Briony Coote's Blog

On this blog Briony Coote shares her insights, observations and tips from her course as a proof reader, writer and member of various professional organisations.

Newspaper/Magazine Writing

Drawing a line: Twenty years of cartoons, cartoonists and caustic comment at the New Zealand Cartoon Archive

Published in Phanzine Phanzine, December 2012

A Window into Hutt Valley History

Published in Phanzine Phanzine, December 2011

A piece of oral history can be a window into an unexpected piece of history. I found this out when I was commissioned to transcribe a tape for the Hutt Valley Branch of Federation of University Women (FUW). Speakers on the tape included Dame Vivianne Boyd, Dame Miriam Dell, and Ruth Wylie.

The recording had been made on 24 April 2003, when the members of the Hutt Valley FUW were discussing the origins of their Branch. The Branch sprang from a discussion in 1958 on how to get a Hutt Valley Branch of the National Council of Women (NCW) going. This evolved into the Hutt Valley Branch of the Federation of University Women as a constituent of the local NCW. As the members discussed what led to the foundation of the Branch, it opened a window on the history of the Hutt Valley during the 1950s.

At the time the Hutt Valley was regarded as, in the members’ words, ‘a dormitory suburb at the end of the Hutt Road’. The fledgling Branch showed a very pioneering spirit in their determination to help transform ‘the dormitory suburb’, and also to combat what is now called ‘suburban neurosis.’ Their vision was shared by then Mayor Percy Dowse, who had campaigned to develop the cultural and community identity of the Hutt Valley.

Taking their cue from NCW and its role as an umbrella for women’s organisations, the Branch set out to reach into, develop, and map the Hutt Valley through libraries, schools and other networks, and also by using their skills as university graduates. One striking example of their efforts was producing the very first booklet of cultural organisations in the Hutt Valley. This would have tied in with the vision of the mayor, who felt that there was not enough attention paid to communal and cultural aspects of the Hutt Valley apart from sports events. This booklet also had the Branch perform a CAB function before CAB existed in the Hutt Valley.

The tape could only provide a window. However, with further interviews and research it could open doors. There have been plenty of local histories written on the Hutt Valley, but there has been very little research done on the women’s organisations of that region. The little window also indicates a gap in the research on women’s organisations in New Zealand: plenty of research has been done on these organisations at the national level, but how much research has been done on them at local levels?

Dunes Seen in a New Light

Published in The Hutt News  on 16 August 2011

Anyone who heard Graeme Lyon speak on the Petone Dune Restoration Project at Lower Hutt Forest & Bird on August 4 would probably never view dunes the same way again.

Mr Lyon showed how dunes play a vital role in the protection of beaches against battering from storms, tsunamis, earthquakes and rising sea levels. If dunes are not maintained properly, constant battering from these forces will erode the beach, reduce the coastline and push the sand further inland. There sand deposits will be a nuisance to streets, gardens and residents. The native ecology and coast life of beaches will be threatened. And an eroded beach will give little pleasure to its residents.

This is why projects like the Petone Dune Restoration Project are running all over New Zealand. Their aim is to restore dunes to their natural state with planting of native seedlings. The plantings are meant to trap sand and reinforce the dunes as natural barriers against coastal erosion.

The Petone Dune Restoration Project is the work of Friends of Petone Dunes, a group founded by Roy Hewson, who has worked to beautify Petone Beach for over thirty years and more recently clean, restore and weed the dunes. The project itself began in 2004, and covered the entire 2 km stretch of beach between dunes of marram at one end and the gravel works at the other. The project started with the planting of pingao, which was followed by spinifex. These have been the main species used in the plantings, though other species include bidibid, tahinu, and pohuehue. Less welcome species include foreign weeds which have to be constantly eradicated, marram, a native dune species that belongs on steep beaches, and other native species which have blown in. A pohutukawa tree has been left as a reference point for progressive photos that are taken to show the progress of the project. Graeme’s presentation included slides that show the effect of trials, survival rates and spread increment. The project has also been the subject of scientific trials; one included a 2007 project conducted by Dave and Michael Bergin of Environmental Restoration Ltd.

