Something In The Water

NCC workers keeping one of the city’s biggest stormwater drains clear.

During last week’s rather atrocious weather across Hawke’s Bay Napier’s continuing water woes became even more evident, with Napier City Council issuing a notification for residents to refrain from taking baths, or flushing toilets for 36 hours on Wednesday the 5th of September, as the city’s wastewater system failed to cope with the amount of rain that had fallen almost continuously for 24 hours.

For the second time in less than 18 months, Napier City Council released stormwater and sewerage into Napier’s Ahuriri Lagoon, otherwise known as “Pandora Pond” after more than 90mm of rain fell in 24 hours between Tuesday 4th and Wednesday 5th of September.

That’s almost twice the average for the entire month!

Similar events occurred last April when the tail ends of Cyclones Debbie and Cook successively hit Hawke’s Bay hard and the City Council discharged 2.5million litres of wastewater into Pandora Estuary.

In both cases warning signs were erected around the estuary and immediate areas warning against swimming and the collection of seafood due to the public health risk of possible contamination from sewerage in the water and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council, the region’s environmental watchdogs were alerted.

Pandora Pond – Looking a bit murkier than usual after the heavy rains

“But how does sewerage get in the stormwater?” you might rightly ask.

It’s to do with infrastructure, namely pipes.

Ideally rain falls from the sky, onto your roof, into your spouting and into the stormwater system via gutters and stormwater drains / creeks and eventually into rivers / lakes / out to sea.

Unfortunately some spouting goes into the wrong drains around the house – Wastewater drains from bathrooms, showers, laundries, which gets treated with sewerage from.. um.. “other drains”.

During severe weather events, such as the one we’ve just gone through, having the wrong pipe going into the wrong drain can greatly increase the amount of wastewater in the system.

But Hastings and rural Hawke’s Bay had more rain than Napier did – at one stage I saw a reading of 191mm for HB, 66mm for Hastings and “only” 43mm for Napier in the 24 hours between Wednesday and Thursday.

So how come Hastings only started to feel the effects of the severe weather a day or so later, with Porta-loos distributed to some residents in the suburb of Akina, as their stormwater and sewerage systems stated to struggle?

From the makers of “Highway to Hell” and “Stairway to Heaven” comes “Driveway to Puddle”!

It could be something to do with Napier being coastal – The seas were certainly huge for most of the week and it would be hard for the water to drain out to sea when the sea is doing its best to get onto the land.

Marine Parade’s walkway was a mess on Thursday after high seas accompanying the storm battered the coast

It could be the fact we’re the lowest point above sea level in Hawke’s Bay.

Water naturally runs downhill and it might take a day or so of heavy rain for natural drains to back up the height difference between Napier and Hastings.

Or it could be that the city’s pipe infrastructure just isn’t up to it.

It has been known for some time that Napier’s water infrastructure was aging badly and in need of repair soon, if not overdue.

This has been the problem with Napier’s drinking water – It isn’t Hawke’s Bay’s aquifer quality being sub-par – The water down there is just as clean and pure as usual, it’s been council infrastructure – Bores, pipes and reservoirs letting the side down .

You might remember during the region’s contentious amalgamation debate and vote three years ago that Napier’s infrastructure was a rather large sore point.

I was strongly opposed to amalgamation, seeing the way it was promoted merely as a cynical attempt to sell off and/or privatise council departments (like water) and assets.

Amalgamationalists claimed Napier’s pipes were in a bad way and would likely cost many millions to repair / replace, while NCC’s vanguard staunchly defended its underground assets.

“Napier is very well positioned to meet any future infrastructure related growth or renewal challenges.”

“The short answer is Napier’s infrastructure, I can assure you, is in excellent shape.”
Napier Mayor, Bill Dalton. September 2015

It looks like council hierarchy might have, yet again, spoken too soon.

Even the NZ Auditor General’s office piped up, so to speak, on Twitter after this week’s rain referencing some 2016 stormwater analysis.

