Cracker by Damian Christie

Out for a Duck

If the rest of 2004 is anything like the past two weeks have been, I’m going to be a happy, happy camper.

New Years and the couple of days immediately before and after were spent at Hicks Bay. About ten minutes drive or so from the East Cape lighthouse, you can find it on a map by looking at the eastern most point of New Zealand. A dozen of us were invited to stay at a friend’s farm there, and so off we went.

A warning to any other residents of Tamaki Makaurau thinking of heading down that way – it’s a bloody long drive. It’s longer than from Auckland to Wellington, especially taking into account the inevitable car crash near Maramarua – now as entrenched in the New Zealand Christmas as blossoming pohutakawa and Interislander strikes.

The roads there redefine “long and winding”; McCartney would’ve had a field day. No doubt picturesque as all hell, but unfortunately something we couldn’t appreciate, given it was pissing down the whole way, and completely dark for the last hour or two.

The next morning the sky had cleared, somehow taking with it the farm’s supply of running water. No showers? Aucklanders all, we looked at each other nervously, and collectively fumbled for our car keys, cellphones and an AA guide to the nearest hotel. Luckily for everyone concerned, there is no such thing as a “nearest hotel” in Hicks Bay. We decided to bathe in the river instead.

From that moment on, there was no looking back.

The weather was phenomenal. The scenery was spectacular, with great beaches, beautiful rivers and streams and more native bush than you can shake a punga branch at.

We had hangi and hongi, huhu and kina, bareback horseback riding and drank Steiny talls with toothless locals at the nearby pub. We were taken to a secret bubbling mud lake and sloshed around in same until covered from head to toe in a treatment the ladies of Parnell would pay a fortune for. We went to bed late each night with a belly full of beer, and woke up far too soon after as our tents became unbearably hot in the East Coast sun. Damn it was fun.

After all that, it was with no small trepidation that I returned to Auckland and checked my email. Not surprisingly, there was a huge amount of feedback to my last post, in fact more so than for anything I’ve written to date. I’m pleased to report it was overwhelmingly positive. With an issue like this, people invariably come out of the woodwork with their own stories of woe, and this was no exception.

Over the years the businesses owned by the dynamic duo of Deborah Coddington and Alister Taylor have ‘touched’ a lot of people, and for many their experiences are now squarely in the ‘bad touch’ category (and no, I’m not inferring they’ve molested anyone). I’ve begun receiving emails from writers and customers alike, alleging unsatisfactory dealings. Some of these are historical, and fairly well-documented, others I simply have my correspondents’ word on which to rely.

One email that really struck a chord with me, was from a couple who had paid for a book, but not yet received it. I should note that as this situation occurred in 2002, it is likely that Coddington had extracted, or at least begun to extract herself as a shareholder and director of the company(s) concerned. However I can say that these customers’ allegations are very similar to those I dealt daily as an employee of NZ Who's Who in 1996, when Deborah Coddington was very much a director and shareholder…

“Mr T has had $ 145.00 of ours since 18 June 2002.Payment for a copy of a NZ WHO'S WHO for delivery December 2002. Still not to hand although a letter 0f August 2003 said they would be despatching November 2003. No reply to emails, phone messages and fax.”

…and then this update a few days later:

“Since I sent you the first email on Mon 29 Dec I have spoken to a Peter Corbett who describes himself as an Editorial Assistant to Alistair Taylor... Corbett said that the despatch had now been delayed until 29 April 2004. He said he did not know why there was this further delay. I explained to him that the letter of August 2003 gave November as a despatch date. He said that he was not directly involved in the Who's Who publication? He also confirmed that G Griffith who had signed an earlier letter, and who we had spoken to, had left the company.”

I advised this couple, and I advise anyone else out there in the same situation, to write to Deborah Coddington, MP, c/- Parliament advising her of their predicament. Sure, she’s ostensibly not involved with the company any more, but as an MP she has a duty to help her constituents (and as a List MP, everyone’s a constituent, really), and she’s probably the best placed MP in the country to do so. Remember, no stamp required.

I’ve also been contacted by other MPs and mainstream journos, all wanting to hear a little more of the story. A couple of respondents noted Act’s differing treatments of their Great White Hope vs Donna Awatere Huata. The latter is hung out to dry before given a fair hearing in the courts, while Deborah receives full support from the leadership on down. Granted, Act were probably looking for an excuse to ditch the Awatere Albatross, but one wonders how long before the party realises that its Little Yellow Duck of Freedom is in fact treading water in a Sea of Shit.

So it looks as though Deborah Coddington is in for quite the annus horribilis, poor lass. To borrow phrases from radionzbias, “an observer” and “acquaintance” tell me the family home in Remmers might even be put up for sale to clear the backlog of unpublished books. Oh dear. Quite the turnaround from those heady days of the early nineties when “an observer” informs me Coddington and Taylor were known around Auckland as ‘Bonnie & Clyde.’ What do chickens sound like when they come home to roost, anyone? Anyone?

Anyway, that’s enough of all that nastiness. Until this story develops a bit more – and with the people now involved, you can guarantee it will – I’m going to sink back down into my private mudpool and covet that shawl I nicked so many years ago…my preccccioussss.

Happy New Year everyone, and thanks again for your overwhelming support and feedback. Keep it coming.