2012's most nightmarish moments

NICOLE PRYOR
Last updated 05:00 26/12/2012
Pat Lam
THANK GOD IT'S OVER: Former Auckland Blues coach Pat Lam had a stinker of a year.

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It was a year sprinkled with moments that would wake many of us in a cold sweat. Whether nightmarish moments of 2012 were spawned by blinding mistakes or shocking errors of judgment, the following culprits will surely remember it as a bad time for a very long time. The 10 people and organisations with crap years were:

1. Novopay
Novopay was launched with high hopes. It was lauded as the most complex payroll system in Australasia.
It then marched on to bungle more than 8500 paycheques - teachers were overpaid, underpaid, or not paid at all.
The complicated system fell over when it was paired with equally-complicated data of numerous combinations of conditions and allowances in staff contracts.
Heading into the festive season, staff received their holiday pay late.

2. Royal prank DJs
Two Australian radio announcers who made a prank call to a British hospital treating Prince William's wife Kate saw their joke turn to tragedy when the nurse who answered the call committed suicide.
Mel Greig and Michael Christian used the voices of Prince Charles and Queen Elizabeth to ask for a condition check.
Jacintha Saldanha, the nurse who fielded the call and gave over information, committed suicide soon after. Greig and Christian went into hiding after the suicide, but went public three days after saying they were "shattered, gutted, heartbroken".

3. Hekia Parata
Education Minister Hekia Parata, after a botched plan to revamp Christchurch schools and the u-turn on smaller class sizes, was voted the standout worst performer in Cabinet.
In the Trans-Tasman magazine assessment of MPs, her score plummeted from 6.5 out of 10 in 2011, to two.
Her handling of Ministry of Education chief executive Lesley Longstone's resignation in December raised even more serious questions about her judgment, and her future in the portfolio.
PPTA president Robin Duff said communication between teachers and Parata could be difficult at the best of times. ''We've found that with this minister, you can ask questions but rarely do you get a direct and relevant answer.''

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4. ACC
ACC's scandal unravelled like a comedy of errors.
A misfired email sent to Bronwyn Pullar, a woman deeply well-connected with National Party members, had an accidental attachment of over 6000 claimants' information.
After the fatal 'send' button was hit, a chain of events was set in place leading to the demise of government minister Nick Smith, ACC chairman John Judge, and its chief executive Ralph Stewart.
It also incited calls from Privacy Commissioner Marie Shroff, who said Government agencies needed to up their game on privacy.

5. Rod Petricevic
Rod Petricevic, the poster boy for greedy property developers, landed himself six-and-a-half years behind bars in April for misleading investors.
At the height of the finance company boom he drove around town in a Porsche and the company had a $1.8 million boat, the Medici.
About 14,500 investors lost $490m in the 2007 collapse of his company, many of them retirees who lost their life savings and now struggle with stress-related medical conditions.
In July, he was sentenced to four more months in prison, after pleading guilty to swindling $1.8m of company funds to buy a luxury launch.

6. Gerald Shirtcliff
He slid into a Sydney engineering school with a fake identification, got his masters in highway engineering, then supervised the construction of the ill-fated CTV building in Christchurch.
On February 22, 2011 the CTV building collapsed killing 115 people -- more than half of the earthquake's total fatalities.
Gerald Shirtcliff, the fake engineer, was stripped of his final qualification during the CTV building inquiry.
An investigation revealed he had stolen the identity of English engineer William Fisher, using his Bachelor of Engineering degree to gain entry to New South Wales University in 1972.

7. Work and Income

In keeping with the theme of security breaches, blogger Keith Ng broke into the kiosks at Work and Income without breaking a sweat. Setting up camp at Work and Income for a few days, Ng was able to 'easily' get sensitive case notes and names of children in care. It sent the Ministry of Social Development into a frenzy. It shut down the kiosk and launched an investigation into the security flaw.

8. Pat Lam
The former Auckland Blues coach oversaw a four-win, 12-loss record, then faced racist criticism putting its performance down to the ethnicity of its players. Those attacks left the former Manu Samoa captain in tears, saying ''it's different when it's a racial thing. The emotion is about my parents''. Soon after, he was replaced by Sir John Kirwan as coach. Lam left with a plea that "JK gets everything he needs, he's a good man."

9. Air NZ ad writers
Two Air New Zealand jokes hit extreme turbulence.
One, part of the company's Christmas Cracker promotion, was at the expense of Belarus shot putter Nadzeya Ostapchuk, who was exposed as a drug cheat after being awarded the Olympic gold medal.
''What large heavy ball was responsible for Valerie Adams' gold medal? it asked.
The answer:  "The Belarusian's left testicle.'' Not funny, the critics screamed.
In October, as a Halloween promotion, the airline's grabaseat site re-named the destinations on domestic routes to match a spooky theme. Wellington became "Spellington", Auckland "Spookland", and Blenheim ''Beastheim''. The reference to notorious sex predator Stewart Murray Wilson - dubbed The Beast of Blenheim - raised the ire of locals and forced a quick change of the town's name to Ghostheim.

10. Robbie Deans
Lam could at least take comfort he wasn't the only high-profile rugby coach taking a hammering for his players' poor performance. Canterbury export Robbie Deans found himself in decidedly hostile territory across the Tasman, where he coached the injury-plagued Wallabies to a series of dismal-to-middling results during 2012. He was dealt a kicking from the outside - such as so-called ''shock jock'' and former Australia coach Alan Jones, who suggested Deans should shut up and go home - and from within, principally Quade Cooper, whose tirades on Twitter suggested the Wallabies were suffering under Deans' leadership.

- Stuff

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