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October 16, 2006 | by  | in Features | [ssba]

The Year In News

2006 wasn’t exactly the most scintillating year for news. There were no real elections, no injunctions, and only a few pithy protests. Although, on the other hand, there was plenty of bitching and scandal, whether it be in the Beehive or in our very own VUWSA workroom. Blood all over that carpet. But if anything, 2006 will be known as the year when the mud stuck just that little bit better than usual. Probably because there was not much else happening.


The University year began as it would continue: with the Union playing the tough guy routine. Student Job Search was forced to relocate after being slapped with a bill for rent for their spot in the Union Building which, being a non-profit organisation, they couldn’t pay. Luckily the VUWSA Trust came to the rescue and offered up the Mount Street building. The regular Salient hostel-bashing got underway early this year, with issue one carrying a story about former Unicomm residents having to wait over three months to have their bond returned. And the 2005 ‘Offensive Issue’ of Otago University’s student magazine Critic was banned.

Outside the ivory towers of the University, debate over freedom of speech raged after several New Zealand newspapers, including our beloved Dominion Post, printed the Muhammed cartoons. The allegations about Labour MP David Benson-Pope abusing students back in the day when he was a teacher surfaced, as did the beginning of the Labour pledge card overspending bitch fight. New Zealand tabloids got more excited than a blind lesbian in a fish shop when director Lee Tamahori was arrested in Las Vegas for soliciting, reportedly wearing women’s clothes and a wig.


Gold diggers of all ages put on their highest heels and most seductive of pouts when it was announced that Trade Me founder Sam Morgan had sold out to Australian media company Fairfax for a cool $200 million. Unfortunately, as we were soon reminded in gushing newspaper coverage, he was already happily married. Allegations surfaced in everybody’s favourite conspiracy theory organ Investigate magazine that Labour MP David Parker had done something that was possibly illegal relating to company law or tax or something.

Nominations for the first of what would become many VUWSA byelections opened in March, followed by the first of many cock-ups which saw one candidate left off the ballot paper. VUWSA also finally completed their 2005 budget, almost nine months late, and carrying no hint of the financial problems to come. Official complaints were made to VUWSA after a so-called “punk” band encouraged several first year students to expose themselves on stage. President Nick Kelly had his car clamped by the Union after abandoning it in a loading zone.

Roughly eighty people, mostly hippies and anarchists, turned out on a VUWSA march on Parliament to yell at the Government about fee increases. Which was a bit dumb because Parliament was in recess at the time, and less than a month later the interest write-off came into force.


The news headlines in April were dominated by the Louise Nicholas rape case and the suppression order on additional evidence, the illegal release of this evidence resulting in court action. Labour MP David Parker was cleared and mostly reinstated to his positions, after it was revealed that he hadn’t actually done anything illegal, despite having thought he had. ACT leader Rodney Hide shocked the nation with his weight loss as he went into training for his appearance on Dancing with the Stars. The Herald on Sunday, with sleaze we previously thought even the Sunday Star-Times incapable, attempted to get one of its reporters to sleep with Rolling Stones frontman Mick Jagger. Turns out they’re just friends.

Students were able to have their cake and eat it too, when several Labour MPs hijacked a VUWSA meeting in the Quad to give out cake in a celebration of student loans going interest-free. VUWSA watchers who wagered on the first resignation of the year being Education Vice-President Miri Duffield were proved correct when she left VUWSA for another job. Victoria hosted the annual University Games, and despite uninformed coverage and predictions in Salient, Vic managed to win the coveted shield.


A humble messenger in the Prime Minister’s Department stole Michael Cullen’s budget thunder, when he handed details of the local loop unbundling to a biking buddy, oops, happened to work at Telecom. So when the budget was finally unveiled, people continued to bitch about tax cuts, or the lack thereof. A joke in Salient went horribly wrong, and earned us a stern finger-wagging from the mainstream media, who prefer their racism to be in the form of salacious front-page sensationalism regarding immigrants. Our bad. Some guy got angry because a Police Officer told him his scarf was “gay”. And Tana Umanga hit a team mate with a hand bag.

