By JULIE MIDDLETON



It's a Rippin New Year's Eve. Booze, food and laughter at the Australian resort of Port Douglas, where multimillionaire Auckland property developer Patrick Rippin has taken his wife, Denise, her four adult children and chums.



Television cameras capture the lot, creating New Zealand's answer, depending on your tastes and politics, to The Osbournes, Sylvannia Waters or the Discovery Channel.



And just like New Year's Day, a hangover comes with the territory for The Family at the heart of six episodes which began on TV3 last Tuesday. They've spent the week fielding calls and like any good family they're hanging together.

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Scott Williams, 37, says his phone "didn't stop ringing off the hook". Ask the nature of the reaction - good? bad? indifferent? - and Williams, sister Maria, aged 35, and their mum plump for positive. People say they are brave, that they enjoyed the show it. Like a mantra they repeat "we are a very close, together, loving family" and that other "people should not judge us until they've seen all the other episodes".



Evidently some criticism has stung. But on the whole, the Rippin-Williams clan emerge loud, proud, and fairly secure. "I say if you make your mind up to do something, you do it," declares Denise Rippin. "And we know that there's going to be criticism, but we know ourselves, we know our family and we're not horrible people."



Adds Maria Williams, who jets between Auckland and New York with her recycled designer clothing business: "I think as the series goes on people will get to see us in our true light."



Criticism focuses on the family's drunken antics: staying in a $1000-a-night suite and spending more than $2000.



"What [the episode] doesn't say is there were eight people [in the suite] and we got free breakfast," says Denise Rippin. "Some people have said 'fancy paying $2000 for dinner', but that was a one-off thing and Patrick had invited other people to join us too.



"We don't live like that. Patrick and I are in bed at half-past eight or nine o'clock - we're a bit old."



Maria Williams has copped flak after being shown in bed with an American she had met the night before; she alleges misrepresentation.



"It looked like I had had sex under the sheets, and I absolutely hadn't. I only went into the bedroom to get away from the cameras." Things get taken out of context, she says. "That's sensationalism, and, you know, I was with the guy for some time afterwards."

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Really? How long? "A while. You'll have to watch, love, stay tuned."