But the most odd pronouncement over the issue must go to the regional paper, Hawke’s Bay Today’s, new editor, who wrote on the weekend after the deluge that “A Wee Bit of Wee Never Hurt Anyone, We Hope ”.

That was just outright bizarre!

Has he not heard of Giardia? Campylobacter?
Has he not simply tried searching his own paper’s website for the words “Havelock” and “Gastro”?

His newspaper did win an award (albeit under the previous editor) for being “news central” for the Havelock North Water Crisis two years ago, after all.

Or maybe he just needs to talk to the mother whose child got sick after swimming in Pandora Pond.

Again, his newspaper reported on the incident.

Whichever way you look at it SOMETHING needs to be done – And QUICKLY!

After last year’s rain event and stormwater release the Regional Council said the deluge was a “Once-in-Five-Year” event, but had since scaled that estimation back to once-a-year”.

To its credit, Napier City Council has put aside over $20 million for refurbishing its water systems in the coming years, but after almost back-to –back yearly events, could it be too little, too late?

Our climate is changing (whether radio host Leighton Smith believes it or not) and the weather is getting more severe, more often.

Sea levels are expected to rise and Napier’s population is expected to grow by at least 2,000 households in the next ten years – Increasing the demands and challenges on infrastructure even more.

If we don’t do something to counter its effects fast, we face severe safety and public health issues and Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s environmental regulatory department and some regional councillors have already aired concerns and displeasure with how Napier City Council management has dealt with these recent events.

Perhaps we could delay some of the council’s glamour projects, like the $45 million seafront Aquarium upgrade until we have the city’s water supplies going in and out the right ways.

After all, who will visit the refurbished aquarium if we’re all too sick, or washed away to get there?

In Hawke’s Bay Hurricanes Hardly Ever Happen

It’s not often you can say your city suffered from a lack of Hurricanes AND had it’s stormwater and wastewater systems overwhelmed by torrential rain yet again on the same day.

But today Napier did just that.

The lack of Hurricanes doesn’t refer to the weather event, even though the rain was indeed periodically torrential throughout the day.

(We didn’t even have an international cricket match scheduled for today, either!)

All Blow and No Go

Hawke’s Bay’s “Home” Super Rugby team, the Wellington Hurricanes, announced their home game schedule for the 2019 season.

Only one game is being played outside of Wellington’s Westpac Trust Stadium next year and that one game is being played in…

Palmerston North.

Yup, one game in Palmy and SEVEN in Wellington.

Nothing else.

It really is rubbish.

I think the only NZ team to play less “Home” games at McLean Park are the All Blacks.

The Hurricanes have played 11 games at Napier’s McLean Park since Super Rugby began in 1996.

That equates to an average of one game every two years, with stadiums in three cities – Wellington, Palmerston North and Napier to potentially choose from.

Napier hosted absolutely no super rugby games for 6 years – SIX YEARS! – between 2004-2010.

McLean Park was, admittedly, undergoing a major upgrade and grandstand build from 2007-2009, but it didnt stop other codes, like cricket, playing there during that time.

2011-2013 saw only one Hurricanes game, but TWO Crusaders “home-away-from-home” games in 2011 and 2012, after their home ground was
damaged in the Christchurch earthquakes of 2010 and 2011.

No wonder the Taranaki Rugby Football Union left the franchise to join the Waikato Chiefs

It’s Not Us, it’s Them

As I’ve written before, some find it easy to Forget About Hawke’s Bay, but recently, as our awesomeness has become more and more apparent, that is becoming far less of an excuse and we are harder to ignore.

In 2016 Newshub ranked New Zealand’s 21 Best Super Rugby Venues, with McLean Park coming in at number nine (technically sixth, as Christchurch’s Lancaster Park, Wellington’s Athletic Park & Dunedin’s Carisbrook no longer exist) citing:

“Usually hosting just one Super Rugby match a year the games are generally
packed to the rafters with the locals reveling in a brief taste of top-flight footy.”

