Raybon Kan is an award-winning stand-up comedian

Raybon Kan: New Zealand - Looking great from a distance

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Nick Smith's proud assertion the Clutha River (left)  is cleaner than the Thames (above) isn't saying very much. Photo / AP
Nick Smith's proud assertion the Clutha River (left) is cleaner than the Thames (above) isn't saying very much. Photo / AP

Welcome to Instagram New Zealand. The photos look great, but the reality is something else.

The water's not swimmable, and our Environment Minister Nick Smith says it's impractical to even aim for that.

Some of our water, he says, is geothermal. And birds poop in it. So there. He says we should aim instead for New Zealand water to be wadeable. Wadeable, I guess, means water that doesn't eat through gumboots. Wadeable probably defines the water inside a toilet bowl.

It's wadeable, as long as you don't mind your foot getting stuck around the S-bend. If wadeable is your key performance indicator, Fukushima is probably a waterpark with wadeable cooling tanks. And organic too - that's why it's called a nuclear "plant".

Smith says - and this is our Environment Minister being proud - that one of our biggest rivers, the Clutha, is cleaner than the Thames.

These are the standards of this Government. Ah yes, the alluring Thames, that Eden-like, matte-finish, cess-tuary which chugs like diesel through the beachside resort of Dickensian London.

Even child-slave chimney sweeps didn't wash in the Thames. But it's great that our ENVIRONMENT MINISTER sets his sights high.

Did nobody else want to be Environment Minister?

New Zealand should change its slogan from the quite limiting, auditable "New Zealand: 100% Pure," to the much catchier "New Zealand: Much Cleaner Than Chernobyl."

Smith might as well say it's impractical for water to be swimmable, because look, not everyone knows how to swim. Over to you, Hekia Parata: put that in your syllabus and charter it.

And besides, Australia, which also looks good in photos, is fine with dairy run-off polluting and killing the Great Barrier Reef (a celebrity piece of nature), so we shouldn't be so precious about toxifying anonymous bodies of water that aren't even famous.

It's impolite for us to have standards which embarrass our Anzac neighbour. We should keep down with the Joneses.

Then there's Havelock North.

Of course Havelock North's water is drinkable. Look how many people drank it.

A third of the population were laid low. But look on the bright side: while one third of the population of Havelock North were poisoned, that means two-thirds weren't. And in a democracy, two-thirds is a majority, an absolute landslide, who support the local water and all its diverse populations of bacteria.

So let's not get carried away by rent-a-plague. Is the ocean drinkable? No. But nobody says the seaside is bad for you. Is surgical anaesthetic drinkable? No. But even doctors use it.

Is broccoli drinkable? No. It would require an enormous amount of blending to produce a glass of broccoli.

Yet, all of these things are closely associated with health.

And if Marie Antoinette were our Environment Minister, she'd say "let them drink wine".

Wine is your real Hawke's Bay drop. The Gimblett Gravels probably make quite a good water filtration system. Maybe it's time for the council to pipe hot and cold running wine through the taps.

It strikes me we're not quite outraged enough about Havelock North. Are we conflicted, because we also like beef and cheese? What would it take for us to be nationally outraged about toxic tap water?

We'd need the All Blacks to play a test in Hawke's Bay, a World Cup final against South Africa, and we'd need the whole team to be poisoned by tap water the night before. Maybe then we'd care. There'd be a manhunt for Suzy the waitress.

Everyone would say: Suzy the waitress - what a cow.

On the plus side of the pride ledger, Auckland is apparently one of the world's most liveable cities. I don't buy it.

Auckland is like the beautiful girl who doesn't realise how beautiful she is and ruins everything with tattoos and piercing. I mean, so much piercing, her limbs no longer bend.

Naturally, Auckland is beautiful. Hilly, but not too hilly. Voluptuous. Air like the breath of a lover.

Beaches, coasts. Wide roads. Tall, vigorous trees that raise their branches in victory.

Any foodie will tell you it's all about the ingredients. Yet Auckland's ingredients - so fresh, so flavoursome - have been processed by forces so negligent they should be in jail. It's like they took wagyu and decided to make mince lasagne.

The people who've tied up Auckland for 40 or 50 years have methodically worked through a recipe to produce not an oasis, but an aneurism. Traffic that's fractal: from overhead, it is a seizure.

Inside the driver's head, yet another seizure. The economic cost of cars not moving - another seizure. But I'm sure the traffic looks good in photos.

- NZ Herald

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Raybon Kan is an award-winning stand-up comedian

Raybon Kan's books of humour include ‘America on 5 Bullets a Day’ and ‘An Asian at my Table’. Before comedy, he graduated with honours in law and his legal research was published in the New Zealand Law Journal. His TV work includes a documentary in which he trained to be a casino croupier. He once held his breath for 3 minutes and 50 seconds. Visit RaybonKan.com

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