The Metro Dubious Achievements Awards 2017

by Metro / 31 December, 2017
Illustrations — Toby Morris

We try to keep things positive around here, honest we do. But once a year, we just have to acknowledge the prats, pillocks and plonkers whose achievements in dubiousness demand proper recognition.

 

The Landcare Research Wild Oats Award for Unresolved Fatherhood Issues goes to John Banks.

Talk about an absent dad! We actually had a grudging respect for the way Banksie fought back against a 2014 conviction for filing a false electoral return, eventually having it overturned. But when another court case popped up, in the form of a paternity claim by one Antony Shaw, an English-language teacher who lives in Japan, the feisty one-time Cabinet minister and former Auckland City mayor was strangely missing in action. Did he have his hands clapped over his ears while he yelled “la-la-la-la-la”? It kind of seemed that way. Finally, in September, a High Court judge ruled that on the balance of probabilities and taking into account Banks’ refusal to undergo a DNA test or engage in the legal process, the former politician was indeed Shaw’s father. This rather confirmed the strong impression left by photographs of the pair showing a spooky resemblance. And just in case the other details in the case weren’t sad enough, it all apparently dated back to a Hamilton motel room in 1969. Not exactly the Summer of Love in 1967 San Francisco, then.

The Beatles Apple Boutique “Help!” Award for Retail Misjudgment goes to Karen Walker and her fellow directors of Topshop in New Zealand.  

We know it’s meant to be “fast fashion” but going from big-splash launch to glug-glug-glug receivership and closure in barely two years isn’t the kind of speed anyone was expecting when Topshop opened on Queen St in 2015, drawing queues of excited shoppers. And it’s not as if the people behind it weren’t heavy hitters: fashion maven Walker, Barkers Menswear managing director Jamie Whiting and Christchurch rich-lister Philip Carter were involved in the company that secured the rights to own and operate the London-based Topshop brand in New Zealand. Turns out the kids who buy that kind of shmutter — affordable versions of the latest catwalk trends — increasingly prefer to do their shopping by keyboard. Who knew? Personally, the Dubious Achievements team always prefer the bricks-and-mortar retail experience, where we can feel the fabric, check the fitting and have supercilious flesh-and-blood staff play havoc with our self-esteem.

The Capping Review Swan Lake Bouquet for Contributions to Interpretive Dance goes to Lorde.

Lordy! (That is the correct pronunciation, right?) The “dance” moves have always been a big part of her act: the flailing, the snarling, the Dr Strangelove uncontrollable arm, the whole pretending-to-be-a-wee-bit-unhinged package. But it wasn’t until this year’s MTV music video awards, when a nasty dose of the flu prompted her to leave out the singing part of the equation altogether, that our very-own chart-conquering prodigy really laid her dance chops on the line. Clad in a tinfoil tutu and grey trackpants, she performed a choreographed routine to her song “Homemade Dynamite”, a-leaping and a-lunging and being a-hoisted high by her troupe of backing dancers. University of Auckland dance expert Carol Brown told Stuff it was a “brave” choice: “It’s a beautifully flawed performance. It’s awkward, but at the same time it’s joyous and it’s exuberant and it’s exploratory and it’s experimental.” And as connoisseurs of this kind of thing, we’re putting it in the Hall of Fame with Elaine from Seinfeld (“a full-body dry heave set to music”) and David Brent’s monkey dance. 

The Leopard-Skin Handbag and Jack Daniels Hangover for Harmful Cultural Appropriation goes to the makers of Westside.

This supposed joke has gone on long enough, hasn’t it? You know, the one about the hilarious “bogans” of West Auckland, as told by the towering screen talents of super-sophisticated Grey Lynn and its neighbouring suburbs? They’ve been wallowing in this particular trough of lazy stereotypes for what feels like decades, firstly through Outrageous Fortune, and now its “prequel”, Westside. We could never quite figure out what West Aucklanders had done to deserve it. If the show’s makers ever got their heads out of their own arses long enough, they might just see that most parts of New Zealand are actually populated by so-called “Westies” and that these portrayals are actually the latest version of yesteryear’s cultural cringe. In August, five West Auckland school principals spoke out, blaming Westside — publicly funded to the tune of $25.5 million — for helping to drive away thousands of students who travel to schools out of the area. “It’s just entertainment”? That’s what they used to say about The Black and White Minstrel Show. Clearly, these programmes should stop now. After that, we may need to talk about reparations… 

The Braised Venison Brain for Kneejerk Media Bashing goes to Coco’s Cantina.

