The NZ Skeptics are pleased to recognise excellence where it occurs, with our annual Bravo Awards. Each year the New Zealand Skeptics recognise a number of media professionals and those with a high public profile who have provided food for thought, critical analysis and important information on topics of relevance to our interests.

Year Recipient Organisation Reason
2019 Noel O’Hare North & South magazine For the article Psychics like Jeanette Wilson are moving into the wellness industry and it’s dangerous

This well-researched piece explains how some psychics have moved on from allegedly communicating with the dead to the field of wellness, calling themselves ‘intuitives’ or ‘intuitive healers’. The article particularly highlighted Jeanette Wilson, and reported that in her recent shows she had summoned “psychic surgeons” that were healing people, and that she was promoting a “healing powder”. The article also mentioned the work of Susan Gerbic and her stings on psychics (or, as she calls them, “grief vampires”) in the US.

Farah Hancock Newsroom For the article Homeopathic treatment claims to ‘cure’ autism in NZ

The article reported on the introduction to NZ of CEASE therapy (Complete Elimination of Autistic Spectrum Expression) by homeopaths, which is claimed to be a “cure” for vaccine induced autism. The article clearly explained that vaccines do not cause autism and that there is no evidence to support the effectiveness of CEASE therapy.

Tom O’Connor Stuff For the article Snake oil claims allowed to go on too long

The article reported on Dr Mitchell Dean Feller being struck off the register of New Zealand General Practitioners and fined $5000 and ordered to pay $56,100 in costs. His offence was peddling an untested concoction called Te Kiri Gold with claims it could kill cancer cells. This treatment was given publicity when it was taken by former All Black Sir Colin Meads.

2018 David Farrier The Spinoff Special mention – The mystery of Zach, New Zealand’s all-to-miraculous medical AI
Jacob McSweeny Whanganui Chronicle For the article: Whanganui woman says her $4000 water machine is a life-changer, but experts day otherwise
James Mustapic Spinoff TV For the clip: Repressed Memories: Sensing Murder, the show that refuses to die
Sarah Lang North and South Magazine For the article: Breastfeeding: Why is it such a battle ground?
Elanor Black Stuff For the article: I tried a Shakti mat and it wasn’t relaxing for fun
2017 Rob Stock Stuff For his article about money wasted on supplements
Duncan Grieve NZ Herald for his article criticising “Sensing Murder”
Simon Maude Stuff for his article discussing Naturopathy and cancer sufferers speaking out.
2016 Lachlan Forsyth NewsHub for several articles about the benefits of vaccines, and countering misinformation spread by the local anti vaccine groups. Read more…
Dr Jess Berentson-Shaw The Spinoff for some great articles about skeptical parenting, on topics such as critical thinking for parents, the state of midwifery and amber beads. Read more…
Laura Walters Stuff for an article on why the recent quakes weren’t caused by seismic blasting, an ‘unzipping’ faultline or the supermoon. Read more…
Rachel Thomas Stuff for a common sense article on the Superfoods fad. Read more…
Mark Hanna and Mark Honeychurch Society for Science Based Healthcare for exposing misleading claims by chiropractors in a letter published in the New Zealand Medical Journal. Read more…
2015 Rosanna Price Stuff for being one of the very few journalists to cover a skeptical angle on All Black Waisake Naholo’s “miracle” natural cure for a fractured leg bone. Read more…
Simon Mitchell University of Auckland for his very strong rebuttal of claims made in an NZ Herald article entitled: “”Hope is in the air: Hyperbaric chambers – the real deal or a placebo?” Read more…
Adam Smith Massey University for an amazing rebuttal in the Herald to TV3’s emotional 3D programme on Gardasil. Read more…
Ben Albert University of Auckland for his effort in putting together an excellent submission and submitting a letter to the Editor of the NZ Medical Journal, both opposing the Pharmacy Council’s proposed Code of Ethics change. Read more…
2014 Graeme Hill RadioLive for his ongoing promotion of science and challenging of pseudoscience on Radio Live.
Russel Norman Green Party for quickly responding to Steffan Browning’s comments and stating that this was not something the Green Party would support as they take “an evidence based approach”.
TV One Breakfast Show TV One for intelligent coverage of the dangers of Miracle Mineral Solution. And Medsafe publically stating that MMS “is not a miracle cure for anything”.
2013 Shelley Bridgeman New Zealand Herald for her March 12 item on ‘Can we communicate with dead people?’ and a May 2 piece on “Is homeopathy a sham?”