When this year’s Hurricanes match against the Durban Sharks at Mclean Park was announced this time last year one newspaper item began:

“McLean Park’s status as the Hurricanes’ home away from home appears in no jeopardy.”

It appears that bit of spin might have been writren with tongue firmly in cheek.

Losing Puff

This almost utter lack of faith in their regional, grassroots supporters is hard to fathom.

They can’t really claim it’s for financial reasons, as ticket sales from a packed McLean Park would obviously far out-do recent poor Wellington ticket sales, and the main reason for the Crusaders selecting Napier over their own venues in Nelson and Timaru was the income from ticket sales and the local support!

The Hurricanes could either pack out Napier’s McLean Park, Palmerston North’s Central Energy Trust Arena, and elsewhere in their zone repeatedly..

Or just keep playing over 85% of their games at an almost empty “Cake Tin” (Westpac Trust Stadium’s nickname, given its circular, metalic outer cladding) in Wellington and stoke the headlines that say Super Rugby is dying or dead.

Hawke’s Bay certainly hopes the competition doesn’t die, because we are currently producing the top high school rugby talent in the Hurricanes region, maybe even New Zealand.

We are keeping up our end of the deal, why aren’t the Hurricanes?

Hawke’s Bay deserves better!

All the Small Things

I’ve had to deal with a lot of big issues recently, so whenever I could I’ve tried to get away from the heavier stuff and focus on lighter, funner things.

I needed a hero. I was holding out for a Pint Sized Hero.

Most famous for their “Pop Vinyls” – one of the many other pop culture goodies Funko, based in Seattle, Washington USA make are these “Pint Sized Heroes

Standing at a grand 4-5cm high the Pint Size Heroes (or, “PSH”) are far more compact than their bigger 10cm high Pop! partners, but just a neat.

With a growing range of figures now including comic book, movie, TV, gaming and other themes, I have taken a shine to the DC and Marvel cinematic universe characters.

Part of the attraction of the PSH’s is they are sold as what is called “Blind Bags” – Like the “Lucky Dips” of our youth, you can never be sure of what you get. So it’s a pleasant surprise when you open the packet and get the Batman, or Back to the Future PSH you were after.

If it’s one you don’t want, or already have there are now numerous groups on social media to buy, sell and swap “duplicates”.

I like setting my PSHs up in dioramas and scenes. Funko hosts a regular “Pint Size Hero Happy Hour” – #PSHHappyHour on Twitter and people are always finding new, inventive and creative ways of presenting their figures.

They’re lots of fun and bring back some great memories of happier, younger days, so these Pint Sized Heroes have often rescued me from modern day worries
with an uplifting distraction recently.

*The preceding wasn’t a paid advertisement – I bought all items over the last year or so for myself. But if anyone DOES want to supply me with free Funko goodies I wouldn’t mind!*

Adulting Sux

I think I’d like to give up adulting for a while.

Turn on the TV, radio, read the newspapers or surf online and you’ll struggle to avoid prime time examples of racism, sexism, sectarianism, greed, stupidity and people just being general dicks to each other.

Even the presenters themselves – Positions that used to be the bastion of straight-forward news and current affairs delivery are not immune from this.

I can think of several who appear to be actively enabled, if not impressively incentivised to be “controversial”. And they’re given the full gamut of their employers’ television, radio, web and even good old analogue newspaper formats to say stupid and mean things just to attract attention, clicks and “Likes”.

It really is pathetic.

I’m pretty certain Dougal Stevenson and Philip Sherry would thump you if you told them to act like that back in their heyday.

Don’t make Phillip Sherry angry. You wouldn’t like him when he’s angry..

It’s all pretty depressing.

I’d say it’s childish, but I feel that would be a grave insult to children everywhere.