You know the place: K’ Rd, gingham-clad sass, yada yada. Its spirit is apparently “embodied by sisters and owners Damaris and Renee Coulter, whose ‘Be Kind’ motto is emblazoned on staff t-shirts and, it seems, their hearts”. Who the hell writes this stuff? Oh. Us. In this year’s Metro Top 50 Restaurants awards, when the Coulters were named Restaurateurs of the Year and bar manager Petaia Unoi snared Restaurant Personality of the Year. We’ve made a habit of showering the place with love and affection. They deserve it. Which is why we were left with wiggly lines where our mouths used to be when they took aim at Herald on Sunday restaurant critic Peter Calder “and all the other self-acclaimed food reviewers of the world”, declaring them unwelcome at Coco’s. They critiqued themselves, their restaurant and their “art” every day, the social-media post continued. “Maybe what needs to be reviewed is what you contribute to the world…” Calder’s crime? Seemingly, a review of Cazador in Mt Eden, in which he riffed for a line or two on his own issues with venison and found fault with a “watery” rabbit tagine. He actually liked the place enough to give it four and a half stars out of five. That’s like, 9 out of 10, right? Yet according to a Stuff report, Cazador co-owner Rebecca Smidt labelled the review “out of touch”, “backhanded” and “cynical”. Golly. Do they have thin skin on their charcuterie platter? We also like Cazador, of course: It won our Best Neighbourhood Bistro award and we named co-owner (and Smidt’s husband) Dariush Lolaiy the Best Chef in all of Auckland, something Calder found “ludicrous”. But we’re also big on a reviewer’s right to write what they want. And what did it have to do with Coco’s Cantina, anyway? And what the hell happened to “Be Kind”?

The Edvard Munch Award for Big-ticket Screaming goes to the software executive who flipped a half-million-dollar McLaren during a test drive on the Northwestern Motorway.

“Arrrrrrrgh! Oh no! What’s this going to friggin cost? Damn. Damn. Damn. I hate myself,” etc. That was us the last time we dinged the 14-year-old Japanese import in a supermarket carpark, so we can only imagine the emotions experienced by 56-year-old Heng Loon Chee when the McLaren supercar he was test-driving hit a barrier and flipped off the road near Pt Chev. With all of 901km on the odometer. It was said to be doing up to 120k/mh on a corner where the recommended speed is 55k/mh. Witnesses reported hearing the car “screaming”. Do you think keen ears might have subsequently heard “gasping”, “squealing” and ““Arrrrrrrgh!”?

The Titanic Memorial Lifebuoy for Staff Training goes to Fullers Group.

The people who live in Devonport are special, we all know that. Most of them are QCs or poets or finance-world kingpins, or the parents of chart-topping superstars, obviously, but the others can also be considered among Auckland’s Star-bellied Sneetches. Why? They get to travel overseas every day, arriving at their cityside jobs looking windswept and interesting and smelling faintly of tar and the sea. In the evening, they arrive home looking even more interesting and smelling faintly of gin. No wonder they’re smug! The romance of ferry travel was brought seriously into question, however, when the good ship Kea slammed into the wharf at Devonport a couple of years back, injuring 19 of its precious passengers. This year, Fullers was ordered to pay nearly $100,000 to crash victims and fined $40,000. A few months later, a Transport Accident Investigation Commission report revealed the ferry master had not been trained properly. Say what? You mean that spiffing nautical uniform doesn’t always signify unimpeachable expertise? That gin is starting to look less like optional relaxation and more like a fortifying necessity. Make ours a double or we’re getting an Uber! 

The Creative Writing Award for Not Letting the Facts Get in the Way of a Good Story goes to Steven Joyce.

“Labour’s got an $11.7 billion hole in its fiscal numbers.” Really? “Yep.” Um, we checked with the experts and they say there is no such hole. “Yes there is.” No, really, every economist we can find says there is no hole. “Yes there is.” No there isn’t. “Yes there is.” No there isn’t. “Yes there is.” No there isn’t. “Yes there is.” No there isn’t. “Yes there is.” No there isn’t. “Yes there is.” Oh look, it’s election day already and all we’ve been talking about is Labour’s numbers! Joyce famously failed to complete those eight economics papers at uni in the 80s, but he should get an Honorary Doctorate for Rat-like Cunning and Bare-faced Cheek. When he dies, can science have his gall?

The Donald Trump Patent-leather Clodhoppers for Trampling on Democratic Ideals goes to Paula Bennett.

We know she wasn’t promoted for her, um, intellectual heft, but Paula Bennett’s claim that some criminals have “fewer human rights” suggests she’s more stupid than anyone imagined. After all, human rights, the Oxford Dictionary reminds us, are rights “believed to belong to every person”. Bill English was forced to explain that her comments were “not an accurate reflection of policy”. As a reflection of his deputy’s unsuitability for high office, they were irrefutable. To be honest, the dance moves and version of “Natural Woman” she busted out on the campaign bus were also pretty damning…

The True Confessions Award for Toxic Admissions goes to Metiria Turei.

