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Top Kiwis reveal the risks they plan to take in 2017

by December 31, 2016 General
These Kiwi celebrities are planning on pushing the boat out in 2017.


These Kiwi celebrities are planning on pushing the boat out in 2017.

2016 was a planet-wide shambles — which all the more reason to try some new directions in 2017. Here, prominent Kiwis reveal a big risk they plan to take this year, from an epic sea voyage to a spiritual adventure, or simply mastering the ukulele.

Sam Neill, actor and winemaker
This year I’m going to learn the piano. Oh, wait. I’m getting on a bit now, and I may have left it too late. Dammit. OK. Instead I will just get a little bit better on the ukulele. It’s a cheering-up instrument, and in 2017 we are going to need all the cheer-ups we can get.

Michele A’Court, comedian and columnist
I’m going to Trump’s America in April. Except not Trump’s America, really – the New Orleans Jazz Festival, which may well be an oasis of out-and-proud diversity, protest, solidarity and hope. Hoping not to see too many “Make America Great Again” trucker hats in my favourite bar in my favourite town.

Sam Neill: is this the year he'll finally learn how to play the piano?


Sam Neill: is this the year he’ll finally learn how to play the piano?

Tim Shadbolt, Invercargill mayor
My aim is to build a dinghy and row to Stewart Island. It would show the local community that just because I am 70 it doesn’t mean I’m not strong and fit. The present record for rowing across Foveaux Strait is 10 hours. I would like to break that record.

Guy Williams, comedian
Nice try disguising the “What’s your new year’s resolution?” question we answer every year. My answer is the same as always: Get my “no regrets” tattoo removed and replace Nadia Lim as the official New Zealand Avocado Ambassador. Plus I’m hoping the Auckland housing market will slow and I’ll be able to save up enough money to rent a house.

Nadia Lim, chef
Travelling to Samoa and Malaysia with a teething, overstimulated/excited eight-month-old! It could go either way: a fantastic family holiday, or a disaster where we end up needing a holiday after the “holiday”.

Michele A'Court: off to Trump-land.

Michele A’Court: off to Trump-land.

Dick Frizzell, artist and entrepreneur
I’ll be releasing nationally my pull-along wooden toy, “Kiwi-Kiwi”, intending to challenge the hegemony of the Buzzy Bee (a bee? How Kiwi is a bee?!). I made the wonky Uncle-Albert original for my grandchildren in 2001, and it’s finally made the tortuous journey to China and back. I’m irrationally proud of this little fella.

Susan Devoy, Race Relations Commissioner
My personal risk is, possibly, entering the half-marathon for the World Masters in Auckland. Watch this space.

Joy Cowley, author
Ignoring age, I’m starting a two-year course that combines Ignatian and Maori spirituality. While this may be new, it is part of lifelong awareness of the “knowing” beyond our five senses.

Tim Shadbolt: up the creek, or rather, crossing Foveaux Strait.


Tim Shadbolt: up the creek, or rather, crossing Foveaux Strait.

Lynda Hallinan, gardening guru
In my early 30s I spent my winters in Europe, mostly visiting garden shows as a journalist. Having kids has put the kibosh on passport-stamp collecting, but in 2017 I’m looking forward to my first intrepid journey in five years – to India. Hopefully I’ll also get Delhi belly and ditch a few kilograms, otherwise 2017 also looks set to be the year I – sigh – rejoin the gym.

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Mai Chen, constitutional lawyer
To try life in reverse: go slower, do less, simplify, consume less, do more of my bucket list, put nothing off that really matters. If not now, then when?

Greg O’Brien, writer and artist
In September I travelled to Lake Waikaremoana on the day demolition was due to commence on John Scott’s architectural masterpiece, the Aniwaniwa Visitors’ Centre. After a fascinating few hours exploring this remarkable, profound building inside and out, and a tense few hours protesting on the road in front, I swore to myself I would never set foot in the region again if the building was demolished. I felt certain that good sense would prevail and it would be saved.
With Scott’s irreplaceable bicultural metaphor now sacked, pulverised, partially recycled and the rest trashed, I have lately decided that I will, after all, return to the site in 2017 – maybe to write and paint some suitable response, or just to wonder how it was that such a rich, complex, challenging and unique statement could have a government-sanctioned bulldozer put through it.

