Dumpster Dinners

Sean Stapleton       15/03/2017       Dumpster Divers

By Sean Stapleton

Two Auckland dumpster divers are on a mission to save edible food from landfills as they redistribute to the needy.

Every week, the two women who wish to remain unnamed, head out in the early hours of the morning to supermarkets across central Auckland. They unashamedly dive deep into the outdoor skips as they search for fresh and edible food.

The pair are both professional academics at Auckland University and have years of experience with dumpster diving. Although they are advocates and want to spread awareness of the activity, they fear repercussions from their jobs if they went public.

This is a new operation as they have only been diving in Auckland for a month now.

Despite this, they already face an issue of surplus in what they recover and are currently in the process of expanding their distribution network.

“We get really frustrated,” the pair said. “We know people need this food but we don’t know how to get it to them.”

In the last week, they connected with Rescare Homes Trust, a lifestyle community for individuals with intellectual disabilities. Aatir Zadi, a supervisor at the Manukau Community was thankful for their support.

“The quality of food was amazing and we would love to request some more in future.

We loved the selection of breads and veggies.”

Hygiene may seem like danger when recovering food from dumpsters, but these women have a series of systems and checks to ensure the food is edible.

Discretion is key during the recovery process, and a second check of all food is performed once they return home to their flat. Vacuum packed products are submerged in water to check for leaks in packaging, while fruit and vegetables get soaked and cleaned.

The food they retrieve is stored at their flat in two fridge and freezer unit as well as a 250-liter chest freezer. Most is cooked, canned or preserved before storage as soon as possible to prevent the food from becoming inedible.

Though these women operate in an unofficial capacity, there are official charities that work with supermarkets to save wasted food. Fair Food is one such group, which works with chain stores such as Countdown and Farro Fresh.

Countdown and Farro Fresh are however, stores that these women frequently dive at. Which suggests even with official redistribution, there is still more than necessary going to waste.

Doughnuts: Next on the Swarbrick agenda

Friday Oct 21, 2016

Ex-mayoral candidate and self made entrepreneur Chlöe Swarbrick is opening a doughnut cafe and art gallery.

Swarbrick and partner Alex Bartley Catt have been working with associate  Bryan Anderson on the renovation and development  of the space they have coined Olly. The cafe is due to open in about a month, and will be located inside suburban cinema The Crystal Palace.

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Outside Olly – Photo/Sean Stapleton

The idea for a doughnut cafe was concieved out of Swarbrick and Catt’s passion for the pastries, and disappointment in the lack of a doughnut scene in Auckland. “No one really does the sort of doughnuts that people want here,” claims Swarbrick.

Olly will have a range of doughnuts that will include both yeast and cake based recipes with a focus on the traditional circular shape. The aim is to create a brand that draws on both the American ideals and Melbourne doughnut trends.

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The Crystal Palace – Photo/Sean Stapleton

Though Swarbrick concedes that “doughnuts aren’t extremely healthy”,  they will be using high quality and natural ingredients.

The trio acquired the space following a change in management of the suburban cinema.

Swarbrick would walk past the empty store front daily and had designs on it for a while, as she has a infatuation with project spaces. Her initial plans for the space were solely for an art gallery.

Art has always been a great love of Swarbrick’s and she has been involved in a number of artistic projects over the last three years. She even founded The Goods last year, a “united front for local artists, photographers, and rag traders”.

Through that front Swarbrick set up a space similar to her current project, in St Kevin’s arcade last December. There they hosted a week long retail space with a revolving gallery.

“I love talented artists. It kind of hurts me when I see people not feeling confident in their passions”

Swarbrick aims to give artists a leg up to share their talent with a broader audience, potentially sell their works and gain more faith in their talent.

With this mentality towards the arts, the trio behind Olly have brought in artists from their networks to contribute to a mural covering the back wall of their cafe. Bryson Naik, Toni Gill and Jed Richardson are the collaborators on the art piece (pictured below).

Back at it

A post shared by Chlöe Swarbrick (@chloe.swarbrick) on

The art displayed in the gallery will be on a monthly rotation with gallery openings to accompany the arrival of the new exhibitions.

The space is intended to be a permanent fixture, so locals can expect a bright future with plenty  of fresh art in the village.

Some may be concerned by how far the space is from the centre of Mt Eden Village, however Swarbrick has no qualms. “Passerbys have been showing a lot of interest and we have a wide network,” she claims.

