The public announcement in 1974 that the Emu was selected as the national bird of Australia rankled New Zealand residents. But flaunting the fact that their little cousin to the east didn’t even have a national bird fanned the flames of anger. New Zealanders took to the streets in protest. They demanded that Prime Minister Al Wazlate take action.
Al, a small slightly built man, didn’t like demonstrators outside his window creating negative publicity. He wanted to make the protest go away. He had to come up with a national bird to erase the Aussies embarrassment of his home country.
What to do? Where to start? Wazlate’s committee members would be critical to solving this problem quickly. Gladys Hander came to mind, since she had made a career of never offending anyone. Looking like everyone’s grandmother, she was subtly attractive with a warm smile and soothing voice. Yes, she’d be the glue to keep the committee together.
The action man Wazlate chose for his committee was Ben Bulli. Broad shouldered with a thick build, his stern facial expression was very intimidating. A strong-willed and dedicated man, Bulli was known for shoving bills through committees and getting legislation passed. The Prime Minister was confident Bulli would keep his committee agenda moving forward.
Having learned from previous committee assignments, Wazlate knew he needed a devil’s advocate on the team. The best in New Zealand was a female counsel woman, Ina Chell. An experienced courtroom defender, Ina’s tall imposing build ensured that she attracted attention. Hard as a rock to impress or move off of her conservative agenda, Wazlate was sure Ina would keep Bulli from running away with the committee’s mission.
Coe Oprativ had to be the fourth member of the committee, since he was the most democratic of legislators and could pull the members together to select a national bird. His movie-star looks and soothing voice caused everyone he met to succumb to his charms. If anyone could lead this committee to a quick resolution it would be Coe.
At the committee’s first meeting Ben Bulli took the lead.
“Ok, let’s get this thing done. I’ve got more important things to do than pick out a bird.”
As Bulli unfolded a large poster he said, “Now, here are all the birds of New Zealand. All we have to do is pick out the prettiest one and we’re done.”
Ina Chell reacted, saying, “What makes you think the prettiest bird should be our national bird. Are you saying only pretty women should represent out country? Why do you think pretty is even a criteria?”
Gladys Hander jumped into the fray. “Listen everyone, we need to give Ben a chance here. After all, what harm is it to look at the birds he’s presenting?”
So, they looked at the foldout poster of New Zealand birds. Shaking his head, Coe Oprativ said, “I’m sorry to say, there are no pretty birds in New Zealand. Actually the Emu Australia picked isn’t attractive either. What would you say if we created a national bird?”
Everyone looked at Coe dumfounded.
“Okay, wise guy,” Bulli said, “how do you propose to create a bird that will fool two national powers?”
“Well,” Coe responded, ” let me share my idea. “Why don’t you give me that Kiwi before you slice it.”
After Bulli handed Coe Oprativ his Kiwi, Coe asked Gladys if she’d pass him a fork from their tray of snacks.
“Okay now, if we pretend this fuzzy fruit is the bird, we can bend this fork to create outrageously large feet.”
Ben Bulli wasn’t buying it. “Listen Coe, where you’re going with this is so ugly it’ll never be accepted.”
“There you go again!” Ina said. “Thinking everything has to be beautiful. Have you ever looked at yourself in a mirror?”
“Now, now!” Gladys interjected. “Let’s be respectful to each other, please.”
“You may be right, Ben.” Coe said. “But there’s a lot more to this, so let me finish.”
“Coe,” Gladys said, “what are you going to do about a bill?”
Selecting a wooden pencil from a group on the table Coe snapped it in half. Poking it into the Kiwi fruit and resting the other end on the table he said, “There is your bill.”
“Oh, my God!” Ina said. “That is simply outrageous.”
“Well that’s the point,” Ben Bulli said. “To upstage the Aussies we have to be outrageous to gather attention away from them.”
“Now, there’s more to this story.” spoke Coe Oprativ. “Picture this bird as invisible.”
Everyone looked at Coe as if he’d lost his mind.
“Invisible?” Asked Gladys. “That’s impossible! How in the world can a bird be invisible?”
Coe smiled at his doubters, before saying, “First of all, we make this bird nocturnal, meaning anyone wanting to see our national bird has to wander into the darkness.”
Ina Chell reacted. “And what are they going to think when they come upon a Kiwi fruit with forks for feet and a pencil for a bill?”
“That’s the best part, Ina, if they find the bird they won’t see those things. You see, it needs a defense mechanism from predators. Let’s say it collapses, and hugs the ground like a rock. There would be no way you would know it was a bird, right?”
“Let me get this straight,” Ben Bulli said, “Our national bird is going to be invisible because it’s nocturnal and looks like a rock if anyone gets close to it?”
“Yes,” Coe said, “that’s it Ben. And, we can make the bird anything we want it to be, sell souvenir birds, shirts, and even shoe polish at marketplaces everywhere. Our national bird could be more popular than the Australian Emu ever thought of being.”
“Ok,” Gladys Hander said, “If we buy into the craziness, what are we going to call this bird?”
Both Ben and Coe scratched their heads, not having a clue what to name the bird. Gladys patiently looked at each of them, waiting for an answer. The answer came from Ina.
“You know,” she said, “looking at this goofy thing Coe made I wonder if we should simply call it a Kiwi.”
“What!” Ben shouted.
“Well, where was your idea, huh?” Ina asked.
“Listen,” Gladys said, “that may not be all that bad. Look at it this way, every time someone mentions our national bird, they’ll be promoting out national fruit.”
“See,” Coe said, “and because the Kiwi bird is invisible, there won’t be any conflict in what the bird or the fruit look like. It’s perfect. I say we call the bird a Kiwi!”
The other three committee members looked at each other for a moment before Gladys chimed in. “I’m in. I can see our national bird being a Kiwi.”
Bulli nodded, saying “Ok, I’m in.”
They all looked at Ina. She didn’t budge.
“Ok, Ina,” Coe said, “Are you in or out?”
“I’m just thinking that we can make a big impact on our economy from this National bird if we have an artist create a Kiwi image like you have there and sell ceramic miniatures and T-shirts in souvenir shops through the country. If you’ll agree, then I’ll support the Kiwi as our National bird.
Proudly, the Prime Minister stood on a balcony overlooking a street full of constituents anxiously awaiting his announcement. As he stepped up to the microphone he unfolded a T-shirt with the image of a Kiwi.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this is a momentous day in the history of New Zealand. We have selected our national bird, and I’m so proud to introduce it to you. Please welcome the Kiwi!”
The crowd sucked in a collective gasp.
“You’ve got to be kidding!” a man yelled.
“That’s the ugliest thing I’ve ever seen!” yelled another.
“Wait a minute, sir.” The Prime Minister shouted. “It’s not as ugly as the Australian Emu!”
A woman yelled out. “I’ve never seen such a thing in my life!”
“That’s not a New Zealand bird,” others chimed in.
Al Wazlate waved his arms hoping to silence the crowd. “Listen to me, he said. This is a New Zealand bird, you just haven’t seen it. It is nocturnal. Because it can’t fly it hugs the ground to protect itself. It’s the most unusual bird in the world, and it’s our national bird.”
The disbelieving crowd dispersed grumbling. And, for weeks after the announcement, forests were lit up with flash light beams as locals competed to be the first to find a Kiwi.