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BBC radio host offends with New Zealand comments - Visa Bureau responds

by Dominic 13/01/2012 16:41:00
Toby Foster, host of BBC Sheffield's early morning radio show has hit the headlines by not just offending every Kiwi, but getting his facts wrong in the process. 

Speaking about the recent news of tourist Erin Langworthy's dramatic tale of bungee jumping over crocodile infested waters in Zambia, only for the bungee cord to snap, Foster (currently billed as 'Radio Sheffield's resident comedian', having previously appeared in a supporting role in hit British comedy Phoenix Nights) landed himself in hot water by claiming life in New Zealand offers "sod all".

Taking the plunge

"Of course New Zealand people do a lot of bungee jumping and we're told it's because they've got such wonderful scenery and such great bungee. But it's not, what New Zealand has got is sod all. Nothing there, there's nothing there."

"And so this New Zealander, she's gone off to Africa in the hope she will be eaten by a hippo or something because there will be something happening her boring New Zealander life"

Twisting the knife

Foster didn't seem to think he had insulted New Zealand and its citizens enough when he continued that bungee jumping was so popular because every New Zealander must get to a point in their lives when they think "I might as well jump myself off a bridge".

Eager to get in on the hole-digging, his co-presenter then quipped that bungee jumping was "like trial suicide".

Foster then decided to take a swipe at New Zealanders' penchant for extreme sports: "there's a new sport and you get a nail gun and nail your hand to a tree and people will say 'did a New Zealander think of that?' and you'll say 'yeah, it's because they've got nothing else there'".

Sinking below the belt

The only positive thing Foster had to say about New Zealand was Christchurch yet it seemed his praises were insincere as he quickly managed to cut too close to the bone when he finished "And even that had an earthquake" - referring to the 6.3 magnitude earthquake which killed almost 200 people in 2011.

What Toby got wrong

Erin Langworthy is "that New Zealand girl"

Foster's entire 'jumping off' point for the tirade was completely incorrect; the tourist whom the news story refers to, Erin Langworthy is actually Australian, although that didn't stop Foster referring to her as "that New Zealand girl".

New Zealand - "sod all there" (apart from
all this).

There's nothing in New Zealand

New Zealand is one of the most popular tourist destinations in the world due to its exotic location, breathtaking landscapes and, funnily enough, great extreme sports. The popularity of New Zealand's natural beauty reached new heights in the 2000s when it served as the backdrop for Peter Jackson's iconic Lord of the Rings trilogy.

Indeed, Foster is more than likely to have alienated more than just any Kiwi listeners he may have had as New Zealand is one of Britain’s favourite holiday locations with almost a quarter of a million Britons deciding to make the trip in 2011 alone. They weren't disappointed either, with UK travellers giving their New Zealand holiday an average rating of 9.3 out of 10.

According to a study by Natwest International, New Zealand is ranked by UK expats behind only Canada in offering the best quality of life. With the UK struggling to make ends meet, more and more UK citizens are choosing to get a New Zealand visa and start a new life.

New Zealanders come up with extreme sports.

At least not disproportionately so. Bungee jumping is popular all over the world and not even a recent idea; a tribe on Pentecost Island in the South Pacific have been performing 'land dives', jumping from tall wooden platforms with their feet tied in vines for decades. The first modern bungee jump however, was opened in Bristol by the Oxford University Dangerous Sports Club in 1979.

In fact, of most common modern extreme sports, New Zealand is credited with coming up with only one: zorbing, climbing in a giant inflatable ball and rolling down a hill.

"Jump myself off a bridge" is a grammatical error

Not satisfied with insulting Kiwis with simply incorrect facts, Foster also chose to do it with incorrect grammar.

What Toby got right

Despite Foster's tirade going on for quite some time, he managed to get few things right and perhaps just to make his situation even worse, the only two things he managed to get right were also said in jest.

New Zealand has great bungee jumping

New Zealand's bungee jumping is some of
the best in the world.
(CC) Will Ellis

New Zealand has bungee jumping all across New Zealand including some of the highest jumps in the world, some of the most beautiful jump locations and, with some of the most stringent safety regulations in the world, some of the safest jumps in the world.

There are hippos in Zambia

The hippopotamus, the third largest land mammal after elephants and white rhinos does indeed inhabit the country where the original bungee jump took place. In fact, with over 40,000, Zambia has the largest population in the world.

New Zealand's reaction

New Zealand is home to four million people, none of whom are likely to have taken the story particularly well. Angered Kiwis immediately took to the internet to voice their anger at Foster's outburst and twitter is still rife with tweets about the BBC Sheffield radio host.

However, despite Foster's clearly bitter rant containing more flaws than Erin Langworthy's bungee cord, several people decided to, somewhat unfairly, insult Sheffield.

As Foster has been forced by BBC bosses to "unreservedly apologise", insulting Sheffield may be not be the best idea, especially seeing as how the University of Sheffield has a long standing relationship with New Zealand.

Sheffield has welcomed plenty of Kiwis to the city for their studies, and plenty of Sheffield's youth have gone the other way on a New Zealand working holiday visa to live and work for upto a year and maybe even try their hand at bungee jumping.

The original story

On New Years Eve, 22-year-old Australian tourist Erin Langworthy plunged into the Zambezi River after her bungee cord snapped. Despite falling 110 metres into crocodile and ironically, hippopotamus infested waters and then having to swim to the edge of the river with her legs tied together, Ms Langworthy survived with only severe bruising and cuts.

Zambian Tourist Minster Given Lubinda has since offered to repeat the jump with Ms Langworthy to demonstrate the jump's safeness.

- Dominic Ladden-Powell is Online Editor for the New Zealand Visa Bureau.

Visa Bureau takes no responsibility and cannot be held accountable for action taken as a result of any information or comment provided on this blog, and we recommend that you always seek a number of opinions before making a decision regarding your migration or visa application. Please refer to the Visa Bureau terms of use for more information.

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