The Diary

Rachel Glucina looks at the top events and newsmakers of the day.

The Diary: Kiwi renegade with a cause

NZ woman driving force behind group lending a hand to storm survivors.

Holly Jane Butler rallied volunteers to help her New York community. Photo / Supplied
Holly Jane Butler rallied volunteers to help her New York community. Photo / Supplied

Much has been made of the significance of Facebook in bringing about the revolutions of the Arab Spring - now meet the young Kiwi woman using social media to mobilise New Yorkers into action following the devastation left behind by Superstorm Sandy.

Holly Jane Butler from Wellington is the unrequited hero of New York. When The Diary reached her this week, international news agencies CNN and the New York Times were in pursuit, eager to profile the 28-year-old Kiwi who created Rockaway Renegades, a non-profit volunteer action group supporting Sandy survivors.

Butler, who relocated to the Big Apple nine years ago and now calls Brooklyn home, established the nonpartisan relief organisation playing a life-saving role to the Rockaways community which FEMA, the Red Cross and the City of New York are struggling to do.

"It all started in my Brooklyn apartment. I set it up as a drop-in location where people could donate supplies, like clothes, food, water, batteries and toiletries.

There were just four of us making trips out to the community dropping off the goods - now there's 250 people volunteering."

Butler instantly rallied support through Facebook and Instagram. "No one has seen this kind of response in New York using social media to directly impact the community," she says. "It's a grassroots campaign that's making a real difference."

She has also launched a website (www.rockawayrenegades.com) and set up an online donation page, raising more than US$70,000 ($86,400) in less than 10 days. A large corporate has pledged to donate US$100,000 tomorrow.

The Rockaways - a peninsula of Long Island, Queens - was one of the most badly hit communities by Hurricane Sandy. Large areas are poverty stricken with housing projects decimated. Thousands of residents still lack power, heat and hot water - two weeks after the hurricane. Many have lost their homes.

"More than 29,000 people have been told they won't get power until January!" she says angrily.

"Rockaways is called the 'forgotten borough'. People are f***ed off with the Red Cross who have been largely absent. But I've made a personal pledge to help and have promised to be there every weekend until the new year."

Butler, an advertising executive by day producing television commercials for big brands, is already working on the second phase of her project. "Our immediate plan was to get in and help because people were dying of starvation. Now we are looking into a sustainable long-term development programme for the community, too."

She adds: "We were just four people with no money and a few social media friends - and now we're making a real difference."

All a twitter

Paul Henry is not on Twitter. This week a tweet, using the handle @PaulHenryCH10, said: "7pm" - but it came from an imposter, he says.

"I never tweet. I would not know how and would never want to learn," Henry told The Diary yesterday. Nevertheless it caused a ripple around TVNZ and MediaWorks, with one TV darling labelling it "a category five s***storm at TV3."

That's because Henry needs to negotiate out of his MediaWorks contract if he is to take up TVNZ's offer to front the new Close Up. "Ross [Dagan - TVNZ news boss] has been in regular contact with him about the programme," said a source close to Henry.

This week, Henry learned his Channel Ten show has been scratched. He is in talks with the company's human resources and finance departments to get out of the two years that remain of his three-year contract. "Paul is negotiating his exit and will be paid out of his contract to leave the network," a Channel Ten executive told The Diary this week.

Binding brings house down

Carly Binding received rapturous applause at the opening night performance of her one-woman show, Tell Me On a Sunday, on Wednesday. Matthew Ridge, his mother, and best friend Adam Parore led the cheering.

So too, sports TV darling Laura McGoldrick, who's set to make waves as Martin Devlin's prettier half on Hauraki's breakfast show from next month.

"It's incredibly ballsy to do a one-woman musical. I'm really proud of her. It's a massive achievement to carry a show on your own," said Ridge, Binding's long-time partner. "I got a little bit teary-eyed ... it's an emotional story."

The Andrew Lloyd Webber musical, about a girl looking for love, runs at Q Theatre until November 24.

The Prince and the tailgaters

Auckland's Mayor Len Brown seemingly turned into an awestruck schoolboy this week tailgating Prince Charles and Camilla. That's despite removing the portrait of Prince Philip in the Council Chamber two years ago, before being forced to reinstate it.

However, the mayor wasn't alone. At the Auckland War Memorial Armistice Day service, two of his leftwing councillors, Mike Lee and Alf Filipaina, were taking photos and getting more than a little excited at being close to Their Highnesses - despite their egalitarian and republican tendencies.

No surprise Tory councillor and monarchist Cameron Brewer was delighted to meet the future king, who asked him and the mayor if they were "on the same side", to which both nervously fibbed: "We are ... most of the time".

Later, when the official party was leaving, Camilla was spotted briskly trying to catch up to her hubby, pleading "darling, darling". I suspect she has to do that quite a bit - remind him that she's there!

- NZ Herald

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