As It Happens

New Zealand PM divides nation by putting canned spaghetti on pizza

Prime Minister Bill English shocked many in New Zealand when he posted his latest kitchen creation to Facebook. But some are questioning the timing of the viral post and asking if it's a diversion tactic.
Behold tinned-spaghetti Hawaiian pizza, courtesy of New Zealand's prime minister. (Facebook )

Read Story Transcript

New Zealand Prime Minister Bill English shocked half his nation this week when he posted his latest kitchen creation to Facebook — a pizza topped with canned spaghetti. The other half of the country is cheering him on.

And, as if that wasn't controversial enough, the father of six also packed the pies with ham and pineapple — an ingredient so divisive it sparked global debate when Icelandic President Guoni Johannesson publicly opposed it in February.

"It's actually truly divided the nation," Jenna Lynch, a political reporter with Newshub in Wellington, told As It Happens host Carol Off. 

While the dish may be new to most pizza eaters around the world, Lynch says it was popular in some parts of New Zealand in the '80s and '90s, especially among kids.

"There's one half of the nation saying, 'I love this, this reminds me of my childhood, it's nostalgic,'" Lynch said. "The other half of the nation is saying, 'Prime Minister, you're an abomination and you should be impeached."

Some New Zealanders were quite upset by their prime minister's pizza. (Facebook)

So what side does Lynch fall on in this great debate?

"It looks a little bit disgusting, but I have to admit, I have tried this as a child and it's actually not that bad. It's kind of delicious," she said. 

She's also a fan of canned spaghetti in a toasted sandwich — another local favourite.

While many online commenters expressed either nostalgia or outrage at the prime minister's palate, others were quick to point out that the viral post comes amid allegations New Zealand soldiers committed war crimes in a botched raid in Afghanistan nearly seven years ago.

English has said he posted the picture on a dare from his son.

Lynch says she has no idea whether it was an intentional distraction tactic. But if it was, she says it worked.

"It's basically dominated in the news cycle and taken focus of some other things," Lynch said.

"No one's talking about the allegations anymore. They're all talking about this pineapple on pizza. I mean, when the prime minister stood up yesterday, it was the first question asked. There was no policy questions. There is actually a flood happening at the moment. He wasn't asked about the flood. He was asked about the pizza."

She says the story is starting to die down at home just as it's catching on in the world press.

"Internationally, I think it's dividing people now too."