Rescuing Milo the Borneo Orangutan

Musician Vicki Kiely Photo:Supplied
Musician Vicki Kiely Photo:Supplied

Animal activist and musician Vicki Kiely has combined her talents to inspire and educate people about animal welfare.

“I’ve always cared about animals but seriously got into animal welfare after seeing the movie The Cove for the first time at the age of 35.  That movie really made me want to do something about animal cruelty.

The documentary The Cove is directed by Louie Psihoyos and exposes Japan’s mass dolphin massacres to the world.  Ocean conservationist Richard (Ric) O’Barry assembles a group of elite activists who embark on a covert mission to discover the secrets of a hidden cove in Japan.

The film highlights the fact the Taiji dolphin drive kills 23,000 dolphins and porpoises every year.  Dolphins are herded into the cove where they are trapped by nets and are speared or knifed to death.

11781637_10153615766009739_9045652499640574856_n“I went to Japan and met Ric O’Barry at the Cove three years ago.

“I have been working with him ever since going to Japan with many Cove monitors to monitor the dolphin slaughter there every season.

“I usually go three times every season for about three weeks each stint.  I am not paid for the work I do it is all. I have done fundraisers for Japan however.

“It gets very expensive but I am compelled to do this work I would love one day to find a way to get paid to do this and make it my full-time job.”

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Injured Little Blue Penguin returned fit and healthy to Nga Motu Marine Reserve

A small group of supporters of the Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society gathered to release 'Little Blue Penguin Taranaki' back into the wild.
A small group of supporters of the Nga Motu Marine Reserve Society gathered to release ‘Little Blue Penguin Taranaki’ back into the wild. Photo by : Smart shots by Sharyn

‘Little blue penguin Taranaki’ was reunited with her rescuer at Port Taranaki.

“It’s awesome to see her again!  When I got the phone call this morning to come back down and be a part of her release there was no way I was turning that down,” said Ayla Adlam.

“To see her where she is meant to be is just awesome.  Everyone’s efforts and time has all paid off.

“She is really cute and quite chubby now.”

Ayla spotted the little blue penguin as she neared the boat ramp after a day of fishing with her partner and another friend on January 6.

“As we were coming back into the boat ramp I noticed a little penguin just kind of swimming around in circles just looking distressed and really close to the boats.

“My partner suggested that we ring DOC as I was a little bit upset about seeing an injured penguin out there.”

Ayla got out her smart phone, googled DOC’s website and gave them a call.  Her call was answered by Gemma Green who located the penguin and organised for her to be sent to Massey University’s Wildbase Hospital in Palmerston North.

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“The Bus” journey with the James Family.

IMG_5521ETheir dream lifestyle sat in the driveway for five years before a major health scare suddenly made the timing right.

“Mortality was the catalyst for all this change.  Two ambulance rides to hospital from work.  The boss looked at me at my desk and said are you OK?  He basically said we are ringing an ambulance.”

At only 45 years old Philip James’ symptoms were a mix of anxiety, high heart rate, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes, possible clotting in his legs and stress.

“I started looking the symptoms up and saw that they are all related to sitting at a desk all day.  I wasn’t stressed in that there was a lot of pressure I was stressed in the sense of I just wasn’t enjoying the work.”

Working as an electrical draughtsman meant many hours very busy on a project or many hours awaiting the arrival of a project.  All these hours were spent sitting “chained” to his desk.

“You couldn’t get up out of your desk and go and wander into town you had to stay in your seat.

“I ended up at the doctor with stress levels that were through the roof which was causing all my health issues.  I got sent off to somebody to manage my stress.  Basically we came to the conclusion that if I didn’t change job it was going to kill me.” 

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Want to help save the kiwi?  Kevin Stokes talks about his role as a volunteer.

Artha Photo by : Sharyn Smart

Stopping at the Taranaki Kiwi Trust stall at the local A&P Show turned into a life changing event for Kevin Stokes after talking with Sue Hardwick-Smith.

“I only got involved because I ran into Sue one day at the Stratford A&P show.  They had a stand there and I got talking with her.  I said yea I don’t mind coming out as a volunteer and helping you.”

Four years later and he is hooked.  He admits that it is something he enjoys doing as he shares the experience with others.

“One of the enjoyments of it really is seeing the kids’ faces. To see their faces’ as they get a chance to hold these birds is priceless.

