A good time to ditch NZ's tainted brand

19:25, Aug 14 2013
Tourism New Zealand's 100% Pure New Zealand campaign is under pressure.
TIME TO GO: Tourism New Zealand's 100% Pure New Zealand campaign is under pressure.

The first rule of advertising should be: Never say anything you can't justify. Our nation's brand is 100% Pure, a claim we can't justify.

I can see why it must have seemed like a good idea at the time. We have some beautiful scenery and Tourism NZ's heads must have been turned by all the gushing compliments. But it should have been checked out before it went up on the billboards.

It shows an arrogance that is far from the true character of the people who inhabit these islands. Naturally, it has caused resentment among other nations, especially those far from 100 per cent pure when it comes to human, animal and environmental rights.

These countries were quick to pounce on the weakness revealed by the Fonterra whey powder crisis. The latest is Sri Lanka, which has its own claims to natural beauty, trying it on over DCD residues. It shouldn't be a surprise.

So what do we do about it? If we follow the Prime Minister's dismissive tone, then perhaps we should add a disclaimer: "100% Pure is only an advertising slogan and not to be taken literally."

Actually, I think we should ditch it, give it up as a tainted brand and come up with a new one. Why not go the whole hog and change the country's name and flag at the same time? Aotearoa's a bit hackneyed. I like Waipounamu. It's the name for the South Island but could be extended to include all of the country when you think of it in terms of being a green treasure.


And the flag should be a green and blue fern, not black and white.

Above all, we should be cleaning up our act.

Management lapses are clearly behind the recent crises. China's refusal to accept our meat at its borders was a paperwork stuff-up by the Primary Industries Ministry, which earlier had let us down over the incursion of the kiwifruit disease Psa. It must be unsettling to be caught up in constant restructuring.

The DCD problem was waiting to happen. The question of residues in milk should have been asked years ago and answered not with, "But it won't harm people" but with "What do our markets think?". Again, not 100% Pure.

And the whey powder scare. That comes down to someone not doing their job to keep a pipe clean and someone else not checking on them.

All these are fixable. Stricter oversight is needed, probably from an independent body.

When it comes to being 100% Pure, it's the dirty rivers that are our greatest weakness. Unfortunately, this is gaining greater international awareness. The short film, River Dog, about farmer and artist Grant Muir's struggles to keep his neighbours' sheep and cattle out of Wairarapa's Pahaoa River, this week won the grand prize at a Japanese wildlife film festival.

Wairarapa's rivers are also on the agenda of the Greater Wellington Regional Council. Recommendations to follow the Land and Water Forum's collaborative ideas are being considered.

All the province's rivers are over-allocated to farmers and towns, which means there's not enough water to meet their needs and to stop environmental degradation. The recommendation is to impose restrictions from 2017.

Tackling the leaching of nitrogen and phosphorous by setting up five catchment committees is proposed. The first, for the Ruamahanga Valley, is probably the biggest and it would determine water quality objectives for communities, industry and iwi and set limits.

Dairy farmers would also be asked to reduce their chances of leaching from effluent spraying. At present, they are allowed to spray cowshed effluent onto paddocks without restriction. Now it is proposed to require them to install storage ponds, so the effluent can be kept till the weather is more suitable.

Many farmers have these ponds now, but for those who haven't, the cost of a pond would be $50,000-$100,000.

Urban pollution is not forgotten. Wellington, Carterton and Featherston have poor records for managing sewage and will be pressured to do better. A design flaw in Wellington and Porirua that allows sewage and stormwater to overflow into each other's systems in big storms will be targeted.

These are just recommendations at this stage, but appear pretty reasonable to me. Whether our domestic and international critics will feel the same remains to be seen.

But whatever we do, no matter how pristine we aim to be, our 100% Pure claim is shot full of more holes than a maimai roof.

The Dominion Post