David Whittet's Blog
Family Physician and Film Maker

Waitaki Valley School Swimming Sports

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We are so fortunate to have such a wonderful school at Kurow and it is great to see how the local community is always there to support the school and our children.

Today, the Kurow community turned out en masse for the Waitaki Valley School swimming sports and were rewarded with some amazing talent from our young people and a true sporting spirit. I was delighted to see Rebecca achieve two awards and a place in the inter school swimming sports.

Mark stars in Waitaki Valley School Play

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Waitaki Valley School presented their end of year production today with the thought provoking play Home for Christmas. Both Mark and Rebecca had parts in the play and rehearsals have taken up a considerable amount of their time recently. Indeed, Mark learnt his lines for my film Amiri’s Child alongside those for Home for Christmas.

It was an amazingly polished production for a junior school play and I admire tremendously the school’s courage in presenting such a challenging piece of drama. The entire ensemble cast were exceptional, so much talent. I shall remember this for my next casting call.

Mark was a real star today and led the production. Afterwards Mark gave his valedictory speech to the school and had everyone spellbound. A very proud moment.

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Mark giving his farewell speech to Waitaki Valley School

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Rebecca receives an award for good citizenship

A Successful Netball Season for Rebecca

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Rebecca concluded her very successful netball season with an award for the most improved player. This has been tremendous for Rebecca and a wonderful start to her life down here in Kurow. Congratulations Rebecca!

World Cup Fever hits Kurow

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We are all very proud in Kurow that All Blacks Captain Ritchie McCaw comes form Kurow and played his first rugby with the Kurow Rugby Club.

In honour of the All Black’s success in the Rugby World Cup, in place of Kurow’s traditional straw family, we have our own special tribute from “Ritchie McCaw Country”.

Rebecca is player of the day again!

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Another very proud day for me as Rebecca was player of the day again for the Kurow netball team for the second time in this season. Rebecca has developed tremendously as a netball player and her teamwork and performance today was excellent. A well deserved award.

A Photographer's Paradise!

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Armed with my Canon Digital SLR Camera, I set out to capture something of the magic of the winter wonderland that is all around us in Kurow. Today was the best of winter, polar blast has eased, leaving a sharp crisp today with a beautiful blue sky. This seems to be so typical of winter days in Kurow.

I headed up Cattle Creak Road to the Awakino Ski-field and came home with a portfolio of stunning images.

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Polar Blast

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A polar blast has New Zealand within its grips, with record snow falls throughout the country. Kurow has been remarkably shielded from environmental extremes this winter but could not escape the force of the current cold snap.

Rural general practice is particularly susceptible to the problems of such severe weather. My practice at Kurow extends over a huge and remote area, including the Lindis Pass which is over two hours drive from Kurow. With roads blocked by snow and treacherous in the ice, getting to patients in their hour of need can be a tremendous challenge.

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Ooy and Rebecca made the most of the snow, creating a very chic snowman in our front garden! Coming from a hot country like Thailand, Ooy is always thrilled to see the snow.

PRIME at Benmore

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PRIME (Primary Response in Medical Emergencies) continue to on of the most challenging aspects of my work at Kurow, but also one of the most rewarding. There can be few situations where one has such an opportunity to make a difference to someone else’s life.

Waitaki Valley in Winter

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The Waitaki Valley has a special magic in wintertime, especially on a crisp and clear day like today. With the hectic pace of life recently, it has been hard to find the time to truly explore the region as we had planned when we first came to Kurow! Even today’s family outing had an ulterior motive, a recce to look at possible locations for my next film...

But there was time during the day to be still and reflect on the majesty of the snow clad mountains and the vast lakes. Both my children have developed a keen interest in photography and it is great to see them honing their skills with such magnificent scenery!

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See our Waitaki Valley in Winter Photo Gallery.

Mark's Speech

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I took time out from work at lunchtime to watch Mark give his speech at Waitaki Valley School today. The speeches are an extremely important part of the school curriculum and Mark has been working really hard on his presentation on alien life in the universe.

Mark delivered his speech brilliantly, engaging the audience with both humor and passionate argument. I was so proud of Mark as I listened to his speech and saw how much the audience were enjoying it.

Mark won the award for the Year 8 Individual Speech Competition. So many people told me afterwards how much they had appreciated Mark’s speech, one even suggested he was a Prime Minister in the making!

Mark Speech Award

As a footnote, Mark went on to represent Waitaki Valley School in the regional schools competition, held in Oamaru on 1 July 2011. He won third place in the region, a tremendous achievement.

Rebecca is Player of the Day

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Rebecca has had a great week. On Friday she won an award in the regional schools BP Challenge for innovative design.

Then on Saturday, Rebecca was today’s Kurow Netball Team captain and was awarded player of the day.

Congratulations, Rebecca!

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Elephant Rocks

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Life has been so hectic recently, with the completion of Amiri & Aroha and the excitement of our Best Shorts competition success, that we have not had the chance to explore the Kurow area as we had planned when we arrived here in January. With the Queen’s Birthday long weekend off duty, we set out to explore the beautiful Waitaki Valley.

High on our list was a visit to the Elephant Rocks near Duntroon. This magnificent site was used as the location for Aslam’s camp in Andrew Adamson’s film of The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe. The location has so much atmosphere; you can almost feel the presence of Aslam and the White Witch hiding behind the rocks!

It is wonderful news that Andrew Adamson is returning to our district to shoot his new film Mister Pip in Oamaru in August. This is great news for Oamaru and the Waitaki region. I do hope to have the opportunity to see this great director at work.

