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InternetNovember 4, 2022

The top 10 New Zealand tweets of all time


Twitter has been bought by Elon Musk. To mark the occasion, here’s 10 good tweets.

Additional reporting by Alex Casey and Anna Rawhiti-Connell

Twitter is a cursed platform. Everyone knows this, most of all the people who spend the most time on it. A list of the worst New Zealand tweets of all time would be too long even for me. But the official worst New Zealand tweet, for those curious, was posted by the police, and it’s this:

So that’s the worst one. But as we look into a Musk-owned Twitter future, let’s celebrate the rare rays of sunshine in the discourse abyss. The tweets where everyone was united either in love, laughter or pointless outrage. These are the 10 best New Zealand tweets of all time.

10. John Campbell’s dating advice

John J. Campbell began his career as Twitter’s hardened aunt with a heart of gold in 2018. After producer and artist Lucy Zee tweeted that a guy she was seeing pronounced the word “necklace” as “neck lace”, Campbell unleashed two mighty words on the New Zealand Twitter community. “Drop him,” he wrote.

For a while it was like Campbell had your back. A voice from on high with no tolerance for bullshit and genuine concern for his weird little community. A famous face with a list of televisual achievements in his bio, enthusiastically bantering with people who had “entitled nobody” in theirs.  Committing to the bit, Campbell stamped “Drop him” around Twitter like an old timer who opens his mouth to dispense ancient wisdom or spit chewing tobacco to the ground once a year. 

In January 2020, Piers Morgan shared a screenshot of a DM he’d received from Meghan Markle in 2015, wounded that she was no longer a fan of his after he called her a “selfish social climber”. Campbell rode again. Retweeting Morgan’s tweet, he dispensed his advice to Markle with cut-throat precision: “Drop him”.

9. ‘The gaffe man’

This tweet did not get 22.5k likes in 2012, that’s for certain. Ten years ago, Jacinda Ardern was merely a list MP in Auckland with an inoffensive social media presence. When Boris Johnson entered the leadership conversation in the UK, Ardern posted an opinion voiced by many, many others. “When I lived in London he was known as the gaffe man!” A fine and middling tweet in 2012.

Seven years later on July 24, 2019, Ardern was now prime minister and far less active on Twitter. That day, Johnson became prime minister of the UK and up popped Ardern’s tweet from the archives. A perfect example of why no one in politics should ever tweet.

8. Milk in the pantry

This is one for the tragics. Twitter is a place where people can be minor celebrities while not being publicly known in any other part of their life. @trillyelliot is one of those people. An Auckland user from way back, Trilly posted funny things and occasionally trolled politicians and journalists taking themselves too seriously.

On the other side of Twitter was the @PeopleofNZ account, a hyper earnest community-driven project where every week a random New Zealander took control of the account and shared what they were doing in their little corner of Aotearoa. Lovely, fine, often a bit boring. In April of 2017, Trilly took over the PeopleofNZ account and immediately started a war. Beginning with a poll asking if milk should be stored in the fridge, Trilly went on a crusade, insisting to earnest followers that milk belongs in the pantry. At least 20 avid followers of PeopleofNZ ended up blocking his personal account because of it. One user announced the decision and the reason: “So @PeopleofNZ this week is a block/mute. Asked me how I know ‘so much about science’ when I explained how milk goes bad out of the fridge.”

It’s actually quite hard to explain how mad everyone got over it, proving the Milk Saga of 2017 to be the greatest troll in New Zealand Twitter history.

7. Gerry Brownlee’s eight-lane highway

Guy Montgomery’s brief stint as a Gerry Brownlee parody account is the exception that proves the rule that all parody accounts are bad. The context, which you’ll be forgiven for not remembering, was a statement from the director general of health Ashley Bloomfield warning New Zealanders that a second wave of Covid was inevitable. Brownlee took issue with that and put out his own statement just asking questions. “What do these guys know that they are not telling us?” he wondered.

In response, Montgomery spent three days impersonating Brownlee and tweeting all sorts of nonsense. But this one, which many readers thought was genuinely coming (ha) from National’s transport spokesperson, is poetry.

6. Ahhh…it’s all good

Before she was an award-winning author of a bestselling and hilarious book (Greta & Valdin), Rebecca K Reilly was just another tweeter. This tweet is exceptional for being so specific and yet so immediately recognisable to not just all New Zealanders but also anybody who has ever met a New Zealander. Restart the flag referendum because this tweet is a picture of patriotism.

5. Rihanna’s forehead = too big

A tweet so visceral, so powerful that you can somehow see, smell and taste it. Delivered in lower case urgency with little punctuation aside from the essential all-action asterisks, Holden’s portrait of a Sad Man Online became an instant classic. Given that this tweet happened in 2015, before MeToo and incel culture entered the conversation and Trump was elected president, it’s interesting to think where Dorito Dust Dude would have ended up. In prison after storming the Capitol? Almost certainly.

4. Keith Quinn rates dancing

Not every great tweet is a viral hit. Sometimes the best tweet get five retweets and 12 likes (one of which is from the official Spinoff account). Sometimes the fourth best New Zealand tweet ever is an accidental poem by venerable sports broadcaster Keith Quinn.

This is a poem in three parts, and each is more surprising and thrilling than the last. It starts by addressing “this ‘Running Man’ video fuss”. It’s surprising to imagine someone like Keith Quinn, whose public persona exists almost exclusively within the twin realms of rugby and life insurance ads, being aware of and engaging with a viral dance trend. The second part builds suspense: “The only thing I know is to agree with…” What’s the last thing you expect to read next? “The great GrantNisbett” would have to be up there. But all this is mere set-up for the kicker, as Quinn presents us with his fellow rugby commentator’s perfect, devastating three-word critique of an entire artform, something he apparently “has always said” (how often does this come up?!): “Dancing is irrelevant.”

3. Amanda Palmer walks into a coffee shop

There’s a decent case for this to be number one, despite not even being written by a New Zealander because it represents the funniest and weirdest and cringest elements of both online New Zealand and Amanda Palmer. Palmer claimed that on the day Joe Biden was inaugurated in January 2021, New Zealanders at her local Havelock North cafe applauded her when she walked in.

New Zealanders online (and not in the cafe) hated this tweet more than perhaps any other. The shared shame of being presented as a nation that spontaneously applauds in public terrified us and cracked our desperately-projected easygoing veneer. Thankfully, Hayden Donnell investigated her claims in what should have been an award-winning piece of journalism but instead is just another article on

2. Tweets on Winston Peters NZ politician

I simply cannot imagine a world where Winston Peters created a Twitter account and didn’t immediately search his own name. It’s the combination of him being extremely powerful throughout the 2017 election campaign and completely powerless in the face of modern technology.

We’ve all accidentally typed search terms into a status bar, but even as search terms, you cannot get more poetic than “Tweets on Winston Peters NZ politician”. I hope he found what he was looking for.

1. Hera Lindsay Bird’s piss country

There was no contest here. A perfect tweet, and one that no longer exists in its original form. Such a good tweet that fellow good tweeter Ashleigh Young perfectly celebrated its power earlier this year. There’s nothing more for me to add, so here’s an excerpt from Young’s tribute:

“The moment I always return to is the crescendo of ‘piss country’. It’s that word ‘piss’ – it’s so unexpected, almost sweet. Like all great endings it shines a new light back through the tweet: suddenly this place is not even solid, it is just piss.”

Keep going!