Problems with attitudes or red tape devastating

John Lapsley
John Lapsley
Dear Uncle Norm,

For months I have been trying to get council’s resource consent to build a new house. It’s a simple project — three bedrooms, two baths, a kitchen lounge, twin garage, and an inside dog kennel which is plumbed, carpeted, and has air con. (Algernon, our Pomeranian, is delicate).

I’m getting nowhere. I am plagued by council’s impertinent queries regarding Algy’s continence and plumbing. They insist I put a safety handrail beside his toilet, widen his kennel door, and replace his pure wool Bremworth carpet with waterproof linoleum.

It’s red tape on red tape. What can I do?

Edna Tooth,


I have no useful advice on defeating red tape. The problem is red tape has become an essential service. It is the embalming fluid of bureaucracy — something that gives its dead hand the appearance of life.

There’s a telling quote from Dr Wernher von Braun, the Nazi rocket builder who masterminded the US man-on-the-moon project. “To conquer the universe one has to solve two problems — gravity and red tape. We may have mastered gravity,” von Braun allowed.

The purpose of red tape is to keep us safe from the consequences of common sense. That said, have you thought of putting Algernon’s kennel in the back yard? You could give him an outside fireplace, a daisy lawn, and a long drop. (With safety handrail).

Failing all that, try telling them Algy has special needs. He is a Pomeranian struggling to overcome his belief he’s a Spoodle.

Dear Uncle Norm,

Arrowtown’s autumn festival has become a puffed-up, commercial intrusion on the peaceful lives of its villagers.

Last weekend, there were so many noisome visitors, locals couldn’t find a parking space. The crowded fair stalls were awash with tawdry tat, and the Grand Parade was much like previous years — half of the town’s brats wave cheekily from various club floats, while the other half goggle back. And as for their parents!

Enough of these crass, capitalist, faux-festive events. For the sake of the country’s most beautiful township, put an end to this event.



That wins you Letter of the Week, Bert. However, I suggest you seek urgent psychiatric help.

Lie back on the couch, snuffle into your hankie, and tell the counsellor your tragedy is being a killjoy. A twit, a twerp, and a tosser. Both a ning and a nong, a snollygoster, a ninnyhammer, and a pettifogging pillock.

A wacko, a bonehead, a dingbat, and a cockalorum. Probably a mook, definitely a dropkick, and conceivably, a Blues fan.

Yes, make an appointment. If she’s in luck, your shrink will also be out to lunch.

Dear Uncle Norm,

I read in Queenstown’s Mountain Scene that an upcoming Arrowtown event has the Honourable Uncle Norm interviewing the ODT’s other resident humorist, Steve Braunias, on the subject: “Is Cancel Culture Strangling Satire?”

I’ve had enough of the likes of you two disrespecting social justice and people with sound opinions.

Your aberrance is advertised for May 9, but it should be banned. The Queenstown Council must cancel the library card of anyone who registers for it. Hackers ought take down its Eventfinda ticket website. And there must be protests outside your local pharmacy, which I hear furtively sells Braunias tickets from under its counter.

Willard Wake

Willard, old fruit, you gnaw at the wrong end of the stick. Yes, we’ll talk about cancel culture and satire, but the prime subject is Braunias’ new book, Missing Persons. It looks behind several of New Zealand’s most notorious murders. Braunias has a very special ability to bring a courtroom and its technicalities to life. We’ll discuss his gripping account of the Grace Millane case, and his analysis of the Mark Lundy trials.

Reviewing Missing Persons, the ODT’s own court reporter, Rob Kidd, noted that Braunias shows us the difference between great — and merely good — crime reporting. Uncle Norm, a court reporter too, during his gilded youth, agrees with Rob.

Dear Uncle Norm,

Why is Dunedin having the Maori name Otepoti slowly imposed on it? It makes no sense. Otepoti — a fairly short-lived Maori settlement on the site of Central Dunedin — was abandoned 40 years before the settler ships.

There is a case for calling New Zealand Aotearoa. But Otepoti instead of Dunedin? The name itself suggests Otepoti was neither important nor specific. Its underwhelming translation is “a corner of the harbour”.

Must we always undervalue our European heritage?

Ronald Square

We could do worse. When Dunedin was declared a Unesco City of Literature, our city council (ever careful with your money) commissioned a consultant to name this haven of culture. She suggested “Otepoti — He Puna Auaha.”

Which means: “Otepoti — Spring of Orgasmic Energy.”

For some odd reason, it hasn’t taken.

 - John Lapsley is an Arrowtown writer.



You know little of that corner where we would wait for the orgasmic spring. You also represent the prosaic European view that a place does not exist if nobody lives there. Bet you think Norman By exists, eh?


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