Du­bi­ous Achieve­ments 2019

We’re paragons of su­gar-coated pos­i­tiv­ity, most of the time, “cel­e­brat­ing suc­cess” till our fill­ings hurt. But just once a year, we set aside these few pages to salute the wingnuts, drop­kicks and dip­sticks whose ser­vices to du­bios­ity are not to be ig­nored


We salute the wingnuts, drop­kicks and dip­sticks whose ser­vices to du­bios­ity are not to be ig­nored.

The God­win’s Law Mon­o­cle-andJack­boots Award for Bring­ing Up Hitler goes to John Tami­here.

Would failed Auck­land mayoral can­di­date John Tami­here have got the trains to run on time? Maybe, with the help of his 18-lane har­bour bridge, as imag­ined in those plans that looked like they came with a Mec­cano Starter Set. But we’re re­ally just try­ing to think of any up­side to hav­ing a would-be mayor who thought it was okay to say “Sieg Heil” in an election de­bate. Tami­here ar­gued he was mak­ing a point about his op­po­nent Phil Goff act­ing like Hitler (in sup­port­ing a ban on vis­it­ing right-wing fig­ures speak­ing in Auck­land Coun­cil-owned venues). And we’re as­sured he didn’t click his heels for em­pha­sis. But the uber Westie has form on the dumb, Nazi-re­lated re­mark front, dat­ing back to his in­fa­mous “front-bums” in­ter­view in 2005, when he de­clared him­self “sick and tired of hear­ing how many Jews got gassed” in the Holo­caust. We’ll ac­cept that he’s a se­rial at­ten­tion-seeker rather than an ac­tual Nazi sym­pa­thiser, but the election re­sult sug­gests his “says what he likes and likes what he says” per­sona is a po­lit­i­cal busted flush. And, any­way, isn’t 60 just a lit­tle too old to be an en­fant ter­ri­ble?

The Card­board Box in the Mid­dle of the Road for Ex­pos­ing the Empti­ness and Pain at the Heart of Auck­land’s Real Es­tate Fix­a­tion goes to TV3’s The Block.

Been bored shit­less by prop­erty chat yet? Had a gutsful of the rich-get­ting-richer Auck­land hous­ing nar­ra­tive? Dis­mayed that prop­erty spec­u­la­tion con­tin­ues to ex­ert its dis­tort­ing grip on our en­tire econ­omy? You prob­a­bly don’t watch The Block, then, though plenty do: this year’s was the Lord of the Flies- flavoured do-up show’s eighth sea­son, de­spite the clear draw­back of it be­ing hosted by Mark Richard­son and his ter­ri­fy­ingly white gnash­ers. View­ers ob­vi­ously like the in­ter­per­sonal “dy­nam­ics” when things get feral, but the very idea of at­trac­tive young peo­ple mak­ing money from prop­erty also taps into some­thing close to our na­tion’s foun­da­tion myth. It’s all so god­damn as­pi­ra­tional! And then, at this year’s sea­son-end­ing auc­tion, the Kiwi Dream went sour. Af­ter slav­ing away at the Kings­land “Fire­house” for 12 un­paid weeks, three of the four teams left the auc­tion empty-handed be­cause their apart­ments failed to ex­ceed the re­serve or didn’t sell. Turns out all the fuss, fight­ing and funky fur­nish­ings meant did­dly-squat when it counted. On this most stage-man­aged of “re­al­ity” shows, the mar­ket fi­nally in­jected a brac­ing blast of ac­tual re­al­ity.

The Post­man Pat Award for Ab­sent-Minded Mail De­liv­ery goes to the Depart­ment of Correction­s.

Af­ter the dev­as­tat­ing events of 15 March in Christchur­ch, we stupidly as­sumed the au­thor­i­ties would ob­serve the strictest pro­to­cols in hold­ing the al­leged gun­man in cus­tody ahead of his trial. What­ever might have been missed be­fore the shoot­ings, ev­ery­one would be on their A-game as we dealt with the

con­se­quences, right? Not at Correction­s, ap­par­ently, which al­lowed him to send a six-page let­ter that ended up posted to 4chan, an un­reg­u­lated on­line fo­rum pop­u­lar among white su­prem­a­cists. Ugh. When this bun­gle was ex­posed, Correction­s chief ex­ec­u­tive Chris­tine Steven­son apol­o­gised and duly closed the sta­ble door, ad­vis­ing the ac­cused man he wouldn’t be able to send or re­ceive mail un­til the depart­ment was sure it had ef­fec­tive screen­ing in place. At this rate, they could prob­a­bly also do with a re­minder to watch out for sheets knot­ted to­gether or files hid­den in cakes.

