Phil O’Reilly of Business NZ has an opinion piece in the NZ Herald today decrying businesses that trade on the ‘clean and green’ image of New Zealand. He writes as if it is a solely a tourism issue. This is a spin line that David Farrar at Kiwiblog swallows hook, line, and sinker. However the clean and green image is used by exporters and people recruiting for immigrant skills as well. It is pretty clear that neither O’Reilly or Farrar have much to do with exporting otherwise they’d be aware of this. But that isn’t surprising as this is a line for the dumb old extract and pillage companies of the 20th century rather than the ones that live in the 21st century.
Most companies exporting from NZ use the ‘clean and green’ image when marketing their products. It is used outside of the ‘safe food’ exports that give us most of our export income (and which O’Reilly ignores). Virtually every software product I’ve been involved with has used the image as a renewable marketing resource. It is a ‘natural’ resource in much the same way that we use our timezone differences for support work on the nets. Both allow points of difference between us and companies from other countries. Soap manufacturers use it. People selling electronics for boats use it. Every exporter I’ve ever worked for uses it.
After all we are a country trying to export from tens of thousands of kilometres from our main markets. Points of difference like this allow doors to open to businesses that we’d otherwise have difficulty getting into. This century it will help insulate us from the worst of the fallout as societies clean up the rubbish and debris of the worst of last century. Having a clean and green image is a hell of a marketing point in the 21st century.
Similarly, it allows us to recruit some of the better skilled people world wide. They come for the image, stay for the holiday and then settle. They certainly don’t settle for the low wage economy that the neo-libs of the right have been trying to stuff us into for so many years. It is the country, the people, and the hope of a better society that isn’t following the same stupidities that they are leaving. A lot of this is to do with our clean and green image and our boisterous internal dialogs. These immigrants have the skills that we cannot afford to train. Many set up businesses that trade back to their countries of origin.
It is all a intangible benefit, but one that a great many companies trade on. It is a lot more sustainable than pulling short-term profits out of the ground and burning them for little benefit to NZ.
O’Reilly seems to think that being clean and green:-
It also sets us up to fail.
With an absolute statement like “clean and green” any variation becomes a failure.
He then goes on to say
This is unfortunate, given the pervasiveness and rapidity of communications. Try Googling “clean green New Zealand” and you’ll find many recent critical entries pointing out instances where we are failing to meet the standard of “clean and green”.
It can be used by extremists for the purpose of highlighting any environmental failings, however slight. So why should we set ourselves up for this?
What a dork. He has just been lauding that NZ is uncorrupt country. How does he think that it gets that way? When people are looking at countries from offshore over the net (and that is how people tend to view countries these days), one of the critical indicators is how much internal peaceful dissent is present. A healthy democratic society has public dissent and public involvement in decision making. When you look for countries with problems, then you look for the Brownlee’s with their mismanagement of democratic decision making and start to wonder about when the government and business repression starts. Public peaceful dissent indicates a healthy political process. It is highly attractive both to business people and our customers.
Phil O’Reilly has to know all this. After all he goes to international forums and hears people discussing NZ. However not all businesses in NZ export, and therefore don’t have these factors built into their calculations. Many have a short-term extractive mentality of rape and pillage for personal short-term profit. These seem to be the people that Phil O’Reilly is speaking for. The ones that chafe under the effort of making decisions that look towards the long-term interests of NZ, their companies, and their industries rather than their short-term profit lines. They’re dumb enough to fail at long-term decisions.
Just look at the stupidity that is showing in the special favors for industries in nationals emissions trading scheme. Propping up polluting industries and providing them more incentive to pollute is ardent stupidity for NZ. Effectively the taxpayers wind up paying for polluters and either have higher taxes or reduction in services to pay for it. But of course these favors from the national government will be good for some of those that Phill O’Reillys organization represents.
Phil O’Reillys opinion piece will certainly piss off most of the exporters and tourism operators. But it is pretty clear that Business NZ isn’t too concerned about much past short-term profits.
It is better for New Zealand to maintain a renewable resource like a clean and green healthy democratic uncorrupt society for the long-term benefits of society. The clean and green image of NZ has been far more successful at helping raise the productivity of NZ than anything the Business NZ has in their 50 point plan of previously failed extremist policies (PDF). It is pretty clear that Business NZ doesn’t represent many exporters working in a competitive marketplace offshore. Dumping a working system like clean and green might help some industries, but they’d mainly be the dumb old ones working inside the local economy and yearning for a low-wage economy.
Perhaps that is what Phil O’Reilly is really bemoaning. It must be galling to see a working smart policy that requires intelligence to use. It certainly works better than his favoured dumb neo-lib ideas that benefit business models that should be left in the 20th century and will not work for us over the longer term.