It was stretching things for our tourist industry to lay claim to a "100% Pure" environment, a branding that inevitably drew criticism when measures of the pollution of our waterways were published. Similarly, we can't claim to be free of corruption. But we can take pride at our international reputation for clean government.
For the seventh successive year, New Zealand is ranked at the top of Transparency International's Global Corruption Perceptions index, sharing first place with Denmark and Finland. We owe our position, we are told, to strong access to information systems and rules governing the behaviour of people in public positions.
In many countries, corruption is widespread and bribing officials is an accepted part of doing business. While this country rarely must deal with bent politicians or officials, the High Court this week did hear evidence against a police officer charged with corruption.
Should he be found guilty, the case will be like many in this country: the granting of small favours for trivial rewards (he allegedly sought sexual favours from a woman in return for not prosecuting her for disqualified driving).
The cops in Brazil are in a different league. Law enforcement agencies there have arrested 61 officers and charged them with taking monthly bribes from drug dealers, racketeering, kidnapping and extortion. They allegedly kidnapped drug dealers and held them for ransom.
But New Zealand's high ranking does not reflect our superior integrity and we should not be complacent.
Nick Patterson, from the Serious Fraud Office, warns we are seeing more instances of corruption, such as bribes paid to public officials, and corruption within the private sector. Organisations need to be awake to this changing environment and its risks.
His remarks were included in the report on the results of the inaugural Deloitte Bribery and Corruption Survey, published a few months ago. The survey found Australian and Kiwi organisations were encountering bribery and corruption which many were ill-equipped to identify, manage and prevent, as our exports increasingly are traded in corrupt countries.
But bribing officials is no less acceptable because it happens overseas than flying to Asian cities - say - for sex with children.
- © Fairfax NZ News