Halswell Domain

Halswell Domain
View from the Model Engineers' site in the Halswell Domain

Wednesday, May 1, 2024

 Seeya Soni- Speech for Halswell Anzac service, 25 April 2024

Theme- Through learning comes appreciation.


Mōrena ki a koutou katoa

Ko Seeya tōku ingoa

Nō India ōku tipuna

Ko Ganga te awa o te rohe

Nō Ōtautahi ahau

Ko Horomaka tōku kura

Kei te ako tonu au i te reo māori

Tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa

Good morning, my name is Seeya Soni and I am a Year 13 student at Hillmorton High

School. My parents were born and raised in India, but we have lived in Christchurch for most

of my life, and within the Hillmorton area for 7 years. I attended Burnside Primary School,

and then Cobham Intermediate. Cobham is where I began debating, and I have continued

that at Hillmorton where I am a part of our debate club. My favourite subjects are History,

Chemistry and Physics, and I am looking forward to studying them alongside Law at

university next year. I am so grateful to have grown up here where our history, young, but

eventful, is taught to be recognised and appreciated.

As a child, I did not understand why Anzac was so important to commemorate. I actually did

not know what it was, except that we got a day off for it. My earliest memory of Anzac was in

primary school, maybe year two or three, when we were given poppy colouring in sheets to

scribble in red. But why? Why should we colour in poppies? Fast forward a few years and I

am in Year 8, happy to be baking Anzac biscuits during Technology at school because they

tasted good. But why? Why should we bake Anzac biscuits? I did not know the story behind

them; how these biscuits were created and sent out to our soldiers because they were

strategically made with ingredients that would not spoil. There is so much history, yet no

questions asked. But taking History at Hillmorton High School has given me a new lens on

how I view the environment around me. The class requires you to be inquisitive and critical,

and I find myself asking 100 more questions, and wanting 100 answers for each. At

Hillmorton, they talk about having a love of learning, which comes from our Mission

Statement. This makes sense to me now because through learning comes appreciation. It is

the same reason that we do mihi to introduce ourselves, or the family tree projects at school.

Learning about where we come from creates appreciation and understanding of it, and that

is how we have come to be gathered here today.

When I was younger, I would not have been standing here like these cadets and scouts are,

showing their respect. Though I cannot turn back time to be a cadet or scout, I realise that it

is never too late to understand; you just have to want to. Anzac day is a huge part of New

Zealand history, and while I am so enlightened, grateful that I was eventually taught this,

learning about New Zealand History was not always a part of our curriculum. In 2015, a

group of students from Ōtorohanga College, a secondary school in the North Island,

delivered a 12,000 signature petition to parliament calling for a statutory day of recognition

for the ‘New Zealand Land Wars’. Alongside them were supporters who called for that

troubled period of New Zealand's history to be officially included in the secondary school

curriculum, and to incorporate a broader, greater focus on learning about New Zealand

History. This petition began after the students visited Ōrākau and Rangiaowhia, sites of two

brutal clashes 150 years ago. Such clashes are important to dissect because of what they

reveal about Māori and Pākehā relationships, to compare the changes with current attitudes,

and it is unbelievable that if those students from Ōtorohanga College had not fought for this

change, we would not be learning about our own history in classrooms today. One of our

school values at Hillmorton is Tūrangawaewae, which means having a place to stand, to

belong to. Discovering your nation establishes your place to stand more than learning about

Tudor England ever could.

I cannot imagine staying the night in Akaroa and not knowing why the town wears a French

mask. My mum and I have taken countless trips to Akaroa, passing Ōnawe without knowing

it was the site of a massacre until about a year ago. In 1832, the chief of Ngāti Toa; Te

Rauparaha, invaded the pa Ngāi Tahu had set up on the Ōnawe peninsula. After much

bloodshed, hundreds were left dead. So many stories lie between our mountains; we just

have to look and listen. It was revolutionary when the new Takapūneke reserve opened in

Akaroa in 2022. Before, the land was used as space for a wastewater treatment plant and

rubbish dump. A complete 180 was made when the local council considered the pressure

from local Māori and were reminded of what happened at Takapūneke; a raid by Ngāti Toa

which ended with dozens of people killed or enslaved. Suddenly, it was important to do

something big to show that we recognised the events at Takapūneke, and so the reserve

was developed. As a history student, this was such a prime example of how through

learning, recognition, comes acknowledgement, appreciation.

I also cannot imagine driving through Blenheim without knowing that the area has one of

New Zealand's oldest archaeological sites of Māori settlement, known as the Wairau Bar,

dating all the way back to around 1250 AD. My appreciation of New Zealand has grown so

quickly in such a short time, because I have learnt about it. Learning is a journey, one that I

look forward to most days, and I am grateful that after all Aotearoa has done for me, I am

finally able to show my respect.

