The Thunder of Hooves

Some political scandals have the most prosaic beginnings. A hotel gets burgled, a dress fails to make it to the dry cleaners or a TV cameraman ‘forgets’ his tape recorder in a café. And when such events develop a life of their own and begin to gi

ve off a scandalous aroma then the first eager scribe who gets to dissect the story in public is duty bound to name the affair by choosing some key word and tacking the suffix ‘Gate’ onto it.

Well, what do we call this nasty business on the golf course? ‘Horse-Gate’? ‘Golf-Gate’?

No. If we are being realistic then the only gate in this case was ‘OPEN-GATE’.

Someone didn’t secure their horse, the horse went walkies and took a short cut over the golf course without replacing its divots as it went. Regrettable certainly, but hardly the stuff of which political upheavals are made. The event stirred a brief flurry of comment on Facebook last Sunday but as just a basic animal control issue it hardly seemed worth getting that excited about.
That was until the limp organ formerly known as the Waiheke Marketplace decided to cover the story, and in doing so surrendered the last tattered shreds of its credibility as an independent voice in local media. The page two story was the usual mess of disjointed squawking that we’d expect, full of baseless assertions about willful damage and deliberate vandalism. But the photo that went with it seemed a bit odd. What was so dreadful about this incident that local board leader Faye Storer was called away from her Sunday breakfast to be pictured with golf club staff and police, crouching on the dented greensward and looking concerned?
There could be a perfectly innocent explanation of course. Perhaps the Leaderene was breakfasting at the golf club that morning by chance? I’ve heard the café there is very good. It is possible that, seeing some fuss being made outside, she set aside her coffee and croissant and ventured out to see what was amiss, arriving at the same time as the photographer and being ‘smudged’ by simple chance.

That alone was hardly earth shaking stuff. But to get to the meat of the matter one has to turn to what passes for a letters page. Now most weeks the Marketplace letters page is a sad affair, rarely covering half a page and filled with tiresome bleating content from the semi-literate.
Not this week! Let’s turn to that page and see what we can make of it. Firstly there is a slab of bombastic nonsense from golf club president Graeme Orr. In it he makes it plain that in his view the incident was deliberate. Someone saddled up their huge and possibly rabid horse and intentionally rode it back and forth across the greens to cause maximum damage. Nothing resembling proof is offered of course, but hey! Who needs PROOF when you’re on a roll?

Then there is a similar letter from S Williams of Blackpool, also taking the view that the damage was entirely deliberate and couched in the kind of terminology usually only used for deploring major acts of terrorism. I mean really!
Riding Club president Claudia Lapp is allowed to ’Call for calm’ as the paper hysterically puts it, and suggest the possibility that this was simply an escaped animal.

But it is the letter from Faye Storer’s faithful sidekick Jo Holmes that gives the game away and shows this for the deplorable beat-up it clearly is. Holmes’s letter is so ludicrously over the top, so revoltingly embellished with hyperbole that a chap could develop indigestion simply looking at it. The best is saved for last as she tops off her frenzied epistolary confection with that famous quote concerning good men doing nothing and the consequences thereof.

Well…I see your Edmund Burke quote and raise you one Shakespeare;

“The lady doth protest too much methinks…”

Way, WAY too much. So much in fact that it would alert even the most room temperature intellect to the fact that this is about a lot more than just a temporarily damaged golf course. Because let’s face it, when it comes to willful vandalism this island is not short of egregious examples, many of them council approved and drawing no comment at all from our local board.

So what is really going on here? Could this be the opening salvo of the current board’s election campaign? Didn’t that chap we all elected to fill the vacant spot on the board have something to do with the long running tension between those who like pretending they are in charge of what is really a powerful motorcycle with a nasty, brutish intelligence tucked away somewhere behind the scary lawn mower attachment at the front and those whose lives revolve around the questionable delights of poking a small white bouncy ball around a lawn with a metal stick?

Of course he did. And now it seems that the board, annoyed at finding themselves stuck with a new member voted on by a population still seething with annoyance over their clumsy and arrogant behaviour following the last election, are looking for ways to destabilise him. Well, that’s politics I suppose, and if Paul Walden is feeling beleaguered right now by the crass and vulgar attempts of his fellow board members to smear him with this then it is really part of the game.
Yet he should take heart and look on the bright side. The attack on him has been so crudely handled that it seems very likely to rebound on those who staged it. The obviously coordinated nature of the letters in both the Marketplace and the Gulf News must have seemed like a good idea to the perpetrators at the time but in cold print they look as phony and contrived as an episode of Masterchef.

The efforts of both Storer and Holmes to stir the pot are so cretinously shabby that they reflect shamefully on both. If this is any indication of how they intend to carry on in future then their removal from office next election seems not only desirable but imperative.

The person whose careless attention to detail on the matter of horse confinement caused all this really should own up. It’s only fair. Horses are huge, dangerous things and allowing one to roam is reprehensible. I know these things happen from time to time but in this instance your lack of care has caused a truly toxic outcome.

But above all, to George Gardner, editor of the Marketplace,
Was the final loss of your paper’s independence and credibility really worth it? Are you now so lacking in editorial control that you were required to stand aside helplessly as your paper was hijacked for a beat up as cheap and trashy as this? Are you really expecting any of us to respect your paper’s integrity, (such as it was) in future?

