Overnight, British-American comedian and Late Night Tonight host John Oliver launched what Stuff has described as an “alarmingly aggressive” campaign in support of the pūteketeke being crowned Bird of the Century.
Vote Kiwi Campaign Manager Erin Reilly says Forest & Bird’s annual Bird of the Year campaign is a highlight on all Kiwi bird-lovers’ calendars, and for an American talk-show host to swoop in and hijack it is just outrageous.
“It’s shocking, to be honest,” says Reilly. “New Zealand politics haven’t been too flash lately and everyone campaigning in Bird of the Century was hoping to have a break from all that palaver. We’re here to have a little fun. On behalf of all bird species campaigning in Bird of the Century, the last thing we want to deal with is a random B-grade American celeb swooping in and hijacking this iconic competition.”
Reilly says Oliver doesn’t even like birds.
“He doesn’t even like New Zealand, to be honest. Any time we feature on his show it’s so he can laugh at us. He’s done dancing dildos, Laser Kiwi, New Zealand being left off maps all the time – we’re the butt of his jokes and he’s doing it again with his campaign to get Pūteketeke to the top.
“I mean, he said it himself: this is a classic example of America interfering in foreign elections. We Kiwis need to band together and take Bird of the Century back.”
The Vote Kiwi campaign is calling for anyone who identifies themselves as a Kiwi to vote for their namesake – the kiwi. “The kiwi has done so much for New Zealand and it’s time we gave him a little credit,” Reilly says. “New Zealanders have borrowed the kiwi’s name to identify ourselves for more than a century. The kiwi is in company names, logos, ads – there’s even a fruit named after the little guy. Kids in the ‘80s and ‘90s went to bed because the Goodnight Kiwi told them to. The New Zealand rugby league team is called the Kiwis. The kiwi is on the wings of our Airforce – ironically.
“The kiwi is New Zealand’s most iconic species. Any of the birds in the running are worthy of being voted Bird of the Year – they’re all incredible. But we say for the Century, it’s got to be the kiwi.”
The kiwi has the backing of several famous human Kiwis.
“For over 100 years the symbol of the kiwi has been used to identify us as New Zealanders,” says former All Blacks coach Sir Graham Henry.
“If it weren’t for the kiwi, where would we be?” asks New Zealand’s greatest Olympian of all time Dame Lisa Carrington.
“We think it’s time us Kiwis gave a little a little credit to the bird that gave us their name,” says classic Kiwi rocker Peter Urlich.
The Vote Kiwi camp is run inhouse by Save the Kiwi, the New Zealand charity for, you guessed it, saving the kiwi. Save the Kiwi Executive Director Michelle Impey says Vote Kiwi’s lobbying for kiwi to win doesn’t mean they’re anti any of the other participants.
“As the name suggests Save the Kiwi loves kiwi, but we actually support all species of native wildlife here in Aotearoa. The work that Save the Kiwi does on the ground is for the benefit of the whole forest, and every entrant in Bird of the Century would be a worthy winner for Bird of the Year. But Bird of the Century? It’s got to be the kiwi.”
To vote for the kiwi, visit www.votekiwi.nz.
For more information about Bird of the Century, visit www.birdoftheyear.org.