“It is just something that I have an interest in and I’ve got the time to do it.  While I am fit enough to do it I will keep doing it.”

Right from his first trip Kevin has been interested in helping save our national icon.

“The first time I went out it was an egg lift with Sid Marsh.  I went out a few more times and then it just took off from there.

“I enjoy it because I can do it on my own.  For the monitoring I just come and go as I want to.

“It also means I have been able to share the field work with Sue which leaves her time to do the administration side of things as well.”

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Jim Aitken talks about “35 and a bit years” as an animal control officer

“Remember a dog wakes up in the morning and says ‘Hi I am a dog.’  We humans say ‘you are a particular breed and you will behave in a particular manner.’  This statement is not true.  We influence how our dog behaves.  It relies on us for direction.” Jim Aitken 2016

Jim and Lynn Aitken
Jim and Lynn Aitken

Spending “35 and a bit years” as an animal control officer Jim Aitken talks about retirement and plans for the future.

“It was time for me to step aside.  My heart was really working with the dog owners and out in the field.  The position of senior animal control officer had become more of an administrative one with a strong IT requirement that I didn’t feel I could provide adequately to the Council.

“They have got an excellent field team that I was privileged to work with.  I felt that stepping aside meant that younger members in the team could advance and the skills would remain in the NP Council area. I haven’t regretted it but I miss it dearly!”

“Picking up part time work truck driving is what I want to do. I love driving trucks which is what I started off doing before becoming an animal control officer.”

Family time has always been important for the New Plymouth man.  Jim and Lynn have been married for 14 years.  Between them they have six children and currently 13 grandchildren.

“Lynn and I have purchased a camper van that we wish to live in for an indefinite period of time and travel around working.  Spending more time with the children and grandchildren is also important.

“We would dearly love looking after houses obviously specialising in small farms or farmlets.  Anyone who wants their house looked after for a period of time is welcome to contact us.  We get the advantage of cost free living and people get the advantage of someone caring for their pets and animals at home and protect their property while they are away.”

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Writing is breathing for author Jolene Stockman

Jolene Quicke (Jolene Stockman) and Paule Quicke
Jolene Quicke (Jolene Stockman) and Paule Quicke

Growing up Jolene Stockman was described as quiet, shy and super intelligent.

These days she has to stop talking because she just can’t breathe as her words rush out in a torrent of intellectual advice after being dammed for many years.

Husband Paul Quicke and their children Quilliam (5) and Luxton (2) are her support crew.

The children’s unique names had much research and thought go into them as one of her books.

“We were told we’d probably never have kids.  Then we have gone on to have two.  Quilliam is named after quill as in a pen for me as a writer.

“Luxton is named after lux as in light as Paul is an electrician and works with light.”

She has worked hard to discover how to turn her passion for writing to work for her.  Her latest venture is working with her husband Paul Quicke operating the Taranaki franchise of Giggle TV. This is an advertising concept where companies advertise through TV commercials played on TV screens within businesses.

Looking back Jolene now realises just how far she has already come.  At 17 she decided to take tackle her fear of public speaking joined Toastmasters.  Within 10 years she was the youngest to be awarded the Distinguished Toastmaster Award which is proudly displayed in her New Plymouth home.

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Gabby Devine and Starlit HOPE

Sharyn Smart talks with Sarah Devine about the legacy her daughter Gabby left behind in the form of Starlit HOPE.

Angel “Gabby Devine” reached heaven on the 15th May 2015

Photo by Tammie Pittwood Photography
Photo by Tammie Pittwood Photography

Even though Gabby Devine now resides in heaven she is still having a major impact down here on earth.

Her most recent award was accepted by her parents, Sarah and Roland Devine at the New Zealand of the Year Awards where Gabby was awarded the Local Hero Award.

“Gabby is the youngest person to ever receive the award as they usually only accept nominations from those 15 years and older.

“I’m sure she is looking down pleased with the impact she is making as she is inspiring others to make Random Acts of Kindness which is a beautiful legacy to leave.”

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Taranaki Dragons support NZ Breast Cancer

Taranaki Dragon Boating Team in full costume for Breast Cancer Pink for a Day. Photo : Sharyn Smart – Smart Shots by Sharyn


Waitara residents were treated to a pink spectacular as members of the Taranaki Dragons supported Pink for a Day Pink October.

