The Graceless Kiwi?Sunday, Sep 16, 2001
The savage vilification of Air New Zealand and New Zealand in general by many Australian’s and most
Australian media is a new and uncomfortable experience.
Not because of the “sticks and stones” aspect but more because of the warning it gives that in the real
world politics and business cannot be conducted in a duplicitous manner without consequences.
To see the goodwill for and value of Air New Zealand brand leaking away so dramatically because of bad
business decisions and a lack of willingness to act raises the question of how irrational or cowboy
like are New Zealanders.
As traders we have long benefited from the goodwill built up from years of se1ling primary products
around the world. As travellers on OE or in uniform or as members of an expat army we have believed
that we had a right to be proud of who we are because of the efforts of those that have gone before.
But has this generation been using up the “NZ goodwill capital” at a faster rate than it has been able
to create it? Has the Kiwi’s love of equality degenerated into an attitude of lazy irresponsibility?
Because we have claimed to live in ‘Gods own Country” have we started to believe that anything we tackled
would be ok because we believed and wanted it so and therefore didn’t need to apply realistic
assessments to our aspirations.
What relevance does this have to matters rural? It matters greatly.
The international marketing of NZ farm products is being pulled into the brand retail product arena
at breakneck speed because that is where the best return is claimed to be.
But branding is a costly two edged sword. It costs to become recognised and on a fowl up it costs to
stop being known. The task for producers is to ensure the members of the boards of our organisations
do not become fat, lazy and self indulgent to the degree that appears to have happened in Air NZ.
But even worse has been the indication that Air NZ board members have been unable to define and act
in the interests of the company which they are directing.
The dairy industry in spite of being a cooperative is certainly heading down this same track with joint
ventures and major shareholdings in companies that may not have the long term interest of the
original shareholder at heart.
And in its own fashion the meat industry as it consolidates has many cross shareholdings and directorships
where intention is fogged as individuals or companies conspire to gain an edge through the
restructuring or demise of another competitor.
Farmer shareholders have a responsibility to themselves to ensure that their choice of directors and
the quality of business acumen applied is not of the “cowboy” variety. Also that each companies objectives
and plans are clearly set out and success is measured against those plans
Telling ourselves, in hope, that we are equal to the rest of the world is quite different from being
equal to the rest of the world