Andrew Adamson, who brought us Shrek as well as The Chronicles of Narnia, is a Kiwi icon and something of an unsung hero. It will be great to have him back home in New Zealand. Regarding Mister Pip, Adamson says he started chasing the rights for the book immediately after reading it. "I read it on a flight back to LA and I actually got to the other end and started chasing the rights. It's about the power of imagination, about the power of story. It's about the power of being able to use your imagination to overcome obstacles."

I am really looking forward to Mister Pip.

Official Opening of Waitaki Valley School

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Today was a most important for our community, with the official opening of the Waitaki Valley School.

We are so fortunate to have such a wonderful school here at Kurow, with a state of the art building which was formally opened today. But it is the people that make it such a tremendous school and it has been a pleasure to see how everyone has gone out of their way to make Mark and Rebecca feel at home in their new school.

One gem from the speeches that I will not forget: the Mayor asked the children why we have two ears but only one mouth - because we need to listen more than we need to speak!

If it was an important day for the community, it was an especially proud day for me as Mark was chosen to speak at the ceremony and introduce the children’s songs. So many people commented on how well he spoke, that he took his time and looked at the audience whilst he was speaking. I felt so proud of him.

PRIME Call at the Kurow Bridges

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One of the excitements - and challenges - of my new work at Kurow is responding to PRIME (Primary Response in Medical Emergencies) calls. No amount of training can prepare you for the adrenaline rush when the PRIME pager goes off!

Today we had two PRIME calls, both requiring the rescue helicopter. I was called to a boating accident at the Kurow bridges where a boatsman had crashed into the bridge and sustained chest injuries.

Swimming Tuna

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Mark was very excited to have his painting Swimming Tuna displayed in the Kurow Art Exhibition this weekend.

Mark’s picture was exhibited at the exhibition as the best work of his class at Waitaki Valley School.

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House Captain

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Mark and Rebecca have made a tremendous start at their new school.

Mark has been appointed both House Captain and School Traffic Safety Team Officer which is a wonderful achievement for him. I am very proud of him!

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A New School for Mark & Rebecca

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Mark and Rebecca have their first day at their new school today, the Waitaki Valley School.

The past few weeks have been a challenge for me, settling in to a new job. Now Mark and Rebecca face a similar learning curve with their new school and new friends.

Exploring Kurow and the Waitaki Valley

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We have been looking forward to exploring Kurow and the Waitaki Valley since our visit last September and with our first weekend here we haven’t wasted any time. For me it was a voyage of rediscovery, driving trough the valley from Kurow, past the mighty hydroelectric dams and the lakes to Otematata and Omarama and on to Twizel and the high country. It felt like coming home...

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Salmon Fishing in Twizel!
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Ooy and Mark exploring the High Country Salmon Farm between Omarama and Twizel. Waitaki Valley promises to be a culinary delight!

Our Arrival in Kurow

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A New Year and a new beginning...

Kurow’s renowned Straw Family greeted us as we arrived in Kurow today. I remember taking photographs of this icon of the Kurow summer when I first came here in January 1995.

Kurow has drawn me back after all these years and today marks an exciting new start for both me professionally and for my family.

Sixteen years on, little seems to have changed as we explored Kurow.

It feels good to be back in Kurow and I look forward to the challenges ahead.

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Family Visit to Kurow

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It was at Kurow in January 1995 that I first experience rural practice. I did a locum for Dr John Chambers, who was the Kurow GP at that time.

Rural practice has been a passion for me since that date. I have worked for over 15 years at a rural practice in Te Karaka, held the Rural Portfolio on the RNZCGP Executive and worked on the international Wonca Working Party on Rural Practice.

Back in 1995, I little realized that I would have the opportunity to come back and work at Kurow. Some places cast a magical spell on you and I have always wanted to come back to Kurow.

We have spent the last few days on a family visit to Kurow before we move here in the New Year.

Click here to see our photos of the visit to Kurow

New Directions in My Life

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After fifteen wonderful years at Te Karaka, it is time for new challenges.

Leaving Te Karaka has been a very difficult decision, but the opportunity to pursue two projects that are both very close to my heart has proved to great to resist.

I have secured funding through the World Organization of Family Doctors for my project to develop family medicine in a rural part of Cambodia. This work promises to make a real difference to some of the most disadvantaged communities on our planet.

I have also promised myself that I will have another film in the can by the end of 2010. Since my teenage years, film making has been an integral part of my life and I have been a prolific independent film maker over the years. Yet life has been so hectic that it is some years since my last film.

So I am thrilled to be back behind the camera, shooting a distinctly New Zealand story set in the beautiful East Cape which has been my home for these fifteen years.

I am indeed fortunate to be able to realize these two projects which I have dreamt about for so long.

I plan to spend the next six months working on these two projects. The pre-production planing for my new film Amiri & Aroha is almost complete and am currently working on the casting. I hope to start shooting in mid September, shortly after finishing work at Te Karaka. The principal location, the Rere falls, is close to Te Karaka and I am hoping that many of my former patients will be “extras” in the film.

The Cambodia project is also taking shape. I am working with a number of professors of family medicine in Cambodia and hope to progress the work of setting up community clinics in the rural areas of most extreme need by the end of the year.

On completion of these two projects, I am planning to return to rural practice and am currently looking at Kurow, the practice in South Canterbury which first awakened my love of rural practice.

It has been a tremendous privilege to be the doctor at Te Karaka for the past fifteen years and these have proved some of the happiest and most challenging years of my professional life. Both my children were born during my time at Te Karaka and we have always felt a part of the local community. I extent my most sincere and heartfelt thanks to the people of Te Karaka for making us so welcome.