The sentiment is shared by nearby cafes, Oaeill Liang, a local cafe worker says “Some people think that we are very far away from the centre of the village, but a lot of people like that.” He believes that if businesses on the edge of the village work together they can increase their customer traffic.

The trio’s venture is a sign of what becomes of modern tertiary students as they enter the work force. A social media poll conducted shows that it’s a widely held view that after graduation students are likely to end up with diverse careers that stray from their qualification title.

 

Swarbrick is a prime example of this modern trend, as she graduated from Auckland University with a Law degree, and a Bachelor of Arts majoring in philosophy. Qualifications that seem odd considering her work history.

As a young woman involved in multiple projects and working a number of jobs, Chlöe Swarbrick holds a personal philosophy that fuels her drive. “Life is Suffering,” she says, a buddhist moral, and idea that she believes pushes her to make life meaningful.

–  Sean Stapleton

Finding the Sweet Spot

Unsurprisingly, burglary stories are a dime a dozen, especially amongst the students taking this paper. In a fast paced news cycle where articles are competing for mass appeal, it pays to stand apart from the crowd. With this in mind I hit the streets and scoured social media and local forums for a more original scoop.

As it turns out, I have found my new story in the very first place I looked when I began my hunt. At the top of my road sits the suburban cinema, The Crystal Palace. Once derelict and left empty and unused by its owners, it is now host to a number of concerts since new management took over.

Under this new management, the store space adjacent to the cinema entrance and part of the building is under development by none other than ex-mayoral-candidate Chlöe Swarbrick.

I found this after reading through a recent Reddit AMA Swarbrick took part in following the results of the Auckland City Council election.

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To confirm this information and establish initial contact, I tweeted Swarbrick, as she is known for her social media engagement. I received a reply within the day and have set about to contact her through more formal methods in the hope of securing an interview.

Bashful Birds

Last week I had come across a post on the social networking site for locals, Neighbourly, that talked of incubating eggs from fallen and abandoned nests in my local area. The woman was a local bird lady who cared for sick birds she was given and found in parks. She had acquired a professional incubating device for eggs and was notifying neighbours in our area of its availability.

Her post was met with a number of eager neighbours mentioning instances where they had needed her and that they would keep her in mind for the future.

I made contact with Maddie this week and she was initially receptive to the idea of having a story written about her and her efforts, despite being a very busy woman. However this all changed when I disclosed that I was wanting to take photographs and video to accompany the story. Maddie told me that she has a really great phobia of media/photography and respectfully declined to be a part of the story.

Unfortunately for me this development means I am shut out in the cold with two weeks to find, investigate and produce a new story.

I have my eye on a string of thefts and break ins that have occurred in the last week or so in my neighbourhood that appear connected. In light of announcements of the new hard line on burglary by police, there may be critical angle to be found.

Blooming Arborists and Empty Nests

As much as someone can wax lyrical all they like about how much they know about interviews, at the end of the day none of that really matters when you can’t track someone down to interview.

Last week I called up the Auckland City Council in an attempt to contact the Auckland City Council Arborist. As it turns out, there is more than one of them. This would be fantastic as I needed to talk to someone about the origin and nature of the cherry blossom trees that line my road, however both were unreachable by phone so I was given their email addresses and names by the council worker. I sent out polite, professional and inquisitive emails to the arborists, and received a reply from one within the day, the other is still yet to reply. The one who did knew nothing about the trees lining my road but referred me to a heritage arborist who would. I sent out another email, and am still awaiting a reply.

Though we were given a lecture on tracking people down online last week, my sleuthing skills could only dig up old reports on consents to cut trees down, and not any phone numbers that could lead me to my absent arborists.

As it stands, my current story lacks key information and vital media from when the trees were in full bloom and eco-tourists were out and about making a nuisance of themselves all over the street. It may be time to jump this leaky ship of a story before the deadline sinks my chances at a decent mark for this assignment.

Thankfully, I have just made contact with a local bird enthusiast who lives one road down from me. She has gotten ahold of an egg incubator and is on a mission to save local bird nests from cold and lonely deaths in addition to her care of sick birds she finds and is given. This human interest community hero may just be my saving grace.

Stoptober: Just smoke in the wind?

Wednesday September 28, 2016

Stoptober is less than a week away, and smokers are ignorant and apathetic about it.

