April Fools' Day 2019: The most fallen-for hoaxes from around New Zealand

For reasons that are increasingly unclear, it is customary to spend the first day of the second quarter of the year being lied to by corporations. 

Some form of April Fools' Day has been celebrated across different cultures for hundreds of years. But while it was once a time when friends would play good-natured pranks on one another, April 1 is now a grotesque event in which food companies, airlines and even public service departments pretend to roll out products only slightly more ridiculous than their usual offerings.

An innocent tradition has become so twisted by late capitalism that in the year of our Lord 2019, the public has to endure hundreds of obviously fake, shoddily written press releases and social media posts by guffawing companies thrilled with their own bad jokes. 

Newshub's head of digital Cathy O'Sullivan wisely vetoed any pranks on our loyal readers, but that doesn't mean we can't compile a list of the most notable April Fools' hoaxes from around New Zealand.

This year's offerings leaned heavily on weird food combinations, from Countdown's onion dip ice cream to Cadbury's ketchup-filled Dairy Milk (further undermining the chocolate company's already fragile reputation in this country).

The worst thing about April Fools' is it's no longer confined to a single day. Now companies start dropping their hoaxes days or even weeks in advance so they can get a leg up on others. Tinder announced its unfeasible height verification badge on March 29, while Wattie's got in wildly early with its tomato sauce ice cream on March 7.

There were at least three local pizza pranks, which is frankly too many. The AM Show hosts slurped down a Domino's spaghetti pizza, Pizza Hut promised a Pineapple Lumps topping and Sal's wrote a half-hearted Facebook post announcing all pizzas would now come with pineapple. Mamma mia!

One of the better hoax products was Little Island Creamery's animal milk range, whose pastel yet threatening bottles included cat milk, kiwi milk, possum milk and giraffe milk.

Meanwhile New Zealand Rugby claimed to have signed two enormous men from overseas to add to their collection of enormous local men. One of their employees clearly spent a bit of time creating a medium-convincing image of Jason Momoa and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson.  

Jason Momoa and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson will sadly not be joining the All Blacks.
Jason Momoa and Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson will sadly not be joining the All Blacks. Photo credit: NZ Rugby

The Otago Daily Times published a very convincing story pretending the return of Dunedin's iconic Star Fountain had been stymied by health and safety concerns for e-scooter riders (PC gone mad!).

Not even the Department of Conservation was above the charade, tweeting that a new Government initiative would publish a list of 'Not So Great Walks' to encourage tourist foot traffic away from the country's well-worn 'Great Walks'.

The cruellest prank came courtesy of The Urban List, which published a lengthy article saying Harry Potter World would be coming to New Zealand. The JK Rowling-approved theme park would supposedly have been built on the site of the languishing Waiwera water park (once the most magical place in the country), and the article promised butter beer, a VR standoff with Voldemort and, in an inspired stroke of realism, biodegradable merchandise packaging.

Because most consumers of online news have the attention spans of goldfish, many were taken in by the seductively nostalgic hoax, as they hadn't read to the final paragraph confirming it wasn't true.

But the day's most unforgivable crime was committed by a homewares store regarded as a stalwart Kiwi institution. This prank went too far, threatening the limits of good taste as well as our way of life: Briscoes announcing it would no longer be having sales, and in the process destroying years of consumers' trust with a single badly Photoshopped picture of its beloved spokeswoman. 

The company knew it had gone too far, quickly clarifying that it was a joke in the Facebook comments. But the seeds of doubt had already been sown.

Only time will tell whether the people of New Zealand will forgive Briscoes.

Newshub.

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