Wednesday, March 5, 2008

In Praise of New Zealand

North & South is one of my favorite New Zealand magazines. For a start, it has great writers like Margot Butcher, Jenny Chamberlain, Deborah Coddington, Phil Gifford and Warwick Roger. Sure, we miss the founding editor Robyn Langwell who was made redundant in the never-ending series of staff cuts publishing companies are making nowadays, but Virginia Larson has stepped up to the plate. February’s edition featured the sweet smell of success with Sarah Lang and Stacey Anyan picking 15 areas where New Zealand punch above their weight globally. Here are some of them:

1. Agricultural Research
New Zealand has managed to turn apples into brands with great fruit like the Braeburn, Royal Gala and Pacific Rose. Our horticultural research program is second to none, particularly in the area of developing new hybrid fruits such as Zespri's Gold Kiwi. Super fruits are the new area of expertise. Kiwi fruit, apples, pears and berries are now being bred to combine well-being and defense immunity attributes.

2. Extreme SportsAJ Hackett started it with bungee jumping and his epic 1987 leap from the Eiffel Tower. We just shot a commercial for Toyota showcasing Zorbing – tumbling downhill inside of a giant inflatable ball. It was invented in Rotorua by Andrew Akers and Dwayne van der Sluis and is now rolling in 10 other countries. And let’s not forget, black water rafting and commercial jet boating made their debuts in New Zealand.

3. FilmmakingWellywood is owned and operated by Peter Jackson’s film production center and Richard Taylor’s Weta Workshop. In the world of computer generated film graphics, Weta is the undisputed global leader. You won’t believe what you see when you watch what Weta and James Cameron have created for Avatar. It’s due for release later this year and will bring 3D movies into the main stream – blockbusters will never be the same again. Other Kiwi Oscar winners include Jane Campion for The Piano, Roger Donaldson, Andrew Adamson, Martin Campbell and Sam Pillsbury.

4. Literacy
New Zealand has one of the world’s best leading reading recovery programs. It was initiated here in the 1960’s and implemented nationally in 1983. The following year it went global and is now offered in 7 other countries. It works regardless of language and background and has been endorsed by the United States. A friend of mine, Wendy Pye, has played a huge role in this area, publishing more than 600 titles which are the mainstay of New Zealand’s School Literacy Program.

5. Back from the Brink
New Zealand leads the world in saving endangered species (our own flightless Kiwi was an early adopter and evolved because there were no predators to kill it!). Now offshore islands are another great conservation success story. They’ve been transformed into arks for critically threatened species that are too much at risk on the mainland. New Zealand’s biodiversity strategy works. We even have the kakapo – the world’s only flightless parrot.

6. Boating
Recently I had dinner with Grant Dalton, who heads our America's Cup campaign. Along with Sir Peter Blake and Russell Coutts, he is New Zealand’s most famous sailor. Despite our defeat in the last America’s Cup, the country’s yachting profile continues to soar globally. Our sailors and skippers are in demand everywhere and we now have a NZ$1.5 billion marine industry employing 10,000 people and earning NZ$560 million a year in exports. That’s almost a tenfold increase over the last decade.

7. Exporting Nature
More than 250 natural product companies are based in tiny New Zealand. They export around NZ$3 million to Asia, the United States and Europe. Nutraceuticals are growing tremendously and benefit from New Zealand’s halo; its 100% pure and clean green positioning.

8. Wine
Our 2006 Vavasour Sauvignon Blanc and 2005 Villa Maria Pinot Noir took top honors at the International Wine and Spirits competition in London. Now New Zealand wines are sold in 95 countries around the world and command a premium second only to France. Last year, exports rose by 1/3 and will hit NZ$1 billion by 2010.

9. FitnessA few years ago, I spoke to a conference of Les Mills trainers in France. These days Les’ son, Phillip, runs the company and was recently named Entrepreneur and Exporter of the Year. Phillip has a great product, combining exercise and entertainment. He aims to have this sold in 25,000 clubs by 2015.

Along with all these achievements, North & South also covered our Medical Manukau, Medical Research, Longitudinal Studies, Wearable Arts, Sports Equipment and Espresso Coffee business.

Our website, celebrates New Zealand heroes and it was great to see North & South devoting their keynote article to the sweet smell of New Zealand success.

Just in case you didn’t notice, we did all this without even mentioning rugby! We also didn’t mention that New Zealand tied with Finland and Iceland as the world’s least corrupt country according to the international watchdog group, Transparency International. In terms of quality of life, Auckland was rated 5th and Wellington 12th in Mercer Consulting Worldwide Quality of Living Survey.

In media terms, we have more radio stations per capita than any other country and we read and buy more magazines per capita than any other country. And, as if that wasn't enough, we also manage to eat 67 million pies a year.

It’s a great little country. Makes you proud.


Kacy said...

Very interesting read. I had a nephew (teacher) live in New Zealand for two years and he loved every moment he was there. He shared with us all about how New Zealand is the place to be, but I believe this is a dream come true to be able to travel so far afield. However I live in hope because I heard dreams can come true.

Susan Plunkett said...

Arguments have been put forward by individuals to suggest that national pride leads to cross-cultural intolerance. I like to think the opposite however, perhaps hearing from various bloggers on what makes them proud of their respective countries is the optimal path in terms of encouraging global mutual respect and enjoyment.

This aside, and I hope your blogger Tony can remind what the NZ company was that he Lovemarked because it speaks to this, I think NZ retains the sense of pioneer territory; of individuals forging new paths and lives out of rock and wilderness and doing so with an eye to conservation and sustainability. Even though I can't recall the name of the company Tony nominated, I can recall its traits and many of them fit into the list you have provided.

