Turn a frown upside down

By: Daniel Hutchinson daniel@thesun.co.nz

Daniel Hutchinson
From The Hutch

First up, I’m going to indulge in a shameless shout-out to the crew here at The Weekend Sun who have picked up a few accolades at the recent NZ Community Newspaper Association Awards.

Patting yourself on the back is a tradition in the media that goes back a long way. It used to be accompanied by large amounts of hard liquor and the sort of humour that only other journalists understand.

However, that was COVID-cancelled so we celebrated with noodle salads from Pluto instead.

And the reason for this is that our photographers John Borren and Daniel Hines picked up second and third place respectively for their outstanding work.

It’s not always easy to make people around here look attractive but these guys manage it week in and week out.

Our front pages are a reflection of the expression:‘a picture tells 1000 words’.

We have an intensive journalist development programme here that mainly involves frowning and muttering when things are wrong and smiling a little bit when things are good.

Emma Houpt has benefited from this ground-breaking technique in her first year as a journalist and picked up third place in the very competitive junior reporter of the year category. Given that there might only be three reporters left in New Zealand in a few years, this is a massive boost for her career and a testament to her empathy, accuracy and tenacious style.

The Weekend Sun also gained third place for ‘Community Involvement’ out of the 60 or so papers that enter these awards.

The award was for a collection of stories written during 2019 about the Graeme Dingle Foundation Western Bay of Plenty, and its work empowering Kiwi kids to overcome life’s obstacles.

The collection of stories were mostly written by Rosalie Liddle Crawford, with contributions from Emma Houpt and Caitlin Houghton.

For those who know Rosalie, ‘community’ and ‘involvement’ are probably the two words that sum her up best.

Watch your mouth

In complete contrast to this back slapping, noodle guzzling celebration, I received a letter this week addressed ‘To the offensive Daniel Hutchinson’.

After asking around some of the others in the newsroom, it was quickly established that this was definitely me, not one of the other Daniels.  

Having been the diplomatic and sensible one for most of my life this came as a bit of a shock.

However, it seems that referring to our beloved leader as ‘The Commander in Teeth’ is taking things too far.

Now, there is no award category for weird humour so I have no idea whether I’m good or bad at it.

I do know that you are allowed to poke fun at politicians, because I looked it up and it’s called satire. It’s been around since the days of the Roman emperors. It doesn’t matter if you are popular or unpopular, powerful people are fair game. It means we live in a democracy and we don’t have to be afraid of anyone.

Now, I thought this was particularly clever because of the juxtaposition between grumpy Trump and the smiling Jacinda.

But, if you have to explain yourself, then you have probably failed.

Abandoned

Anyway, I’ll try and be more positive  this week and talk about the Tauranga  City Council’s recently incompleted $19 million sculpture.

This structure was originally called the ‘Harington St Transport Hub’ because, frankly, if it was not related to vehicular movements, it would have never got  the funding.

It is now simply called ‘Abandoned’ which is a fabulous metaphor that anyone with an incomplete DIY project will understand.

The artist – in this case the council – claims that it was intended as a kind of day care centre for cars and bikes to stay in while their people were at work or shopping in the CBD.

However, it was badly designed or constructed or something and is not up to earthquake code so, after spending $19 million, the council has deemed it too expensive to fix. It is now ‘abandoned”’.

Given that the building was designed to have 550 car parks to replace 600 car parks that were expected to be lost by other inner city developments, I feel like the maths has  been generally pretty bad on this one.

Now, I love dry humour as much as the next person, but the council is now exploring other options for the building while also trying to recover the costs from the engineers who approved it.

Alternative uses for unsafe, unfinished parking buildings are a little limited, especially considering they are built in such a way that every floor slopes away. Maybe we could host the World Cheese Rolling Championships in it.

For me personally, I am just appreciating it for its stark beauty – kind of a Mondrian statement without the different colours.

Anyway, I would love to hear your suggestions for the use of this building.

daniel@thesun.co.nz