Guy Williams: ready for a vegetable-related argument with Nadia Lim.


Guy Williams: ready for a vegetable-related argument with Nadia Lim.

Mark Gilbert, US ambassador to New Zealand
As a professional baseball player, I took a risk every time I faced a pitch. When I left baseball due to injury and entered banking, I took a risk changing careers. By deciding early to work with a young senator named Barack Obama who was thinking about running for president, I took a risk dedicating years to fight for change. As I take on new challenges ahead, I will use the skills and all I have learned while serving as US Ambassador to extraordinary New Zealand. My “Kiwi toolkit” has prepared me for new risks in 2017.

Gareth Morgan, economist and political novice
Over 2017 I’ll be taking a rational and caring set of policy priorities to the public via The Opportunities Party. The risk is too many people don’t give a stuff.

Ruth Spencer, comedian and columnist
I’m going to update my phone’s operating system even though I’m not completely sure I know all my app passwords.

Nadia Lim: a Pacific adventure with child in tow


Nadia Lim: a Pacific adventure with child in tow

Te Radar, comedian
“Lyperobius huttoni”. That’s the scientific name for the speargrass weevil. I’m terrified of pronouncing scientific names incorrectly but I shall have to practise as I’m hosting the regional and national FMG Young Farmer of the Year events.

Bill Manhire, poet and academic
I’m determined to throw caution to the wind and get properly to work on my campus novel – though I am willing to explore the possibility of reverse crowd-funding, just to find out how many people would pledge serious dollars to forestall publication.

Robyn Toomath, endocrinologist and health campaigner
I want to concentrate less on humans and more on plants. I plan to devote myself to serious experimentation in the optimum density for strawberry plants, the effect of netting on blackbird behaviour and potatoes, and the ideal time to lift shallots. (In 2016 I cracked composting and hen-whispering.)

Dick Frizzell: taking on the Buzzy Bee.


Dick Frizzell: taking on the Buzzy Bee.

David Seymour, Act Party leader

In 2017, for the first time, I will lead a political party into an election. I’ve watched a lot of election campaigns, but this time my party’s performance comes down to me.

Margaret Mutu, Professor of Maori studies
Sorting out my overloaded email inboxes.

Joy Cowley: getting a bit spiritual


Joy Cowley: getting a bit spiritual

Andrew Becroft, Children’s Commissioner
My role as an advocate for New Zealand’s 1.12 million under-18-year-olds is itself a risky business. One risk will be to challenge the new government leadership team to start meeting one of the UN Sustainable Development Goals (we are a signatory) to reduce poverty by half, including child poverty, by 2030. And personally, I’d like to complete the Tongariro Crossing and/or the Otago Rail Trail.

William Rolleston, Federated Farmers president
I want to raise $1m to fund research into using “gene drive” for mammalian pest eradication. Gene drive doesn’t involve poisons, traps or guns. Stoats, weasels and possums gone for good, before 2050.

Malcolm Rands, Ecostore founder
I’ll be focussing my energies on projects through a not-for-profit called ‘Fairground Foundation’. One of the first will be the launch of a crowdfunding platform, “Bucket”, focussed on conservation and restoration of wildlife.

Gareth Morgan: into the political fray.


Gareth Morgan: into the political fray.

Michael Van de Elzen, chef
I’ll be establishing a farm-based cookery school on my farm in Muriwai. We have to go through this little thing called resource consent which is terrifying!

Fiona Farrell, author
Our neighbours no longer want walkers crossing their land, and since our property is totally surrounded by theirs, bang goes the second half of the Banks Peninsula Track, along with my husband’s accommodation business here at Otanerito. So after 23 years here, we’re off in May: new city, new house, new view, no visible means of support other than my government super. That feels like a risk: 50% exciting, 50% scary.

Astley Nathan, Flava radio host
In 2017 I want to chuck on the gloves and overcome my fear of stepping into the ring. I’ve never punched anyone in my life outside of training so I’m pretty nervous about it.

