The celebratory air at the Southern Institute of Technology graduation ceremony could not escape politics in Invercargill yesterday.
More than 300 students were receiving their qualifications, but the tumultuous events of the last week in local politics seemed to be occupying dignitaries' minds.
Invercargill Mayor Tim Shadbolt used his welcome speech to take a dig at Environment Southland chairman Ali Timms and to suggest some critics of the Auckland to Bluff yacht race were motivated by envy.
Ms Timms was revealed this week to have made a hoax phone call to quiz Mr Shadbolt on a Cue television talkback show last Wednesday, posing as a mother of two called Ruby whose husband had been laid off at the Tiwai Point aluminium smelter.
She has since taken six week's leave, with a decision over her future expected in the new year.
Mr Shadbolt told the graduates he normally spoke about all the "monumental balls-ups" he had made as mayor, in order to prepare them for the future when they might get things wrong.
But this week, he said, he was really a B-grade celebrity when it came to making mistakes. "Ruby has stolen my thunder," he said.
He then went on to suggest criticism of the Auckland to Bluff Yacht Race, the primary reason why Ms Timms had called the City Talk show, was motivated by the politics of envy.
Some had said it was just about rich people and their toys, he said.
The Government has committed $440,000 to the race, and the Invercargill City Council is expected to make a sizeable financial contribution. "People who get rich are entitled to play with their toys," he said.
The students should never pre-judge people and they should not be tempted by the politics of envy, Mr Shadbolt said.
Earlier, SIT council chairwoman Sarah Brown told graduates their real work - to make a positive contribution to society - was just beginning.
She told them to keep learning and to be determined. "Bite off more than you can chew, and then chew as hard as you can."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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