A Northland newspaper with a usual circulation of 4300 can now claim 1.5 million readers thanks to Top Gear host Jeremy Clarkson.
The presenter, who was on Ninety Mile Beach on Wednesday to shoot a scene for an upcoming episode of the popular BBC motoring show, sent a photo of the front page of Tuesday's Northland Age to his 1,466,841 followers on the microblogging site Twitter yesterday. The Age is the Kaitaia-based sister paper of the Advocate.
The photo shows the paper resting on Clarkson's knees with the headline "Piripi: Is this all bullshit?" as the Top Gear crew drove on a rural New Zealand road. Clarkson's comment is: "Now that's what I call a headline. And it's about Top Gear."
The Northland Age story relates to a grovelling apology the Far North District Council was forced to make after it forgot to ask four out of five iwi with custodianship over Ninety Mile Beach before agreeing to a partial closure of the beach so Top Gear could film there. The council apparently also forgot it had just signed up to a co-governance board which will see the beach, also known as Te Oneroa a Tohe, jointly managed by iwi, government, DoC, regional and district councils.
The interim chairman of the board is Te Rarawa leader Haami Piripi, who was led to wonder whether all the talk of co-governance and consultation was, as he colourfully put it at a hui with council and BBC representatives, "bullshit".
Clarkson also tweeted an apology to diehard Top Gear fans and media who had spent all Tuesday waiting on Ninety Mile Beach for a glimpse of the stars when they were in fact on a yacht off the Coromandel Peninsula.
Some fans, like Jovica Mrkela and his 9-year-old son, Filip, drove all the way from Auckland in vain; Kaitaia couple Trinda and Chayne Steen waited three days on the beach in the hope of meeting Clarkson and fellow presenter James May.
"Apologies to people and news crews who had a wasted journey to 90 Mile beach. We were there but only briefly," Clarkson tweeted.
In the end, the scene was filmed on Wednesday afternoon and involved a humble Toyota Corolla.
The Top Gear host also seized his chance to respond to a comment in Thursday's Age claiming the crew had a reputation of being "less than friendly".
"I'd like to correct one report though. The Top Gear crew are not 'less than friendly'. They are terrifying," he tweeted.
Clarkson said he was keen to stay in New Zealand but had to be in Spitzbergen, 1000km north of Norway, this weekend.
Age editor Peter Jackson, somewhat tongue in cheek, welcomed Clarkson's tweets.
"As someone who is hardly in the van of technological change, I am a little bemused, but we are bracing for a rush on our digital subscription offer," he said.
"We've had one phone call so far but it was a wrong number.
"Still, this is obviously a more reliable way of getting Top Gear's attention than leaving messages all over the place."
The Age has a readership of about 14,000.