikato region who say barbers pole worm is the main killer of their sheep.

“Besides, why would you pursue resilience when it is only 10% inheritable, while resistance is 25% inheritable?”

A central theme in Mr Levet’s comments was the need for worms in sheep.

“Sheep need worms as much as worms need sheep. Without worms the animal’s immune system is weaker.

“Scientists in Britain are even saying the same things about humans.

“If you drench extensively then you are killing off the majority of worms and, at the same time, creating super-worms resistant to drenches.

“Breeding for worm resistance means managing the worm levels in an animal’s gut.”

For all concerned the day was considered a success.

Semi-retired Maungataroto sheep farmer Alan Davey says it was interesting to compare approaches and see where the industry is going.

“Times have moved on and you have to move with them.

“I have been around the sheep industry worldwide and we are streets ahead of the United States and British farmers.

“If you were to hold a meeting like this over in Britain, farmers would be scratching their heads with this material.

“In talking about footrot they would say, well you can treat it with this — they wouldn’t know too much about breeding for tolerance and genetic selection. That is just the level they are at.”

Meat and Wool Innovation research and development manager Mark Aspin said the speakers made the event come alive.

“It was an interesting and varied diet of speakers which was good, because farmers like hearing it from the horse’s mouth.

“You can see we are making progress, but it’s about application and that is where the challenge is.

“We might not get a super-model sheep, but it’s a worthwhile goal.”

Director of the former Wool Board Tom Mandeno says the information delivered at the event is badly needed.

“Feet are a big problem, because they hold back productivity in so many other areas — farmers can handle most things, but feet can cause real problems.”

Most attendees were involved with sheep breeding and the wool industry, though Mr Levet says four goat breeders were present.

International Array of Speakers at Levet Field Day

18/09/2003 10:00:08 PM

TO celebrate 50 years of sheep breeding, well-respected Wellsford farmer Gordon Levet will be holding an on-farm field day on October 22.

Mr Levet says it will “focus on the attributes my sheep have excelled in”.

He took over the farm in the early 1950s from his father and uncle, who began farming there in 1922, and runs it with wife Trish.

Renowned among the agricultural science circles, Mr Levet is well known for breeding resistance to footrot and facial eczema in his sheep, as well as 15 years of testing for worm resistance /d longer than any breeder in New Zealand.

The field day, which runs from 10am to 4pm, includes several notable speakers, including Professor Brian Kirkpatrick of the University of Wisconsin-Madison and Amy Bell of CSIRO Livestock Industries Australia.

New Zealand speakers, apart from Mr Levet, include Dr John Hickford of Lincoln University; Dr Chris Morris, a geneticist from Ruakura AgResearch; his colleague, Dr John McEwen of Invermay, Dunedin; and Nick Nicholson, Wool Experters’ Council.

Mr Levet says the topics covered and the calibre of the speakers is generating interest among those in the sheep breeding industry.

“I am pretty well known among the scientific community in New Zealand, so it didn’t take much to convince these experts to speak,” he says.

“I have tended to challenge conventional thinking and I have sent some pretty heated letters to scientists during the years.”

And, he says, with some success. He has made scientists discard several years of research after disproving their theories in his own trials.

Aside from being informative, Mr Levet says there are other reasons for farmers to attend.

“Apart from my stud sheep, there is a cow that in three calvings has had three sets of triplets.

“Three clones of this cow, presently at Ruakura, will also be on the farm. She has got to be a freak — one in many millions.”

Mr Levet says finding the fertility gene in cattle is the holy grail of ag science.

The Levet farm now boasts 19 lots of farm forestry from 0.5ha to 10ha each. Trees range from eucalypts, macrocapa, hardwoods and poplars, among others.

All this diversity will be on show at the field day, which is sponsored by Wrightson, Richmond and Ballance. A light lunch will be provided and a tour of the property is sure to be an eye-opening experience.

Contact Gordon Levet, phone 09 423-7034

Rags To Riches For Penguins

Aug 4, 2005 (published on
By Fred Lunjevich

From league bunnies to the hottest ticket in the NHL the Pittsburgh Penguins love the new salary capped version of the NHL. 

