Category: People

The Great Drain Game 20 years!

By Nikki Sturrock

WOW 20 years!! I am so excited, thankful and humbled that The Great Drain Game is still going strong after all these years. I can still see and feel the frustration, as my normally mild mannered and lovely boyfriend bashed and clattered around the kitchen spouting expletives and burning dinner. Campbell, a water pollution officer, had sadly dealt with hundreds of dead eels, fish, shellfish and polluted beaches. He’d had to prosecute and fine many citizens and businesses for pouring their wastes down the drain. Some intentionally!! And had spent many hours cleaning up, a very stressful and often heart breaking and often thankless job. Don’t even get me started on the Car wash Fundraisers!! “Would your poor it in your fish tank?! Would ya!!”

And “Now!” he tells me, “now! The great new way to combat this everyday environmental catastrophe and total lack of education is to spend yet another $60k of tax payer money on..” he waits for a pause glaring at me with a serving spoon in his hand,…”printing NEW f#*king PAMPHLETS!! Because of course a new brochure rewording last years brochure explaining that outside drains are actually living streams! people! and ever so politely please, dispose of your waste down an inside drain or take it to the transfer station like people who actually give a sh#t! Oh but this new brochure is going to work soooo much better than last years brochure or the year before that! or the year before that!…. because this year someone had the total brainwave to make it… f#^king GLOSSY!!!” At this point he realizes the contents of the serving spoon, burnt though it is, is now sliding off the light bulb above him.

He sighs and looks at me…”people just don’t know that pouring anything down an outside drain is just tipping poison into our streams and killing creatures all the way to the sea. Its not until we have caught them and my team are fining them do they understand and this does not endear them at all, to streams struggling to hang in there.”

I learnt a lot from that evening and while he had been downloading he had know idea he was bringing an incredible world to life for me, in all honesty before that moment I had never considered drains, they were just invisibly there, I had even flicked cigarette buts down them in my rebel years (I thought it best to keep that to myself as he had been hacking spuds with a carving knife and smoke was rising around him when the thought had occurred to me). Let alone imagining the incredible life that tries to survive beneath our city streets.

During this awakening I drew the Great Drain Game for Campbell, I felt sure if people could play it they’d  understand the life we have to lose. I went on to build 5 games for 4 councils and at its peak 250 school kids were playing it every day and it was doing the rounds of festivals and events at weekends. I lost count of players 10 years ago at about 300,000 and now the game is in its 20th year.

I am so grateful to my boyfriend now husband and father of my children for the inspiration and learning he is to me. I am also so grateful to all the people who worked with me to make the game happen. The Auckland Regional Council, The North Shore City Council, Hawkes Bay regional Council, Tauranga city Council, Nelson City Council, Auckland City Council, Keep New Zealand Beautiful , Kids 4 Drama and the all the kids, volunteers and workers who played, then taught others how to play.

Lastly but by no means least I would like to thank Tread Lightly for continuing the work. You can book it at I was so chuffed to be invited to see it in action. I was bowled over when a young woman about 20 years old, there representing a potential sponsor,  said ” Hey! I remember you, you taught me how to play The Great Drain Game when I was just a kid” about 12 years previous we worked out and now here she was wanting the company she worked for to get on board as a sponsor! Speaking of sponsors a shout out to Kelly Tarltons and Tom Ryan Transport!

I hope you enjoy the photos and for those of you who played the game thank you and remember:

Outside Drains flow to the Sea.

Inside Drains flow to a treatment Plant.

Outside Drains are only for rain.


Video: Testing Little Miss Sunshine for Fukushima radiation

We’ve had several people ask if our 100% electric car, imported from Japan, has any radiation contamination from the Fukushima nuclear reactor disaster. Well we were lucky enough to meet Joe Rifici who has a geiger counter and knows all about radiation contamination. In this video we get quite a lesson from Joe and were suprised to find out that Toyota NZ is well aware of the potential risk from Japan.

Joes website –

Video: The Loop Crew join the Battle for the Banded Rail

We had the great pleasure of meeting Kathryn Brownlie from the Battle for the Banded Rail project while helping out on a recent tree planting on the shore of the Waimea Inlet.

