The story of Lance Sergeant Eric Dennis Green

There is no blog today. Instead I thought I would share with you the story of my Grandmothers (on Mum’s side)brother Lance Sergeant Eric Dennis Green, 21 Battalion of the 2nd New Zealand Expeditionary Force who was killed on 22 September 1944 in a botched river crossing.

Through the second half of 1943 and 1944, the New Zealand Expeditionary Force had been progressing through Italy as part of the British Eighth Army. It had come ashore as part of the British 8th Army, which had defeated Field Marshal Rommel in the north African desert a couple of months earlier. The going was slow and covered mountainous terrain. Rivers that were inches deep in summer turned into raging torrents in winter and made crossings dangerous. At Cassino the N.Z.E.F. had become stuck in the shadow of the monastery. Cassino was the scene of substantial heavy fighting in March, April and early May 1944. 800 New Zealanders lost their lives in and around the town before a night action by the Polish troops outflanked the Germans and they abruptly withdrew.

Fast forward to September 1944, and the New Zealanders were near Rimini, on the east coast of Italy, not far from the city of Ravenna. Lance Sergeant Eric Green was serving with the 21 Battalion, which was ordered across a river, came under heavy fire, with lots of casualties and were withdrawn over a two day period. During this time it sustained more casualties. Now as the senior officer, (I think his  rank was a corporal) he was again ordered to cross the river and take and hold the ground on the other side. Again, after achieving this they were ordered to withdraw back across the river. He questioned this order as they were severely hampered by the numbers of wounded that they needed to get out. The orders held and he was shot carrying another soldier (injured) across the river on his shoulders. It is not certain whether the shot killed him or he drowned as he was carrying a full pack as well.

11,700 New Zealanders died in World War Two in the air, at sea and on the ground in both the Pacific and European theatres of war. New Zealanders fought at the Battle of the River Plate, in the Battle of Britain, in Greece, Crete, Egypt, Libya, Italy over France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany in bomber crews. In the Pacific, New Zealanders saw action in the Solomon Islands.


Recognizing the Geneva Conventions in war

On what is the most solemn day on the New Zealand calendar in 2017, it is appropriate to pause and reflect on the country that we are. It is appropriate to recall the the atrocities that happened and why international laws were introduced to provide protection for soldiers on the frontline – the mass murder of surrendered combatants; death and the handling of insurgents and insurgenices was the cause of much concern during World War 2. New Zealanders such as but not limited to Nancy Wake were heavily involved in the training and arming of the Free French Resistance. They ran incredible risks and would have been subject to prolonged and brutal torture by the Gestapo if caught.

With the exception of the Featherston Camp incident where 48 Japanese Prisoners of War were massacred in February 1943, New Zealand’s conduct in regards to the Geneva Conventions as they were understood then was exemplary. The reputation as being a feisty bunch was well earned, and respected by friend and foe alike. Field Marshal Erwin Rommel went so far as to describe the New Zealanders as the finest enemy troops his forces fought as evidenced by the likes of Sir Charles Upham, one of only three people to be awarded the Victoria Cross AND Bar for his bravery at Ruweisat Ridge, Egypt in July 1942.

So it bugs me in no uncertain terms that the exemplary name of the New Zealand Force is being shat on by its senior officers and the Government by their refusal to order the inquiry that will either vindicate the Defence Force or apportion blame. New Zealanders need to know and New Zealand credibility is on the line. The New Zealand Defence Force is well regarded around the world and its professionalism is held in high regard in New Zealand as an employer and referee for those that are moving into other roles.

When I pause to give thanks on A.N.Z.A.C. Day 2017, I shall also be giving thanks to the Geneva Conventions, the work of the Defence Force over the years making sure that this most important law covering the treatment personnel in time of war is not forgotten. Sacrificial lives the innocent civilians who died in the incident involving the New Zealand Defence might be to Mr Brownlee and Mr English. To a lot of other people including myself, if the allegations are true, they were people who simply did not need to die and whose deaths are big black stains on the New Zealand Defence Force. Stains that the Defence Force could have avoided.

