Drilling for oil in Taranaki and goss at Paul Holmes' party

How Gerry Brownlee's mining blunder has put Nikki Kaye on the endangered species list and blown a hole in National's blue-green image; and notes from the year's best A-list party

Paul Holmes’ sixtieth birthday bash was the best party I’ve been at in years, but regrettably I can’t add any juicy detail to the reported contretemps involving Simon Dallow, Wendyl Nissen and Gilda Kirkpatrick.

Supposedly this drama happened under my nose, and that of Burton Shipley; however when we compared notes a week later at a Stellar Trust meeting neither of us could remember witnessing anything like the incident reported in the press, even though Mrs Kirkpatrick’s finger in the socket hairdo stood out like the proverbial from any place in the room.

It’s possible that exposure to politics over a long period results in some form of stoush blindness. I sat in the Labour Party caucus for the better part of a decade without noticing the factional structure Jane Clifton regularly tells us about.

I doubt that Nissen provoked anything much. I’d never met her before and found her charming and beautiful. She’s one of those very rare people who the camera somehow gets wrong. Like Lorelei Mason, health reporter on TV1, she’s much nicer in the flesh. Anyhow, you have to like someone who keeps a chook in her Grey Lynn kitchen. My dear departed mum tried this out many moons ago, however Betty Bantam’s errant cloaca ensured the experiment was a short lived one.

Jenny Shipley was a most pleasant revelation. Trim, taut and terrific these days, she looked years younger and she’s together in a way that few people who get to the very top and move on manage to be.

Burton Shipley will have a bit to do with that. He’s a wise and valuable head on the anti-methamphetamine Stellar Trust I serve these days.

A photographer led me to Nikki Kaye, National MP for Auckland Central. She feigned horror and claimed a published image with me could adversely affect her party list position. Nevertheless, we both allowed the picture to be taken. (“Beauty and the beast”, my mate Mark quipped)

I hope Kaye does score a decent list place because John Key sorely needs young liberal women and she’s the victim of an uncharacteristic blunder by National’s strategists.

It’ll now take a miracle for her to hold the seat against Jacinda Ardern, one of Labour’s upcoming stars, after Gerry Brownlee’s inclusion of Great Barrier Island in his mining plans.

This is a staggeringly stupid and unnecessary own goal, and Phil Goff’s Auckland radar rightly whoop-whooped instantly.

Aucklanders are inordinately fond of two natural treasures, the Waitakere Ranges rain forest and the Gulf Islands. These islands were vandalised by the settlers of the province and are slowly and expensively being restored to something like their former natural glory. 

I had a ringside seat some years ago when Herald columnist Brian Rudman single-handedly “persuaded” Helen Clark’s government to purchase Kaikoura Island, a potentially lovely scrap of land just off the Barrier.

Clark was just as poll-aware as Key, but had the advantage of an Auckland antenna that told her that $10 million buying a gulf island few had heard of was a deal not to be missed.

I remember Helen pointing out to Tony Blair, during a short gulf cruise on Barry Colman’s lovely launch for the Blairs, Auckland Mayors and a few hangers on like me and Heather Simpson, that our harbour was much nicer that Sydney’s as we had all these islands whereas, once through the Sydney heads, there was just sea. Nya nya.

Kaye’s blood must have frozen when she saw twenty or thirty times her majority march up Queen Street in protest at Brownlee’s goof. She did the right thing in asking for permission to dissent from digging up the Barrier, but it won’t be enough and Centralians will know that had such an obscenity been proposed on the previous MP’s watch, you’d have heard la Tizard in the Kermadecs.

Matthew Hooton, opining for the right on Radio New Zealand’s Nine to Noon programme dismissed the protest as Grey Lynn yuppies out on a stroll demonstrating why Brash aide, Peter Keenan, in a leaked email said “By the way, frankly, I think Matthew Hooton is an idiot”.

Nurturing the gulf islands and green issues in general are not just the concern of ageing incense burning Grey Lynnians.

I once tagged along with Chris Carter, then Conservation Minister, and a delegation from the Communist Party of China, including a Vice Minister, the charismatic Zhang Zhijun, on a visit to Rangitoto and Motutapu Islands to see a conservation project on Motutapu.

This was a kind of private public partnership between DOC and the Motutapu Restoration Society aimed at ridding the island of feral interlopers – cats, stoats, rats, mice, hedgehogs etc – and bringing back the native vegetation so that native birds could be released and recolonise.

This would eventually mean, as the Karori sanctuary has meant for Wellington, tuis and kereru flapping around in Aucklanders’ back yards.

The Restoration Trust and its army of tree-planting volunteers draws its strength from the heavily National voting eastern suburbs and includes two former National MPs as prominent activists. An island walkway was funded by the Newmarket Rotary Club, not a known hot bed of organic hippiedom.

Brownlee’s 'mine the parks' madness has managed to blow National’s carefully nurtured green-friendly image in one pointless blunder.

If he wanted a defensible project to justify his hairy chest display, he might have a look at a map of the gas fields in Taranaki.

Toru, Kapuni, Mangahewa and Pohukura all line up along an axis which passes through Egmont National Park. This is thought to reflect a deep down fold in the earth’s crust trapping great bubbles of the stuff.

An operating gas well consists of a structure not much bigger than a state house and a pipe line which is soon grown over. That gets you real millions in value to the country, requires a hole about two feet across and doesn’t annoy half of Auckland.

Talk to Tariana about that idea, Gerry.

I was in Thames last week working with locals on a P-free Coromandel push and no-one I met there was too keen on restarting the cyanide pours to get at the gold in the hills behind that spruced up town. It’s worth recalling that the seat of Coromandel was won by Jeanette Fitzsimons for the Green Party as recently as 1999.

Back to the party.

Paul Holmes is held in genuine high regard and affection by many high flying kiwis and those who’ve had the good fortune to stumble across him early in our lives. He’s stayed at the top of three greasy poles, TV, Radio and print journalism for years and gives his time unstintingly in his crusade against Meth.

If we can dole out knighthoods to seventy-three punters in one go (the Aussies chortle that story, but you need proof when you tell it) why isn’t he Sir Paul?

It would go to his woolly head instantly, but there’d be another great party.