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,
SHAME ON YOU.
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.