“It’s unusual to see a reporter take on the exploitainment or alternative health industries in any depth, and refreshing to see a publication pointing out the unethical manipulation that is involved.” Read more…

Darcy Cowan SciBlogs for getting the Immunisation Awareness Society status corrected within the Charities Register

“Our Charities Register should be for those organisations which are genuine charities, genuinely interested in the likes of education and awareness, not spreading misinformation.” Read more…

2012 Margo White New Zealand Listener for her on-going health columns

A number of White’s columns were nominated for a Bravo, such as the item “Lies, Lies and Eyes” which reported research indicating there is no evidence for the claims by proponents of neurolinguistic programming (NLP) to be able to tell if a person is lying or not simply by looking at the direction in which they glance.

“It’s great to see informed writing on health issues, based on research and evidence, rather than the large amount of low-grade items we usually get based on press releases and thinly disguised advertorial material.”

Clive Solomon Whanganui District Health Board for supporting evidence-based medicine as the core focus for hospital care

“It’s rare for public figures to come out against these ‘soft’ services; it’s easier to ignore the ethical and evidential issues associated with claims that these kinds of practices actually help to treat illness or disability beyond exploiting the well-recognised placebo effect.”

2011 Janna Sherman Greymouth Star for her item “Sceptics revel in Hokitika ‘earthquake’ non-event” (March 14 2011)

Ken Ring predicted an Alpine Fault rupture and/or an extreme weather event which would require Civil Defense to prepare for gales and heavy rain at the Hokitika Wildfoods Festival in March. As Sherman’s report noted:

“The 22nd annual Wildfoods Festival on Saturday was held under sunny skies, with temperatures climbing over 20degC.”

“In science, a lack of evidence or a failed prediction can tell us a lot; in the media, we rarely see any stories about a non-event. That’s why it was great to see Sherman and the Star cover Ken’s failure — pseudo-scientists and psychics alike will only trumpet their sucesses as part of their self-promotion. To get the real picture, you need to hear about their failures too.”

Philip Matthews Marlborough Express for a great article on 1080 that actually says there is really only one side to the story rather than introducing an alleged controversy with token “balance”.

“We don’t ask the Flat Earth Society to provide balance for a story on the International Space Station orbiting a spherical Earth. Why should we give a false impression of evidence-based “debate” in other areas such as 1080 or immunization? If there truly is controversy based on evidence, let the evidence speak for itself, but don’t give us misleading balance based on opinion and hearsay.”

Dr Jan Wright who, while not in the media itself, did a great job of evaluating the evidence and presenting a report clearly outlining the evidence.
2010 Linley Boniface The Dominion Post for her Dominion Post column “Why psychics should butt out of the Aisling Symes case”, castigating TVNZ for giving airtime to self-proclaimed psychic Deb Webber to promote her national tour and speculate on the then-unfolding tragedy of the missing Auckland toddler.

“We see distraught families exploited regularly by the psychic industry,” comments Hyde, “It just adds insult to injury to see such exploitainment supported by our state-funded television.” Read more…

Jane Luscombe 3 News for her informative look at the belief that amber teething necklaces leach a substance to help babies with pain and depression.

“All too often we see television reporters take the easy option and swallow claims with nary a raised eyebrow. It was great to see a report where some research had been undertaken to show the claims were unfounded and a clear warning that the practice itself was a dangerous one.”

