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Hamish McKenzie - authority, London, Ont.

Thursday, November 10, 2005

The 2005 Fighting Talk Power List

Earlier this week, the Listener published its second annual list of New Zealand's 50 most powerful people. By remarkable coincidence, they just happened to do it in the same week in which Fighting Talk's first annual list was due. We would have beaten them to the punch, but it turns out they had earlier printing deadlines. So, suck for us.

But, while the Listener might have been the early birds, all they've managed to come up with are a bunch of dirty old worms. Their list is riddled with inaccuracies, poor judgment calls, and other credibility-destroying faux pas, none of which I'll deign to mention.

Lucky for you, then, that Fighting Talk (in this case represented by a PowerPanel of one -- me) has taken on the task of producing a more authoritative and altogether less retarded power list.

Not only is our list a better reflection of where power lies in this country, but it is also more diverse than the Listener's soon-to-be-infamous white-bespectacled-male-dominated effort. Our list is made up of actors, writers, bloggers, politicians, retired sports stars, and even a warrior princess.

You'll notice in some cases we've conflated two people to fill one position on the list. This has been done in cases where it was deemed the members of the relevant duo/group completely lacked their own distinct identities. On one occasion it was done because I couldn't remember the christian names of the twins.

So, without further ado, I have great pleasure in announcing the real 2005 power list. Enjoy at your leisure...

50. Martin Henderson - actor

Probably the only New Zealander who can claim to have kissed Britney Spears while she was sober.

49. Marjorie Neilson - fictitious character

The ebullient and, yes, sometimes stubborn screen mum of Martin Henderson's character in the popular medical soap opera Shortland Street. No, you might not think that's a powerful position, but I can tell you, that Stuart was quite a handful. He wasn't at all like that nice Daryll. So dark; so brooding.

48. Brian Tamaki - leader of men

One of those precious few great leaders who can find superfluous cash in the wallets of the poorest people.

47. Matt Nippert - former volunteer writer for Salient

A young journalist with an attitude -- and mullet to match. Living the low life in New York City, tempting tantalising tarts with promises of oddly-named chihuahuas. Not powerful at all, but, you know, he's from Lower Hutt.

46. Jeremy Wells - deadpanner

Has attracted the talents of Anita McNaught, Finlay McDonald, and Steve Braunias to work on his evening news show. Once convinced half the nation that Eating Media Lunch filmed the killing of Shrek the sheep. Was rightly pilloried in the fall-out.

45. Jon Johansson - political science academic

Johansson was derided after he came out in opposition to Don Brash's retarded plan to expunge the murrys from New Zealand. Johansson's clearly ill-considered stance was pegged as "partisan" and "liberal" (note: quotes fabricated) and his credibility as a political commentator was attacked. Clearly, a respect for race relations means one can never be considered politically neutral. His name would be much further up this power list if TVNZ hadn't pulled him from their election night coverage after caving in to the right-whingers.

44. Tony Blair - homonym

Tony Blair of Nelson has a name that opens doors. Quite popular with females of the elderly persuasion, I understand.

43. There was no candidate suitable for this position.

42. Matthew Flanagan - moralist

Flanagan has shaken off prior associations with the disgraced Graeme Capill to found the respected Locke Foundation. Well, it would be respected if it weren't a complete farce.

41. Madeleine Flanagan - Matt's wife

The other half of the Locke Foundation.

40. Moana Maniapoto-Jackson - Moa Hunter

Obviously a token inclusion to get a Maori woman in the top 50. Really though, we all know Maori women have very little power in this country.

39. Olo Brown - former All Black

Good straight back position for a tight-head prop. Powerful scrummager.

38. Sir Kenneth Keith - judge on International Court of Justice

A wild card entry. Only in here 'coz I just saw his name in the news.

37. Mika - prominent homosexualist dancer

Besides poets, dancers are amongst the most influential artists in the country. You could say Mika is the choreographer for the nation. As a flamboyantly gay Maori dance leader, he's certainly in-step with mainstream New Zealand.

36. Katherine Rich - MPIL*

Clearly the most attractive member of Don Brash's National caucas -- although Lockwood Smith runs a close second. Rich has been tipped as a future leader, or at least deputy, for the party, which means, unlike Brash, she might actually get a shot at proper power come the next election.

35. Lucy Lawless - warrior princess

A brooding vixen who still has the power to bring a computer geek to orgasm in 30 seconds without so much as a heavy breath.

34. John Manukia - craftsman

Fiction writer of the highest order. Somehow managed to dent the reputation of the seemingly indestructible compact newspaper, the Herald on Sunday.

33. Sam Hunt - power poet

Poetry is perhaps the most influential art in New Zealand, and Sam Hunt is probably the most influential poet of our time. Likes dogs.

32. Murray Mexted - commentator

Murray the man of many mangled words is more recognisable to New Zealanders than the Governer-General. Actually, who is the Governer-General?

31. Jesus - Son of God

Not really a New Zealander as such (I think the Israelis are still trying to claim him), but you've got to admit he's a man of the people; so any country can rightly claim a piece of him. And, while his popularity has taken a tumble in recent years, it's probably fair to say he still exerts a fair degree of influence over certain sectors of our society -- particularly the Christians. That's enough for him to scrape in at number 31.

30. Helen Clark - Prime Minister

Leader of the nation for the last six years, and will be for the next three. That's got to be worth something, I guess.

29. Darren McDonald - newsreader

Still the only New Zealand newsreader to admit reading the news while high on P. Technically he's an Australian, but you're not one to split hairs.

