Archive for December, 2011

Top 30 PR disasters of 2011

December 31st, 2011 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

This comes from PR consultant Billie Jordan, a 25 year industry veteran. Readers may recall reading about a few of these. They are:

2011 has provided many cringe-worthy PR disasters across both the private and public sector says Auckland based Public Relations consultant Billie Jordan.

 “Reputations have been tarnished, or in some cases, irreversibly damaged and the people at the centre of the scandal have often lost their jobs. A number of very prominent product brands have also suffered reputational damage this year resulting in angry customers and lost sales.

 “There is always an honest and positive way to get yourself or your company out of a hole. However, unfortunately many of the people and organisations in this Top 30 list have either ignored good PR advice or received very bad PR advice,” says Jordan.

1.     Adidas. Adidas set a New Zealand retail price for replica All Blacks jerseys that was more than double the price they charge overseas e.g.$220 in New Zealand versus $92.68 on the website. When kiwis decide to order the jersey from overseas retailers instead of buying it locally Adidas enforces cross-border agreements to stop overseas retailers from selling to NZ residents. New Zealand is also removed as a delivery option on the worldrugbyshop website.

2.     EQC. Despite having over 65 years to prepare for a major earthquake, it is revealed EQC had no systems in place to deal with large numbers of claims and had failed to implement a lot of the recommendations outlined in a ‘readiness’ report they received in 2009. Poor communication, lengthy delays, the CEO’s reluctance to front-up and many other operational issues caused irreversible damage to EQC’s reputation in 2011. 

3.     Don Brash. In September Act Party Leader Don Brash announces he would like to explore a policy to decriminalise cannabis for personal use. He fails to involve or even warn other Act Party members (including Deputy Leader John Banks) that he will be making this controversial policy statement.


4.     Darren Hughes. In early March the police receive a complaint from an 18-year-old male. The incident is reported to be of a sexual nature and alleged to have occurred at Labour Party deputy leader Annette King’s home, where Hughes lived. Witnesses report seeing the complainant outside and naked that morning. Although Labour Leader Phil Goff knows about the police complaint for two weeks he takes no action and his office tells the media that no Labour MP is involved in any such complaint to Police. During this time both Darren Hughes and Annette King participate in a debate performed in front of the entire press gallery with the moot “Politics is a grubby business.” After being grilled by the media Phil Goff then admits Darren Hughes is at the centre of the Police investigation but defends Hughes stating it is a matter for the Police.  He then refuses to accept Darren Hugh’s resignation (but changes his mind later on).  Labour Party President Andrew Little only finds out about the matter when it hits the news headlines. 

5.    Teacup Tapes. Two weeks before the general election John Key and John Banks have their conversation recorded while having a cup of tea in a cafe in Auckland. The contents of the recording is then leaked and/ or distributed to members of the media and other third parties. Winston Peters publicly announces he has read a transcript of the conversation and that it reflects badly on the characters of both John Key and John Banks.  The occasion helps to leverage publicity for the NZ First party just days leading up to the election.


6.    Auckland Rugby World Cup Transport. Chaos occurs on the night of the Rugby World Cup Opening Ceremony due to major transport problems. Trains and buses are either delayed or not working and a large number of people miss the entire opening ceremony and the game that followed. Some people are also injured. 

7.    Rena. Container Ship Rena runs aground off the coast of Tauranga on 5 October. Maritime New Zealand initially says that chemical dispersements were doing an effective job in cleaning up the oil spilling from the wreck. The pumping of the oil off the vessel doesn’t begin until 16 October. As time goes on it is also revealed dangerous substances are in some of the containers being battered about on the reef.


8.    Phil Goff and the numbers. During The Press debate and in interviews on both Q&A and The Nation Phil Goff bumbles the numbers and fails to respond to questions with accurate figures. 

9.    Pike River Mine CEO. Gordon Ward, who was the CEO of the Pike River Mine up to two months before the fatal mine explosion refuses to appear before the Royal Commission into the Pike River Mine disaster.


10. Tony Marryatt. Christchurch City Council CEO Tony Marryatt accepts a $68,000 pay rise then fails to return from his holiday or answer media queries when the pre-Christmas earthquakes occur. This follows his re-appointment as CEO in September after Major Bob Parker said he would resign as Mayor if Tony Marryatt’s contract was not renewed.  