In this video Nikki talks to Kathryn about the project aiming to increase the numbers of Banded Rail and other shy native birds on the margins of Inlet. Kathryn’s passion and commitment to a species in crisis was an inspiration. This is a woman not willing to allow extinction in her backyard.

To find out more about this great initiative go to Battle-for-the-Banded Rail. Their next planting day is scheduled for 26 June 2016 at Research Orchard Road, Redwood Valley. Contact Kathryn at for more details.

Here are a few photos from our day out planting.

Coming home to the Amokura – by Nikki

When I spotted French Pass on a wall map at the Manders and mentioned to Campbell “I think the Amokura is sunk around here”, I was startled by Debi’s instant interest. “What do you know about the Amokura?” she asked. I said “Well my Great Granddad was the captain and I think it was sunk as a divers’ wreck”. She beamed at me and said “No it isn’t. I used to play on it as a kid. It’s at the bottom of my parents’ garden! We can take you to see it tomorrow!”

I couldn’t believe it! My grandmother Ruth Hosking (nee Martin), who’s passed now, used to tell me stories about living on the Amokura when she was a little girl. Here I was listening to Debi talking about playing on it as a wreck when she was a little girl. Grandma lived on it with her father Captain David Martin, her Mother, and two sisters Evelyn and Isabel. It was a coal hulk in the Wellington Harbour. She talked of happy childhood memories of being dressed in layers of white petticoats and taking the launch to school. The school children not believing that she could possibly live on a coal hulk because she was so clean. She would describe her amazing father and how he would climb way up the mast, to her a hundred feet high, then dive off. She would run backwards and forwards looking over the side to see where he would pop up, he would often swim right under the hull and appear after what seemed like an age. She said Father had wild red curls and had traded as a young man with the Moriori in the Chatham Islands. She said they always greeted him fondly like a brother because they too had red hair. Grandma would then dig out a lock of her own hair from her jewellery box. “See mine was strawberry blonde, Isabel’s was red and Evelyn’s was auburn. Can you picture us with him? Father with his deep flaming red Scottish curls and us 3 girls all with long red plats and white petticoats.”

Sadly the conversation always stopped mid stride and torment would cross Grandma’s face. She would drop her head and be silent. “Did I tell you mother died when I was 11? It was an awful thing. Everything changed. It’s my fault you know. Isabel and I were fighting and she got up to stop us…” In that moment Grandma was transported back to that terrible moment. Powerless scared and just an 11 year old girl who bitterly blames herself. She wouldn’t speak about it anymore.

Two years after my great Grandmother died Isabel died tragically. I won’t say anything more about that except I am so sad to have never met her.

When I was a wee babe of 12 weeks old Grandma’s older sister Evelyn took me in and I lived with her. I bonded with this real life fairy Godmother “Gama” who was willing at 67 to take in a sick newly weaned baby. She was in my life till I was 20 and I miss her every day. Evelyn was 18 when her mother passed away and spoke of it just once to me when I was about 10 years old. She said “You know those enamel bowls? They are very sharp when they are broken and that’s how it happened.” She said no more about it…ever. That sentence has always stuck with me as it brought up so many questions and didn’t explain anything to my then and still now, curious mind.

I was so excited at the prospect of seeing the Amokura and stepping into the past and somehow reconnecting to women I loved so much and are now gone from my life. I told Grandmas stories to my three children Bracken, Breeze and Reef after all. Their Great Great Grandfather was Captain David Martin with the wild red hair and they all know of my love for my Gama even though they never met. Bracken has a faint memory of Grandma on her 90th birthday Bracken was very concerned of the frail aged hand he found holding his plump 2 year old palm.

I was overwhelmed by the sight of the huge wreck laying ruined but peacefully in this serene light filled and sheltered bay. Memories and voices flooded in and I began to cry. I could see white petticoats as my kids raced towards an undiscovered treasure. As we got closer the Amokura’s immense size and grandeur seemed to rise up as if taking a deep breath. It felt like touching a living thing as I lay my hand on her for the first time, feeling her breath out. I was completely absorbed by her and felt a huge weight lift as I realised the family that lived aboard were all together again. I smiled as I silently introduced my family to her as they all happily played pirates, sword fighting and salvaged lumps of coal from deep within the hull. Images of Great Great Grandfather Captain David Martin flashed before my eyes as I watched my son Bracken with his wild hair proudly strut about the deck giving orders to the scurvy naves. Images of the rooms of the Amokura as Grandma would have seen them overlaid the ruins like transparencies as she guided me around her home.

