South brims with positive brands

TIM SHADBOLT: Invercargill mayor.
TIM SHADBOLT: Invercargill mayor.

The art of good promotions is to define aspects of your region that are unique then encourage visitors and locals to embrace these features. Sounds simple enough?

Well . . . winning the double is never easy.

Take our Scottish accent, for example. No other region in New Zealand has its own dialect. There are even linguistic differences. Baches v cribs, dwangs v noggins, scoria v Gap 40. You would think we would obviously benefit from our uniqueness and we would all embrace this point of difference. Our own language. Our own pronunciation. WOW! However, many of those who travelled north for a university education were ridiculed for their "accent".

In some of our very English cities the tyranny of the correct vowel prevailed. Christchurch students openly mocked the Southern Sound.

Those who were better educated quickly stopped rolling their "rrrrrss". Tonal differences tended to divide rather than unite the South. We never achieved the dizzying heights of a television news reader who spoke with a southern accent. We never had a soap opera like Eastenders, which made the Cockney accent acceptable.We have other unique features such as the muttonbird but it has such an unfortunate name and is very much an "acquired" taste. Bird watching is a major tourist drawcard and we even have a book named after godwits. Godwit is such a pleasant name for a bird compared with a name like "smelly old salted hogget" bird. The old cliche of give a dog a bad name . . . has a lot of truth when it comes to bird names.

The tuatara is unique and Southland certainly has the best breeding programme. Henry can occasionally capture the headlines but he's definitely not a party animal by nature. There are no clubs or societies of tuatara watchers.

Yet another option for a unique brand was suggested by a doctor who visited our city and noticed we had the healthiest cabbage trees in the world.

This may well be true but because of the rather negative image associated with the humble cabbage (unless you are a front row hooker) this bold proposal was rejected.

During my term in office Invercargill has used brands such as "The Friendly City", "We've Got What It Takes", "The Spirit of a Nation", and the "Child Youth and Family Friendly City". They were all positive brands but none made it to the top three when Venture Southland conducted perception surveys on brands and images associated with the south. It was always the Bluff Oyster, Zero Fees and me that dominated these surveys.

Nonetheless, we should always be on the lookout for new brands or inspirational slogans that will help promote the region.

We have certainly been in the news this week with the expulsion of Tony Major from the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (IPENZ). On the day the stadium collapsed, I said there were structural flaws in the building. Later, the Ministry of Building and Housing confirmed there were structural flaws and even Acton Smith admitted there was structural problems at the grand opening of the new stadium with the Prime Minister present.

I have refrained from commenting this time round, because what's the point? The truth is out and now we have a new stadium that is probably the strongest of its kind in the world. Surely, it's time to move on and enjoy what we have achieved. It's now almost debt free and for the ratepayers who feel a little nervous about future costs, let me assure you that both this council, its business arm Holdco, our two community trusts and SIT are in excellent financial health when compared with any other city in New Zealand. Perhaps we need to do a lot more to tell our residents and ratepayers exactly how successful we are.

Events such as the Brass Bands National Championships, Kidzone and the forthcoming South Island Secondary School Netball Championships are all adding excitement and vibrancy to our city.

Venture Southland has produced excellent initiatives regarding the Christchurch rebuild and tourism in the southern region is increasing.

When Air New Zealand's new Dreamliners make direct flights from Christchurch to China, tourism is likely to increase in leaps and bounds.

Invercargill's population is also likely to increase as migration to Australia continues to decline.

A decade ago 30,000 Kiwis left for Australia a year, this year that figure will drop to 200.

It's little wonder that national surveys show that Southland is the happiest region in New Zealand.

Tim Shadbolt is Invercargill mayor.

The Southland Times