11. Wellywood Sign. Wellington International Airport announce they plan on erecting a Wellywood sign on a Miramar hill overlooking the Wellington airport despite strong public opposition. The City Council then gets involved and other options are explored. 

12. Telecom. After Telecom’s ‘Abstain for the Game’ television advertisement was put on You Tube there was an international public slating of the advertisement which asked people to refrain from sex during the Rugby World Cup. The entire ‘Abstain for the Game’ campaign was then pulled before it even officially launched.


13. Darien Fenton. Labour MP Darien Fenton launches a personal attack on Mad Butcher founder and philanthropist Sir Peter Leitch because he said something positive about John Key. She says that because he is “sucking up to John Key” and is a ‘sycophant” she is never going near him again and will be boycotting Mad Butcher stores. She then goes on to say she won’t buy anything from people who support Tories. After Darien Fenton apologies for her public outburst, Labour MP Louisa Wall quickly negates the apology by justifying her colleagues attack on Sir Peter Leitch by stating:”We would have assumed Sir Peter was a working-class champion…if you look at what the National Government has done, it has taken workers’ rights backwards.”  


14. Alasdair Thompson. Employment and Manufacturers Association (EMA) Chief Executive Alasdair Thompson says women’s periods affected their productivity at work. When questioned further by TV3 he reacts with hostility and, as a result of his conduct, loses his job. 

15. Steve Williams. NZ Golf Caddie Steve Williams refers to his ex-boss Tiger Woods as a “black a…hole” at an Annual Caddie Awards Dinner in Shanghai.


16. Greens vandalism of billboards. Greens Party member Jolyon White and Anne Heins (the secretary of Green Party Co-Leader Russell Norman) admit to being involved in the vandalism of over 500 National Party billboards. 

17. NZQA. NZQA’s Maths Exams for NCEA Levels 1, 2 and 3 are riddled with mistakes prompting hundreds of complaints.


18. Human Rights Commission. Human Rights Commission Adviser Marama Davidson publicly apologises to Ngapuhi elder David Rankin for insulting him on Facebook. However, she then sends him a private email withdrawing her apology thinking no-one else will find out about it and states: “In my personal capacity, I completely withdraw in full the apology that I have made to you in public…you are not worthy of an apology from me…” 

19. Valley Animal Research Centre. Margaret Harkema of the Valley Animal Research Centre in Himitangi says no dogs have been dumped or disposed of on the property. A Campbell Live story shows that is clearly not the case. The media investigation followed complaints from people who purchased Beagles on Trade Me and then found out they were from the research centre and had all types of ailments (with some dying within weeks of being with their new owners).


20. Michael Laws. Radio Talkback Host Michael Laws gives his view about journalists who reported on the teapot tape stating: “If I had a gun I’d shoot them – put them out of their misery – because they have gone rabid and they may infect others …have you noticed … the Herald on Sunday, for example, which is rabid all the time … no idea why somebody hasn’t taken the shotgun there and just cleaned out the entire newsroom.”  

21. Hutt Valley High School. An Ombudsman Report finds that Hutt Valley High School failed to take violent bullying seriously including the torture and sexual abuse of students on the school grounds.


22. JetStar. The airline Jet Star refuse to allow two disabled TV presenters to board their plane unless they have two, not one, caregiver to accompany them on the one hour flight. 

23. Maui Gas Leak. The Maui gas leak cuts power to over 5000 businesses in the North Island.


24. Michael Laws. Radio Talkback Host Michael Laws states that disability sports are ludicrous and that it is “crazy” paraolympians were eligible for Halberg Awards. “If you have had your legs chopped off, you shouldn’t be in there at all. The fact that that guy was able to fall down, get up again and still win, shows that really there wasn’t a hell of a lot of competition in his field was there?”  

25. Ruth Dyson. Labour MP Ruth Dyson uses tax payer’s money for a private trip for her and her husband to Ethiopia. She then agrees to refund the $16,000 once the media question her about it – stating she planned to refund the money all along.


