COVID-19: Chris Hipkins wins quote of the year for his 'spread your legs' gaffe

COVID-19 Response minister Chris Hipkins has picked up an award for his "spread your legs' gaffe, winning the Massey University quote of the year competition.

After claiming the quote of the year at The Project's 2021 awards, Hipkins backed that up with another victory beating out a toddler's response to seeing a goat by a mere 0.5 percent of votes.

Hipkins was nominated for his "spread your legs'' quote he made at a 1pm COVID press conference during the Delta outbreak.

The famous and hilarious slip of the tongue had the country in stitches back in August, when he said it would be a "challenge for people in high-density areas to get outside and spread their legs when they are surrounded by other people". 

The gaffe amused Director-General of Health Ashley Bloomfield, whose eyebrows immediately shot up. 

In September, Hipkins was seen drinking from a mug commemorating the memorable phrase, reading "spread your legs, not the virus".

The Massey University quote of the year competition saw a record 8296 votes cast and saw the Hipkins gaffe attract 38.9 percent of the votes, while the runner-up had 38.4 percent. 

Massey speech writing specialist and competition organiser Dr Heather Kavan joked that the Hipkins slip of the tongue could increase the birth rate around the country. 

"The full impact of 'spread their legs' may never be known, and there is social media speculation that it could increase New Zealand's birth rate," Kavan said.

"Twitter users re-imagined the war against COVID-19 through the new salacious lens. Tweet after tweet celebrated Hipkins' trail-blazing approach and the revised X-rated meaning of 'Go early; go hard'.

"New Zealanders posted photos of themselves and their pets spreading their legs, while the Royal New Zealand Ballet tweeted photos of its dancers doing sculpture-like leg poses that most of us could only dream of accomplishing.

"There was also a heady remix video with the sign language interpreter's gestures portrayed as dance moves."

Hipkins beat out the Kiwi toddler's foul-mouthed response to a goat in her mother's back garden.

Two-year-old Ivy was at home with her mother when they noticed the stray goat outside their window. 

Smith recorded Ivy saying, "it's a f***king goat!". Her toddler quickly picked up on the message repeating "it's a f***king goat!". 

Smith quickly tried to dissuade her daughter's foul-mouthed mimicry, saying "it's just a goat". But it was too late - "no, it's a f**king goat," Ivy replied.

Kavan said it was the child's innocence that wowed the voters.

"Most of the other speakers had a topic of national importance and a relatively sophisticated vocabulary. But the toddler had a sincerity that viewers loved," Kavan said.

"Like 'spread their legs', the goat quote took on a life of its own, spawning social media commentary and a parody video in which the goat was replaced by footage of Donald Trump dancing."

Fourteen-year-old Jemima Gazley came third after she said, "If I can't be cured, I'll be the cure."

Gazley was diagnosed with inoperable brain cancer in February and spent her last week's crowdfunding to help Australian researcher Dr Matt Dun find a cure.

"If ever a quote told a story, it's this one," Kavan said. "My hope is that Jemima's family can take some small comfort from knowing her courageous words will endure."