The best of The Spinoff this week

Bringing you the best weekly reading from your friendly local website.

Madeleine Chapman: How did a 77-year-old white guy become the go-to media voice on Māori issues?

“There are plenty of uninformed takes to be heard on the radio. People call into talkback and air an opinion that isn’t shared by a single listener, but those same listeners know this caller is just a random New Zealander. They know this person isn’t an expert and they’re subsequently prepared to process what outrageous thoughts this person may have on a topic they know very little about.

Don Brash is not a random New Zealander calling NewstalkZB at 3am. Don Brash is a former National Party leader and Reserve Bank governor. He’s also been eligible for the pension for over half my life and I commend his stubborn refusal to just fade away into an extremely comfortable retirement.

Brash is an expert voice. He’s 2012 Olympics Usain Bolt when he’s talking about inflation. But when it comes to talking about the haka, Brash is 2018 Usain Bolt trialling for the Central Coast Mariners soccer team.”

Danyl Mclauchlan: Here’s what the NY Times didn’t tell you about life in Jacinda Ardern’s New Zealand

“Before I can press her for details, one of Jacinda’s media advisors skips into the room. There’s a short, whispered, urgent conversation. I catch the phrases: ‘Ministerial resignation’ and ‘dump the story,’ and ask what’s wrong.

‘Um,’ Jacinda hesitates and her advisor tells me, ‘A…  a juicy bone has resigned. I mean, gone missing.’

‘Really?’ My eyes widen in shock that such a terrible thing could happen in New Zealand.

‘That’s right,’ Jacinda confirms. ‘A really thoughtless, stupid bone.’ The two of them laugh in a way that might sound mirthless to those who don’t know the innocent creatures of New Zealand as well as I do.”

Kristin Hall: Why is Coca-Cola still selling a racist drink called Kia-Ora?

“Kia ora — isn’t it a lovely word? It reminds me of my hometown and Suzy Cato and perky Air New Zealand flight attendants. It’s informal but sounds a lot nicer than ‘g’day mate’, and it’s a word you’re only likely to hear 4.000 kilometres south of the equator, which is why I was a little surprised to see it plastered on a bottle of colourful goo in a small town supermarket in rural Ireland.

Kia ora, as it turns out, is not just a Māori greeting and expression of friendship but a brand of cordial (or squash as it’s known here) owned by a small outfit you might have heard of called Coca-Cola.” 

Photo: RNZ / Rebekah Parsons-King

Danyl Mclauchlan: Jacinda and the Winston dilemma: do nothing or take the nuclear option

“This is a horrible position for Ardern and the rest of her Cabinet. There’s this notion out there that the prime minister has to be “tough”, and that this will solve her problems, somehow, but it’s hard to be tough when you have no leverage and no agency. Helen Clark is currently touring the country congratulating herself on her own toughness in power, but she too was equally helpless to control Peters when he was her coalition partner and foreign minister. Clark spent her last year in power feebly defending him in the teeth of an ever deepening corruption scandal, destroying any shreds of the possibility of her government winning re-election in the process.”

This time, Emma and I recorded that conversation for posterity – call it catharsis, call it further insight into how the media sausage is made. It’s cheaper than therapy.”

Emily Writes: The Five Stages of Toilet Training grief

“I remember it as if it was yesterday. A mother asked me about toilet training. I had not toilet trained my son. He is not a dog, I said to myself (ho ho ho), he does not need to be trained. My son just decided it was time and he just started going to the toilet himself.

It was easy.

And I literally said that – it’s easy. Just let them do it when they’re ready and they’ll do it.

How smug I was. Verily, I was a dickhead.

You know what really shows you’re not the great parent you think you are? A second child.”

Elle Hunt: The question that echoes in every NZ expat’s ears: ‘Will you go back?’

“Being a New Zealander outside New Zealand means being asked on average once a fortnight, “Do you think you’ll go back?” It helps to have a spiel ready, like: “When I’m ready to temper the extroverted personality I’ve cultivated”.

Or you can answer it earnestly, as I did at work last week by outlining, at length, a hypothetical future scenario in which one or both of my parents were seriously ill and I had decided that accepting my share of their care, so as to safeguard against retrospective guilt and preserving my relationships with my sisters, was more important to me than my career.

The woman regretted asking, I think. I suppose I was supposed to be interviewing her.”

Aaron Hendry: Man down: how homophobia remains rife within Christian circles

From Destiny Church and Israel Folau, to splinter groups opposing the Anglican Church’s acceptance of same-sex marriages, bigotry against New Zealand’s LGBTQ community is still well and truly alive, writes Aaron Hendry.

Hayden Donnell: Revenge of the NIMBYs: Is council too weak to enact its own Unitary Plan?

“There have been positive changes since the Unitary Plan passed. Council approved a near-record 12,843 consents last year. But Auckland needs 15,000 consents per year to keep up with its growth, and these cases make it look like the council still has its priorities skewed.

In recommending the Dominion Road apartments be turned down, it’s essentially saying the negative effect of eliminating residents’ views of “the sunsets across the silhouetted parapets of the Edwardian shop fronts, to the Waitakeres beyond” is more important than the negative effect of nuking a proposal to build 102 homes in the central city on a major public transport route in the middle of a housing crisis.

In turning down Cohaus, it seems to consider the negative effect of making car parking more difficult at times somehow outweighs the negative effect of fucking up a development. So in keeping with the council’s vision of a compact city, it may as well have been on the cover of the Unitary Plan.”

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