26. Dr Bryce Edwards. Labour MP and Election Campaign Manager Trevor Mallard accuses political strategist Matthew Hooten, Kiwiblog owner David Farrar, Minister of Finance Bill English and the PSA of apparently paying for Otago University political analyst Dr Bryce Edwards to make attacks against the Labour Party. The attack is launched after some political data showed Labour was down in the polls. Labour MP Clare Curran then joins the conspiracy theory adding that the young Nats and ‘non-Labour left’ are suspiciously ‘cosy’ with the academic Dr Bryce Edwards. 

27. Carmel Sepuloni. Labour MP Carmel Sepuloni insults National MP Paula Bennett after she thinks she has won the Waitakere seat off National. However, five days later once the special votes are counted Paula Bennett wins back the seat for National leaving Carmel with egg on her face.


28. Martin Devlin. The sports broadcaster is removed from a Jet Star flight by Police after the captain calls for outside assistance to help manage Devlin’s behaviour. 

29.  Murray Deaker. Sports Commentator Murray Deaker refers to one of his colleagues on Sky TV as “working like a nigger”.


30. Mayor Celia Wade-Brown. Wellington Mayor Celia-Wade Brown emails city councilors telling them they should consider taking up ballroom dancing to help them improve their work performance and reduce stress.

Brings back so many memories!

Fairfax’s 2011 predictions

December 31st, 2011 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

The Fairfax gallery team have reported on how their 2012 predictions have gone. I like the fact they are game to make predictions, and sometimes quite specific ones. The summary is:

  1. National will form a government after the November 26 election – 10/10
  2. Botany will be a Clayton’s by-election – 8/10
  3. Judith Collins will become defence minister after the retirement of Wayne Mapp – 3/10
  4. Mercurial NZ First leader Winston Peters will stand in an inner-Auckland seat to maximise coverage of his bid to return to Parliament – 0/10
  5. The Maori Party will not improve its current tally of five seats –  6/10
  6. MMP will survive the referendum, meaning a second one will not be necessary – 10/10
  7. Labour president Andrew Little will not win New Plymouth, but will get into Parliament on the list – 10/10
  8. Labour will campaign on a new top tax rate on income above $120,000 a year – 8/10
  9. The Government’s popularity will drop mid-year as the rising cost of living, slow economic recovery and cuts in public spending usher in a mild winter of discontent – 3/10
  10. Labour leader Phil Goff will survive till the election, but not long after – 10/10
  11. Kris Faafoi’s majority in Mana will rebound in line with Labour’s traditional dominance in the seat – 6/10
  12. The Greens will beat their 6.72 per cent share of the vote from 2008 and bring in at least one fresh female face – 8/10
  13. National will campaign on partial listings of minority stakes in some state assets, including some of the bigger SOEs – 10/10
  14. Steven Joyce will take over the education portfolio – 0/10
  15. The Maori Party will hold its nose and see the new foreshore and seabed law into force despite Hone Harawira’s opposition – 10/10
  16. Georgina te Heuheu and Sandra Goudie will signal an end to their political careers – 10/10
  17. Rodney Hide will hold on to ACT’s Epsom lifeline – 1/10
  18. Revenue Minister and UnitedFuture leader Peter Dunne will finally realise his haircut is his biggest electoral liability and change it – or even admit it is a hairpiece – 5/10
  19. Another senior Labour MP will announce they are bailing out of politics at the next election – and unlike the retirement of George Hawkins and Pete Hodgson, this one will be a surprise – 0/10
  20. John Key will come back from “kicking the tyres” during his Hawaiian holiday and declare himself “relaxed” about his chances in election year – 10/10

Overall they got 128/200 – the same as last year. I’ll cover their 2012 predictions once they are published.

Chobe Cats

December 31st, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

You can see the lion stalking the warthogs. Fortunately for them, they saw him and got away. The lions like to get very close to their prey – they are fast but lack some stamina.

Two lions happily ignoring us.

Looking at their physique, you can see why they can take on beasts bigger than them.

Yay. Finally after six days, captured a leopard on camera. They are very shy of humans. We were literally on the way to the airport, and my guide insisted on a final check of places they had been reported, and bingo. He was hiding in some bushes, but if you circle the bushes once in the vehicle, he knows you have seen him, so then comes out.