The boys gathered oysters off the hull which we ate crumbed that evening. Paul salvaged a piece of wood for me to preserve and pass down. I watched Debi’s family and my own play together and befriend each other on common ground. The Amokura is as deeply entrenched in the childhoods of the Mander family as it is in mine. The Manders and the Sturrocks are entwined now, woven into the fabric of the history of that vessel of time, the Amokura.


NZMCA members we have met – by Nikki

Yossarian Fay and her husband Liam became members 65177 at the Easter Rally. Inspired by the Motor Caravanner article Yossarrian bought a Freeset t shirt from Liminal Apparel to support decent work for young women of India. The Fays plan to take to the road with their 2 children by December and are currently in the market for a bus. As the sustainable conversation got down to nitty gritties we all felt it would be great to reconvene at their place to see if an 11m bus would fit down their drive, charge the car, have dinner together, let the kids play and feed the chickens our 2 weeks worth of stored vege scraps. The bus fitted perfectly and we will see them on the road soon!

Paul and Yvonne Holcombe, members 39961, offered another sustainable way to deal with our vege scraps, two piglets! They said stay, even though they were being helicoptered onto Mt Ruapehu. They volunteer for DOC, painting huts to preserve them as shelter in this unpredictable terrain. Paul trialed a blend of Greenfuels Biogold and has since reported it’s the first time he’s tackled a particular hill without needing the lowest gear. Yvonne put us in touch with the principal of Levin School and our kids taught school kids about sustainability. Much to the kids delight we were then allowed to take the Holcombe’s little dog to the beach.

As I lay looking out at the magnificent stretch that is Foxton Beach I watched a lady making her way up the path carrying two handfuls of rubbish. She smiled a lovely smile in greeting and I was compelled to ask if she was an NZMCA member. “Oh yes” she said. “I thought so” I replied. “Mind if I take a photo?” She quickly apologised and explained she always did this…picking up litter, I said “Don’t apologise. You’re one of the unsung heroes that make up the association!” Maria, as the Roaming GGees members 26535, and takes it upon herself to leave each place better than she found it. No reward, no fanfare, just because she says “It’s the right thing to do”.

We were leaving the Horowhenua when we heard The Extravaganza was coming to town. Discovering that they were all NZMCA members, and mainly young families living and working on the road, we asked if the Loop Bus could join them. We were made part of the corral of extraordinary travelling homes creating the village green. Swept away by music, street theatre, exotic wares, treated to the skills and tastes of yesteryear, the steady stream of visitors most dressed for the occasion transported us all back to a carnival in the middle ages. We were inspired by these hard working families and their commitment to a sustainable life on the road. Within 24 hours all 3 kids had their hair wrapped, sported a tattoo and told us they were part of The Gypsy Tricksters show. Breeze on hula hoop, Bracken on poi (he’s working on setting them on fire he tells me!) and Reef doing the robot dance much to the crowds delight and applause. The kid’s grew in confidence and didn’t have time for screens. We are so thankful to The Extravaganza for keeping such a magical time alive.

Down to business, it was interesting to discover these self-contained NZMCA members are quite concerned about what they call “vannys” people, more often than not tourists, who buy a van throw a mattress in the back and travel without dealing with their wastes responsibly. This impacts on the way “living on the road” is perceived by the general populace. The Extravaganza applauds their NZMCA’s stance on self-containment and are also committed to being zero waste by 2020 and plant trees to help offset their emissions. Cam and I were astonished with the way the grounds were left, not a skerrick of rubbish. Extravaganza waste warrior Kathleena, member 40030, and gypsy Josie sort it all, including what the public leaves behind. Next season they plan to pull a dedicated waste trailer that will educate as well as make waste disposal fun. The Loop bus has been invited to join and we may just run away with The Extravaganza!

It was The Loop Crews month for first hearing Levin’s Mayor Brendan Duffy at the Easter Rally, then meeting him at the Leading the Charge electric vehicle event at the Library. Mr Duffy told us he’d been keeping an eye on The Loop bus and sure enough knew where we’d been staying around town, acknowledging we’d been leaving it better than we found it!