A “can of worms” sounds so environmentally friendly, doesn’t it? Once opened, however, those wriggly little bastards can be quite the biohazard, as Greens co-leader Turei learned when she confessed to historic benefit fraud. Even though her party seemed to get an initial bump from her admission, “fraud” turned out not to be a sustainable route to political popularity. Who knew?

 The David Cunliffe Memorial Tin Ear for Dumb Utterances goes to Gareth Morgan.

Okay, we get it. Morgan’s remark was merely a harmless metaphor, in no way intended to associate Labour leader Jacinda Ardern with pigliness. She was, er, “the lipstick”, right? It’s just that in a social-media-drenched modern campaign, it takes little to light the blue touchpaper of outrage. Explanations tend to disappear under the pile-on. Wasn’t it kind of obvious that using the words “lipstick” and “pig” in discussion of a female opponent would be to incite the fury of Jacinda-loving skim-readers across the nation? No matter how much Morgan tried to explain himself, the turd would not be polished. Was he new to this politics lark or something?

The Charlie Brown Disappearing Football for Serial Disappointment goes to fans of the Warriors and the Blues.

Every season, new reasons are found for hopefulness at Mt Smart and Eden Park, new light is glimpsed at the end of tunnels, frail green shoots of optimism appear amid the previous year’s rubble. Our sportswriters, bless ’em, find all sorts of positives: the new star players, new coach, new backroom guru who could make all the difference; the established players or coaches poised to “kick on” this year; footage of the squad running up sandhills proving they’ll be “fitter than ever before”; players testifying to the spirit that’s “starting to build”. Couple of early wins and the babbling loons of sports punditry will wonder if this year’s mob might just — say it quietly, now — Go. All. The. Way. It’s hilarious, and reliably followed by mid-season meltdowns, injury crises and losing streaks. The Warriors have had six different coaches in seven seasons and last made the playoffs in 2011. The Blues have had four coaches in the past decade and made one semi-final, also in 2011. No wonder the kids are all into drifting and competitive piercing.

The Diamond-encrusted Rolex for Timing Things to Suit Himself goes to John Key.

Key couldn’t lose when he unexpectedly pulled the pin at the end of last year. If National went down in a screaming heap, it would prove how much they had relied upon him; if anointed successor Bill English managed to cling to power, Key gets the credit for succession planning. Did he even care one way or the other? Didn’t look like it mid-campaign when news broke of Key selling his Parnell pad for an estimated $20 million, reportedly to a buyer in China. Um, he knew the “rich getting richer” narrative wasn’t a vote-winner for National, right? And that National’s opponents claimed overseas investors were driving property prices beyond the reach of hardworking Kiwis? Couldn’t the sale have been held off until after polling day? The “optics” were clearly of no concern to Key as he pocketed the cash and generated predictable headlines. Whatever other toll his years of public service might have taken, the man’s naked self-interest is clearly in tip-top condition!

The Too Much Information Award goes to Colin Craig and Cameron Slater for exposing us all to another courtroom dissection of the Craig-Rachel MacGregor saga.

Please. Please. Make it stop. The love poetry. The massages. The “sauna interview”. We can’t take any more. Nobody can. Sob (bites knuckle)…

The Cone-shaped Hard Hat with a ‘D’ on the Front goes to Fletcher Building for suffering cost blowouts on some of the country’s biggest construction jobs.

Builders, eh? Even when business is booming, things can go horribly wrong. Someone makes a mistake with a decimal point in one of those back-of-an-envelope calculations with a big fat pencil and next thing, everything’s turned to fast-setting custard. Industry giant Fletcher Building proved size was no protection against things going yellow and gluggy when cost blowouts took a toll this year. Its Building and Interiors Unit lost $292 million, helping drag operating earnings down by 23 per cent. The opening date of the $700 million International Convention Centre in Auckland was pushed back and the Justice Ministry’s $300 million Justice and Emergency Precinct in Christchurch also suffered delays. In September, Fletchers confirmed it had called in consultants KPMG to review four big projects. Consultants? Couldn’t they just send the bloke with the pencil to Kip McGrath for some remedial arithmetic?

The Wine-splattered Certificate for Mishandling an Awards-sponsorship Conflict of Interest goes to EY.