Kate Newton The Dominion Post for her item on Victoria University’s embarrassment over the homeopathy course it was offering in its distance education programme. The NZ Skeptics have been concerned at the increasing willingness of universities to provide facilities for the promotion of touring psychics, neurolinguistic programmers and other purveyors of dubious services.

“Kate also took the trouble to point out that homeopathic products are watered down to the point where no molecules of active ingredients remain. The homeopathic industry is very careful to downplay that aspect in their products and services, and it’s an important point to get across to the general public. Most homeopathic users think they are getting something in the expensive sugar pills and water drops they are buying, but they aren’t.”

2009 Rebecca Palmer The Dominion Post for her article The Devil’s in the Details (15 June 2009) pointing out that the makutu case owed more to “The Exorcist” than to tikanga Maori.

“Exorcism rituals, regardless of where they come from, have been shown to harm people, psychologically and physically. There are over 1,000 cases of murder, death and injury recorded on the whatstheharm.net website purely as a result of exorcisms reported in the Western world press over the past 15 years. There are thousands more that occur, for the most part unregarded, in places like Africa, South America or Papua New Guinea. These are all needless victims, often injured by people who care for them and who tragically just didn’t stop to think about the nature of what they were doing.”

Hannah Ockelford Closeup for Hannah Ockelford’s piece Filtering the Truth (11 Sept 2009), regarding the dodgy sales tactics by an Australian organisation which claims that New Zealand’s tap water can cause strokes, heart attacks, cancer and miscarriages. Paul Henry described the Australian promoter as a shyster using scare tactics targeting vulnerable people.

“This sort of solid investigative reporting makes a welcome change from the celeb and animal stories that so often pass for news and current affairs these days.”

Rob Harley and Anna McKessar TV One for their documentary The Worst That Could Happen (Real Crime, 29 July 2009). They took a hard look at the increasing tendency for accusations of accessing computer porn to be made on unfounded grounds, and how it can have devastating consequences for people.

“Unprotected Internet use can be as life-changing as unprotected sex. It is disturbingly easy to have your computer unwittingly contaminated, and that makes people very vulnerable to job dismissals or even prosecutions on the most circumstantial of evidence.”