A close up. A beautiful beast.

The 2012 New Years Honours

December 31st, 2011 at 8:22 am by David Farrar

The NZ Herald has the full list. The top honours are:

Order of New Zealand

Ralph Hotere, Artist

Knight and Dame Companions of the NZ Order of Merit

  • Dame Roseanne Meo, for services to business
  • Dame Susy Moncrieff, for services to arts (World of Wearable Arts)
  • Sir Father Des Britten, for services to the community (Wellington Downtown Ministry)
  • Sir Colin Giltrap, for services to motorsport and philanthropy
  • Sir Graham Henry, for services to rugby
  • Sir John Todd, for services to business

Noty a bad mixture of arts, community, sport and business.

General Debate 31 December 2011

December 31st, 2011 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Chobe Baboons

December 31st, 2011 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I like this sight of King George sitting on his rock.

This shot at dusk is of the baboons going up the tree to sleep for the night.

As you can see the baboons can travel in large groups, to and from the water.

This is cute. The mum is holding the baby, and dad is giving her a backrub.

One of things in Chobe especially (but not only there) is how the different animals all mix in together. Well sure, not those who eat the others, but is quite a sight to see impala and baboons all together.

A nice viewing point for them.

This is a monkey, not a baboon. Far less of them about.

Chobe Antelopes

December 30th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

A more unusual antelope, with the hump and the more twisting horns – the kudu.

Two Impala having a fight.

A waterbuck.

Now you might be thinking how does an impala get up a tree? Can they climb? No. A leopard put him there. He wasn’t hungry when he killed him so is saving him up for the next day. Quite cunning and challenging to drag a dead impala up a tree.

A group of young impala. Their main purpose in life it seems is to be eaten up other animals.

Another of the rarer antelopes – the bushbuck.

Religious fanaticism

December 30th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Sadly all religions have fanatics. Of course the proportion of a religion who are fanatics is not the same in each religion, but here’s an example of some in Israel:

A shy 8-year-old schoolgirl has unwittingly found herself on the front line of Israel’s latest religious war.

Naama Margolese is a ponytailed, bespectacled second-grader who is afraid of walking to her religious Jewish girls school for fear of ultra-Orthodox extremists who have spat on her and called her a whore for dressing “immodestly.”

Anyone who calls an eight year old girl a whore should be ashamed of themselves, because their God most definitely will be.

The girls school that Naama attends in the city of Beit Shemesh, to the west of Jerusalem, is on the border between an ultra-Orthodox neighbourhood and a community of modern Orthodox Jewish residents, many of them American immigrants.

The ultra-Orthodox consider the school, which moved to its present site at the beginning of the school year, an encroachment on their territory. Dozens of black-hatted men jeer and physically accost the girls almost daily, claiming their very presence is a provocation.

No, firing guns is a provocation. Yelling whore at eight year olds is provocation. Going to school is not.

The televised images of Naama sobbing as she walked to school shocked many Israelis, elicited statements of outrage from the country’s leadership, sparked a Facebook page with nearly 10,000 followers dedicated to “protecting little Naama” and a demonstration was held in her honour. As the case has attracted attention, extremists have heckled and thrown eggs and rocks at journalists descending on town.

“Who’s afraid of an 8-year-old student?” said Sunday’s main headline in the leading Yediot Ahronot daily.

Beit Shemesh’s growing ultra-Orthodox population has erected street signs calling for the separation of sexes on the pavements, dispatched “modesty patrols” to enforce a chaste female appearance and hurled stones at offenders and outsiders.

Great to read of the response from most normal Israelis. The fanatics sound like they would be happy living with the Taliban.

Naama’s case has been especially shocking because of her young age and because she attends a religious school and dresses with long sleeves and a skirt. Extremists, however, consider even that outfit, standard in mainstream Jewish religious schools, to be immodest.

Maybe a hajib?

Protesters held signs reading, “Free Israel from religious coercion,” and “Stop Israel from becoming Iran.”

The abuse and segregation of women in Israel in ultra-Orthodox areas is nothing new, and critics accuse the government of turning a blind eye.

The ultra-Orthodox are perennial king-makers in Israeli coalition politics – two such parties serve as key members of the ruling coalition. They receive generous government subsidies, and police have traditionally been reluctant to enter their communities.

