Plagiarism, Praise, and Poplar Poles

Have you noticed that those who demand to be credited are often the last to give credit to others? It’s one of those odd paradoxes of life. However, with an increase in “intellectual property” lawyers and the corporations that hire them, it appears that the trend is going the other way. I heard recently that a fish n’ chips shop in the South Island called “The Cod Father” is being sued by a Hollywood studio.

Some may consider this an over-the-top reaction, but we may see more and more cases like this, with potentially significant impacts on New Zealand because of the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) deal and a failure to take plagiarism seriously by some sectors of our society.

A prime example is the highly publicised 2009 case of plagiarism against Witi Ihimaera in a book entitled The Trowenna Sea. What was far more intriguing than the plagiarism itself was the response from Auckland University, expressing publicly that it was a small offence. Beyond that, vice-chancellor Stuart McCutcheon claimed in an email to staff and students that public comment on the matter of Professor Ihimaera’s indiscretion was ill-informed. Nonetheless, Ihimaera recalled all copies of the book.

At the time this story was in the news I was marking papers at another university and found plagiarism rampant among students. After spending hours tracking down and documenting each original source that went un-cited, the course convener advised me not to pursue any cases of academic dishonesty.

What surprised me at the time was that these two New Zealand universities took academic honesty less seriously than the high school where I used to teach in the States. In both university cases, administrators made the choice not to take plagiarism seriously.

Interestingly, I got the same response after I pointed out that a Wanganui District Council officer plagiarized significant sections of an opinion piece published in the Chronicle written under a WDC byline. Granted, WDC is not an academic institution but surely this is not a good look for council and would not inspire confidence among ratepayers.

In my opinion, there is nothing wrong with citing sources and it actually makes one’s argument more robust. At the same time giving credit where credit is due and acknowledging other’s great ideas and good work enhance one’s own work.

For example, during the renovation of our Castlecliff home I was generous with praise for our local building inspectors and the fundamental elements of the building code. Everyone we dealt with in Building Services was helpful and professional, and by renovating our home through the proper channels we were able to prove that a warm, dry, low-energy home does not have to be made of sticks and straw, and built in the wop wops without consent.

Another example is all the wonderful businesses and organisations that partnered with us to provide free and independent advice on healthy homes to our community. Shouting their praise gave Project H.E.A.T. (Home Energy Awareness Training) more credibility, not less.

Another organisation that deserves huge credit is Horizons Regional Council, and particularly the staff at the Wanganui office. It is difficult to heap enough praise on them and the vision of HRC on holistic watershed management. The professional advice I have received on a number of occasions has been invaluable and the three metre poplar poles delivered to my door are already protecting vulnerable slopes on our land and will ultimately reduce peak flood levels – albeit just a tiny bit – for our friends in Anzac Parade. Screen Shot 2015-08-28 at 10.53.10 am

Finally, it is my pleasure to acknowledge Adult and Community Education Aotearoa for supporting Adult Learners Week – He Tangata Matauranga for the third year. Together we have been able to provide over 20 free workshops on topics ranging from growing fresh vege to understanding your power bill.

THANK YOU to all of these groups that make our community healthier and more resilient!


Adult Learners Week – He Tangata Matauranga

Sunday 6th 2-3 PM. Best Heating Options for Your Home, Central Library

Tuesday 8th 5-6 PM. Hot Composting, 223 No.2 Line

Wednesday 9th 4-5 PM. Reducing Heat Loss Through Windows, Gonville Café Library

Friday 11th 4-5 PM. Managing Moisture and Condensation, Gonville Café Library

Friday 11th 6:30 PM. Solar Energy, CANCELED

Saturday 12th 4:30-5:30 PM. Best Gardening Tools for You. Josephite Retreat Centre, 14 Hillside Tce.

Sunday 13th 4-5 PM. Tomatoes Before Christmas. Wanganui Garden Centre, 95a Gonville Ave.