Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: Moonlighting moneyraiser with potential

Corporal Willie Apiata after receiving the Victoria Cross during a special ceremony at Government House, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell
Corporal Willie Apiata after receiving the Victoria Cross during a special ceremony at Government House, Wellington. Photo / Mark Mitchell

With a Government deficit blow-out of $2.2 billion, and Christchurch to repair, Willie Apiata and his SAS colleagues should be lauded for indulging in some freelance fundraising.

Victoria Crosses all round for their personal initiative in doing their bit to save the economy from collapse. If it was good enough for the regular Army grunts, then why not their elite brothers in arms?

After all, not so long ago most of the Army was hired out to His Eminence, Sir Peter Jackson, as cheap labour during the Lord of the Rings war games. Army engineers built a 1.5km road through a Matamata farm to Hobbiton; other soldiers ploughed fields and dressed up in silly costumes to play the evil orcs and the goodies in the ultimate battle of the three-film saga.

The National Government of the day proudly revealed that the NZ Army had provided 10,459 man-days of filming, for what added up to the kingly rate of $20 per day for each person worked. Money which went straight into Government coffers.

The Green Party is now upset at "giving well-heeled people special access" to a "down-at-earth unit dedicated to helping people in trouble".

Ironically, just a few weeks before, the Greens were demanding that this sweet little band of do-gooders be brought home from Afghanistan because they were handing over detainees for torture by their Afghan counterparts.

Surely if the SAS can squeeze $500 a head out of 70 finance company executives for the kinky delights of being blindfolded in a darkened room and being shouted and shot at, I say well done SAS. These are hard times; every government department should be following its example.

The SIS spycatchers could run night classes in industrial espionage for patriotic businessmen, the police could offer the ultimate stag-night ruse - a simulated arrest and interrogation for some heinous crime.

And for those with the ultimate deathwish, how about a share-a-cell night in Paremoremo with George Baker, for an appropriate wallet-lightening fee to the prison service.

With the SAS moonlighting saga emerging the same day as the Eden Park frivolities, it's surprising no one has suggested hiring the SAS for a spot of crowd control.

If, as reported over the weekend, the SAS can spirit away a businessman without anyone else in the room being aware of his disappearance, then extracting a few troublous drunks would be a doddle.

Still, if the helicopters pounding overhead and the cocked assault rifles alarm the players and injure our cuddly clean green image, there is another method of crowd calming that has proven its worth - classical music.

Last Monday, Christchurch's Central Business Association was hailing the power of Mozart to rid the city centre of a plague of petty crime and anti-social behaviour.

Manager Paul Lonsdale said anti-social incidents in the central city had fallen from 77 a week in October 2008 to zero this year.

Drug and alcohol-related incidents fell from 16 to zero, and the number of shopkeepers seeking help from troublous customers fell from 35 a week to nil.

The miraculous cure was piped classical music, introduced in June last year.

Mr Lonsdale said he first tried Barry Manilow, but the classics have proved "more calming". Classics without a beat are best he says. Local area police boss Senior Sergeant Gordon Spite is full of praise.

Of course, former Waitakere City mayor Bob Harvey was on to this three years ago when he saturated his new city centre train station and all-night overbridge with 24-hour classical muzak.

He'd read of overseas success in using the classical masters to drive young hoons away. He started with Vivaldi and then diversified.

A year ago, when I last checked, he said Kiri Te Kanawa "works wonders; they flee". The station remains remarkably free of graffiti and idle trouble-makers.

In Britain, transport authorities have been targeting loitering youths with the classics for a decade, with apparent success.

A rail official from Tyne and Wear Metro in the north of England said: "They seem to loathe it. It's pretty uncool to be seen hanging around somewhere when Mozart is playing."

As a classical music buff, I prefer to think it's not aversion to the music but the awful sound of the tinny speakers that stops them lingering for long. However it works, its calming effect seems indisputable.

A quick Google search shows the classics are touted as the solution to everything from pregnancy stress to calming over-hyped kids at birthday parties.

And if Vivaldi doesn't work, the Eden Park authorities could always follow the quick thinking of a Belfast street patrol.

Surrounded by a gang of bottle-throwing hooligans this year, the crew of the armoured police Land Rover blasted the Mr Whippy icecream music from their loudspeaker system.

The youths scarpered. How the police crew happened to have that particular tape on board was not reported.

Perhaps, like the SAS, they were into a spot of moonlighting.

- 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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