Taking History at Hillmorton has enabled me to learn so much more about New Zealand

history, as one would think. Last year, I was fortunate enough to attend the Social Science

trip to Europe. While we were in Italy, our class visited Monte Cassino, two hours south of

Rome, which once was a WWII battle site. Today, the town features a vast war cemetery

commemorating this. I thought it was so interesting that even though we had come from little

New Zealand, our soldiers were remembered there today. On the bus our teachers handed

us a poppy each to lay by the headstones of the kiwi soldiers, and as we made our way

across the cemetery, I was surprised to see that every row of New Zealand headstones was

lined with crisp poppies. Who did this? When? It would have been a slightly different story if

this cemetery was in New Zealand, because I thought Anzac was our thing. But seeing

poppies on kiwi headstones all the way over in Italy really reinforced how significant Anzac

is, and not just in New Zealand. I would like to thank the Christchurch RSA for giving us the

poppies for our class to lay. We had hoped to help them with locating and providing pictures

of another memorial to our New Zealand soldiers in Monte Cassino, but it was difficult with

our schedule.

2023 was a year of travels. Last summer, my mum and I took a trip up to Wellington for the

week. I was looking forward to visiting the Te Papa museum, mostly to see the giant squid,

but when we got there, we saw posters for a special Gallipoli exhibition. I was like ‘cool,

mum lets go’ and so we had a look through and were amazed to be met with a sculpture of a

soldier almost 3 times the size of the average human. This sculpture was modelled off of

Lieutenant Spencer Westmascott, and was only the first of eight larger than life sculptures to

come. The exhibition was called “Gallipoli: The Scale of Our War”. But I thought; what is

“our”, and does it include me? How does someone know if they’re a part of this “our”? Do

you have to be a native of or to New Zealand? Do you have to be related to someone who

went to Gallipoli? Do you have to have a relative who’s a veteran? When we learn about

New Zealand history in school, terms like “our” and “we” and “us” are often thrown about, but

do all of my classmates relate to that? I believe that you decide whether you are a part of the

“our” and “we” and “us" by choosing to regard the history, and therefore accepting it as your


The exhibition was an immersive experience; letters written by soldiers to their wives were

showcased on the walls. Models of trenches and base camps were decorated with tiny

plastic soldiers. You could pick up a phone and hear commands roared from the other side.

What the soldiers went through was revealed to me in that exhibition, and it was incredibly

overwhelming to see it all, and picture that most of them were not much older than I am. It is

hard to imagine that instead of going to university, these men had to go to war. But the

sculptures we saw were not just of men, there was one of a woman too; a young nurse

called Lottie Le Gallais. This represented the contributions and involvement of not only men

but women also, and showed the kinds of roles had within the conflict. At the time, those

young people, not only those who lost their lives, but also those who returned from war,

would not have thought that their actions would be remembered in New Zealand today with

such reverence, but they deserve this recognition.

A journey I am currently on is learning more about my Indian heritage and the stories of my

ancestors. It is important for me to step back and acknowledge how I am here today. I have

a wero, which means a challenge to you, and that is to be curious about your history, and

always be open to learning.

Ko te manu e kai ana i te miro nōnā te ngahere

Ko te manu e kai ana i te mātauranga nōnā te ao

The bird that consumes the miro owns the forest

The bird that consumes knowledge owns the world

No reira, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou, tēnā koutou katoa

Wednesday, October 19, 2022

5 Good Reasons Why

New Zealand has very low density cities that have developed largely to rely on cars as the main form of transport.  There are at least four things that are making that reliance on cars undesirable now and these are long term things that will continue into the future.

First and foremost is the rising cost of running a car.  IRD currently puts the cost of car running at 83c per kilometre.  On top of that, is the cost of parking. Garaging, or even just space on a section, costs you in terms of what you pay for that section and the rates you have to pay.  In addition, the cost of car running to ratepayers and tax payers is at the level of billions per year in New Zealand in both road maintenance and injury from accidents.  This is a lot of money for something that sits idle of around 95% of the time on average!

Second, Congestion.  Cars take up a lot of road space – whether from parking on the roadside or the space needed when they are moving.  We become most aware of this when we find ourselves sitting in slow moving traffic.  Traffic congestion is a feature of many of our cities most days of the week and months of the year.  We can never build our way out of this congestion because more cars just come in to fill up the space on roads that are widened and the parking and congestion problems just increase over a wider area.

Third – they take up time.  Every minute you are in a car is a minute that is not contributing much to your wellbeing.  In comparison, walking or biking allow us to exercise while travelling to work and might mean we don’t have to take more time to exercise formally.  More minutes are added to this when you get stuck in traffic.  On top of that, the rising cost of running cars means we need to work more to earn the money to drive. 