Via a moving Powhiri in at Te Wānanga o Raukawa in Otaki we headed to Waikanae where we met Mayor Ross Church who too spoke in support of electric vehicles becoming the norm for the future. He spoke of infrastructure and support of the country’s journey towards sustainability. Dee and Steve West of Charge.Net.NZ were acknowledged for leading the charge by supplying the country with rapid chargers which means we can travel further faster. The Loop Crew followed their Teslas to Lower Hutt where we met yet another Mayor, Ray Wallace. He drives a hybrid and was very interested in The Loop Crews 100% electric, nick named “Little Miss Sunshine”. We explained to him Reid Technology and Century Batteries designed the system to charge her on solar as well as using a standard 3 pin plug, camping ground commando or rapid charger. Ray was in agreement, this is the way of the future.

We talked to crowds following Leading the Charge from Levin to Benheim where we left them and joined electric car owners and NZMCA members 41818, Penny Dolimore and Pete Wilkinson. We stayed on their 62 acres of grapes, organic olives and saw their array of solar powered toys. Most of the toys were built by Pete who is a local folk hero of sorts who’s often quoted in the media. “I want to look my grandchildren in the eyes and say when the solution became practical I acted on it”. Boy has he ever.  Penny and Pete love having members to stay and offer a free cottage and a power point for electric vehicles. Cam and Reef had a blast on Pete’s homemade electric bike. Penny took Breeze to feed the chickens our collection of vege scraps while Bracken explored the grape vines yum!

Needing some well-earned family quiet time we found a secluded spot at the Taylor Dam. It had been such an intense month we just wanted to hide out a bit and chillax. We sat playing scrabble watching the mist slowly rise to reveal a mirror glass dam reflecting the hills and the bellies of black swans as they landed… unbelievable! We decided on a walk and before long were making piles of litter to pick up on the way back, then what to do with it? We got right round to the other side when Bruce Taylor from the Department of Corrections wandered out of nowhere to us to give us rubbish bags, acknowledge the kids and offer to take the rubbish away. Then around the corner comes a Mayor! Ex Mayor Liz Davidson of Blenhiem who within the hour had organised a media crew to descend, interview and photograph us all, landing us in the local paper and on Stuff. So much for hiding out!

NZMCA member 41415 Lynette offered her bin after a litter pick up at the beautiful Rarangi Beach. She also welcomed our personal vege scraps to feed their chickens and told us of a NZMCA rally beach clean-up at Rarangi Beach’s Wairau Diversion. Lynette had a run in with ‘Vannys’ but asks “What can you do?” she advised DOC of the amount of rubbish which included an old mattress. NZMCA members Bernie and Heather Wills 37946 suggested tickets/stickers  printed for members to place on rubbish bags explaining where it was picked up and put next to a public bin. The Wills have volunteered 429 hours doing clean ups and have planted just shy of 10,000 trees. They are planning a planting at Tanners Point BOP May/June. If anyone would like to help the Wills out please contact them on

Next stop, literally, saw us in a remote and extraordinarily beautiful part of the Marlborough sounds with a home schooling family (NZMCA members)… stopped…completely as it happens…something to do with sucking in air, as are we, the freshest I have ever breathed…we’ll keep you posted.

Marlborough Sounds
Our first view of the Marlborough Sounds. WOW!

NZMCA Easter Rally

The Loop Bus was greeted by big smiles and waved to a lovely posy in front of the main blow up Covi entrance at the Easter Rally in Levin. Visitors along with the Easter Bunny made us very welcome at our first rally ever. The crowd grew and conversations got more intense and focused when we began pumping and giving away the Bio Gold that had been gifted by Green Fuels. All manner of containers were being offered for fill up, we drew the line when one cheeky fella turned up with his freshly emptied toilet cassette! End of day 2 and over 50 vehicles had a taste of bio gold in the tank meaning the 2016 Easter rally collectively dropped their emissions by over a tonne! From Levin to Marlborough Sounds we’ve met members that make us proud to be part of such a positively proactive association who are open to the sustainable conversation and willing to “leave it better than you find it”.