My own daughter, for example, will turn five later this year.

She’s brilliant – She’s kind, caring and compassionate – All the things that so much of the world isn’t! This may or may not have something to do with the fact that we have largely kept her away from the news and traditional forms of media.

6pm – Traditional “News Time” is TV/device off time in our house, followed by playing / reading and her bed time. We usually don’t turn the TV or phones on again until after 7pm.

Some might call us “Snowflakes” or say this is “Virtue Signalling”, but I prefer my daughter to grow up with empathy, rather than being a sociopath.

When other adults or managers/bosses are getting me down I find picking my daughter up from Kindy to be an intellectual and spiritual lift.

Just the other day her kindergarten celebrated Peruvian Independence Day (one of the teachers is from there and very proud of her home country).

Children and their parents from Pakeha, Maori, Indian, French, Chinese, Japanese and many other cultures all celebrated this teacher’s homeland together.

It was glorious!

There was singing, dancing, food and fun – It was caring and inclusive – All things that life should be!

This is where I hold out hope for the future, because this is normality for our children.

Our children will live in a society where their friends will be all sorts of colours, sizes and shapes.

Their favourite foods won’t just be the rather bland NZ cuisine I grew up with in the 80’s, but from all around the globe – An exotic range of flavours us adults are only just learning about.

It won’t matter whether they have mum and dad at home, just mum or just dad, two mums, two dads, grandparents or other relatives, so long as they have a home where they are safe and loved.

This will be their normal.

This is something to strive towards.

I think we have a lot to learn from our children.

We should be taking more notice of them and less of those provocative, attention-seeking adults in the media.

Creating a Buzz

Look at me, all pictorial and glossy!

Sorry I haven’t been writing on here as much as I used to.

I would LIKE to, but work, earning a living and daily life has a nasty habit of getting in the way of creative pursuits.

I have still been writing, though.

In Hawke’s Bay we have a bi-monthly magazine called “Bay Buzz”. It started out life ten years ago in an online format and slowly progressed over the past decade into this quite marvellous, glossy publication.

I sent the editor, Tom Belford, a piece I had written and he published it online in November 2008.

It was one of my first forays into writing stuff on and for the interweb.

A year or so later he asked me to write a regular piece, which we called “Man About Town” (not too thematically dissimilar to “Napier in Frame”, really) which I did for about a year, before the need for an income over-shadowed writing and my creative wordsmithing skills returned to their stasis pods, occasionally emerging to point out local wrongs and the bleeding obvious our local mainstream media somehow managed to miss with unnerving regularity via opinion columns and Letters to the Editor.

Five years ago (YES, FIVE!!) I started this site and started writing more regularly again.

A little over a year ago Tom, having seen my site and opinion pieces in the paper, approached me and asked if I’d be interested in writing of Bay Buzz again.

I accepted and the results have been quite good and glossy, with six columns published so far (and a cameo in the upcoming 10th Anniversary edition, too).

While not being paid for my regular columns because they are classed as “opinion” (how this same system doesn’t apply to certain massively monetarily and multimedialy enabled, yet utterly asinine ‘opinionist’ radio and TV presenters, I don’t know.. ), I am getting more recognition.

I have been stopped in the street a number of times by people telling me they saw me in the magazine and liked my writing, which is pretty cool – I’m not used to praise!

It’s also good to see a Hawke’s Bay publisher footing it with the “big city” type(face)s – A couple of people have said Bay Buzz is like, if not better than, (because of its local focus) the likes of North and South magazine (the Wellington equivalent of Auckland’s Metro – High praise indeed!

I will do my best to post on here more often – I’m due back on Radio New Zealand’s “The Panel” next week and I have two other posts in the works, so material is seldom in short supply – it’s more a matter of available time.

Perhaps if RNZ+, or their regional expansions were to headhunt me, I could even do it for a living!?

Gooooooood Morning, Napier!

We have some visitors in Napier this week!