Doesn't NZ also have a crack SAS style team?

If I buy wine I almost exclusively buy NZ and I remember as a girl people saying that on their trips to NZ they ate the best fresh creamy ice-cream they had ever had.
(I'm still not over your egg in ice-cream offering though - as raised on this blog some weeks ago).

Author Ngaio Marsh's books are also much loved re-reads in my collection (murder mystery genre). Up there (close enough) with Agatha.

To end, can I note the issue of genetic manipulation in the food industry (since to raise it). I hope NZ keeps an eye on that, and, taking a leaf out of your friend's books in Italy, look ahead and ensure certain areas of NZ are not over-developed.

Susan Plunkett said...

I wanted to add a well done to whoever did the graphic for the article. Nice juxtaposition.

Chris said...

All I can say is New Zealand is monosyllabic of the whole world-which makes it UNIQUE! Being a little country, you can experience that whole world pretty fast, which again makes it UNIQUE! I had dreams about NZ being ‘ahead’ before I even knew NZ! There’s so much that’s good about it. I wish I could have lived there once! Truly-it’s a cool ‘can do’ and modern (not redneck) culture. Did you have MUSIC and respect of MAORI spiritual culture in that Top 15? I hope so?

djagusch said...

Here, here mate!
I picked up my copy of North and South last week on my way out of AKL airport and consumed all the way up the Pacific to LAX.
I always leave home determined to devise a way to split my time between NZ and the US - this month's edition only served to reinforce those feelings exponentially!
Good call, good points, and good on NZ!!

Susan Plunkett said...


Kevin has blogged previously, and with great pride and understanding, on and about maori spiritual culture. You could search the blog for those topics but the last one was on the symbology of tattoos (if I recall correctly).

A few NZ singers came to mind but I'm sure there are many others who I may not know are NZ'ers:

Margaret Urlich. Wonderful voice but I've not really heard of her for years.

Dame Kiri Te Kanawa

Max Merritt - yay for Max.

The Finn brothers.

Dave Dobbyn.

Oh, and who wants to claim Russell Crowe? ;-)

Anonymous said...

north and south a great magazine? didn't deborah coddington write a very racist article about the asian population bringing violence to NZ in an issue last year? it was titled the 'asian'invasion' i think.

Chris said...


Thx 4 this! I'll certainly check K's Maori link out. I study this quite a lot.

Yup-the Finn Bros are genius writers. Crowded House are a latter day 'Beatles' and their re-entry for the 7 Nations 7 July 2007 Live Earth Global Warming Concerts was spectacular, emotional and spot-on timing!

I reckon the NZ current 'beats-electro-dance' market would possibly be quite crazy...I think like a lot of DJ Dance markets it relies quite a lot on imports. I think that more mainstream Melbourne duo, TV Rock were quite popular there. I think there's a collective called Once Were DJ's who have considerable NZ Music heritage and they mix all the anthems and great outdoor concert and club pullers of this genre. But there would be a whole underbelly of New NZ music and-undoubtedly-linked with visual culture, like film, theatre and digital.

Dave Dobbyn rings massive bells of nostalgia-for it was his Slice of Heaven song I negotiated from Mushroom for a Campaign we wrote for New Zealand that was Australian Ad Folklore, (having come from a 3 man Video Production Outfit that pitched against 80 ad agencies and ran for 7 years!) That one got me in the 2003-2004 Great Moments In Australian Advertising Book, (Ad News 75th Anniversary)...for writing the pitch strategy!

Talk about NZ transparency and honesty! I remember the great and very understanding client saying we would never win the biz with just the amazing camcorder concept that Australian creative's Brett Clements and Phillip Tanner had originated. She was emphatic that a big-big brand plan had to be written…We were an agency that wasn't an agency-pitching a strategy against multi-national award winning strategists and a creative against multi-national award winning creative's! So it took some doing! I was shaking and terrified when I had to present on my own to the client and the then 10+ or so NZT Board of Directors in New Zealand!

And talking about NZ being ahead of the game, I'm sure Kevin's aware of its multimedia and advanced digital culture?

Back in 2006, a lot of interesting development was taking place with hypertagging street furniture to mobile phones in Europe, Australia and NZ.

There's much UK and some Asia based activity I could mention, but I remember the local (and I think NZ) UIP-Aura initiative that saw MediaEdge buy all these Adshel's to launch an interactive game to promote Mission Impossible. All players were registered on a dedicated website and were required to race about their capital city, searching around various city locations for hidden answers to a series of Mission Impossible themed clues. The clues were delivered using a combination of SMS messaging and embedded hypertag technology from the posters to download ringtones, wallpapers or a business card providing a phone number to SMS for the clue. It really raised the bar on interactive advertising.

And, as far as I'm aware – this whole retail and outdoor activation area of digital is huge right now in NZ(?)

And I know it has been, (and still is) in the UK and many parts of the US and Asia. And, so it should be!

Short-range wireless technology is beginning to become very long range and combine all that with broader bands of connection and I personally believe that this whole infra-red, GPS, MMS and tagging market is brilliant for communications right now (and well into the future). It can only go on getting bigger, more interactive and more seamless or easy with indoor and outdoor environments.

Actually, K would know about all this….I think his own S&S teams in Australia have just mounted an amazing and quite emotive/original use of this approach for raising UN awareness (?)…

Anyway Susan…'gotta fly! Kevin's BLOG is very well put together…

What do you do, by the way?


Susan Plunkett said...

Writer/researcher with a reasonably eclectic experience base. I also run/research forums and design forum games; not talking electronic games.