Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Here's to a slice of bloody Kiwi life

'If Auckland does hit the world's TV screens, we'll be portrayed as Te Kuiti on steroids.' Photo / Supplied
'If Auckland does hit the world's TV screens, we'll be portrayed as Te Kuiti on steroids.' Photo / Supplied

Last week, we city folk were bemoaning the "toxic" state of the Hauraki Gulf and pointing an accusatory finger at all those Waikato dairy farmers for flushing their effluent into the Firth of Thames.

Now it seems we're going to join the polluters by running a 1000-strong mob of frightened sheep down Queen St as a feature event of the Rugby World Cup festival.

Of course, festival director Briony Ellis and her team of PR ladies may already have plans to be out with their plastic gloves and gumboots and buckets to catch all the poos and wees before it flows into the stormwater system and straight out into the harbour, but I suspect not.

And here we city slickers were, kidding one another we could sell Auckland to the rest of the world - to say nothing of the rest of the country - as the Big Little City, a sophisticated centre of culture and fine dining and designer labels. A city of sails and spectacular volcanos. The biggest Polynesian city in the world.

But no, if Auckland does hit the world's TV screens, we'll be portrayed as Te Kuiti on steroids, the place where the Gucci shop got mobbed by a flock of live Ugg boots.

Ms Ellis says it will give visitors the chance to experience the Kiwi lifestyle. Yeah, right. When did she last share her lunchtime decaf latte with a bunch of smelly sheep?

Let's just hope she's got the guts to carry the concept through to its logical conclusion and erect a model killing chain inside the Queens Wharf Slug. Show our visitors what happens to the nice cuddly baa-lambs when the final whistle blows.

After that slice of life - or death - they could move quickly on to the end of the chain and select the leg, or chop or testicle of their choice, sling it on the barbie, and wash it down with a fine Kiwi sauvignon blanc. Or a Bloody Mary - no tomato juice needed.

One slice of the Kiwi lifestyle visitors will miss out on will be the Queen St beggars and Auckland's homeless. Auckland Council's World Cup managers have hired a team of shepherds for $15,000 to close down this slice of real-life theatre for cup month.

Internal council emails released to the Herald on Sunday reveal a three-pronged plan that includes enforcing anti-begging bylaws, eliminating homeless hotspots in parts of the central city and moving street-sleepers into night shelters.

The sudden removal in July of the seats at the busy bus stop I frequent in Victoria St West, alongside the TVNZ headquarters, starts to make sense. Like a rather spacious cave under the television complex, it's one of the few bus stops in town that actually offers protection from the rain.

Naturally enough, it was a popular party central base for itinerants. Since I complained about the seat removals, Auckland Transport keeps telling me to have patience, new ones will be installed. I've been envisioning ones like those on the portable toilets that spray water after use. Or that play classical muzak - a known deterrent for the uncouth.

But now I suspect it's nothing to do with the design, just the timing. We passengers are going to have to be upstanding until our Rugby World Cup guests have gone home. Or been ravaged by an amorous sheep and fled.

Ah yes, we might as well get in first with the sheep jokes ... it's impossible to imagine the visiting Aussie and Fleet St hacks being able to resist such an easy chance to poke the borax.

On which subject, I had a very apologetic call from James Munro, general manager of Mercury Energy, after Friday's column. He was "mortified" that the letter telling me and possibly as many as 20,000 others who had missed the latest payment date that we were being shifted across to a pre-payment scheme had gone out. It was "a stuff-up".

The letter should have only gone to people who had missed two or three payments. He said he would apologise to all affected customers.

On Saturday morning, the letter arrived. Mr Munro said he had taken steps to ensure that customers with "a good credit history, but who happened to miss an occasional bill payment for whatever reason will receive a more appropriate message in the future".

What else could he have said? But thanks, Mr Munro, for saying it so quickly.

- NZ Herald

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Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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