Smokers we spoke with knew little to nothing about the anti-smoking campaign, though they had considered quitting. One smoker, Rico Peng, 19, stated simply, “it’s just part of my life”. His view is indicative of many smokers, although many consider giving up. Mele Finau, 27, claims, “it’s way too hard for me”.

Those that knew of the initiative thought it was a bit of a laugh. “My friends tag me in Facebook posts about it all the time, but I can’t quit,” says smoker, Selu Iloahefavia, 20.

This apathy extends beyond the latest anti-smoking campaign to other combative campaigns, including the most recent preventative advertising released by Smoke Free. “It’s a bit off-putting,” thinks smoker, Elana Smythe, 22, but she does not believe that it would prevent anyone from smoking.

The indifference to quitting their addiction remains prevalent despite the rising cost of cigarettes in New Zealand. Smokers we talked to quoted spending between $40-$70 a week on packets. The cheapest cigarettes Elana Smythe claimed to buy were $20 per pack.

Stoptober provides an outline of their campaign on their Facebook page Stoptobernz.

“Stoptober is a one month stop smoking campaign being jointly run by Inspiring Ltd and ASH NZ (Action on Smoking and Health), Ministry of Health National Quality Assurance Smoking cessation training providers. The campaign runs throughout the month of October and is New Zealand’s first stop smoking challenge of its kind.”

– Sean Stapleton in association with Cassidy Makonio

Interviews: From Mild to Wild

As a journalist, the interview is one of your primary tools. The art of the interview, as I have previously discussed, requires a certain finesse and degree professionalism. The skill required are universal in application for interviews, no matter the situation. However interviews do vary in context, and it is important to keep this in mind.

One of the most common and easiest way of getting an interview out of people is by calling them. Telephone interviews are simple, all you need to conduct one is a number, it’s quick and convenient for both the journalist and the interviewee. Conversely however, it can also become quite time consuming to pursue someone over the phone, it’s quite easy for the subject to hang up if you get too pushy, not to mention the inability to read their body language. Bad phone lines and mumbling can further hinder the interview. It is key to remain patient during these interviews as they can get frustrating.

Interviewing someone through an interpreter can be just as tricky. There is always the potential for the interpreter not to tell you everything the subject said. You should be prepared to push the interpreter to expand on what was said if you believe they didn’t tell you everything. These interviews will take longer than usual. It should also be noted in your final piece that interpreter was used in the interview.

On scene interviews can be quiet a rush, although it can be tricky to get access and information about what occurred. Authorities are usually prohibited from talking to media, but by making small talk with them you may be able to find out some of the smaller details, ask who you could talk to about what happened. It’s important to pick your moments, avoid being inappropriate or rude in your pursuit of the news in sensitive situations. Be wary of talking to children as it can become a bit of an ethical minefield with potential accusations of exploitation. Members of the public are fair game however, witnesses may still be on an adrenaline rush and keen to talk.

Press conferences are much more of a competitive environment. It is imperative that you get there early so you can get a good spot. You should be writing notes for questions and from what other journalists are asking as you go, be mindful of giving away your potential news angle in the questions you ask.

As often as you might arrange interviews by appointment, journalists are known for turning up uninvited for various reasons. Whether it be in public or knocking on someone’s door, it requires a confident attitude. To get the best response, you should be polite, introduce yourself quickly and it may even pay to apologise for taking up their time. Be prepared to get brushed off or to get off their property, in this case try to get their contact details or leave yours so they can contact you later at a better time.

The most dreaded of interviews amongst journalists is the “death knock”. This is when you make contact with the friends or family of a deceased for an interview about their loss and the deceased. These are sad and difficult interviews that take a lot of courage, sympathy and empathy. These interviews are the alternative to pilfering the deceased social media for images and information to publish, and the family iscan be grateful for the opportunity to talk about their loved one. You have a job to do and it is of great importance that you get all the details right, you should not be adding to the grief by publishing inaccurate information about the deceased. You should be very polite in your approach, apologising for their loss, make your approach as an offer to talk about the one they have lost. Avoid being pushy, especially if you are turned away, do not harass the subject. Something you should be very careful about in this situation, is being the first to break the news of the death to the family, this must be avoided at all costs.

Interviews come in all shapes and sizes, requiring varying levels of sensitivities. As you spend more and more time practicing as a journalist you will get to experience a full range, and with hope, become a strong and capable interviewer.