(TV) Three’s “The AM Show” is gracing our fair city as part of a tour they are doing with telecommunication infrastructure providers Chorus.

They have already visited Queenstown and Nelson, with a final stop in Rotorua following their last show here tomorrow (Wednesday, 11 July).

It’s been quite exciting for the city, which is usually only on the receiving end of simulcast media networks and completely ignored by some “nationwide tours”, having the show and Napier itself broadcast live to television screens around New Zealand from 6-9am each morning, as well as being simulcast on radio and across the internet.

Broadcasting from outside of Auckland allows the show to feature special items, news and people unique to each region.

So far in Napier they have featured an obligatory touristy Art Deco piece and mayoral interview, but also Hawke’s Bay success stories, like celebrating Flaxmere College’s educational excellence.

As of their second show they had yet to touch on thornier issues like the War Memorial and the city’s water woes, or asking for ratepayers’ opinions, then ignoring them, which I still feel deserve wider attention than they have gotten (“sunlight is the best disinfectant” they say..), but promoting Napier, Hawke’s Bay and all the awesome things we do and can offer and represent is a great way of promoting the region and attracting people here (the weather has been pretty stunning while they are here, too!).

And at least they haven’t (as far as I’m aware) committed the cardinal sin of adding a “the” to the front of our region’s name

I had promoted the idea of hosting such breakfast television shows in Napier, along with 30 other ideas to attract attention to the city five years ago in my “Month of Fun Days” post. I even used the post in a couple of applications for jobs promoting Napier.

I never got so much as an interview for the jobs, but I have seen a number of the ideas come to fruition in recent years, which while great to see, is also a bit of salt in old wounds (I haven’t received any credit for the ideas, nor assistance in making them happen myself).

Hopefully it’s just the first of many occasions where Napier and Hawke’s Bay take centre stage for all the right reasons!

On the Air This Week

Miracles DO happen!

After 22 years I will be behind a microphone and on the radio again!

I’ve been asked to be on Radio New Zealand’s “The Panel” on Wednesday 13 June as an actual panellist!

After making a few cameo appearances on RNZ last year (and a little bit of lobbying on Twitter) I was asked a couple weeks ago if I wanted to be on the show – I leapt at the chance!

Since then I have been doing my best to preserve my voice, which has not been easy, as winter ills have struck almost everyone around me and I have lost count of how many times I have been sneezed and coughed on or near.

EEEwww!!

It’s a great opportunity – Not just for me, but for getting some more exposure for Napier and Hawke’s Bay, which I don’t think gets the level of coverage it deserves nationally.

I’d like to give a big thank you to RNZ Afternoon’s Executive Producer Caitlin Cherry for the opportunity – I hope I don’t let her, or Hawkes Bay down (or swear on air..).

No pressure, eh?

You can replay my appearance on The Panel’s RNZ page HERE.

Lest We Forget, But Can We Forgive?

My last post on Napier City Council’s disrespect of the Napier War Memorial went kind of gang-busters and even made it into the local newspaper!

This morning’s edition of Hawke’s Bay’s daily paper saw Councillor Kirsten Wise expressing her deep regret at the events of the past two years.

It has some eye-opening features.

In a piece that’s around 770 words, the phrase “We were told” / “We were not told” appears eight times.

EIGHT

It would appear from Councillor Wise’s account that Napier’s elected officials (and the city’s ratepayers) have been misled and misinformed for at least two years on the War Memorial issue.

It also reveals that, apparently, Napier’s elected officials aren’t too big on going out amongst those that voted them in and gathering opinion and facts before voting on things they themselves admit:

“At the time we voted to rename our War Memorial Centre we truly did not understand the legal and, more importantly, the moral obligation we had to our community.” Napier City Councillor Kirsten Wise HB Today 9 April 2018

Wow.

That’s just… “wow”…

I still can’t get past how the words “War Memorial” did not raise some red flags amongst councillors.