The club was on the brink of self destruction in the past few seasons as it slumped to the bottom of the league in terms of wins, game attendance and of course, money.

But the Penguins have a new sense of vigour under new league rules.

Winning the NHL entry draft lottery and signing talented teen Sidney Crosby has given Penguin fans a reason to go out and buy season tickets while the team is now attracting the league’s top talents.

The club’s first major signing from the free agent market was Sergei Gonchar who was formerly of the Boston Bruins.

Gonchar has been the league’s highest scoring defenceman in the past six seasons.

Players that can’t get the big money they received under the old system will likely move to clubs that are genuine contenders.

Pittsburgh, for the first time in a decade, is one of those teams.

An evening of the playing field has done wonders for struggling franchises who found it difficult to buy players on the open market.

In 1998 the Penguins filed for bankruptcy after signing former scoring champion Jaromir Jagr to a $38 million contract extension.

Owner-player and Hall of Famer Mario Lemieux stepped in and bought the struggling franchise but with a low payroll the team floundered at the bottom of the league.

He is now selling the Penguins to San Jose-based businessman William (Boots) Del Biaggio in a move that should sure up the club’s finances.

The Penguins reached the Eastern Conference finals in 2000-01 after Lemieux unexpectedly ended a 44-month retirement but has failed to reach the playoffs since. The Penguins lost 18 consecutive games and had the league’s worst record in the 2003-04 season.

But with the signing of Crosby and a league $39 million salary cap, it puts Pittsburgh back on the NHL radar as contenders.

Add to this Lemieux’s desire to return to the NHL despite turning 40 on opening night, October 5 and you have a recipe for winning.

Pittsburgh last won the Stanley Cup in 1991-92 after winning it the previous season also.

Source: ONE Sport

NHL Preview: Eastern Conference

Oct 3, 2005 (published on
By Fred Lunjevich

In the new NHL there is a new reality, and the big spending franchises won’t like it.

All 30 teams will hit the ice on Thursday in a vastly new look league that sees a $39 million salary cap spread talent.

That will mean the Colorado’s, Detroit’s Dallas’ and New Jersey’s of the world will no longer have things their way.

The Eastern Conference is shaping up to be very competitive as the weak invariably got better while the strong stayed that way.

Look out for the speedy Montreal Canadiens, Florida Panthers, and the Pittsburgh Penguins to make big strides this year.

All these teams have young talent that will be immediate forces on the ice with a healthy mix of veterans who will provide leadership off the ice.

Expect number one draft pick Sidney Crosby and Ryan Malone to put up big numbers for the Penguins considering the veteran talents of Mario Lemiuex, Zigmund Palffy, Mark Recchi and John Leclair.

Despite the additions, Pittsburgh will still find it tough elevating themselves from the depths of the league’s cellar, but will be vastly improved from two-years ago.

The Washington Capitals will struggle once again with plenty of fresh faces making NHL debuts. On the plus side, the Capitals can only get better and are fortunate to have the 2004 number one draft pick in points scoring machine Alexander Ovechkin.

Don’t expect too much from the New York Rangers. Traditionally, the Rangers have been the Yankees of the NHL – big spenders and stacked with talent. The Rangers no longer have the luxury of offering irresistible salaries to players and will suffer as a consequence.

The New York Islanders will fare much better than their inner city rivals as new players will add to an already solid lineup.

Buffalo lost their key goal scorer – Miroslav Satan in the offseason and didn’t add a lot. Buffalo is a young team but far from a dominant one.

Florida added veteran stars Gary Roberts and Joe Nieuwendyk to their cast of young forwards. With a go-go gadget arms goalie in Roberto Luongo, skilled European players Kristian Huselius, Nicklas Nagman and Olli Jokinen the Panthers may well be the surprise package in the east.

Montreal, a team that has won 26 Stanley Cups over the years, is blessed with youngsters with quick feet and skilled hands. Michael Ryder scored 68 points as a rookie in 2003-04, while newcomers Guillame Letandresse and Tomas Plekanec made good impressions in the preseason.

