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Yesterdaze: To hanker for the high country

James Elliott's news wrap ponders celebrities' fetish for our high country real estate, cannabis, and words of the week

Fresh concerns were raised about New Zealand’s contribution to global warming this week when a new hot spot flared up in the recent Trans-Tasman war of words over immigration and deportation issues. This time Acting Prime Minister Winston Peters fired a new barb, accusing Australia of stealing our flag. I thought arguments over Australians stealing our stuff came to an end when they fell for our double-bluff over Russell Crowe (they’re welcome, and it’s noteworthy that they haven’t stolen anything since). 

Of course, Winston’s Aussie appropriation allegation wasn’t devoid of context. He raised the allegation during the course of an interview with TVNZ’s Jack Tame about, naturally enough, the Government’s medicinal cannabis bill. That he managed to pivot to an allegation of international copyright theft of a flag during an interview about medicinal cannabis legislation may well be persuasive evidence either for or against the therapeutic benefits of medical marijuana - I just can’t work out which.

Across the aisle the National Party performed its own pivot, pulling its support of the Government’s medicinal cannabis bill and introducing one of its own. Not only that, they did so on the same day the Health Select Committee was reporting back to Parliament on the public hearings into its own bill. Not only that, they did so without putting any of their new ideas in front of the select committee. And not only that, given that Simon Bridges had been speaking in Parliament earlier in the week about the challenge of "getting the neffs off the couch" it’s fair to say also that on the issue of medicinal cannabis the National Party are the neffs who didn’t get off their own caucus couch for their nine years in government.

Bridges had been referencing neffs when saying that he was committed to bringing back sanctions on beneficiaries to give them "more esteem and more of a purpose". By that logic if we’re really serious about wanting to rehabilitate criminals then we should definitely bring back the death penalty.

And, if you’re struggling with the term ‘neff’, in this context the most appropriate definition is ‘someone without any outstanding qualities’, not a European brand of kitchen appliance and definitely not the acronym you’ll find in Urban Dictionary.

‘Neff’ wasn’t the only new word of the week. Lawyer Graeme Todd is the subject of a Law Society complaint for a since-deleted Facebook comment that he had always fancied his own "hareem", in a possible reference to his own staff. Todd denied that he was referring to his own staff and also said that he had referred to "hareem" and not "harem". Both spellings have the same meaning so either way it seems his comment was a case of poor judgment. Or judgement.

Todd was also in the news as the lawyer representing disgraced former US TV host Matt Lauer in his stoush over hiking access through his high-country Hunter Valley Station to the Hawea conservation park. Lauer did an interview with John Campbell in which he claimed "the groups behind this are in some ways unfortunately taking advantage of some difficult times I’ve been through". To put that statement into context the groups he’s referring to include the Department of Conservation, the Walking Access Commission and Federated Mountain Clubs. And the "difficult times" he’s referring to are the allegations of workplace sexual harassment that he admitted to and for which he was fired from the US NBC News network on the same day as that admission.

Lauer is just one of a number of wealthy high-profile foreigners who have a particular hankering for our high country. It’s as if the rich and famous international jetset is privy to some top-secret information about just how far sea levels are going to rise in the foreseeable future.

A number that’s not rising but also not dropping to desired levels is the national smoking rate. The Government is taking another look at strategies to make New Zealand Smokefree by 2025. There were differing points of view on the Smokefree 2025 goal expressed during the week. Health Minister David Clark called the target "aspirational" whereas Winston Peters called it "National Party bulldust". Clark also clarified that Smokefree means 95 percent smokefree, not 100 percent. In related news, following Ministerial guidelines, my diet this weekend will be entirely chocolatefree. I just need to work out how many grams of Whittaker’s Malborough Sea Salt and Caramel Brittle with Saffron makes up five percent of my dietary needs.

Another new word for me this week was selenelion. Not an aged and infirm lion but rather a total lunar eclipse during which both the sun and the moon are visible on opposite horizons. It’s an extremely rare event and will be visible to New Zealanders in the South Island tomorrow morning. The best viewing of the selenelion will be in the high-country, provided you can get access.

Have a peaceful weekend.

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