Stains that the Defence Force SHOULD have avoided.

So, on Tuesday morning, when I go to the A.N.Z.A.C. Day Dawn Service, along with thousands of others and give thanks and shall remember the many thousands of Defence Force personnel who went overseas and served this country with distinction and bravery. I shall wonder where they are now and what they are doing.

But I shall also remember those many whose lives have been immeasurably improved by the fact that in amongst the theory and conduct of war, someone had the great foresight to write the Geneva Conventions. For without them, so many wars could have been so, so much worse.

A testing climate

At a meeting recently in the tiny West Coast settlement of Granity, 35 kilometres north of Westport, climate change and mitigation came up in the debate. A local property owner raised the question about what the Buller District Council was going to do with regards to coastal erosion, as his property is right on the coast. The answer was not to his liking.

Climate change is a testing subject when it comes to debate. Some people go so far as to say it simply does not exist and that the whole scientific basis for suggesting climate change does is non-existent. Others, particularly those of Green persuasion say not only does it exist, but that it could cause irreversible and overwhelmingly negative effects in our life time if decision makers do not act quickly.  The general consensus of the scientific community is that, yes, climate change does exist and that there are changes in progress now because it exists that if they are not addressed in the next two generations, will have effects that cannot be undone in a human life time.

Granity is one of many New Zealand communities that will be grappling with stormier seas in the near future. Already we see large storms happening more frequently. In the future they could become more intense in terms of wind and produced, last longer and start earlier. As the local at the Granity meeting found out, the local council is likely to only have limited financial and physical means to address the physical effects of coastal erosion. And Buller District Council with a rate paying base of only a few thousand people would struggle to justify expensive coastal works that might be good for only 15-30 years.

These problems mean that more substantive measures are likely to be needed, which might be politically unpopular, but socially and economically necessary. They might not be achieved with coastal protection works or stop banks on rivers, but by land zone changes that acknowledge the unsuitability of certain lands for building on. These will be met with challenges by land owners and interest groups, possibly in court and certainly through submissions when the documents are open for public input.

It is not just impacts on living that climate change will have. Job security in seasonal jobs might be brought into question. Industries such as skiing may find themselves dealing with shorter and more unpredictable seasons, where most of the snow that falls in a season might land in a single event or come as a whole lot of small events, none of which really support skiers. The same weather will raise questions about security of electricity generation when the hydro electric power storage lakes run low, as the replenishing moisture that falls as snow during winter also falls as rain during the summer and supplies Lakes Tekapo, Pukaki, Ohau, Manapouri and Te Anau.

Planning for these economic uncertainties is something that Government ministers have acknowledged needs to happen. However no clear blue print for tackling them appears to exist at this time. The rhetoric remains largely that. Meanwhile the time keeps moving forward and any certain damage we are causing becomes more and more likely to be compounded by our delays, our politics, our reluctance to be brave and make the next move.




New Zealand should move on from Trans Pacific Partnership

In the last few days, the Prime Minister of Japan has come out saying that Japan shall take the lead in reviving the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement. Shinzo Abe, a long time supporter of a “free trade agreement” encompassing the Pacific region, including New Zealand, was disappointed when President Donald Trump cancelled United States involvement in the T.P.P.A. negotiations using an Executive Order a couple of days after he assumed the Presidency. Three months later, determined that a trade agreement encompassing the Pacific can still happen, Mr Abe has restarted negotiations.

However, Mr Abe now faces problems with the remaining ten supporters of the T.P.P.A. New Zealand goes to the polls on 23 September 2017 to determine whether or not the National-led Government of Prime Minister Bill English gets a historic fourth term or not.

