Morgan Tait

Morgan Tait is the NZ Herald's consumer affairs reporter.

High life has decent share of low moments

Jonty Butterfield, 19, could be the tallest man in New Zealand. Photo / Natalie Slade
Jonty Butterfield, 19, could be the tallest man in New Zealand. Photo / Natalie Slade

He stood at 1.83m when he was just 10 years old and now, aged 19 and measuring 2.29m, Jonty Butterfield believes he is New Zealand's tallest man.

The Papakura man, who wears size 18 shoes and has to buy XXXL shirts to fit his long frame, thinks an official title would put an end to the constant attention he gets.

However, there is no official register of height records in New Zealand, and despite having years of growing left, Mr Butterfield is a few marks shy of overtaking the Guinness World Record holder, Sultan Kosen of Turkey, who clocks in at 2.51m.

According to thetallestman.com, a website that compiles global height statistics, Mr Butterfield has a 4cm advantage over the tallest Kiwi listed, Christchurch man Ron Bax, who measured 2.25m in 2009.

"I have always been tall," he said. "When I was 3 I was the height of the 5- or 6-year-olds, when I was 10 I was the height of a 16-year-old."

Mr Butterfield said standing out meant an endless stream of height-related questions that sometimes resulted in people following him down the street and around shops to take his photograph.

"I have grown up with it the whole time so I am pretty used to [the attention] but if it was official, maybe people would stop asking."

He said he had tall relatives on both sides of his family, but was much taller than his parents and four siblings. He does not have a medical condition that aggravates his growth, although he did have developmental issues that delayed his learning as a child.

Standing so high came with pros and cons, he said.

"Not being able to get into Rainbow's End is one bad thing, there are maximum heights on pretty much everything. Light bulbs are pretty easy to change and when I go grocery shopping with my mum it is easy to get to the top shelf."

Mr Butterfield's mum Sarah, who stands at "5ft 6 on a good day", said the attention her son received could be intrusive, but he had learned to handle it.

"We literally can't go anywhere without being stopped ... he puts a bit of humour in it, they say, 'do you play basketball, bro?', and he'll say, 'no, I play mini-golf'."

Her son had a great grandfather and brother who measured about 1.98m, but there was no real explanation for his height.

"He did eat a lot of Weet-Bix as a kid, but then so did a whole lot of other New Zealand children."

Mr Butterfield attended Rosehill Special School and is looking for work after being unable to find his niche. Basketball was an option, he said.

"I am looking to think about going back into basketball. I just played for the school team but I am thinking about finding a coach that would teach me properly."

If he did take up the sport, he would tower over NBA legends LeBron James (2.03m) and Kobe Bryant (2.01m) and give New Zealander Steven Adams (2.13m) a run for his money, too.

- NZ Herald

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