The Big Box of Tis­sues and Orches­tra of Tiny Vi­o­lins for Bravely Sol­dier­ing on in the Face of State Op­pres­sion goes to Jesse Mul­li­gan and Me­di­aWorks.

We’re big ass-kissers from way back, of course, as keen as the next preser­va­tion-minded me­dia en­tity to ap­pre­ci­ate the wit, wis­dom and sheer charisma of our bosses. But we still won­dered what the hell Mul­li­gan was up to when he used his plat­form on The Project to wail about TVNZ’s sup­pos­edly un­fair ad­van­tages and float the prospect of Me­di­aWorks clos­ing down

TV3 en­tirely. Thanks to var­i­ous id­i­otic big-money plays by var­i­ous big-money id­iots, Me­di­aWorks has been strug­gling for years. Blam­ing its woes on the state broad­caster rather than those who led the com­pany into its predica­ment seems a stretch — es­pe­cially com­ing from some­one also em­ployed by that other das­tardly “not-for-profit”, RNZ. His cur­rent bosses might have ap­pre­ci­ated the sen­ti­ment, but any­one think­ing of buy­ing TV3 might have just won­dered why ex­actly The Project needs all those pre­sen­ters, any­way.

The Bob the Builder Plas­tic Ham­mer for In­ef­fec­tive­ness in Build­ing Houses goes to for­mer hous­ing min­is­ter Phil Twyford.

Could he build it? No, he couldn’t! Phil Twyford talked a bril­liant game in op­po­si­tion, rightly lam­bast­ing the Key Gov­ern­ment for its shame­ful fail­ures in hous­ing. Problem was, once in of­fice, he seemed in­ca­pable of spark­ing Labour’s flag­ship Ki­wiBuild pro­gramme into mean­ing­ful ac­tion. Targets came and went, Twyford wit­tered about a “re­cal­i­bra­tion”, and fi­nally he paid the price for his un­der­achieve­ment by los­ing the hous­ing port­fo­lio in Jacinda Ardern’s first min­is­te­rial reshuf­fle. As Trans­port Min­is­ter, he’s been left in charge of an­other big-ticket item, light rail in Auck­land, and prom­ises to de­cide in early 2020 who will build it. Judg­ing by Twyford’s per­for­mance to date, we can’t help won­der­ing if Elon Musk will be tak­ing joyrides to Mars be­fore the first tram rat­tles down Do­min­ion Rd.

The Wet Bus Ticket for Ab­sence of Val­our in the Face of An­gry Pen­sion­ers goes to Auck­land Trans­port.

Hey, AT? Wake up and smell the democ­racy! The Auck­land Coun­cil-owned or­gan­i­sa­tion failed to front a pub­lic meet­ing about safety im­prove­ment in St He­liers, partly out of con­cern for the safety of staff. It seemed the prospect of brav­ing a hall full of can­tan­ker­ous lo­cals, many of them el­derly, was too fright­en­ing to con­tem­plate, with AT chief ex­ec­u­tive Shane El­li­son say­ing he had “a duty of care to the wellbeing of AT’s em­ploy­ees”. It’s ob­vi­ously a lot more col­le­gial giv­ing Pow­er­Point pres­sos to each other back at AT head­quar­ters, Shane, but shouldn’t those who work as pub­lic ser­vants, for a pub­lic or­gan­i­sa­tion, re­spon­si­ble for pub­lic trans­port, be pre­pared to front up and face, you know, the pub­lic?

The Empty Pink Piggy Bank for Em­bar­rass­ment in Bank­ing goes to David Hisco, John Key and ANZ.