A bad business all round folks, and where will the trail of poison lead next? I have a few ideas and I very much doubt that this will be my last word on the matter.

7 thoughts on “The Thunder of Hooves”

  1. As a result of this… Comments have been passed that people would have thir horses poisoned.
    No such a cultured place as the Waiheke Golf Club surely wouldn’t make such nasty threats to people about hurting their pets would they? It seems so.
    A horse got out….it went galloping across the golf course…. Once upon a time you would every now and then see a horse high tailing it down the main road from where-ever it had ditched it’s rider to home. Perhaps that was an act of terrorism… did the police ticket the horse for breaking the speed limit or for not having a warrant of fitness?
    Perhaps George should cover the underground of horse drags. It holds about the same amount of merit.

  2. so the owner of the horse should stand up and take responsiblity for the damage no one seems to be coming forward (nearly one week later) for Pauls sake I hope they do and I doubt any one from the golf club would make such nasty threats

  3. Um, interesting reading Alan, though I don’t get where this conspiracy theory is coming from. The person calling the destruction willful and deliberate was the police officer, the only person to bring Paul’s name into this was first Andy Spence and now you. I don’t understand the attacks on the Marketplace either, I think it’s an established fact that the Gulf News is very biased towards the green/lefty agenda. Both the Marketplace and the Gulf News have reported the news on the golf course greens, and both have printed letters of upset and outrage as to the destruction. It was the Gulf News article that pointed out the horse appeared to leave the same way he came in, which does seem kind of odd. A member of the horse riding community has said on one of the Waiheke FB pages that the damage appeared deliberate. Neither theory as to how the damage was caused has been proven. Alan, you make a mighty fine beer, and you are quite an amusing fellow, but I think in this instance, like the horse, riderless or not, you are out of control.

    1. Well now Kim, you raise the interesting point about ‘conspiracy theory’. Never did believe any of those things myself I have to admit. I’m certainly not claiming such a thing here. All I wanted to stress in this piece is that the coverage in both papers was at fault when it came to editorial control, though especially the Marketplace. The letters that the Gulf News made space for were obviously a concerted effort to wallpaper the letters page of both papers with much the same set of letters from the golf club hierarchy. The president first, followed by the secretary, the treasurer and finishing with the chief bottle washer.
      Now that’s fine in theory. They have their protest to make and they made it. The Gulf news chose to let them get away with more column space is all.
      But, as I pointed out, Jo Holmes, in my view, took the whole concerted effort thing to the point where it all looked contrived. She overstated the case and in doing so made the whole thing look shaky.
      As you point out, nothing has yet been proved. I trust it will. But I am concerned that the long running flow of bad blood between two sets of slightly over obsessed people both trying to have their conflicting fun on roughly the same territory threatens to spill over into the running of our local board.

    2. Now then, let me come back to this and see if I can clarify my position a little better now it’s morning and I have a decent coffee in me.
      What I am trying to do here is not establish a conspiracy theory but shine a light on an enthusiastic but bungled attempt to establish a public NARRATIVE.
      Narratives are very popular these days what with the internet making everything work faster and traditional news outlets hobbled by the need to stay competitive. Papers like the ones we have on this island are so terrified of losing the vital advertising dollars that they become tamed and ineffective in the face of real news stories. This would never have happened back in the days when Greg Treadwell and Simon Johnson were in control of the news. Those guys had the nerve to stand up to peevish advertisers and not allow their writing to be neutered by the need to stay ‘nice’ all the time.

      What I am trying to do is apply their standards to the silly mess we see in the papers this week. So in that sense you are ABSOLUTELY RIGHT when you state that I am ‘Out of control’.

      Indeed I am Kim, indeed I am.

      I have no affiliation to either the golf club or the riding club. I know nothing of either save for the fact that both groups need their heads banged violently together and told to act like adults rather than spoilt kids. The idiotic squabblings that have emanated from the Onetangi Straight for the last few years have been pathetic and irritating.

      Neither am I affiliated in any way with any media outlet on the island save this one and the local radio station. I am therefore able to exercise a level of expression that may seem a little extreme for most these days since I don’t have the constraints that the papers do. All I have to do is write stuff down as I see it and avoid anything either blatantly untrue or libelous.

      Which is what I’ve tried to do in this article.

      Last Sunday, when the sun rose and the hoof prints on the putting greens were discovered, a number of people got not only VERY CROSS, but saw an opportunity to stick it to those horrible horse riding people. The local board also saw that this public expression of anger would work very well to their advantage and got involved too. Photos were taken and letters written. A narrative developed. Clearly this was vandalism! Even though everything seemed to point to an escaped horse getting panicky in the dark and running about until the poor thing found its way back out and was recaptured, the narrative had a life of its own and spilled out in the papers.

      What I am pointing out is that the narrative was poorly executed. Too many people got too carried away and messed up the message to the extent that anyone with even basic cognitive faculties could see how tatty the whole thing looked in cold hard print. The fact that both papers failed to see how obvious it all looked and couldn’t even be bothered to use a little editorial control and present the whole mess in a tidier way just added to that.

      But good on you for taking me to task on this Kim. So far you are the only person to have done so and I appreciate you taking the time to challenge my ramblings.

      1. The one picture that wasn’t posted in either paper was the one that showed the horses track through the course from hole 1 onwards in numerical order. Smart riderless horses around these parts

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