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The Worst of Auckland: Dubious Achievements 2014

Dec 19, 2014 etc

Dubiosity will always be with us, but this was a vintage year, a feast of dubiousness, an annus dubiosilis, if you will. In seasonal tradition, we’ve chosen the sour cream of the crop.


"To be fair, I was trying to get south of the Border."
“To be fair, I was trying to get south of the Border.”

The Gilbert Enoka Couch-and-Psychodrama Session for livening up the usual tedium of All Black-related news goes to Aarons Smith and Cruden.

It’s always refreshing when the giant, smothering, black adidas-branded cloak of All Black blather slips just a fraction, reminding us that the heroic figures on the billboards and bus backs can be as prone to mistakes as the next idiot. Smith obliged with a naked photograph that ended up all over social media, drawing gasps across the land, though we didn’t look at it ourselves, of course.

From what we’ve heard, whether Smith goes on to have a post-All Black career in the northern hemisphere or not, he’ll always be big downunder (cymbal crash).

The photos of Cruden’s big night out in Auckland weren’t as anatomically complete but provided the context for his failure to make the team’s flight to Argentina the next day. Both he and Smith will presumably have been instructed by Enoka to have a good, long, hard look at themselves… no sniggering at the back!

"So this is what they meant by the Desolation of Smug."
“So this is what they meant by the Desolation of Smug.”

The David Shearer Memorial Brace of Snapper for political incompetence in charge of a Labour Party goes to David Cunliffe and his apology for being a man.

It’s certainly not that Cunliffe hasn’t got a lot to apologise for. There’s that smirk, for a start. How can one off-centre facial expression indicate so much self-satisfaction? Or how about the political tin ear that allowed him to remain convinced of his own electability when most of his own colleagues gagged at the sight of him?

Yet when Cunliffe felt the need to get all wet-eyed and huskily regretful, it was for something he has in common with half the country. It’s the kind of remark that may play well in the patchouli-scented closed session of a gender-issues workshop but went down like a cup of kale-and-quinoa smoothie with ordinary voters. If his supporters are to believed, his heart was in the right place.

Unfortunately, his foot was in his mouth and his head somewhere that only Cunliffe himself would ever associate with sunshine.


The Border Control Cavity Search and Souvenir Rubber Glove goes to Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee for breaching Christchurch Airport security.

You know how they say heavy people can be surprisingly agile? Well, big Gerry certainly showed his twinkle toes — not to mention a clean pair of heels — when he breached security at Christchurch Airport by waltzing in through an exit door. Yep, while the rest of us are queuing up and submitting to all manner of interrogation by man, machine and wand, the Minister of Transport talks his way through a special fat-man’s track, a thoroughfare that must forever be recalled as Brownlee’s back passage.


The Typhoid Mary award goes to Canon Media Awards judge Deborah Hill Cone for anointing Cameron “Whale Oil” Slater as Blogger of the Year — thereby infecting the MSM’s “premier journalism awards” with sordid toxicity.

We actually like the new touchy-feely, Kumbayah version of Hill Cone. The one with the sultry photo byline who over-shares in her Herald column every week, questioning the meaning of it all, and that. It’s a big improvement on the Mark I version, the unthinking biz-chick whose vacuous right-wing punditry seemed to have been piped in uncensored from a corporate box or gin palace, still reeking of canapés, entitlement and rich people’s brain farts.

But all her recent personal “growth” didn’t stop her from delivering the unlovely Whale Oil to a place at journalism’s high table, on account of his scoop about Len Brown being a randy old goat. Great reveal, for sure, but the tawdry saga of how Bevan Chuang was encouraged to tell all was hardly from the Ben Bradlee school of journalism. And the award looked even worse once Dirty Politics lifted the lid on Slater’s smear campaigns. Your bad, Deborah.

Let’s just remember, the other judging at this year’s Canons was outstanding — and we don’t say that every year!


"Hey, before you go! Copies of my book Mein Kampaign are available in the lobby."
“Hey, before you go! Copies of my book Mein Kampaign are available in the lobby.”

The Ford Edsel Award for creating a breakthrough political vehicle that nobody bought goes to Kim Dotcom, Hone Harawira, Laila Harré and Pam Corkery.

Those lefties and radicals are nothing if not principled, right? Golly, Harré’s principles took her out of the Labour Party and out of government when the Alliance fell apart; Harawira’s forced him to quit the Maori Party. Yet when the big man resembling a Bond villain from central casting proposed a marriage of convenience, his bags of cash proved impossible to resist.

