The Christmas/New Year period used to be known in the media as the Silly Season.
It was the time of year when all the stock standard sources of news for the rest of the year went on holiday, and other stories had to be found to fill the gap.

That meant that stories that would not normally have seen the light of day gained prominence. A politician's press secretary told the writer many years ago that he had encountered this phenomenon when he was in charge of the local news segment at a Wellington radio station. With absolutely nothing else happening, he resorted to devoting three minutes of air time to the discovery of an albino hedgehog.

Now the Silly Season is less about a dearth of real news than people doing silly things, acting with reckless disregard for their safety, the safety of others and property.

This insanity isn't reserved for the summer holiday, but this summer in particular has provided the media with a steady flow of stories that would have competed very successfully against more staid fare at any time of the year.


The Far North has done its bit to keep the country entertained, including the decision by four blokes of very little brain who took it upon themselves to explode some sort of incendiary device on the beach at Rangihoua.

Whatever it was they set a match to it worked in spectacular fashion, sending a fire ball into the night sky and setting a bushclad hillside ablaze.

We're told there is no evidence that the fire killed kiwi, although one local resident said she heard birds' distress calls, but the fact that the blaze did not have calamitous effects was more down to good luck than good management. And the efforts of a small army of firefighters.

Last week a man, who has been identified, allegedly set fire to vegetation on an islet just 15m from Moturua Island, in the eastern Bay of Islands, with fireworks. He had apparently been letting them off, goodness knows why, for several nights, but no one had reported him.

This time the islet's vegetation was totally wiped out, authorities saying that if the wind had shifted the flames would likely have spread to Moturua, almost entirely covered in dense bush but also home to several houses. Thought was given at one stage to evacuating those houses.

Clearly the fire could have been disastrous for the residents, and heartbreaking for the Project Island Song people who are working extremely hard to return native birds to the islands.

Those responsible for both fires must be prosecuted. At last report Fire and Emergency NZ was considering prosecuting Firework Man, but what's to think about?

This idiot should be held responsible, and punished. He should also pay the cost of extinguishing the fire he started.


So should the morons at Rangihoua. This wasn't a juvenile prank that got a bit out of hand. Their stupidity must be publicly condemned, and they too should pay the costs involved. If they and their families are embarrassed, so much the better.

Authorities have been threatening to bill people who start fires for several summers now, and these dickheads should be required to fork out without a second thought. Letting a rubbish fire get away is one thing; setting fire to vegetation, not deliberately perhaps but in circumstances that most sane people would realise could only end badly, is another.

They should be prosecuted to the maximum, and pay every last cent their actions cost, including the restoration of the vegetation they destroyed. Anything less would make a mockery of the repeated threats made to recover the costs of fighting fires from those who start them.

It isn't only imbeciles with matches who need to sharpen up though.

They might be the dumbest of the dumb, but some of those who have welcomed the advent of the e-scooter in Auckland have made a heroic effort to fill news columns, and will no doubt continue to do so.

The fact that the scooters had arrived was quickly followed by news that some of those riding them showed scant regard for their safety or the safety of others. As of January 21 ACC had paid out more than $322,000 in claims by 845 injured e-scooter riders since October 1. That doesn't include the cost of hospital treatment.

The worst incident so far has put a 26-year-old Californian woman in hospital with serious head injuries, suffered when she was collected by a truck in Dunedin as she rode home at 1.45am.

Her family has suggested that scooter riders be compelled to wear helmets, but the government, moving at its usual glacial pace, is waiting until the end of the trial in March to make a decision on that. But should this woman have needed a law to make her do what was only sensible?

Politicians wouldn't have to do anything if people used their brains, but some seem to be incapable of imagining what might happen should their skull come into contact with a hard surface, and given that the evolutionary process is an even more gradual one than political decision-making, they probably never will.

But that's alright. If they hurt themselves they'll be taken care of by the public health system and/or ACC. No skin off their nose. Or elbows or knees.

So what will happen, inevitably, is that yet more rules will be imposed on a society that is awash with them, because of the minority who don't do anything sensible until they have no choice. In the fullness of time someone in authority is also going to have to decide whether people can ride these scooters without full body protection, let alone where they will be permitted to ride them.

Should they be restricted to footpaths for the protection of the rider, regardless of the threat they pose to pedestrians? Should they be restricted to cycle lanes? Not a bad idea, given that the cycle lanes ratepayers have provided in various cities at huge expense don't seem to appeal to cyclists.

Should they be ridden only on the road. They are wheeled vehicles, after all, and wheels belong on roads.

There's enough here to keep us going for years, the only sure thing being that some riders won't learn anything from the mishaps of others, and will continue to hurt themselves until someone forces them to display some common sense.

Mind you, rules aren't the answer either. We already have a rule that prohibits the use of fireworks except for a day or two in November in memory of Guy Fawkes.

That doesn't stop anyone.

Fireworks continue to light the sky and explode with increasing volume for weeks after November 5.

As we now know, they can even be used to set fire to small islands in the latter stages of January.

Perhaps there is something in the water that makes some people abandon all common sense. Or perhaps it is the inevitable outcome of the eroding of personal responsibility that has taken place over the last couple generations via the message that whatever we do, we will not be held responsible for any injury that occurs, and are unlikely to be held responsible for any damage we do to other people or their property.

We could start changing that by demanding that we pay for the damage we do, to ourselves, other people or a bushclad hillside.

That would be more effective than imposing yet more rules that those they are aimed at will take no notice of.