Te Radar: at a pronounced disadvantage with Latin plant names.


Te Radar: at a pronounced disadvantage with Latin plant names.

Stephen Sinclair, playwright
I’m going to throw caution to the winds and be positive! There’s any number of reasons not to be, but no good can come of pessimism, even if it’s well-founded! And who knows, maybe affirmation will catch on!

Chris Cahill, Police Association president
Making the permanent move from Auckland to Wellington, and the challenges such as finding somewhere to live that come with that.

Catherine Chidgey, novelist
I’ll spend 2017 editing the novel I wrote over 2016. A new book always represents a risk, but this one is making me particularly twitchy because it’s so different from any writing project I’ve undertaken before; it’s experimental, genre-crossing and highly personal.

Lynda Hallinan: the pros and cons of Delhi belly.

Lynda Hallinan: the pros and cons of Delhi belly.

Michelle Boag, PR consultant and National Party activist
Given more time, and the resources that it would require, I would like to learn Te Reo, but don’t hold me to it, because I thought that last year too.

David Galler, intensive care specialist and author
Speaking out about things that matter: In 2008, the new government immediately allowed unhealthy food and drinks back into our school tuckshops. In late 2016, the new government’s first decision was to replace electric trains with diesel engines on the main trunk line. ‬Really?! In between we have: A rise in child poverty, obesity, diabetes and the working poor; throngs like never before seeking help from the City Mission; a housing crisis; incarceration trumping rehabilitation; increasingly filthy rivers; weasel words about NZ’s commitment to CoP21. These in the face of increasing cuts in stressed health and social services, whilst the government trumpets a surplus for the election-year lolly scramble. I am embarrassed. New Zealand deserves better.

Professor Selina Tusitala Marsh, poet and academic
I feel I’ve used up my “personal risk” quotient in 2016! It’s been a huge year (performances, promotions, PMs digging up my diamonds) and in order to find a home for my book on the first Pacific Women Poets, I need to do something new and not do many new things, so I can give it the time and energy the book, like an understandably petulant child, needs.

Bill Manhire: time for the tell-all campus novel?


Bill Manhire: time for the tell-all campus novel?

Philippa Howden-Chapman, professor of public health
I want to use all the science available to me to improve our rental housing. I want to live in a country where it makes no difference to your wellbeing whether you rent or buy. I want to use our two decades of research to challenge the misconception that government has no role in regulating rental housing.

Gilda Kirkpatrick, socialite and author
To continue to bridge the gap between education and entertainment with my Astarons series. I’d like to continue to make astronomy approachable and entertaining for all genders so we can make a difference in our next generation.

Rob Hamill, champion rower
I’ll be accompanying adventurer Grant Rawlinson as he journeys from Singapore to New Zealand entirely by human power. I’ll join him on his cycle from Darwin to Coffs Harbour, and the following row across the Tasman Sea.

Professor Margaret Mutu isn't looking forward to facing the email chaos.

Professor Margaret Mutu isn’t looking forward to facing the email chaos.

Colin Mathura-Jeffree, celebrity
I am a risk-taker. If you look at the hairstyles I’ve carried throughout my life you realise how fearless I am. Besides that, I have a business opportunity I’ve been headhunted for, which has great risk involved. It’s a dream come true: Colin Mathura-Jeffree 2.0.



Catherine Chidgey: the next novel's going to be even trickier.


Catherine Chidgey: the next novel’s going to be even trickier.

We also asked our panel to describe a change they’d like to see in the world in 2017. Here’s a selection of their responses:

My friend was racially abused the other night as he took a bus home in Lambton Quay. He spends his entire life helping other people and some guy called him a n***** and told him to go back to where he comes from. But then a stranger stepped in and defended my friend. I hope all of us aspire to be that stranger who stood up for my mate and not that stranger who abused him. I hope 2017 will be the year where more people care for each other and stand up for each others human rights. – Susan Devoy

I would like to see international cooperation to end war and famine. Also I would like to see Paywave accepted in all stores. Actually scrap that last one, it probably isn’t as pressing as the first two. – Guy Williams

Selina Tusitala Marsh: the big plan is to have less planned.