There is no case whatsoever for remaining in the T.P.P. charade. New Zealanders are waking up to the meaning of such trade agreements. Deeply concerned by the secrecy and disgusted by the proposed conditions of the Trans Pacific Partnership, distrust of the Government when it comes to promises of our sovereignty being secured is reaching an all time high. No fair minded New Zealander:

  1. Wants to have their country subject to potential law suits from well resourced foreign multinationals with no regard or understanding for the New Zealand way of giving people a fair go
  2. Trusts a free trade agreement that requires 6,000 pages of text to be printed out – is a free trade agreement supposed to be about taking down barriers, rather than putting new ones up?
  3. New Zealand has international legal obligations to abide by which the Trans Pacific Partnership Agreement would put in jeopardy, as well as our ability to participate in future accords that we may find to be beneficial

Prime Minister Bill English also seems to be less concerned about the Trans Pacific Partnership than his predecessor, former Prime Minister John Key did. Mr Key made it a centre piece of his economic growth plan to make the T.P.P. happen, whereas under Mr English there seems to be a greater focus on other economic stimulants. Due to the election in September, Mr English might decide to play cautiously until he knows what form the new Government takes, whether the support parties are still alive and able to assist him.

Before then though, there will be further announcements about the Trans Pacific Partnership. Other countries such as Chile and Vietnam, wary of China’s involvement in trade might now still see a future for the agreement. Given their economic performance and a higher level of corruption because the State denies the need for accountability, the difficulty off getting success in a new deal would be a major step.

But they are not New Zealand and this country will not gain from the T.P.P.A. We should walk away from it completely.

Green Party energy policy in 2017 election

Today the Green Party released their energy policy for the 2017 election.

The reaction from Business New Zealand has been largely positive. Other than the commitment to 100% renewable energy, the lobby group believes that it is constructive and comes about as a result of working with the party.

I support parts of the policy too. One area which is encouraging is the Green Party plan to support inter customer trading of electricity that private users generate and put back into the grid. Likewise encouraging the lines companies to amalgamate in places means that the management of the grid across New Zealand should hopefully become less fractured than 29 separate entities at work.

New Zealand is rich with options for renewable energy. It sits in the “Roaring Forties” belt of latitudinal westerly winds, which upon contact with the Southern Alps give rise to substantial rainfall enabling hydroelectric power generation, as well as significant opportunities for wind power. The reasonably high sunshine hours in towns like Blenheim, Whakatane and Nelson ensure the natural potential for solar power also exists. Around the coastal environment there are also several locations where tidal power can be potentially harnessed.

I am aware of significant investment in geothermal energy in New Zealand that has most likely utilized the available capacity. Geothermal systems are quite delicate in nature and thus a fine balance exists between re-injecting too much water back into the ground and not enough.

Another source of power that is heavily utilized is hydro power. Although it has lost a portion of the market as other sources have come online, hydroelectric power makes up about 60% of New Zealand’s total electricity supply. However it is dependent on reliable northwest rainfall feeding the Upper Waitaki Power Scheme, and the Clutha, Roxburgh and Manapouri power stations in Central Otago and Southland.

But there is undeveloped and under researched potential in New Zealand energy resources as well. One example is that New Zealand has a thriving waste stream of bio-waste ranging from waste cooking fat and oil, that at least on a small scale has been demonstrated to be suitable for refining. New Zealanders discharge a huge volume of green waste at refuse stations each week. On a local scale there are a few operations where the gas is captured and used to power onsite facilities. However these are few and far apart. Due to the uncertainty and a lack of interest by Government in biofuel, I support research into whether or not a nation wide bio-fuel programme can be developed in New Zealand.

There is one concern I do have though and that is that the Green Party might try to mothball with the intention of decommissioning thermal plants that rely on coal and oil, such as Huntly, Stratford and Whirinaki. These power stations would prove useful in maintaining energy supply during dry periods when the hydroelectric storage lakes are running low, or if there has been a problem with other sources.