Friends of Petone Beach hold working bees every first and third Thursday of the month throughout the year, with plantings in the autumn/winter months. If you are interested, meet at 9am at Petone Wharf on a first or third Thursday of the month. Contact Graeme Lyon phone 938-4583 or for further details.



Hutt Micro Business Group

Hutt Micro Business Focus Group (also called Hutt Micro Group) is a social, supportive and networking group of small business owners. The Hutt Micro Group meets monthly at the Hutt Valley Chamber of Commerce, Daly Street, Lower Hutt. 

You Can Do Your Bit for Native Birds

Published in The Hutt News on 20 September 2011

Next time you go out into the garden, you would do Greater Wellington a favour if you take a few minutes to note the birds around you.

This was the parting message from Glen Falconer and Nikki McArthur of Greater Wellington Regional Council (GWRC) when they spoke about Greater Wellington’s Key Native Ecosystems (KNE) Programme at Lower Hutt Forest & Bird on 1 September 2011. A KNE is a natural feature on private land that has great ecological value or biodiversity. Therefore, with the owner’s permission, Greater Wellington gives it high-level eco protection. This protection is performed with the aid of volunteers. It takes the form of constant pest eradication, especially of possums, and ongoing monitoring to measure the pest levels and the response of native species to pest eradication programmes.

There are four KNE programmes in the Hutt Valley: Percy’s Scenic Reserve, Kelson Bush, the Western Hutt hills and Wainuiomata/Parkway. There are also home-based programmes such as the Hutt City Council-run Possum Busters programme and the Urban Forest Plan.

These and the KNE programmes in Greater Wellington have seen huge reductions in pest levels and tremendous improvements in bush canopy, flowering and seeding. Rare native species such as New Zealand mistletoe and black orchid have made a comeback in the Wellington region, and the numbers of native birds have increased.

However, the KNE programmes require ongoing monitoring, and at two levels: results (pest levels) and outcomes (response of native species to pest reduction). You can help with the latter every time you go out into your garden. Spend a few minutes observing what types of birds there are, and how many there are. Places where you can lodge your information include New Zealand Biodiversity Recording Network at, and Ebird at A few minutes observing bird life can go a long way to helping Greater Wellington measure the success of its KNE programmes.

More information on KNE programmes can be found at

A History of Waiwhetu-Lower Hutt Peace Group (2010)

This is an excerpt from "The History of Waiwhetu-Lower Hutt Peace Group" 2010. It is an unpublished work, presented to the organisation, and includes a list of their speakers.

Mission Statement of Waiwhetu-Lower Hutt Peace Group

We endeavour to provide information on issues of peace and conflict by bringing the best qualified people who share these aims to talk and so build an informed body of public opinion, and involve them in activities to achieve these ends. We work with other community organisations and institutions with similar objectives.

We welcome all interested to any of our [five] meetings per year. These are held bi-monthly on the second Tuesday at 8pm (beginning in [March] in the Waiwhetu Uniting Church, 6 Trafalgar Street (cnr Grenville Street).

Waiwhetu-Lower Hutt Peace Group (WPG) originated from a discussion among representatives of the four Waiwhetu churches. St Lukes Presbyterian Church initiated a public meeting at its hall on Friday September 9 1983. WPG was established on 28 October 1983. During 1984 several meetings and two seminars were held. In August 1984 Nancy Whitehead was appointed to a joint Methodist/Presbyterian Committee to promote the study of peace issues within the two churches. WPG was not a church group but it was invaluable to “have access into as many groups as possible.” The Anglican, Methodist and Presbyterian churches would combine forces for lobbying and maintaining political pressure, such as when they wrote letters to P.M. David Lange to congratulate him on his stance against visits from nuclear warships. Read more here....

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