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Top Gear in hot water - again

2013-03-11 12:10

SPIRITUAL GROUND: Top Gear has found itself in controversy once again as it plans to film a high-speed stunt on "spiritual ground" on the Ninety Mile Beach (above). (Inset: from left - Richard Hammond, Jeremy Clarkson and James Ma

LONDON, England - Top Gear, one of the BBC's most successful programmes which has run into plenty of controversy along the way, has another issue it has to deal with.

The London Daily Mail reported that the show has sparked a major row in New Zealand after authorities were forced to apologise to Maoris for letting the show film a high-speed stunt on a "spiritual" beach.


Staff from the BBC's flagship motoring show are set to descend on Ninety Mile Beach this week (March 11 – 17, 2013) to record a 150km/h scene for the programme, which is fronted by Jeremy Clarkson.

Although it seems the TV programme isn’t completely at fault in this situation as the Far North District Council of New Zealand had to grant permission for the closure of the beach without going through its normal process. The council’s decision was rushed because the request came in just 14 days before the beach was wanted, the Mail explained.

The move has led to an outcry by Maoris after the broadcaster was granted special permission to use the beach - also known as Te Oneroa-a-Tohe, used for food gathering, recreation and spiritual reasons - at short notice. The filming schedule means a 50km stretch of the beach, which is also classed as a public road with a speed limit of 100km/h, could be closed for several hours a day for perhaps a week.


Five Maori iwi (tribes) - Te Rarawa, Te Aupouri, Ngai Takoto, Ngati Kuri, and Ngati Kahu - have custodianship of the beach but the council only approached Ngati Kuri for permission to grant the road closure outside the normal process.

According to the Daily Mail, the council spokesman apologised to the iwi for the lack of consultation, adding that the beach would only be closed in short stretches for just five minutes at a time during the high-speed scenes. Other stretches would be shut down for up to 45 minutes at a time on two of the other days of filming.

The spokesman said: "The council has apologised (to the other iwi) that we didn't take the consultation far enough and we will be taking steps to ensure appropriate consultation is done in the future.”

Adding to Top Gear’s controversial reputation is it’s like-wise presenter Jeremy Clarkson, who has done a fair share to offend some viewers. To name a few:

In November 2008 he made a joke about how tough it is to change gear in a lorry - and linked it to the Suffolk Strangler Stephen Wright, who murdered sex workers in Ipswich.

Clarkson said: “Change gear, change gear, change gear, check mirror, murder a prostitute, change gear, change gear, murder. That's a lot of effort in a day.”

In February 2009, Clarkson famously called then-prime minister Gordon Brown a “one-eyed Scottish idiot”.

A year later he illustrated dangerous driving conditions with a joke about a woman in a burka wearing a red G-string, which was branded “distasteful”.

Spin doctor Alastair Campbell revealed on his blog in the same month that in an un-aired comment Clarkson was asked about gay rights and he replied, “I demand the right not to be bummed.”

In other blunders:

• He compared a Ferrari to a person with special needs and the presenter's called Mexicans “lazy”, “feckless” and “flatulent”.
• He also said long queues at airport control could be solved by “a bit of racism
• He was caught parking in a disabled driver 'sbay while filming - receiving large numbers of complaints.
• Earlier this year (2013) he compared a Japanese car to the Elephant Man and people with “growths on their faces”.
• Called his LG flat screen ecofeature so dim "it looks like its being presented by Lenny Henry in a cave".
• One of his most shocking moments came on ‘The One Show’, where he said that striking public sector workers “should be shot in front of their families”.

The BBC Trust's editorial standards committee this week gave him another slap on the wrist for the scripted remarks, ruling that he had “strayed into an offensive stereotypical assumption”.

Clarkson was forced to apologise and the regulator launched an investigation after his remark sparked around 31 700 complaints. He was later cleared.

Read more on:    jeremy clarkson  |  new zealand  |  top gear

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