I won’t accept the “We didn’t know the significance” defence from a first term councillor and I CERTAINLY won’t accept it from councillors who have been in their positions for 12-18 years.

And yet they voted UNANIMOUSLY (and apparently without question) in favour of the War Memorial Name, Eternal Flame and Roll of Honour’s removal.

Their vote was, instead “made in good faith by all councillors based on the information presented to us at the time.”

And it’s only now, TWO YEARS after the War memorial vote, that this comes to light, on the same day that NCC will vote on whether to return the War Memorial name to all or part of its site.

Wrongs need to be righted, but excuses still cannot wash.

It does go some way to corroborate something I have written about several times over the years – That Napier’s elected leaders appear to have been led astray by council management for some time.

Were they TRULY representative of their constituents we would have heard differing opinions to council management’s press releases cut and pasted throughout local media.

After controversially renewing their support for Napier City Council’s CEO last year, do they still have confidence in his, and his management team’s, performance?

How can they now?

It states, after all, on the council website that the role of the Chief Executive (and his management team) is advising the mayor and council on policy matters:

Does the revelation that the elected council may not have been given (or sought out) all the required and accurate information give the likes of Napier Skating Club democratic, or legal recourse in how they were treated when their SkateZone home of 60 years was demolished in favour of a council-run facility, concrete walkways and water features?

While Councillor Wise doesn’t specifically name names in her criticism – that could arguably breach Napier City Council’s contentious “gagging” “Elected Members’ Code of Conduct”, it is rather clear who four “suggestion/s by some” refer to, given another recent article on the supposed “confusion” and “loss of income” reinstating the War Memorial title and elements would have on the desecrated site.

If there is certainly cause for concern at the level of trust or confidence that Napier’s elected councillors can now have in their management, then can they have the same level of concern, if not more, at “alternative facts” being suggested by their mayor?

I can tell you from actually taking notice, reading and listening to reactions to this whole sorry saga that Napier’s public and ratepayers have very little confidence in those currently elected and employed to manage their city.

I would like to hope that today’s council meeting, to be held at HB Regional Council Chambers, Dalton St, Napier from 3pm (pop along and show your support!) will go at least some way to rectifying two years’ worth of wrongs, but I feel the repercussions will be much longer-lasting and wider-ranging.

The next local body election vote is due late next year, after all.

Lest we (and they) forget.

Napier deserves better!

Alas, They Forgot

Is it still burning? The Eternal Flame?

Napier’s Mayor claiming the cost to ratepayers of re-rebranding the Napier War Memorial would be $142,600 is disingenuous.

The facility had been the “Napier War Memorial” from its opening and dedication in 1957, until its 1995 refurbishment put the Roll of Honour and Eternal Flame inside the facility’s entrance foyer and added the word “Centre” onto the end of the title –To better indicate how it had been a multi-use facility for decades – hosting Napier social events like weddings and school balls – even the odd conference, while still maintaining its original purpose – a memorial to locals lost in conflicts around the world.

So when council management decided, without any public mandate, that the War Memorial name, Roll of Honour and Eternal flame elements all needed to go from their home of almost 60 years and be replaced by the rather bland and single-themed (but “marketing friendly”) title of “Napier Conference Centre” who paid for that rebranding?

The mayor himself?

The CEO’s morning tea fund?

No. More like the ratepayers – none of whom had requested the change.

The mayor now also claims councillors might not have had “all that information” on how returning the War Memorial name to the facility might damage it’s “marketability” and potential conference income at a recent committee meeting where restoration of the War Memorial name to all or part of the site was proposed and supported by all attending councillors, excluding the mayor.

Napier’s elected representatives voted UNANIMOUSLY in favour of the decision to remove the name and sacred elements from the Napier War Memorial at a council meeting on April 6 2016.

Since then several Napier councillors have admitted to not understanding the gravity of their decision, the history of the War Memorial, or the strength of public feeling that followed, despite some even having relatives commemorated on the memorial’s plaques!