EY? Ew, more like it, after the global accounting firm screwed up massively in its sponsorship of New Zealand’s once-premier Business Journalism Awards. Veteran reporter Rebecca Macfie quit this year’s judging panel after being told EY wasn’t going to allow a story by NBR journo Karyn Scherer to win its category. Scherer’s two-parter was a cracking yarn about an accounting scandal at the local outpost of printing giant Fuji Xerox… who just happened to be an EY client. When word of this disgrace spread, reporters from a wide range of publications elected to withdraw from the tarnished event, which was eventually canned. EY maintained utter silence over the whole affair, leaving various questions unanswered: Didn’t they foresee that their sponsorship might showcase stories they or their clients would prefer never to have been written? Didn’t they realise that the only tenable position for a sponsor is to keep its nose out of the judging? And even though they’re not saying anything, they know that lingering stench speaks volumes, don’t they?

The SPCA Cruelty to Dumb Animals or Simon Barnett Award goes to Jay-Jay Feeney and her fellow hosts on The Edge.  

Everybody loves “pranks”. They’re almost as good as “banter”. And “japes”. But then someone loses an eye. Poor old Si, the loveably ageing boy wonder of More FM’s Si & Gary show, suffered no physical harm when The Edge team tricked him into an interview with a Tom Cruise impersonator, but we could feel his pain. “You just interviewed a fake Tom Cruise!”, said Feeney, laughing, before hanging up. Classy and charming, right?  Even as his producer burst into tears, Barnett, ever the pro, held it together. “That’s so uncool,” he said. And if anyone knows what’s cool and what’s uncool, it’s Simon Barnett.

The Motat Award for Showcasing Outdated Technology goes to Auckland Transport and its HOP card system.

Our steam-driven bureaucrats took forever to come up with a card giving access to all modes of public transport, forking out megabucks to French boffins to develop one and taking years to finally introduce it. But at least it’s the bells-and-whistles version, right? Not really. Turns out that cash loaded on a card “expires” if the card isn’t used within two months. There was a long, technical explanation for this that took years off our lives without ever quite explaining how, in 2017, a “smart” card can be so dumb. For now, AT just has to make its pitiful excuses to disgruntled humans… but they do realise the robots are coming, don’t they?

The Captain Underpants Award for Gratuitous Involvement of Underwear in a Drama or Comedy goes to Duncan Garner.

Boy, that telly business has fallen on hard times. It’s got so a verified breakfast TV superstar like Duncan Garner buys his undies at — whisper it — Kmart! Back in the Golden Age, the leading figures of broadcasting usually had their precious nether regions cradled in designer underwear made from the softest, most luxurious fabrics known to mankind. In the 1990s, Tukoroirangi Morgan famously forked out $89 of company moolah on a single pair of boxer shorts — and he only worked for Aotearoa TV! Can you imagine what John Hawkesby’s undies were like? Mink, probably. Paul Holmes, of course, once had a pair of women’s underpants passed to him at a restaurant table… (That’s enough historic undies-in-broadcasting stories — Ed) Anyway, Garner’s undergarment relevation was in a Stuff column on immigration, in which he described the “human snake” he encountered during his Kmart visit: “Indians, Pakistanis, Sri Lankans, Syrians, and many others. I saw the changing face of New Zealand at the crossroads.” And lo, a shitstorm descendeth, as readers took issue at the snake metaphor and that selective list, which somehow managed not to mention any European immigrant groups. Things got so rough, Garner ended up quitting social-media cesspit Twitter, complaining of the “abusive and violent” response to which he was being subjected. Like any broadcaster-related kerfuffle, it’s probably all to be taken with a grain of salt. In a competitive industry, these blokes are desperate for cut-through, and it’ll all blow over, just like the Holmes and Paul Henry outrages of yesteryear. But that budget-underpants detail won’t be so easy to forget. We’re not saying that’s the cause of Garner’s characteristic gurning and glassy eyes, but it can’t be helping. Dr Dubious’s prescription: a nice supportive pair of mid-range name-brand Y-fronts. He won’t know himself!

The Jester’s Cap and Rattle for Interminable Kingmaking goes to New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.

This was the guy who told us he wanted a decision by October 12, right? It always seemed a little tight, and so it proved, as day followed day and gallery reporters swelled before our eyes from their biscuits-and-pies corridor diets. Peters himself didn’t look too flash as the process dragged on, appearing every bit of his 72-years — “dotage-adjacent”, even. Never mind the Green Parrot, he looked sick as a parrot! Outside Parliament, life carried on quite happily. Inside, the air was rank with suspense: lift doors opened and closed, tea trolleys rattled and venerable correspondents resorted to interpreting the Steven Joyce “thumbs up” or the Jacinda Ardern “wink”. Sad. Mr Seven Per Cent clearly wore himself to a frazzle wagging the dogs as hard as he could. At least we can now ignore him for the next three years... Just kidding!   

This is published in the November- December 2017 issue of Metro.

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