28. Jim Hopkins - humourist

The next New Zealand columnist to admit he's been high on P for the last 20 years.

27. Precious McKenzie - former powerlifting world champ

No further explanation needed.

26. Louise McKenzie - mother of the writer

Although her place on the list may be questioned by many critics, it should be noted that Louise has been told by palm-readers on repeated occasions that she has very prominent fame lines.

25. Murphy Su'a - left-arm medium pace

A solid performer on the professional cricket circuit in the early 1990s. Once allegedly verbally abused Ken Rutherford. Now plays golf.

24. Susan Wood - presenter

Got an extra $100k out of TVNZ. Previously, that's something only New Zealand Idol could do.

23. Tame Iti - spitter

A brown and less intimidating version of Gerry Brownlee. But with more political clout.

22. The members of True Bliss

"Tonight's the night we'll make love to the end..." Lyrics so powerful they still resound in our ears. After all these years, Carly, Jo, Erica, and those other two are still impossible to forget.

21. The Ingham Twins - stowaways

Never before has a pair of ratty little teens stopped a nation by illegally boarding a cargo ship and going for a long swim.

20. Russel Brown - internet nerd

A column in the Listener; a news show on bFM; a blog on Public Address; and a column in Unlimited. The hardest-working journalist without any discernable audience.

19. Stuart Thom - high school English teacher

Not really that powerful. But he was a good teacher, and it's probably about time he got some recognition for that.

18. Murray Deaker - radio host

Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha. Oh, what? He actually made the real list?

17. Jason Gunn - TV personality

Cool, crazy, wacky, fun -- he's the son of a Gunn. Yes, ever since he parted ways with Thingy his star has been on the wane, but he is showing signs of recovering from those dark days as host of McDonald's Young Entertainers with that curly-haired blonde who looks like the new editor of Metro.

16. Robin Charteris - editor

The able helmsman for the Newspaper of the Year.

15. Antarctic Lemur - blogger

Considered, reasonsed, logical, amiable, and probably very handsome. A power blogger from an incomparably powerful blogsite.

14. Prince Tui Teka - musician

Okay, so he might be dead -- but he's still the only prince this country has produced.

13. Shrek the Sheep - celebrity mutton

Captured the heart of the nation and refuses to let it go.

12. Muriel Newman - founder(er)

The irrepressible former MP is the founder of the poorly-fonted Centre for Political Debate. As you would expect, the website... I mean, Centre... has been a runaway success, already perhaps maybe attracting hits numbering in the tens. The second poll in the website's existence asked: "Should the Maori seats in Parliament be abolished." Its findings were nothing less than astonishing -- 97% of respondents said "yes"; 2.3% said "no"; and a curious 0.7% said "don't know." Why wasn't this reported in the mainstream media? You've got me stumped. If it were on-form, the Sunday Star-Times would have been onto it faster than you can say "this isn't actually a poll, and it probably doesn't have any credibility, but we're going to run it anyway because there's a chance for a decent headline that might be popular with the tabloid-loving public."

11. Steve Crow - pornographer

An uncanny ability to persuade women to take off their clothes for the cameras. Commands respect.

10. Keith Ng - student media mogul

As well as securing a well-read blog on Public Address, Keith has managed to hold a seat in the Press Gallery and appear in national newspapers and on breakfast television and Agenda multiple times. Perhaps the most powerful student journalist the world has ever seen.

9. Wayne Mapp - Eradicator

Finally a man who's willing to take the brave steps into battle against a subjective political construct.

8. Tim Watkin - former Chaff editor

Gets to devise an annual top-50 list of the most powerful people in the country.

7. Flight of the Conchords - recording artists

Recently made it onto the Conan O'Brien show, which is really the measuring stick for any recording artist. Followed it up with a very well received HBO show. They're talking about the issues but they're keeping it funky.

6. Brian Connell - National MP

Anyone knows that whoever takes Rakaia takes New Zealand.

5. Hayley Westenra - singer

Once met Kofi Annan.

4. Aaron Bhatnagar - blogger and statesman

There are so many titles you could put beside this guy's name: "man of leisure," "political activist," "lover not a fighter," "bon vivant," "like a God to me." Bhatnagar personifies power -- and boy does he know it. When it comes to hoardings, local body politics, or perfect hair, Bhatnagizzle is the man to go to. His will be a long-lasting legacy on the New Zealand political scene.

3. Richard Meros - mysterious author

The man who would be Helen Clark's younger lover enjoyed a brief moment in the literatti limelight this year following reviews in The Guardian, The Age, and, most infamously, the Dominion Post. Meros has been largely ignored by anyone with any common sense, but his newfound fame has, apparently, made him quite a hit with the ladies.

2. Alan Duff - author/man of infinite wisdom

Is someone going to finally stand up and say: who bloody well cares about the rights of minorities? How about the rights of the majority? How about the rights of the children? Who cares about Alan Duff? Who cares?

Not me.

1. Joe Tui - fish 'n chips baron

A surprise selection, perhaps, not least because of the regionally-specific nature of Tui's operations. Owner-operator of Tui's takeaways in Dunedin, 'Mr. Tui' as he is affectionately known to his patrons, is the dominant force in the underground fish 'n chips market in the Otago region. Tui has been feeding drunken Dunedin students for many years now as they make the fabled trek across the road from the Captain Cook Tavern to stuff their faces on chunky greasy goodness. One could say Tui is feeding the future face of the nation. And with rumours circulating of an impending Tui's franchise with tentacles reaching into the North Island, this man may be set to grasp culinary power on an unprecedented scale.