About 35 people supported the event held at their club rooms at the Waitara boat ramp by dressing up in pink costumes with prizes awarded for their efforts.

Founding member Kathleen Moriarity attended a Breast Cancer Conference in 2007along with a friend where they discovered dragon boating and brought the idea back to Waitara.

“I guess I was one of the ones that started Taranaki Dragons.  I am chuffed that it is still going.  We have had a wonderful turn out today and are always looking for new paddlers.

“We have done a pink paddle for quite a few years now.  The main aim is to get more awareness out there in the community of what we do, as well as raise some money for the Breast Cancer Foundation.”

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Sparky the kiwi visits Taranaki

Sharyn and Alex Smart
Alex and Kate Smart



Recently I got to share an amazing experience with my children.

We got to meet Sparky a very special North Island brown kiwi.




Sparky arrived at the Whangarei Native Bird Recovery Centre in 2002 after losing his leg in an illegal gin trap.

Founders Robert and Robyn Webb started the Centre in 1992 and now rescue then care for and rehabilitate over 1,200 birds each year.  They also spend many hours on education and community projects.

Sparky was three and a half months old when he arrived from a forest up in Keri Keri after being caught in a gin trap or possum trap.  When it catches the kiwi the trap jaws are so powerful they will either break the leg or cut it nearly right off.  The result of that is the kiwi would normally have to be put down.

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Erica Duthie and Struan Ashby talk Tape Art

HastingsBlossom4International Tape Art team Erica Duthie and Struan Ashby have been inspiring audiences for over 20 years. They have recently returned from their latest residency at the Blossom Festival in Hastings.

“Creative director Pitsch Leiser asked us to do something that is quite specific to the previous history of the Hastings Blossom Parade,” says Struan.  “So we did some research and watched a DVD with images supplied from the Hastings Library.  We researched into some of the more interesting floats and are revisiting some of them for the festival”.

Erica adds “What you find in this Hastings Festival is there are floats that people love and they have reconstituted over the years.  There is a massive swan that has been very popular so there have been three or four different swans over time.

“There have also been parade favourites which we have been referencing and then putting our own twist on.  One of the ones I am working on which I am quite excited about won a parade category which involved a guy in a bath tub on a bicycle.  It is really cool.  I am going to change it to have a woman on a bike with a Busby Berkeley 1950s swimming cap on.  She will be in the bath tub cycling.  So that kind of thing will be so much fun.”

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Gavin Hayes delivers a taste of the Mediterranean

IMG_5791EVetro New Plymouth moved location only a month ago but already owner Gavin Hayes is reaping success.

“My main goal is to have a successful, profitable business that I am proud of.”

“Even though it is early days it is proving to be a good move as our turnover has nearly doubled.   It has been massive.”

Always seeking the next challenge Gavin felt Vetro had outgrown its location and wanted to move away from the cooking aspect of the business and focus on the ingredients themselves.

“The meals were not the real purpose of the shop yet somehow they took over.  It was something that I was passionate about but when I tried to employ someone else to extend the service things didn’t work out.”

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Corey Peters – World Champion sit down skier

“It’s not whether you get knocked down, it’s whether you get back up” – Corey Peters 2015.

Achieving World statusIMG_2575 after three years of dedicated training has been an incredible journey for Corey Peters.

“I certainly wasn’t thinking that when I first started skiing that I would be the best in the world.  I couldn’t really believe I had won the World Championships.”

In September 2009 Corey was paralysed from the waist down after a jump landed terribly wrong at a motor-cross event in Taupo.

After only a couple of laps to warm up, it was time to race on an unfamiliar track.  A very miscalculated decision of holding the throttle open as he hit the jump meant that he “absolutely, completely, overshot” the landing.  “I was so high in the air it wasn’t funny.”

Split seconds in the air turned into what seemed like forever. “Time kind of slowed down when I was at the peak of the jump in the air.” The bike making contact with the ground, therefore landing the jump, was actually the worst thing that could have happened.

“As soon as I hit the ground, still on the bike because I landed the jump, the suspension bottomed out and my butt smacked the seat.  With the suspension bottoming out it was like landing in a seated position on concrete as there was no travel left in the suspension.  That was when my vertebrae completely burst on impact.  In the air I just lost all feeling in my legs and ended up crashing into a wall made of hay bales.”

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