The Atlanta Thrashers may struggle, as the loss of the impressive Ilya Kovalchuk might be too much. With a Stanley Cup winning coach at the helm anything is possible but the Thrashers’ will rely on veterans Bobby Holika and Peter Bondra as well as the goal-scoring prowess of Marian Hossa.

The defensive minded New Jersey Devils lost two future hall of fame defensemen; Scott Stevens to retirement and Scott Niedermayer to Anaheim, but the team is still solid and is backed by the best goalie in the league in Martin Brodeur.

Without doubt, the eastern conference teams that embraced the new CBA in the best possible way are Philadelphia, Boston, the Stanley Cup champion Tampa Bay Lightning, Pittsburgh and Ottawa.

The Ottawa Senators have an experienced and skilled line up that has residents of the Canadian capital talking up their cup chances.

Philadelphia made big moves signing the leagues best forward in Peter Forsberg and bolstering its defense by adding three huge defensemen. All while holding on to inspirational captain Keith Primeau and skilled forward Simon Gagne.

Boston is a solid team with a young up and coming goaltender in Andrew Raycroft. A solid defensive unit coupled with skilled forwards including 223-pound all-star centre Joe Thornton. This team has the potential of owning the Eastern Conference.

Tampa Bay is largely unchanged although the loss of Nikolai Khabibulin in goal raises a big question mark.

The big unknown in the east is the Toronto Maple Leafs. Toronto is often called the “centre of the hockey universe,” but will enter this season with an aging team that always steps up with tough hockey.

There is a strong possibility the Eastern Conference will produce the 2005/06 Stanley Cup winning team.

Source: ONE Sport

NHL Preview: Western Conference

Oct 6, 2005 (published on
By Fred Lunjevich

Rule changes, a $39 million salary cap and a busy free agent market has changed the face of the NHL.

What this means to the Western Conference is fewer cats holding on to marquee players.

The NHL’s premier teams in the last decade have largely come from the Western Conference, as Colorado, Detroit and Dallas went on cup winning sprees between themselves.

Only New Jersey in the Eastern Conference has dominated to the same degree.

How will the West fare under the new-look league? In a word – closer.

It could well be an NRL style of competition with the traditionally weak teams sneaking up on the bigger teams.

The Colorado Avalanche was probably the biggest loser in the free-agent market, losing several top players. Arguably the world’s best player, Peter Forsberg decided to move from the franchise that he had been with almost his entire career while Adam Foote was let go to free up salary cap space. The core of the team will comprise probably the league’s best centre in Joe Sakic and defenseman Rob Blake. The remainder of the team is a mix of veteran players at the twilight of their careers and a bunch of kids in their first or second seasons. How they go is anyone’s guess but don’t rule them out as being leaders in the west.

The Detroit Red Wings keep most of their core players including future hall of famers Steve Yzerman and Brendan Shanahan. The biggest development for the Red Wings was signing its young players – Henrik Zetterberg and Pavel Datsyuk. The latter almost escaped to play in Russia. Still the team to beat in the west.

Dallas doesn’t lose much but don’t gain much either. Veterans Mike Modano, Bill Guerin and Jason Arnott provide plenty of offense and leadership but there is a question over where the rest of the scoring will come from. Young Finnish forwards Niko Kapanen and Jussi Jokinen may well be the answer. Marty Turco is an all-star goalie that has a lot to prove after Colorado knocked Dallas out of the playoff’s last time around.

San Jose avoided the temptation of throwing wads of cash around on the burgeoning free-agent market relying instead on promoting talent from within. Their young, no-name line-up was huge in the 2003-04 playoffs and there is every reason to suspect they will be genuine contenders this season. Young players such as Jonathan Cheechoo, Marcel Goc and Niko Dimitrakos have already made their mark in the NHL and are well supported by star center Patrick Marleau and Russian goaltender Evgeni Nabokov. San Jose may well emerge from the west as top dog come playoff time.

The three Canadian teams will be tough prospects, particularly the reigning Conference champion Calgary Flames. Adding solid forwards Tony Amonte and Daymond Langkow certainly helps the Flames, while the defense is still largely unchanged from last season. The inspirational Jarome Iginla – an all-star forward of the highest class, leads the Flames while Mikka Kiprusoff will tend goal. Calgary will be tough to beat.