Worth remembering this story, when our own extremists advocate getting rid of a threshold for MMP, so we would end up like Israel (which has been increasing their threshold).

General Debate 30 December 2011

December 30th, 2011 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel


December 30th, 2011 at 1:57 am by David Farrar

Just spent two days under canvas in the Chobe National Park in Botswana. No Internet obviously there, in fact electricity was off batteries and generator. Huge amount of wildlife there – so much I will have to blog them by category.

At the end of the trip I’ll also blog in detail on the four safari camps or lodges I stayed at, with the differences between them. So far all have been very good, but quite different.

This is the dining area at camp.

This was a porcupine. Not many animals can kill a porcupine, but something did.

Just because it does not fit elsewhere, included this photo of six giraffes.

Now relax, this is NOT the toilet at the camp site. Our ones are totally clean. There is a public picnic area and these are the toilets out there. I think you are safer using the bush!

A Monitor.

Chobe is very different to Kruger. You had many large open areas, with watering holes and a River. Hence you’ll see in lkater photos large groups of beasts migrating every day to and from the water.

A couple of tents back at the camp. They only have five tents, so a maximum of ten people. The tents are very comfortable – they have a bed in them, and a make-shift shower (think a can with holes). So not quite roughing it like when a Scout, but still a great experience to be in the outdoors. They have to move campsite every five days.

This photo is taken from our dining room, so yes elephants literally walk through the campsite.

Change for Labour

December 29th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Jordan Carter blogs:

Here’s my short list for starters, of a few problems we really need to face.

  • a record low vote, lowest since the 1920s
  • low and static membership in the past three years
  • over centralisation of control over policy and strategy, with too little power for members
  • an inward focused ‘divide the pie’ approach by too many party units
  • a cultural acceptance of low to no organisation in too many places, and a related culture of federalism divided between electorates rather than a sense of a nation-wide, cooperating organisation
  • too much belief that our connections with a wide range of Kiwis are strong, when they are weak
  • a sense that we ‘own’ the voters that went to the greens and nzf, and that they are bound to return to us
  • a perception among some parts of the electorate that we are out of touch with their hopes and dreams
  • a structure that incentivises our inward focus

It’s a long list to which I am sure you can add things, friend or foe.

The main thing I would add is killing off the culture of the ends justify the means. Some will say there is no such culture, but it has been shown time after time again. There is the belief that they are inherently good, and that those from the centre-right are inherently bad, so hence anything which helps deliver Labour to victory is culturally acceptable.

Danyl at Dim Post has his own key thing to change:

I’d narrow almost all of this down to the problem of candidate selection. The primary goal of a candidate is to win votes for themselves and the party, but Labour doesn’t seem to value this quality in any of their candidates or MPs. They’re chosen for attributes that seem mysterious to the rest of the country, usually from a small pool of parliamentary staffers, unionists and activists and then farmed out to electorates to which they pretend some spurious connection (‘whanau in the region’).

I’ve just been doing an analysis of which Labour candidates did best at getting people who party vote National to vote for them – ie those who can attract support from across the spectrum.  The three best are Ross Robertson, Lianne Dalziel and Clayton Cosgrove who attracted 27%, 24% and 21% of National voters respectively.

The three worse were Jeremy Greenbrook-Held (he was against John Key) who got 0.3%, Deborah Mahuta-Coyle who got 0.4% and the Taupo candidates whose name I can’t even recall who got 0.5% – ie less than 1 in 200 National party voters gave their candidate vote to the candidate from the second largest party. The average was 5.4%, or around 1 in 20.

Take Deborah Mahuta-Coyle, a Labour communications advisor who was given a high list position (although not high enough) and ran as a candidate in Tauranga, explaining that she grew up ‘further along State Highway One’ (SH1 does not run through, or near Tauranga). With Mahuta Coyle as a candidate Labour’s party vote in Tauranga was one of the worst in the entire country, declining by 33% (Labour’s nationwide decline was 20%).

And as I mentioned failed to attract even 1 in 200 of those who did vote National on the party vote. This is not to say that Mahuta-Coyle would not be a very good MP, but different qualities can be needed to also be a good candidate who can attract both party and electorate votes.

