I love Lucy - you should too
Lucy Lawless. The name inspires a range of feelings depending on your point of view. Some people love her for simply playing Xena. Others loathe her for the Greenpeace connection.
On a drive through Oregon last year I pulled in at some seen-better-days roadside motel.
The lady behind the counter had seen better days too and grumped and scowled her way through the check-in process. Suddenly a huge facial transformation occurred and her eyes started shining.
My New Zealand address had prompted a full-on Lucy Lawless rave, followed by a tour of all her ''Warrior Princess'' treasures. Even her car's number plate was Xena-related.
It's an example of what we Kiwis forget - how famous Lawless is throughout the rest of the world and particularly in the United States, where she enjoys virtual cult status. Greenpeace knows that a better environmental activist they could not find.
Not that she is being explicitly ''used'' by Greenpeace. Far from it. Her personal passion to stop oil exploration in the Arctic is as real as her determination to see world leaders address climate change. She is a force for good and happily exploits her own fame to achieve it.
Soon after her Port Taranaki protest she appeared on TV One's Sunday.
When asked about the possibility of a criminal conviction impacting on travel to the US for acting jobs she said, ''I can't let a tiny little thing like a career get in the way''.
Some say that she is wealthy enough anyway and it wouldn't matter. How many wealthy people have you noticed suddenly stop pursuing money and career just because they have accumulated enough already?
Back to our little corner of the world. Port Taranaki (owned by ratepayers via the Taranaki Regional Council) and Shell Todd Oil Services were recently handed a great opportunity. How to convince New Plymouth residents that it's all those nasty little Greenpeace protesters' fault that their precious Ngamotu Beach may be permanently closed to the public for security reasons?
Just tell it to a judge via a victim impact statement and then the parochial media will pick it up and Bob's your uncle. That's how you create a backlash. Easy.
Oil companies are particularly good at it. Anti-fracking campaigner Sarah Roberts was front page news in 2011 when TAG Oil claimed that her objection to the drilling of 18 new wells at Cheal cost oil rig workers 42 jobs.
TAG never mentioned that it just didn't have quite enough work for its guys around the Christmas period anyway or that it was a fairly normal event.
Backlash against Roberts created. Win win.
Of course, they think the public are dumb, and often we definitely are, but on the closure of the port this one will probably backfire.
It doesn't take long to look back over the Taranaki Daily News story archives on Stuff. There are several stories outlining Port Taranaki's future plans, with a decades-old marina proposal high on its wish list.
Of course, any major oil discovery will mean further industrialisation of the port area and surrounds and, to be fair, on that score CEO Roy Weaver has not been coy.
However, if you can set up an activist or two and create a mythology that it's their fault, well, why wouldn't you?
Reading some of the responses from the public in a recent story I was saddened.
To hear some say that children will be disadvantaged by Ngamotu's closure, and to blame Lawless and her cohorts for it, I say they should use their heads.
If that woman, or any parent for that matter, really cared about their children, they too would be protesting their hearts out on behalf of their kids' future.
Clearly the short-term stress over the loss of one beach was far more upsetting to her than thinking about her children and grandchildren's long-term survival.
The reality of climate change is such that we need to start to make a meaningful transition away from fossil fuels now.
You know it, I know it and yet the vast majority of us act like this gravy train is never going to derail. Yet rather than do anything ourselves we'll vilify the likes of Lucy Lawless - and happily help bullies like oil companies and their apologists play their little games.
It was obvious throughout the Sunday interview that Lawless cares more about not only her children but, in many cases, yours too. When not out trying to save our planet for the nippers she is also a member of the board of trustees of the Starship Foundation, which is the charity arm of Starship Hospital. She has raised loads of money for the cause through many acts of fundraising and charity.
Why would we want to get a major hate-on for someone who values children so deeply?
What is wrong with our society when it enjoys tearing her down but builds up environmental rapists like oil companies?
It's time to stop with the Xena-phobia. Say it with me. I love Lucy.
* From the Editor: The Daily News would like to point out that activist Sarah Roberts was also on its front page as a nominee for Person of the Year.