Edmonton has strengthened their lineup but is still in a rebuilding phase. The new rules will suit the Oilers’ fast transition game, but with a young American goalie in Ty Conklin, it is unclear how far Edmonton will go.

Vancouver’s lineup hasn’t changed all that much, with only a few defensemen moving on. The Canucks’ top forward line of Todd Bertuzzi, Brendan Morrison and Markus Naslund is one of the finest in the game. Vancouvers real weakness is in goal which drastically affects their title chances.

St Louis lost before the season started when top defenseman Al McInnis retired and Chris Pronger packed his bags for Edmonton. A mixture of journeyman, St Louis may well be the biggest disappointment in the west.

The Anaheim Mighty Ducks pulled off a stunning trade by luring top New Jersey Defenseman Scott Niedermayer over to the Pacific coast. He joins his brother Rob and three of the most potent forwards in the game: the Finnish flash Teemu Selanne, Sergei Federov and Petr Sykora. Another team that could be good but you wouldn’t bet your life insurance on it.

The rest of the west will jostle for the bottom rungs of the ladder. There may be some surprises though; the Phoenix Coyotes, Nashville Predators and the Chicago Blackhawks boast a lot of young players but are a bit of a lottery. Phoenix may benefit from having the best hockey player ever – Wayne Gretzky – as their coach but there is a difference between being a top player and being a top coach.

Columbus, Los Angeles and Minnesota will struggle but at least the latter two will have fans coming to watch them lose.

On paper the cup should stay in the east this season, but there are a handful of teams in the west that may have something to say about that.

Source: ONE Sport

Same Catch-Cry, Different Sport

Aug 12, 2005 (pubished on
By Fred Lunjevich

It’s the same catch cry for ice hockey in New Zealand as it is for any other minor sport: without fans and money things go nowhere.

Unlike many other minority sports, ice hockey requires special facilities and can cost upwards of $1000 for a full playing kit.

Training ice time at Paradice Botany Downs costs $225 an hour.

Despite the challenges, the powers that be in the game are well on their way to developing some top class players with the newly formed New Zealand Ice Hockey League.

That being said, Auckland has around 450 registered players of various ages and about 250 people showed up at each game to watch last weekends round at Paradice Avondale.

NZIHL general manager Gunther Birgel says there is plenty of interest in the sport in major centres but there are only four rinks that are open year round.

Auckland has two rinks while Christchurch and Dunedin prop up the South Island. Queenstown has a rink but it closes in September.

“We would like to have more teams and can’t wait until places like Hamilton and Wellington come on board,” says Mr Birgel.

“We’re waiting for Wellington City Council to build a rink at the events centre in Newtown.

“There are a number of roller hockey players in the region who would love to play.”

In the meantime the league continues with four teams with four rounds.

The league will expand to five rounds next year and there may also be a semifinal round added.

A league of this nature was started 10 years ago but quickly fizzled out due to high travel costs. With more players in the New Zealand domestic airline market costs have come down to a level that allows teams to travel more.

The NZIHL takes over from a Nationals competition that would see Auckland, Canterbury and Southland face off over a weekend. It was apparent each year that Auckland’s dominance wasn’t helping strengthen the sport around the rest of the country and so the NZIHL was born.

“It is our goal to make stage a good competition with even teams throughout the country,” says Mr Birgel.

“One advantage Auckland has that a place like Christchurch doesn’t is that there are quite a few good import players in the Auckland area.

“There are five Canadian players in the Southern Stampede team and two of them are really carrying the team.”

Foreign players have strengthened local ice hockey in a way that All Blacks would in places where rugby was a minority sport.

Each team is permitted to have a maximum of five foreign players in any one game.

New Zealand’s national team – the Ice Blacks – moved into the second division of the international competition, which Mr Birgel says took years to achieve.

“The goal for the Ice Blacks is to get into the first division, and realistically, that’s all we can manage in this area of the world.”

New Zealand are ranked 37th in the world and will find competition tough when they host China, Mexico, North and South Korea at Paradice Botany in April next year.

Source: ONE Sport