Week in review: the fire is real, the president is fake

David and Michael Chadwick, 3, watch the Port Hills fire from State Highway 75 on Wednesday.

David and Michael Chadwick, 3, watch the Port Hills fire from State Highway 75 on Wednesday.


Philip Matthews reviews a devastating news week.

The fire on the hills

So many stories and so much high drama in the week-long fires on the Port Hills. Did your heart stop when you read the news, sometime on Wednesday night, that the flames had leapt across Dyers Pass Rd and into Victoria Park? Did you imagine the worst? But it was contained and the only fatality was helicopter pilot Steve Askin​ who died in a crash on the hills on Tuesday. There was a confusing shambles of official communications and decision-making but there was obvious hard work and dedication on the ground and in the air. An old landmark survived – the Sign of the Kiwi. A new landmark survived – the Adventure Park. Questions will be asked about the emergency response but Christchurch can be thankful: it could have been so much worse. 

The Seinfeld presidency

From one disaster to another. US President Donald Trump held a press conference and, no, it did not go well. The best summary of the event came as Trump tried vainly to wriggle out of questions about fired National Security Advisor Michael Flynn and leaks about Russia. "The leaks were real but the news is fake," Trump offered. CNN's Jake Tapper summed it up best: "That was a president focused on his bad press. It was unhinged, it was wild." In a description Seinfeld fans will enjoy, Tapper said, "It was an airing of grievances. It was Festivus." Is this a presidency about nothing? Joking aside, veteran newsman Dan Rather said of the Flynn story that Watergate had been the biggest political scandal of his lifetime until now: "The White House has no credibility on this issue. Their spigot of lies – can't we finally all agree to call them lies – long ago lost them any semblance of credibility." 

The chocolate factory

In a typical week, this would have been huge news, but this is not a typical week. Will there ever be one again, we ask wistfully. The news that Dunedin's Cadbury factory is to close next year, with the loss of 350 jobs, is a massive blow to the southern city. Some people can get hung up on the greater meaning of "iconic" Kiwi chocolate brands like Pineapple Lumps and Jaffas being produced in Australia, and others can wonder if keeping a chocolate factory tourist attraction on site will add insult to injury, but, as Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull said, it is "a devastating time for affected staff and their families". 

Morning has not broken

This reporter was a fan of Paul Henry's sharp, unpredictable presenting and interviewing style on breakfast TV and had some doubts about Mediaworks' replacement, launched this week with Duncan Garner behind the desk. But those doubts disappeared quickly and it is fair to say that Garner played a blinder in week one. If he never seemed at home on the unloved Story, he was in his element on The AM Show and the coverage of Christchurch's fires was tremendous, especially the tense drama of a live cross to reporter Alice Wilkins at the scene of a house threatened by flames. Tune in next week when we learn if The Project is any good.

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