Nationals’ backbench electorate MPs drive the party’s Wellington based political staffers crazy, because they’re always running off to the Prime Minister and complaining about ‘some trivial little rural issue that no one in Wellington cares about’. Labour’s MPs are, increasingly, former political staffers who share the same elite background and Wellington-centric focus.

This is basically true, and it is important to have this tension. I’ve been a Wellington based staffer and certain MPs did drive you batty over issues you just knew were of no importance to the press gallery, the leadership etc. However those backbench MPs would go on to win massive majorities as they were in touch with their communities and helping stop their party from getting too out of touch with life outside Wellington. Parties need those backbench electorate MPs to keep raising those local issues.

Jordan endorses getting in touch with the voters, and Shearer’s said the same thing. Great. But Phil Goff spent a year ‘getting in touch with voters’ after the loss in 2008. The Labour team drove around the country in a bus singing songs and meeting with ‘real New Zealanders’ like, uh, Darren Hughes’ uncle. Goff then went back to Wellington and cheerfully went about promoting his own office staffers as electorate candidates, including Mahuta-Coyle.

The number of former political staff in the Labour caucus is large – Shearer himself, Robertson, Ardern, Hipkins for a start – three of the top four plus the Chief Whip. Then you also have Cosgrove, Faafoi, Mallard and David Clark. That’s almost a quarter of the caucus.

If Labour decided to operate selections on a one member one vote basis, it would solve Danyl’s problem, but also help solve Jordan’s problem of low and static membership, over-centralisation, low to no organisation in some places.

National’s electorate selection process is incredibly democratic. So democratic there are regular occasions when I groan at whom the locals have voted for, and I wish myself and a few mates could decide all the selections. But the reality is I would never want to give up a system where the grass-roots members decide whom their local candidate is – the benefits of having them do so are significant.

One person, one vote, is a pretty good basis for voting personally. Labour should try it some time.

Why we should not amend the Reserve Bank Act

December 29th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Now that Labour have abandoned 25 years of bipartisan commitment to sane monetary policy, we may need to get used to bank notes like this if they win in future (unless they quietly drop their policy to have more inflation).

One NZ$ is worth around 4,000 Zambian kwacha, so that note is worth around NZ$1.25. Note that in 1968 the kwacha was worth more than the US dollar.

Their largest note is for 50,000 which is NZ$12.50.

Yes that is a 100 trillion dollar note. Dr Evil, take that!

We shouldn’t have to worry about this scenario unless it is a four-way coalition of Labour, Greens, NZ First and Mana 🙂

In fact the note is “worth” more than 100 trillion as there were three redenominations. The first was a 1,000:1 redenomination, the second was a 10 billion:1 and the third a 1 trillion:1 redenomination.

So in terms of the original Zimbabwean dollar, that note is worth 1×10^39 or 1,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000,000, which could be called a duodecillion dollars.

This note was worth US30 when printed in 2009 but is worthless today. Their inflation rate in 2008 was 231,000,000%. It was only 28 years ago in 1983 that their dollar purchased US1.

General Debate 29 December 2011

December 29th, 2011 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Costs against Ambrose

December 28th, 2011 at 10:29 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Government’s demand for court costs from cameraman Bradley Ambrose can only be seen as “political vindictiveness”, according to political analyst Dr Bryce Edwards.

The Attorney-General has filed a memorandum in the High Court at Auckland seeking $13,669.45 in costs from Mr Ambrose after the freelancer sought a declaration from the High Court on whether the “tea tape” conversation was private.

I disagree with Bryce on this one, and think he has overlooked a crucial factor.

First of all I would note that no one forced Mr Ambrose to file a lawsuit. He chose to do so, and presumably knew the chance of success was minimal, as a ruling would have undermined the Police investigation. Lawyers I spoke to said the chance of success was less than 1%, and he would have known this.

Otago University political analyst Dr Bryce Edwards told Newstalk ZB the almost $14,000 request is a small amount for the Government, and it was legitimate for Mr Ambrose to try to get a declaratory judgment on whether the conversation recorded between John Key and John Banks was private.

Dr Edwards felt the demand smacks of revenge.