Were councillors provided with “all the information” they needed then, too?

It would appear not.

As for “marketability”, having the name “War Memorial” in the title of a building does not preclude it from having other uses.

That would be like saying the Sydney Opera House can only host operas!

I’m sure if he’d asked his recent “Big Apple” visitors, Napier’s mayor might have learned about the “War Memorial Arena” in Syracuse, New York, which just happens to be roughly the same age as Napier’s War Memorial Centre!

It is not just a war memorial, but also a concert venue, hosts ice hockey, indoor football and lacrosse games, trade shows and maybe even a conference or two!

In a last ditch effort to try and sway councillors at the next council meeting and naming vote on Monday April 9 (It’s being held at the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council Chambers, 159 Dalton Street Napier from 3pm If you’d like to go along) Napier City Council management even hired a marketing consultant.

I wonder who footed the bill for that?

I hope it was less than $142,600…

The consultant said the words “War Memorial” had “little relevance to today’s highly competitive conference market”.

This completely misses the point.

The Marine Parade site is a War Memorial first and foremost.

That’s why it was built.

That’s why the Napier public’s donations for it were so forthcoming and how local and central government funding was guaranteed. That was its prime purpose for almost sixty years.

This insistence by a small group of council hierarchy that the War Memorial Centre can ONLY be a commercial activity OR a community venue lacks both credibility and any form of medium to long-term memory.

During those years between 1957 and 2016 the memorial and its community and commercial venue aspects have coexisted quite happily.

If the conference market is suddenly so competitive, then Napier’s conference promoters just need to up their game.

There are numerous ways “Napier War Memorial Centre” can be put to the forefront of Google search engine optimisation results for “Napier”, “New Zealand”, “Events” and “Conferences” while still maintaining the dignity and respect of a War Memorial.

On top of the Syracuse War Memorial Arena’s stage are the words, “In memory of our service veterans.”

At least the Syracuse custodians have remembered the true purpose of their facility.

Napier, its ratepayers, veterans and families of the fallen deserve better!

2018: The Year NZ’s Media Networks Evolve or Die

“It’s evolve or die, really, you have to evolve, you have to move on otherwise it just becomes stagnant.”

Craig Charles

“Humanity is now faced with a stark choice: Evolve or die. … If the structures of the human mind remain unchanged, we will always end up re-creating the same world, the same evils, the same dysfunction.”

Eckhart Tolle

The annual reshuffling of presenters amongst New Zealand’s broadcasters started again recently.

The most notable change, being Hilary Barry taking over from the recently resigned Mike Hosking and Toni Street on what used to pass for current affairs on our “State Broadcaster” TVNZ.

A few National Party spin doctors got their noses out of joint that Barry’s replacement on TVNZ’s “Breakfast” show will be former Green Party candidate (and co-host of both Crowd Goes Wild and Back Benches on Prime), Hayley Holt, but all that really came down to was sour grapes at losing their biggest primetime soapbox.

But it did raise one question: Where is New Zealand’s new media talent?

This has been an issue for New Zealand’s commercial broadcasting networks for years.

I have previously written about how little change there has been in network radio talent in New Zealand over the last 20 years. It’s gotten to the point where almost 160, once “live and local 24 hours a day!” announcer positions across New Zealand were covered by a mere eight announcers in their network’s Auckland headquarters’ studios.

A handful of long-term, nationally simulcast announcers have either recently “retired”, or been moved on from positions they have had on the airwaves for up to and over twenty years, but with such a dearth of positions for those dreaming of, or studying towards a career in radio, the waste of talent time, and investment in qualifications must be utterly disenchanting.

Add to that the popularity of personalised music streaming services and I would almost go so far as to say that by drying up their own talent pool and personal, local touches, commercial radio networks in New Zealand have already gone past the point of no return – Dooming themselves to obscurity and oblivion.

