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.