Breakfast opinion sparks outrage

21:59, Sep 27 2010
van beynen
Al Nisbet has an idea for Martin Van Beynen following his controversial article.

Paul Henry is usually in hot water for his juicy comments but now Press journalist Martin van Beynen has sparked a similar debate.

His opinion piece on Paul Henry's Breakfast for Canterbury event has created a storm of controversy.

Letter to The Press newspaper and comments to show people either thought it was hilarious or unconscionable and outrageous.

Critics have sabotaged Van Beynen's Wikipedia entry and continue to attack him online.

Judge the piece for yourself.

They came bearing gifts ...


As dawn broke over the ruined city, God decided to punish the urbanites one more time.

He sent them Paul Henry and his Breakfast television team.

Billed as Breakfast for Canterbury, the Auckland TV people came down once more to feast on the already well-gnawed bones of injured Christchurch.

They came bearing gifts and to pay tribute to the forbearance and courage of Cantabrians, although few of those badly affected by the earthquake would have graced this early-morning celebration of the Canterbury spirit.

Instead, the publicity, gratis bands and free food brought a mob – probably thousands, but anyone's guess – of bottom-feeders and freeloaders, the delinquent and deranged, the homeless and the hopeless, the bedraggled and the drug-addled, the deadbeats and the deluded, old ducks and young dorks and, of course, some ordinary citizens who should have known better.

Young children had been woken far too early from innocent slumbers so they could be wheeled around the event with their voracious parents.

Thankfully, the army and police were on hand in case the crowd decided to over-run the cordon to ravage Henry and the radiant Pippa Wetzell. I was unhappy to see the police not wearing riot gear, but was comforted by the fact a contingent of ambulance staff were on hand.

Schoolchildren loaded up on icecream, sausage meat and white bread before heading to school, probably late. Zach Campbell, 15, and Alex Philpott, 14, both Burnside High pupils, were stuffing chocolate Trumpets into their mouths.

A tattooed man had brought his cat, Polly, in a pushchair. He did not even own a TV set, he confessed.

As if the awfulness was not already too much to bear, the politicians made hay in the glare of the television lights. John Key and Phil Goff signed autographs as their team of MPs looked benignly and sycophantically on. Is there a less attractive political pair than Gerry Brownlee and Kate Wilkinson?

A hapless Jim Anderton got to introduce a band, and Mayor Bob Parker, flanked by his enigmatic wife, Jo, had another moment in the sun with Henry, who wondered aloud if the sartorially conscious Parker had changed his emergency jacket in three weeks.

Technical problems plagued the event. An all-important interview with Key turned into a silent movie.

God help Christchurch if anybody outside the event was watching. This dark, lawless heart of the city made New Orleans after its floods seem like a private school picnic. Viewers must have made a note to give Christchurch a wide and judicious berth.

Just a few streets away, young men were beating each other to a pulp to get their free hoodies and socks from the Hallensteins shop. OK, perhaps not beating each other to a pulp.

In truth, the queuing hordes compliantly followed instructions. It could have been a marvellous free-for-all, with the weak and slow trampled underfoot.

Back at Breakfast for Canterbury, long patches of nothingness and false starts. At home, the void would have been filled with advertisements.

A TVNZ staffer was handing out what appeared to be cheques or vouchers. Alas, they were only photographs of Henry and Wetzell.

And, in the midst of the horror show, four people shone through with their honesty, integrity and goodwill.

Two of them were gentlemen who complimented me on my writing. The other two, strangely, were the blonde-locked, elfin Wetzell and the toothy chipmunk Henry himself.

"Look at that lovely old lady," Henry said, pointing to a leathery old trout clutching the cold steel of the cordon.

"We are going to sell her today," he said.

"She's priceless," said the gorgeous Wetzell to Henry, who was saying he might find a better old lady later.

In reference to Henry's biting and troublesome wit, a shameless radio station paraded a fat young woman with a placard saying: "I'm a lady with a moustache. Wax me Paul."

Henry offered to get Key to help.

In the background, about 60 good and true Rotarians from the Christchurch Sunrise club kept the tasty sausages and bacon, courtesy of Hellers, flowing, using barbecues provided by the Spit Roast company. Countdown provided piles of delicious white bread. The sponsorless Wizard smoked a cigar at the coffee wagon.

Rebecca Lowry and Kirsten Clement, two art students at the Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology, were in the crowd of 200 in Cathedral Square at 6am sharp.

Lowry said they had decided to do "something random". Were they fans of Henry? "Who?" Lowry said.

Susan Claridge, of Hillmorton, attending with Ella and George, both 10, said they had been woken at 4am by an aftershock and decided to get up and hoof it down to the Square. She watched Breakfast a lot, she said.

Back at the stage, Wetzell was going on about Canterbury's hardship and deprivation, while only minutes before her programme had broadcast images of poverty and cripples in India or Pakistan.

If the earth had opened and swallowed us all, it would have been a mercy.

The Press