Trouble was, no amount of money could stop the doors falling off this clown car. Dotcom failed to deliver his “moment of truth”, Harawira failed to deliver Te Tai Tokerau, and Harré’s failure to deliver elementary political competence was exemplified by her hiring of the combustible Corkery as press secretary. Corkery’s “puffed-up little shits” was a moment of truth, sure, but so was the election result that hurled Internet Mana and all involved into well-deserved political oblivion.


The Big-Brand-Soap-Powder Award for Coming Clean after helping drag cricket through the match-fixing mud goes to Lou Vincent.

Vincent was a batsman who let no swash go unbuckled, as they say, an entertainer who scored a century on his test debut and whose astonishing 172 off 120 balls against Zimbabwe in 2005 remains the second-highest ODI score by a New Zealander. So, he was a little eccentric? That kind of comes with the territory in cricket, a game of psychological warfare well suited to obsessives, crackpots and downright weirdos.

Vincent, sadly, was drawn into the murky world of match-fixing, which led finally this year to a life ban from the game and a searingly comprehensive mea culpa with the opening line, “My name is Lou Vincent and I am a cheat.” For the wholeheartedness of that admission, he remains one of our favourite flawed geniuses. Now, before we splash out on tickets, which Indian bookmaker can tell us who’s in the final of the World Cup?


"Mr Speaker, my conscience is as clear as my jacket."
“Mr Speaker, my conscience is as clear as my jacket.”

The Automotive Dismantlers “Crushed!” Award goes to Judith Collins for putting her bright political future behind her.

How galling must it be? Stuck on the back benches, able only to watch as namby-pamby wets like Bill English and Steven Joyce get to have all the fun of taking away people’s tea breaks and selling their state houses. No wonder there’s been a near-permanent frown on that kewpie-doll brow. You might almost feel sorry for her… Just kidding!

Collins’ tough-girl persona was almost bearable when she lived up to it, but her attempts to claim victimhood as the Oravida and Whale Oil chickens came home to roost were seat-wetting. Getting so close to Cameron Slater showed a woeful lack of judgment, and her lack of steel under fire (from one who was meant to “give back double”) suggests she’s actually temperamentally unsuited to a life of political slings and arrows. For genuine ruthlessness, look no further than the bloke who withheld her right to “the Hon”. Now that was crushing.


"I suppose this means a knighthood is out of the question?"
“I suppose this means a knighthood is out of the question?”

The Helicopter Flight to Hell or Coatesville for a most spectacular fall from grace goes to John Banks.

You’d need a heart of stone not to feel just the faintest skerrick of sympathy for John Archibald Banks, CNZM, QSO. Of course, talkback-host Banks, Cabinet-minister Banks and Act-leader Banks never showed too much sympathy for those in the dock, but for a child of criminals who fought his way to business and political success, his conviction for filing a false electoral return and sentence of two months’ community detention must have been a bitter blow.

As this magazine went to press, Banks remained hopeful his appeal would overturn the sentence and conviction: “I’d like to think that sometime soon the rain’s going to stop falling.” Talk about irrepressible! We think he might be angling for a weather-presenter gig! [Ed. note: Banks won his appeal and will be retried sometime next year.]


The Electroconvulsive Therapy Voucher for infrastructure management goes to Vector, for depriving Auckland’s blue-chip suburbs of hot spas and cold champagne.

Don’t worry, Christchurch, we could hear you giggling, but this was serious! As the power cut affecting our loveliest, leafiest neighbourhoods ground into a second gruelling day, desperate citizens couldn’t even take a hot shower. Only copious applications of Chanel saved the filthy rich from becoming the stinking rich. Just like that, their tennis courts, swimming pools, entertainers’ kitchens and fetish dungeons were cast into darkness.

The people of these suburbs pay enough tax, don’t they? Give or take the odd complex offshore avoidance mechanism. And yet Vector seemed ill-prepared to cope when a substation fire knocked out supply to thousands of households.

Apparently we don’t have a “gold-plated” system. Well, gold-plate the bloody thing, immediately! We feel your pain, Remuera. Kia kaha, etc.


The Skin-tight Warriors Jersey (with commemorative tall poppy monogram) for rich man’s overreach goes to Sir Owen Glenn.

Sir Owen, one of the most generous philanthropists in our history, has had a gutsful of New Zealand, but can take more than a little blame himself for the ridicule invited by his involvement in the perennially underachieving Warriors. The claim back in 2012 that he and co-owner Eric Watson were going to turn the club into the best sporting franchise in Australasia was lapped up by the hacks who most years predict the Warriors “could go all the way”, but you didn’t need a degree from the Owen Glenn School of Business to recognise the big talk as a bad sign.