It’s not as if Aussie bankers, whose mis­con­duct was laid bare in a scathing royal com­mis­sion re­port, are in line to win any pop­u­lar­ity con­tests at the best of times. And on this side of the Tas­man they face a de­gree of re­sent­ment over that honk­ing great pipe they’ve con­structed to siphon money out of the New Zealand econ­omy and back to the Lucky Coun­try. But in an in­dus­try of com­plete and ut­ter bankers, David Hisco man­aged to stand out, leav­ing his $3 mil­lion-plus-a-year job at the helm of ANZ New Zealand un­der a cloud fol­low­ing al­le­ga­tions he “mis­char­ac­terised” a measly $50,000 or so of per­sonal ex­penses — in­clud­ing wine stor­age and the use of chauf­feur-driven cars — as busi­ness ex­penses. It was later re­vealed ANZ sold Hisco’s wife the cou­ple’s lux­ury pile in St He­liers for well un­der its value, and with­out mak­ing the re­quired dis­clo­sures. As ANZ chair­man, for­mer prime min­is­ter Key had to front over Hisco’s de­par­ture and to deny any link be­tween the ex­pense in­ves­ti­ga­tion and the em­bar­rass­ment the bank and board suf­fered when ANZ was given a dress­ing-down by the Re­serve Bank a month or two ear­lier over fail­ings in the way it man­aged its cap­i­tal ad­e­quacy. As a side is­sue, the chair­man also faced ques­tions about the de­part­ing boss hav­ing in 2018 bought Key’s Ōmaha beach house for $3.1 mil­lion. Now we think of it, the Ōmaha house — in Suc­cess Court, no less — would make a great lo­ca­tion for a TV drama­ti­sa­tion of the whole sorry saga. Your move, Me­di­aWorks.

The Strange Bed­fel­lows Match­ing “JT” Bathrobes go to for­mer Na­tional Party no­ta­bles Michelle Boag and Chris­tine Fletcher for climb­ing aboard the 18-lane Tami­here Bridge to Nowhere.

It was al­ways a bizarre idea: that by teth­er­ing for­mer Na­tional Party min­is­ter and Auck­land City mayor Fletcher to Tami­here as a run­ning mate, and get­ting for­mer Na­tional pres­i­dent Boag in as a strate­gist, the free­wheel­ing for­mer Labour mav­er­ick could get enough of the true-blue vote to tri­an­gu­late his way to vic­tory over bor­ing Phil Goff. Nei­ther woman could ac­tu­ally be seen as rep­re­sent­ing bound­less po­lit­i­cal suc­cess. Fletcher lasted one term as mayor be­fore be­ing turfed out by John Banks, and has re­cently been on the B-team outer as an Auck­land coun­cil­lor; Boag was Na­tional pres­i­dent when the party en­dured its cat­a­strophic de­feat in 2002, and helped re­cruit the hap­less Vic

Crone for her tilt at Goff last time around. Tami­here was al­ready vul­ner­a­ble to the per­cep­tion his time might have come and gone; adding a pair of has-beens from the other side of pol­i­tics just seemed to con­firm that his bril­liant fu­ture was al­ready be­hind him.

The Count von Count Cal­cu­la­tor for Fail­ures in Numer­acy goes to Statis­tics New Zealand and its for­mer chief ex­ec­u­tive Liz MacPher­son.

By the num­bers, the 2018 Cen­sus was a dis­as­ter: one in six peo­ple didn’t com­plete it; the re­sponse rate of 83% was down nine per­cent­age points on the pre­vi­ous cen­sus (by com­par­i­son, the last cen­sus in In­dia counted 97.7% of that coun­try’s 1.2 bil­lion pop­u­la­tion); and

Māori re­sponses dropped a whop­ping 20%. Too much fo­cus was given to a dig­i­tal ap­proach and not enough to “boots on the ground”, ap­par­ently. MacPher­son recog­nised her num­ber was up, re­sign­ing in Au­gust af­ter the re­lease of a re­port into the de­ba­cle. Should it cast doubt on the key find­ing that Des­tiny Church (1722 mem­bers) is se­ri­ously out­num­bered by those who de­clare them­selves “Jedi” (20,409) or even the Pasta­far­i­ans of the Church of the Fly­ing Spaghetti Mon­ster (4248)? We hope not. it a “dol­phin”, ap­par­ently. That’s the name used for two lumpen 15m-by-15m con­crete moor­ing struc­tures coun­cil de­vel­op­ment agency Panuku wanted built off Queens Wharf so gi­ant cruise ships could berth there in­stead of an­chor­ing in the har­bour. The whole project re­mains in doubt at press time, but some­how, Mayor Phil Goff be­lieved that what would ef­fec­tively be a 90m wharf ex­ten­sion con­nected by a gang­way wasn’t go­ing to be a breach of his 2016 cam­paign prom­ise that “not one more me­tre of the har­bour should be in­filled for com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity”. If the wa­ter­borne in­va­sion of the Zim­mer-frame bri­gade ev­ery sum­mer isn’t a com­mer­cial ac­tiv­ity, does that make it some kind of rather unattrac­tive cul­tural ex­change?

The Flip­per Award for Talk­ing Out of Their Blow­holes goes to Panuku chiefs and their cruise-ship-wharf ex­ten­sion brain­wave.

You can’t pol­ish a turd, but you can call

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