Nick Kelly got caught attempting to secretly get Womens’ Rights Officer Caroline Prendergast rolled. Price rises hit students hard, with the University increasing international student fees by a whopping 12% and the Union doubling the price of beer jugs. Rising petrol prices were cited. The University then applied to the Tertiary Education Commission to raise domestic fees even further. The Government budget axed the Maanaki Tauria grants for Maori students, and a second VUWSA by-election took place after Welfare Vice-President Maddy Drew resigned.


Salient returned from the mid-year break to find that newly elected VUWSA Education Vice-President Joel Cosgrove got himself into a spot of bother after allowing text messages to be sent encouraging people to vote for him during the campaign. Vice-President wannabe Gareth Robinson was to lay a complaint, but couldn’t find five friends to sign the petition. Salient got owned in the annual Salient-VUWSA soccer match. Details of the new tertiary funding model were announced, allowing funding to be allocated to institutions on a quality basis, rather than bums on seats. And, in the filler story of the month, Nick Kelly decided to sell his hair on Trade Me.

Wellingtonians were shocked when the handless body of Tony Stanlake washed up on Red Rocks, beginning an investigation into his murder.

Former student journalist Tim Selwyn was jailed for 15 months on sedition charges relating to an incident that occurred during the election campaign. Bloggers went nuts. Winston Peters also went nuts, this time at a group of journalists who had followed him to Washington, interrupting potential presidential candidate John McCain while he was waxing lyrical about a New Zealand-US free trade deal.


August saw the Rotorua City Council floating the idea of banning criminals from its main streets. At the same time, a trial of the controversial taser gun began. Ron Mark got caught on camera making a rude gesture in Parliament, and was criticised for setting a bad example and making MPs look stupid. Not that they needed it: August also saw criticism of the Labour government heat up over the pledge card spending and the Ingram report into the activities of Philip-Field. Students once again got a bad rap in the media after the so-called Castle Street riots. Only in Otago.

Victoria management fronted up to students to explain why fee increases were necessary again next year, but their pleas for understanding fell on deaf ears, mostly because nobody turned up to the VUWSA-organised forum. VUWSA also released its “slash and burn” budget in which it was argued the deficit was trimmed back from $300,000 to $175,000. A deed, apparently ending the dispute between the Union and VUWSA over the Student Union Building was passed by University Council. Salient got in trouble in the mainstream media again, after printing a headline using the word “cunt”. Even Kathryn Ryan was critical.


A spiral to the bottom was begun when reports about Don Brash’s affair with a member of the Business Roundtable were made public. Women across the country began to wonder if it was the combover that made him so attractive. Then came the allegations that Helen Clark’s husband was gay. Then came the all that stuff about private investigators being funded by patriarchal cults. Sometimes the truth really is stranger than fiction. September was also a month of death, with New Zealanders (but only some) joining their compatriots across the ditch to mourn Steven Irwin and Peter Brock. The Tongan King died too, and Michael Laws said some nasty, but quite true, things.

Vic got burned by the TEC when their application for a 10% fee increase was denied. They promptly decided that 5% was probably good enough for 2007, although an application for a further increase may still be made. A student was stabbed in the Murphy Building, and then wrote in to Salient to complain about our coverage. Otago University students suffered from their years of couchburning, when the University passed a statute of student conduct that also applied off-campus. And VUWSA finally succeeded in getting the levy increase passed, to the eternal consternation of right-wingers everywhere.


New Zealand’s acting sweetheart Keisha Castle-Hughes was deemed not so sweet any longer, after it was announced that she got knocked-up by her boyfriend of three years. And the nastiness in Parliament continued, with Helen Clark calling Don Brash “cancerous”.

On campus a student was reportedly kidnapped by a librarian and is intending to sue said librarian. The University attempted to spread its tentacles further down Fairlie Terrace by attempting to acquire a private property under the Public Works Act, shutting several international students out in the cold. VUWSA President Nick Kelly also found himself out in the cold, losing to thevast-Labour-conspriacy candidate Geoff Hayward. A whole lot of other people were also elected in VUWSA elections. And who told you that you needed to read the news during the year?


About the Author ()

Nicola Kean: feature writer, philanthropist, womanly woman. Nicola is the smallest member of the Salient team, but eats really large pieces of lasagne. Favourites include 80s music, the scent of fresh pine needles and long walks on the beach.

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