But are their television affiliates heading down the same path?

A recent NZME article opines, in light of the Breakfast / Seven Sharp hosting announcements that TVNZ’s selection of hosts is a bit.. “monochromatic” – That is a mainly Pakeha pool of talent, with a penchant for blonde females. (The article doesn’t mention that at least two of these same blondes featured in the photo for the link to the article also host shows for NZME’s own simulcast radio network “The Hits”).

Hair colour aside there does appear to be a significant stagnation and evaporation effecting New Zealand television’s talent pool.

While Barry and Holt are in new roles, they are not new to our TV screens. Before moving to TVNZ Barry was, of course, a cornerstone of Mediaworks’ Three News before the TV network’s management seemingly tried to scuttle their own ship.

Most other hosting roles for “new” shows (we’ll get to that in a minute) on our screens are merely filled by long-term staff from other sectors of Mediaworks’ TV and radio empire, or TVNZ’s television and NZME’s radio networks being shuffled around.

The “newest” hosting talent that immediately comes to mind is Mediaworks’ Kanoa Lloyd and TVNZ’s Sam Wallace, both of whom started out on TV3’s Sticky TV, before moving to weather hosting/reporting roles and beyond on the rival networks.

Both Lloyd and Wallace have now been in the industry for 9-14 years respectively, making them almost battle-hardened veterans by modern media standards.

But it isn’t just the hosting talent that is getting long in the tooth – The shows they are hosting are becoming less and less “fresh” and original.

When TV3 rebranded themselves as #HashtagLoLSelfie, sorry “+hr=e” early last year it gave a bit of insight of what goes on (or rather what doesn’t) inside the minds of those who pick what we can watch on New Zealand’s commercial television networks.

“..The (TV3 brand) has been around since 2003. And 2003 was the year that Saddam Hussein was found in a hidey hole, everyone was using the Nokia 310 as a mobile phone, and Lorde was seven years old – the world has moved on right?”

“There’s some nights I’ve watched 7 Days and thought, actually, that brand is bigger than Three – seems like it’s been bigger than Three for a period of time.”

MediaWorks’ chief content officer Andrew Szusterman.

Here’s humour and irony in Szusterman using 7 Days as an example, and not just because it’s a comedy show, but because the show is based, amongst other things, on similarly formatted “Mock the Week” (first screened in the UK in 2005, while the TV3 brand was still “fresh” and “new”), but 7 Days’ core cast of comedians had been regularly appearing on the very same channel – TV3 – since 1996 on a show called “Pulp Comedy”.

That’s the same talent, largely unchanged, on the same channel for 21 years!

“..the world has moved on right?”

While the world may have moved on, programmers and content officers’ sights have clearly not.

Let’s look at some of the options “+hr=e” viewers had last year:

The most recent series finale of “The Block NZ” (the sixth since starting in 2012) ended in confusion, derision and claims that it might be signalling the end of the Auckland real estate boom, or it might just have been a signal that New Zealand viewers were tiring of play-acting dressing up as wall-to-wall renovation “Reality TV” shows.

After all, the original “The Block” had first aired on Australian television 14 years before in 2003.

“The Bachelor”, another of TV3’s “reality TV’ stable staples first screened in America in 2002, so it’s roses were likely getting a bit dried up and losing most of their petals and appeal.

Not wanting to be left out, TVNZ last year premiered the NZ incarnation of the Granddaddy of them all, “Survivor”, which started in America in 1997 .

That’s 21 years ago!

TWENTY.

ONE!

The world has indeed moved on, but those at the helm of New Zealand’s TV and radio networks have clearly not!

Rather than try to change and innovate, like their now far more successful streaming competitors, managers of New Zealand’s broadcast media merely shake their fist and yell at the clouds, or, like dinosaurs, just stare at the glow in the sky as the asteroid hurtles towards them.

Will 2018 be the year they finally become extinct?