Sure enough, the Warriors have gone nowhere fast and this year, the Glenn-and-Watson show exploded in a cloud of acrimony and legal action. When it comes to league-loving millionaires, we prefer the kind that shouts about sausages.


The Basket of Dirty Laundry for taking family disputes public goes to Sally Ridge.

We usually get all our Sally information from the women’s mags — she always seems so perky and pretty and such besties with daughter Jaime and everything! — but her court battle with ex-partner Adam Parore has given us all sorts of other poignant insights. Like the fact (revealed in the judgment ordering her to pay more than $100,000 in costs after her failed bid to gain half of Parore’s business) that she reckons her brain “doesn’t compute trusts”. Aw.

Ridge is appealing the ruling against her so the saga’s not over yet. Do you think there may be a mini-series in it?


The Lies, Damn Lies and Statistics Magic Wand is awarded to Counties Manukau Police for making burglaries disappear.

Officer Plod never misses a chance to attribute any achievement in his job to “just good police work”, as if we expected them to be employing the skills of pastry chefs and top-dressing pilots.  It’s fairly clear there was nothing “good” about the police work that slashed the burglary numbers in Counties Manukau: police merely altered the stats to make hundreds of crimes disappear.

Meanwhile, the guys in striped tops and eyemasks carrying bags labelled “swag” carried on with their good old-fashioned burglaries.

“I swear I was only ordering the pasture- fed heifer with lardons. Not to eat, obviously.”
“I swear I was only ordering the pasture- fed heifer with lardons. Not to eat, obviously.”

The Golden Gastric Band for Verbal Diarrhoea goes to Rachel Smalley for describing women weighing over 72kgs as “heifers” and “lardos”.

Uh-oh. Guess which Newstalk ZB presenter’s ratings took a sudden dive in the all-important obese-female demographic? For those not personally insulted, meanwhile, the delight of hearing one of the nation’s cookie-cutter broadcasting blondes uttering something so unexpected when she thought the microphone was off was exceeded only by the entertainment value in Smalley’s tearfully over-the-top apology the following morning. “It was in no way representative of any opinion I have ever held, ever,” she emoted, adding an extra “ever” for special heartfeltness.

“I’m very sorry for the hurt that I caused and the many people that I let down, not least myself, my friends and my family.” Call us bitter old cynics but we can’t help thinking certain career-limiting ramifications may have lent an extra note of desperation to her words of regret. Fuggedaboudit, Rach! Moove on! We have!


The Big Bottle of Extra-Diluted Nothingness for looniness as an MP goes to the Greens’ Steffan Browning.

And to think the Greens have worked so hard to shake off the nutbar image. Poor old Russel Norman trusses himself up in a collar and tie and talks like a chartered accountant (you know, every sentence has a “going forward”); they’ve even eschewed dancing around the maypole at conferences! And for what? So silly old Steffan can sign a petition suggesting homeopathy could be trialled for curing Ebola. Hey, Steffan, how about you go to West Africa and do the trial?

Unsurprisingly, a more practical tool — the axe — was employed to remove his responsibility for the (get this!) natural health portfolio. It has subsequently been merged into the usual boring old health portfolio, dealing with pharmaceuticals and machines that go ping, but Browning and the Greens won’t soon be allowed to forget this embarrassment. Quick, someone, break out the emergency supplies of St John’s wort!


"Free jacket, every other weekend off... winning!"
“Free jacket, every other weekend off… winning!”

The Sir John Kirwan Blue Suede Shoes for being a superstar in one rugby code and a non-event in the other goes to Benji Marshall.

You’d think All Blacks great Sir John Kirwan (also, Warriors 1995-96) might have heard alarm bells ringing before he signed Marshall for what was reported to be nearly half a million dollars a season. With the Blues in desperate need of proven rugby nous, JK opted to splash out on a league veteran suffering late-career form issues.

Marshall’s sporadic appearances and the Blues’ indecision about what position he should play in soon made it obvious this crazy experiment was a fizzer. When the plug was pulled in April, he had been given just one start and made only six appearances. The Blues went on to finish 10th, just as they did in Kirwan’s first season. At least he’s delivered consistency! And his latest marquee signing, 47-year-old Jimmy Cowan, looks like a doozy. Anyone know what position he’ll play?



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