Selina Tusitala Marsh: the big plan is to have less planned.

Good quality, fresh food easily available and accessible for everyone in the world. On a more achievable note, how cool would it be if this summer real fruit icecreams were free for everyone? – Nadia Lim

I’d like to see the thinking of writers like Yuval Noah Harari, Steven Pinker, Matt Ridley et al go mainstream, and the general populace gains a less hysterically doomed perspective on the world. Things will never be perfect but they are without doubt better than they were. The news never reports all the planes that land safely. – Dick Frizzell

I’d love to see our food be as nature meant it to be. If New Zealand set the goal of being a 100% organic and GMO-free food producer we would create a massive economic advantage, and our waterways would see a dramatic improvement, as would ‘brand’ New Zealand. – Rob Hamill

Gilda Kirkpatrick: to infinity and beyond.

Gilda Kirkpatrick: to infinity and beyond.

We are small and isolated here at the bottom of the Pacific, but we can lead by example. We can show more compassion and generosity towards refugees. Let’s shame the Australian government by taking those wretched unfortunates off those hellholes Manus and Nauru. I’d like us to stand up to the climate change deniers, and do more than our fair share to curb carbon emissions. I’d like us to stand together on religious tolerance and race relations, to be a beacon of light in an increasingly intolerant world. – Sam Neill

One thing close to my heart is the way we treat our rivers. Without clean water we have nothing. – Michael Vincent, Kaikoura paua rescuer

That the rights of Maori, as encapsulated in the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, are actually implemented and upheld in this country, starting with the constitutional transformation that was published on February 6 2016 in a report by Matike Mai Aotearoa. – Margaret Mutu

Colin Mathura-Jeffree: everything's a risk.


Colin Mathura-Jeffree: everything’s a risk.

Swimmable rivers. I’m from the South Island and we spent summers in sparkling rivers: Waima, Pelorus, Wairau. Building little rock dams, finding deep green swimming holes that changed every year, wearing holes in your togs trying to bodysurf the rapids. Pointing at a stick and yelling “eel!” to watch the other kids flail to the bank in panic. I want that for my kid, particularly the bit with the eel stick because it was hilarious even if my brother totally pushed me towards the stick to get away. – Ruth Spencer

I would like to launch a “Ten Tunnels” project linking the abundant rain that falls on the West Coast of the South Island to the fertile plains of Canterbury, Otago and Southland. It would provide New Zealand with an endless supply of renewable energy to warm our homes and power our cars. – Tim Shadbolt

Hopefully 2017 will see the Anglican Trustees in Christchurch finally come to their senses and get on with rebuilding the Christchurch Cathedral. – William Rolleston

Dame Susan Devoy: still in the race.


Dame Susan Devoy: still in the race.

How about a washing machine that washes, irons and folds? Am I the only one in the world that loves my underwear ironed and folded?! – Michael Van de Elzen

I’d like to see a renewed respect for good old-fashioned factual accuracy. The internet, that labyrinthian ll-immersive sewer of lies, half-truths and innuendo has made it so much harder to hold politicians and big business to account. – Stephen Sinclair

I’d love to see a let-up in the tsunami of plastic flooding our everyday lives: supermarket bags, sushi containers, drinking straws, single-use cutlery and cups, cosmetic microbeads, Nespresso pods, individually shrink-wrapped cucumbers, the mountains of polystyrene chips used to protect my eBay purchases in transit (most recently a pirate costume for my cat – basically indestructible, even if Jiffy’s dignity is not). – Catherine Chidgey

I would like the people who fund our schools and universities to consider whether recent failures of intelligence and decency in Western democracies have any connection with the concurrent decline in support for the Humanities. – Bill Manhire

Having just celebrated Christmas, a story of a baby born into marginalised and poor circumstances who went on to make an enduring impact, my hope is that all New Zealand children will experience material advantage, security and love. For they will shape the New Zealand of tomorrow. – Andrew Becroft

 – Sunday Star Times