Colin Peacock and Jeremy Rose Mediawatch on Radio New Zealand National “Every week Colin and Jeremy cast a critical eye on New Zealand media. That’s something we all should be doing in demanding that we get thoughtful, informed news and analysis from our media.”
2008 Kathryn Ryan for her interviews with psychic Deb Webber and Detective Senior Sergeant Ross Levy (see Bent Spoon), as well as other items where she demonstrated critical thinking in covering science and pseudo-science topics
Raybon Kan Sunday Star-Times for his column “I see dud people”, wherein he stated ”I don’t want to get in the way of entertainers earning a crust, but it’s scummy to pretend to communicate with the dead to take advantage of grieving relatives”.
Royal Society of New Zealand for their 2008 Big Science Adventure video competition focusing on the life and work of Charles Darwin. (And a thumbs down for commending one video which contained numerous errors of fact in promoting the unscientific ideas of intelligent design and creationism)
2007 Tristram Clayton 3 News for the Psych Addictive item (July 17), covering New Zealand research on how women, in particular, are preyed upon economically and psychologically by the psychic industry, as well as items on the establishment of a UFO database and reporting on the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill.
Annette King for, along with industry group Natural Products New Zealand, their attempt to provide standards and accountability via the Therapeutic Products and Medicines Bill
2006 David Russell Consumer Institute for many years of leadership in critical thinking
Linley Boniface The Dominion Post for her piece “Clairvoyants dead wrong” (May 1, 2006)
2005 Rose Hipkins Campbell Live, TV3 for her excellent comments regarding Intelligent Design (September 2, 2005)
Chris Barton New Zealand Herald for “Mannatech’s sugar-coated moneymaker”, a first-rate piece of critical analysis (July 17, 2005),
Tim Watkins New Zealand Listener for his “Star Power” editorial critical of the anti-vaccination campaigners (June 18, 2005)
Jeremy Wells Eating Media Lunch for his amusingly scathing look at the psychic and medium business (April 19, 2005)
2003 Alan Pickmere for sterling work regarding alternative medicine claims in Northland
Barry Colman for putting his money on the line with his publication of transcripts from the Christchurch Civic Creche case
2002 Lynley Hood for “A City Possessed: the Christchurch Civic Creche Case”
Noel O’Hare New Zealand Listener for Health columns including Silent Spring Fever (January 19, 2002) and Get your snake oil here (August 17, 2002)
Diana Wichtel New Zealand Herald for “A Monstrous, Lethal Arrogance”, 15 June, 2002
Joe Bennett for press columns
2001 Susan Wood Holmes for her Fiordland moose interview, 27 June
Prof T W Walker Christchurch Press for the Gardening column
Denise Tutaki Horowhenua-Kapiti Chronicle for “Calling 0900 Psychic… Okay, now tell me something I don’t know”, Feb 28
Dr Pippa MacKay for her commentaries on medical issues, particularly bogus cancer remedies
2000 Matt Philp New Zealand Listener for “God’s Classroom”, April 22
Kim Hill National Radio for an interview of John Read, Director of Scientific Affairs of the NZ Psychological Society
New Zealand Association of Rationalists & Humanists for issuing a challenge to visiting Australian Ellen Greve, aka Jasmuheen, who claims to surive by breathing air and eating nothing
Michelle Hollis Consumer for a June 2000 item on how to assess medical claims
1999 Brain Rudman New Zealand Herald for an article on May 11th describing the quantum radio frequency booster used as a cancer cure as “health fraud in its darkest form”.
Pamela Stirling New Zealand Listener for an article examining the claims of quantum booster proponents (May 29, 1999) and one on the herbal cellulite remedy Cellasene (November 28, 1998
Dr Roderick Mulgan Grace Wellness column in grace, including the placebo effect (December 1998) and cellphone health scare stories (August 1999)
1998 Nick Smith for his public stance against the self-serving involvement of psychics in the hunt for missing Marlborough pair Olivia Hope and Ben Smart
Angela Gregory Northern Advocate for “0900 psychic hotlines”
Noel O’Hare New Zealand Listener NZ Listener, health columnist
Greenstone Pictures for “The Mighty Moa”
1997 Simon Sheppard Sunday Star-Times for “Apocalypse Soon” (April 4 1997), dealing with the Heaven’s Gate suicide group, in which 39 people killed themselves in the belief that they would join a UFO trailing the Hale-Bopp Comet.
TVNZ’s Fair Go for poking a little of their irrepressible fun at alleged psychics providing lucky lotto numbers.
Jan Sinclair Sunday Star-Times for an item entitled “Loving the Aliens” on the New Zealand UFO Symposium
1996 TVNZ Assignment for “The Doctor Who Cried Abuse”, an investigation of a Dunedin physician whose unwarranted diagnoses had wreaked havoc on New Zealand families and “Ellis Through the Looking Glass”, an examination of Peter Ellis and the Christchurch Civic Creche child abuse case
Vincent Heeringa Metro magazine for “Weird Science”, on the Auckland Institute of Technology Press and its publication of “Suppressed Inventions and other Discoveries” covering quack cancer cures, free energy machines and Martian civilisations
Noel O’Hare New Zealand Listener for “False Memory Syndrome”
1995 Kim Hill, Maryanne Ahern and Heather Church National Radio for critical coverage of claims of the so-called Kaimanawa Wall, an alleged ancient, pre-Maori wall
Simon Collins City Voice for his March 21 article on the “Tabaash phenomenon”, an investigation into a Wellington channeller
David McLoughlin for his television documentary on questions concerning the Christchurch Civic Creche case and for a follow-up North and South (August 1996) article
Mark McNeill First Hand Productions for his television documentary on false memory syndrome