It is standard to seek costs when someone files a lawsuit which forces you to respond, and they lose.

I suspect Bryce sees this as big nasty Government trying to screw over a struggling camera man. But there is no way Ambrose is paying for the court costs. Mediaworks, beyond doubt, bankrolled his court case and will pay the costs, if granted.

Mediaworks is a large commercial company, owned by an even larger one. I see no reasons why the taxpayer should subsidise them, through not claiming costs.

Xmas No 1 song

December 28th, 2011 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A choir of wives of soldiers serving in Afghanistan topped the British singles charts this week, beating X Factor winners Little Mix to the Christmas No. 1 spot and outselling the rest of the top 12 put together.

Wherever You Are by Military Wives, a song written using excerpts from letters sent between military couples, sold 556,000 copies, the Official Charts Company said.

All proceeds from the single go to The Royal British Legion and the Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen Families Association.

A nice reminder of how so many military families have to spend Xmas apart, doing their duty.

Zambesi River cruise

December 28th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

The Zambesi is the fourth largest river in Africa and the largest flowing into the Indian Ocean. The basin is 1.4m square kms and it is 3,540 kms long.

Did a cruise on the Upper Zambesi. Had an open bar, which was also nice.

You cruise close to the islands in between the different channels, and here you can see a crocodile on land. Not a river you want to swim in, and even kayaking could have its risks.

A family of six hippos. Can’t see in this photo but one of them is a toddler and on the back of its mum.

Talking of toddlers, how cute is this baby crocodile? If it were not for the fact they grow up, you’d almost want to take it home as a pet 🙂

General Debate 28 December 2011

December 28th, 2011 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

The Basils

December 27th, 2011 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Dave Armstrong in the Dom Post gives out his Basil awards. Quite a few I agree with:

Basil Fawlty worst comeback of the year: First equal: Don Brash and Martin Crowe. While Crowe briefly filled every unfit middle-aged Kiwi bloke with hope, Brash showed us why we should never listen to a politician who says he has done his own private polling.

Oh you can listen to them, but demand a copy of the results and the questions asked.

Basil politician of the year: John Key: Hard to go past a politician who increased his party’s vote and held up the Centre-Right share despite tough times.

Basil local MP of the Year: Annette King: from bowling clubs to school prize-givings to theatre events, she seems to attend everything.

I suspect clones.

Pruned Basil best losing local election candidates: First equal: Paul Foster-Bell and James Shaw. The Wellington Central campaign was dominated by policies not personalities. Nice.

A few people have remarked on that.

Basil wreath for civic stupidity: First equal: the murderous bus lanes on Manners St; the clumsy education campaign for recycle bins.

Maybe they should put up a big flashing sign in Manners Street with a running total of the number of people killed, just injured and near misses with the buses. I did prefer the old Manners Mall.

Purple Basil for most tiring local issue: The Wellywood sign – where normally law-abiding people considered the use of explosives.

Explosives would have been overkill. A chainsaw though ….

Victoria Falls Hotel

December 27th, 2011 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

This is the Victoria Falls Hotel. It is an Edwardian building, 107 years old, and it is like you are living in the Edwardian era – they serve high tea on the balcony there.  They also serve drinks, so I’ve spent most of my spare time drinking Zambesi Sparkles (their inhouse cocktail) there while working on my laptop, or reading a book.

This is the view from the front lawn. You can see the border/bungee bridge ahead, and the “smoke” from the falls also. A stunning view.

The baboons are everywhere – literally treating the place as if it is theirs. You see warthogs in the grounds also.

As with any good hotel, they have the local newspaper. This story was on the front page and no name suppression here. An injiva incidentially is what they call a Zimbabwean living in South Africa.

I love the fine of seven head of cattle for bedding a wife. Allows you to weigh up the risks in terms of being caught and the likely fine vs the benefits 🙂

One of the lounges inside the hotel.

General Debate 27 December 2011

December 27th, 2011 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

Cartoon – John Stringer

December 26th, 2011 at 10:00 am by Kokila Patel

General Debate 26 December 2011

December 26th, 2011 at 8:00 am by Kokila Patel

The Smoke that Thunders

December 26th, 2011 at 7:22 am by David Farrar

David Livingstone named them the Victoria Falls after Queen Victoria, but the local name of Mosi-oa-Tunya or the Smoke that Thunders is such a better name for them. You can not appreciate how accurate that name is until you have been to the falls, seen the “smoke” and heard the thunder.

