Hard News by Russell Brown

Some big news from me

I have some news: our Great New Zealand Argument feature is to be a book. I signed off the final copy on Monday and it will be out in the first week of July. The publisher is Activity Press, a new imprint founded by me and my former boss, Martin Taylor, who owns Addenda Books.

All the material we've published online so far is included in the book (in more precisely edited form) and our transcript of David Lange's Oxford Union debate speech is supplemented with an exclusive commentary by Margaret Pope, who wrote his original notes. I've written an introductory essay and the book concludes with Tze Ming Mok's 2004 Landfall prize winning essay 'Race You There'. You will all be very warmly invited to buy it when the time comes.

Activity Press also has a couple of quite commercial projects lined up for the Christmas market.

I'll be talking some more about all this at our Great Blend event with Karajoz Coffee Company, 8pm Saturday May 21, at the Auckland Maritime Museum, as part of the Auckland Readers and Writers Festival.

It will be a fine evening: after I launch proceedings, there will be an exclusive show-and-tell with David Herkt, about Fields of Dreams, his new three-part documentary on New Zealand drug culture, which screens next month on TV3. Then there'll be a panel discussion on election year media, mainstream and otherwise, with John Campbell, Gordon Dryden, Keith Ng and Damian Christie, with me as the mouthy chairman.

Then the Phoenix Foundation will play live. Before, amid and after it all, DJ Stinky Jim will be rolling out his olfactory audio excellence.

And you can come, if you're quick. We're very tight on this one, but if you click here you can RSVP for yourself and a friend. We'd love to see you there.

The news that some nutter has (in all probability) falsely claimed to have released foot and mouth disease on Waiheke Island has, as you would expect, dominated the local media since it was revealed at 4pm yesterday.

Inevitably, news organisations have had to focus on on the what if it were really true? angle to fill out the story. But Owen Poland's report on One News last night was just poor. He had, he told Judy Bailey, called six of the farmers on the island "and without exception, none of these people have heard nothing from the authorities this afternoon," that is, in the 90 minutes since the announcement.

He said that the largest landholder was unhappy at not being personally contacted by authorities, but "as a precaution, he's cancelled two truckloads of cattle going off the island for sale tomorrow." Well, no. As a precaution, MAF had already banned any movement of livestock and risk materials off the island.

It appears the farmers were contacted not long after Poland's report (our major trading partners were notified first), but he wasn't to be diverted from his angle; that MAF had been remiss:

If it's taking this seriously, why haven't the land owners on Waihehe Island been told, and if this was a real situation, what would the response have been?

I should also say that while there are no restrictions on people coming to and from the island, Waiheke residents always take their pets, their dogs and so forth, into the city and back again.

As of now, there are no signs at the Waiheke Wharf restricting the movement of pet animals off that island.

Well that would be because dogs, cats and other common pets don't fscking get foot and mouth disease - although I daresay you might have a problem if you turned up at the ferry terminal with your pet llama.

It would be possible in the case of a real infection for humans and animals to carry infected soil (although the parts of Waiheke from which people commute are basically suburbs), but if you were going to be banning pet dogs from leaving the island you'd also be banning everything that moved, on four legs or two.

It's simply not good enough for the national broadcaster to be questioning the official response even as it tosses out panicky misinformation of this kind. A confirmed case of foot in mouth disease, it would seem.