Fourth, they negatively affect physical and mental health and our productivity. Human beings are animals that need to move to stay both mentally and physically well as a recent article in the Listener pointed out.  Many of us sit in our cars to go to work, then sit at a desk all day while at work and then sit in our cars to come home before sitting in front of the TV for the evening.  Biking or walking to work results in better physical and mental health without you really having to try.  It can also help you leave work at work rather than taking books and computers home.

Fifth, they are contributing to climate change which is costing all of us all in terms of extreme and more erratic weather.  This includes bigger rain events and rising sea levels which are both contributing to more damaging floods.  At the same time, we are experiencing more summer heat and as a result of that, longer droughts, and more fierce fires.  The more fossil fuels such as petrol, or dieselthat we consume, the more extreme our weather will become and the less easy it will be for us to recover from these events as individuals, and as a city or country.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

Walking Every Single Street

A growing movement of people around the world are realising that they know very little about the many streets/ lanes / paths around their city.  For many this was inspired by being locked down and looking for some variety in their walks or runs around home.   For some, this has grown to aiming to walk or run every single street in their city.  Michael Shanks for example (see  https://everyglasgowstreet.com for more) finished running every  single street in Glasgow – over 6000 of them – in January and has written a blog about it. 

This is an inspiring idea which can start right here in Halswell.  How about getting out there and seeing what you can find?  You might want to extend your walk to more than just streets and explore some of the great walking paths hidden away in local parks.  You might even be surprised by how far you can walk without too much trouble and how it can help your fitness and mental health.  

Once you have finished going down all the streets in Halswell, try jumping on a bus and going somewhere different.   On a similar theme, you could make it your goal to catch every bus in the city and see where it goes. Better still, get off and walk around the streets/ footpaths in a different suburb.  If you have a Gold Card, travel after 9.00am and before 3.00pm is free, so you can explore to your heart’s content at no cost.  For others, get a Metrocard which gives you good discounts and means you can travel on one fare for up to two hours, even when you transfer between buses. Check out www.metroinfo.co.nz for more information, or ask at the desk at the bus station in town.

To find out more, try googling “Every single streeter” or “CityStrides”.  You might like to track your own progress by using a map or one of the many tracking apps you can put on your phone.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

Cutting Transport Costs


Cutting Transport Costs

Many of us are noticing the steadily rising prices at the petrol pumps and the effect that is having on our weekly expenses. Add to that the cost of parking and other car running costs and it is quite a burden.  It seems like a good time to think about the many other ways we can get around the city.

1)       Take a bus.  The government has made public transport half price for the next few weeks.  If you have a Metrocard, those fares get even cheaper. Halswell is served by four different bus services, including an excellent service to the central City and one to the airport (which can save you bucketloads of money in parking costs)

You can find out more about what buses go where and when by dropping into the bus station in town, or one of our local libraries to pick up bus timetables and maps of where they go.  Alternatively, go online and check out www.metroinfo.co.nz where you can try out the Journey Planner to find out how best to get where you want to go.   There is also a useful app that you can put on your phone that can give you real time information such as when the bus is coming for any stop in the city.

2)   Get on a bike.  A growing number of cycleways around Christchurch are turning biking round the city into a pleasant, safe experience that is good for both body and soul. 

Bikes are easy to park and can be a surprisingly quick convenient way to get around town.  They also give you very good exercise.  A 10km trip takes around half an hour – the minimum amount of daily physical activity.   Bicycles can also be put on buses for use at each end of your trip.

With cycling, it is best to avoid busy roads where you take your car.  Halswell is served by two major cycleways – the Quarrymans Trail which starts at Te Hāpua and takes you into the city, and the Little River Rail Link which you can get onto from the Wigram side of the overbridges on Aidanfield Drive and Dunbars Road. To find good cycle routes, talk to someone who already cycles and ask them about the good routes. You can also pick up a free cycle map from local libraries which shows you where cycle facilities are around the city, or go to www.CCC.govt.nz, search for Christchurch Cycle Map and you can download it, free. 

3)   Buy an electric bike.  E-bikes are relatively expensive bicycles, but they can save heaps of money in car expenses and may even mean you can manage without that extra car.  They can pay themselves off very quickly; the cost of the power for running them works out at about 0.1 to 0.2 cents per kilometre. E-bikes leave you drier in the rain, cooler in the heat, faster in a head wind and they significantly extend the distance you can bike. They are also excellent for mental wellbeing and often get you where you want to go faster even than a car, particularly if you are travelling at rush hour.  

4) Walk.   For shorter trips, walking is a wonderful way to go. It is also a good way to check out the local area and to get some exercise as well as getting somewhere.  Halswell is blessed by some great walking with lots of greenspaces.  Most of us can easily walk 2-3 km in half an hour. Walking to the bus stop and then walking on to work can be a good option for those who need to go further afield.