This is the left most fall from the Zimbabwe side. The falls are two kilometres wide, so you can not get a photo of the entire falls together, unless from a helicopter.

The bush is lush rainforest next to the falls – because they get plenty of rain from the falls. Except when the falls are at their lowest, you get soaked viewing them – and I mean soaked. The water comes from so high up you would swear it was raining if it not for the lack of clouds. You get wet in some parts even a couple of score of metres back. Sometimes with a strong wind the falls water will even hit the township a km or so away.

Heading into the main part of the falls now.

There are around 20 viewing points from the Zimbabwe side

And at the far end of the falls.

This bridge is the border crossing between Zimbabwe and Zambia, plus you can bungy jump from it, do a zip line of flying fox.

And very cool, you can white water raft from the bottom of the falls. I’ve rafted the Shotover a few times, but this would be a truly fun group activity. The guide told me that falling out in one of their rapids is somewhat more dangerous than on the Shotover.

A statue on the Zimbabwe side of David Livingstone – the first European to see the falls.

After spending two hours walking around the Zimbabwe side, I crossed over the bridge to the Zambia side. It’s around three kms all up walking across, and very hot. The worst things are not the heat though but the young touts. They are trying to sell you everything from useless currency to bracelets. They are absolute con artists, suggesting US$30 for a 10c bracelet. But sadly even refusing to buy or talk to them doesn’t help as they will follow you for at least a km telling you how they are starving (they do not look it), their family has no money, their grandparents will have to be kicked out as they can’t look after them etc etc.

I suspect many of them earn well over US$100 a day, which probably puts them in the top 1% in Zimbabwe. They’ll do anything to engage you in conversation so you feel obliged to give them some money, most commonly asking you where you come from. After around the 20th one had asked me this I snapped and said “The North Pole”. They all looked surprised as no one had ever said that before obviously. Then one of them asked if I really was from the North Pole, and I replied “No, but you all obviously think I am as you think I’m Father Fucking Christmas”. As it was Xmas Day, possibly a bit ungracious from me, but seriously these kids are hyenas in human form.

I was surprised to see one of the traditional WWI memorial states in Zambia, but then recalled that back then it was Northern Rhodesia.

You can see a raft here waiting to go down a bloody large rapid.

There are baboons on both sides, but they are way more numerous on the Zambia side. On half a dozen occasions I had to walk within a foot or two of some baboons, and you do hope they remain passive.

These are they very right hand side of the falls.

A small bridge, which gets soaking wet so you walk it very slowly. Great views from it though.

A shot of the bottom of the falls. On average they are 100 metres deep.

Now that would send the Department of Labour OSH team into a spin back home – having people walk along the top of the falls, where one slip would mean goneburger. At most of the lookouts there are no barriers – you can go as close to the edge as you feel safe. I have to say walking along the top of the falls in the water would be too much for me.

They look ready to take a swim in case they do fall! A fall would be fatal, so I presume why they were in togs was heading to the Devil’s Pool which is an area off Livingstone Island where you can swim at the top of the falls, but not get swept over. That would be fun to do – but I’d rather take a boat to Livingstone Island – not walk over to it.

A final shot of the falls from the Zambia side.

If you want to see all the different vantage points on both the Zimbabwe side and Zambia side, plus walk across the border crossing (something I’ve never done before), it’s around 10 kms of walking all up – and in hot sun. But the views are absolutely worth it. It is rightfully regarded as one of the seven natural wonders of the world.

Crossword Answers 23 December 2011

December 26th, 2011 at 7:00 am by Kokila Patel

A sight to wake up to

December 25th, 2011 at 5:33 pm by David Farrar

It’s Xmas morning in Africa, and I got woken up by a loud banging on my window.  As my eyes adjust to being open, the banging carries on and I see staring in at me a fairly large baboon.

This is definitely a first – being woken up by a baboon knocking on my window. Well at least a first to have the baboon trying to get in, not get out 🙂