A new New Zealand? Echoes of Esko Aho

April 10, 2012

 “We decided to conclude the matter with an amusing tale that when I served as Finance Minister in Finland, many people wanted the New Zealand model. This time round, people in New Zealand looked to the Finnish model. Perhaps together they might form a perfect model,” Finnish President Sauli Niinisto

You can’t knock down stand up comedian and Leader of the House Gerry Brownlee. He looked beaten at the Finnish line a fortnight ago, but in the wake of the just released United Nation’s World Happiness Survey, in which Finland was ranked number two in the world behind Denmark, he bounced back last week by throwing another custard pie at himself:“Poor old Finns, can’t be first again,” overlooking the fact that, for what it was worth, New Zealand took out the eighth spot. The irrepressible impresario suggested that the Finns were so happy because they were still laughing at his Finnish jokes. 

Jokes? All hell broke loose in Helsinki after his throwaway unfunny Finnish comments two weeks ago. A total of about one million residents live in the Greater Helsinki area, which includes Espoo, and that’s what Gerry landed himself in after his comments in Parliament in response to a speech by Labour Leader David Shearer: “…It’s unbelievable isn’t it. That you’d … make a speech saying I want New Zealand to be like Finland which has worse unemployment than us, can hardly feed the people who live there, has a terrible homicide rate, hardly educates their people and has no respect for women.”

According to the OECD Better Life Index, Finland’s murder rate is indeed nearly twice that of New Zealand. It also has worse unemployment and health provision. But on economic indicators such as income and life balance, Finland is ahead of New Zealand. Its GDP is also rising faster than ours and its education is rated tops.

Luckily the PM has more finesse than his Minister of Demolition and knows from the musical Finns down under how to quieten incipient storms in teacups: Everywhere you go you always take the weather with you”*. Sunny John Key mollified his new Seoul mate, the recently inaugurated Finnish President Sauli Niinisto at the Nuclear Security Summit and defended Brownlee’s sense of humour saying that he was known for his rollicking speeches in Parliament. Or should that have been bollocking?

Gerry Built
His Minister hadn’t gone down as a Nordic Mr Pickwick, though he has the impressive corporeal assets. In vain he had protested that he wasn’t anti-Finland, waving as proof his Nokia cellphone (definitely an old dunger in the mobile stakes)and pointing out that he carried “a little bit of Finland” with him all the time. Finnish commentators picked up more on his girth than his mirth. As John Key said Gerry is a big unit; he carries a rather larger bit of Godzone and is an all round advertisement for 100% pure New Zealand dairy products.

Finnish TV host Tuomas Enbuske, no svelte elf himself, made play of this in his equally unfunny item Gerry Brownlee: Greetings from Finland.* The erstwhile merely Angry Birds* were now apoplectic: this was no porcine single egg pinching: a cartoon porker had poached the whole carton.

Finnishing School
While Brownlees’s expansive cv obviously doesn’t include Finnishing School David Shearer is obviously a keen distance learning student. He was the one who a fortnight ago had began single handedly to play Finlandia.* The new Labour leader’s long awaited positioning speech  called for New Zealand to follow in Finland’s footsteps. The two countries are of the same size with similar problems. About 5.4 million people live in Finland compared with New Zealand’s 4.4 million-not counting the Kiwi diaspora.

At the Cullen Breakfast Club (no round tables here) Shearer said the Finns had managed to transform their small country into a wealthy knowledge economy “through innovation and talent “. Catching up with Australia is obviously old hat; catching up with Finland is the thing now.

The question is not why were so many Finns so thin skinned-in fact very Kiwi-like-in reacting furiously to Brownlee’s for-domestic-consumption-only jibes,  but why our Government has been so touchy and tetchy about Shearer’s Finnish analogy. The answer is that it raises big questions raised about the Government’s economic and social vision and strategy, beyond partial asset sales. The public consciousness is still stuck on the underwhelming  Jobs Summit thinking of three years ago. Bike trails are fine but they are also rather pedestrian and not the main highway to the future. They don’t cut it as a compelling vision of a bravish new world. This is where Shearer sees his opportunity.

Aho Ahoy
The new Labour leader is keen to echo Esko Aho, the largely untested, former Finnish Prime Minister who came into office in 1991. Finland was a relative latecomer to industrialisation, remaining a largely agrarian country until the 1950s. Thereafter, economic development was rapid. Finland built an extensive welfare state and navigated a middle way economically and politically but by the early nineties needed a new prescription, which Aho administered.

Shearer: Aho’s message to the Finnish people was blunt and honest: They had big problems. No-one else was going to fix them. And most importantly: only their brains and talent were going to take them forward. Collectively, the people of Finland took that message on board. They moved forward. They transformed their economy through through innovation and talent. They put at the centre of everything they did great teachers and schools and great science, research and development.”

As his shift-to-the-right positioning statement for the 2014 General Election he added, with a side swipe at our present PM: “Aho made bold decisions.He was, I need to say, voted out at the next election. He thought it was more important to make a difference than to get re-elected.”

Transformation Through Education
Shearer wants to focus on education to achieve this Finnish transformation by focusing on teachers and holding failing schools to account. Rather than hardly educating its people, as in Browlee’s dismissive missile, Finland has one of the best education systems in the world. So of course has New Zealand, only a few points behind it. In 2009 OECD figures ranked Finnish students at 3rd highest in reading, 6th in mathematics and 2nd in science. New Zealand students ranked 7th, 13th and 7th, respectively.

The trouble is that we have a very large tail of underachievers and that we export so many of the best brains we produce, which hardly helps the quality of the domestic talent pool.

The main problem with our education system seems to be our problem with child poverty manifesting itself through the education system in a cycle of socio/ economic/ learning deprivation. Finland has state supplied child care up to the age of seven, not “pre school education”, and their children start school two years later than here. It has the second lowest rate of child poverty in the OECD (New Zealand is 22nd out of 34).

Education is free and living expenses are to a large extent financed by the government through student benefits. More than 30% of tertiary graduates are in science-related fields including forest improvement, environmental sciences, neural networks, low-temperature physics, brain research, biotechnology, genetic technology and communications. Finland had a long tradition of adult education and by the 1980s nearly one million Finns were enrolled, 40% for professional reasons

Beyond Sacred Cows
Following in Finland’s footsteps is all very well, but recent economic snowstorms have rather obscured the trail. Former vaunted economicons like Nokia  look less shiny in the new telecommunications Jobs market. Nevertheless Nokia, famously once involved in forest products,  may not be today the poster child it once was, but it still generates three times the annual revenue of Fonterra.

He didn’t mention him by name in his speech, but Shearer picked up on the contribution made to economic debate by the late Sir Paul Callaghan.
But as good as New Zealand is at it, there’s a ceiling to how much butter and beef and meat and milk you can make off New Zealand grass. You hit the limit a long time before you get to be as prosperous as Australia.”

Finnish comedians may have used old Aussie sheep jokes in their onslaught on Brownlee but it should now be obvious that it’s now cows that are the bêtes noires in New Zealand. The grass on the other side of the fence is not necessarily greener and we need to have complementary knowledge intensive strategies to boost export earnings.

You can debate diversification until the cows come home but home grown exemplars are food for thought. Shearer gave several local examples of “high value technologies developed right here by smart New Zealanders.” However, he made no mention of the Government’s offshore oil and minerals plans-to make the most of the fourth biggest expanse of territorial waters in the world. Oil has just been discovered off the coast of Ireland-just in time to save that once much vaunted smaller economy. Where does new Labour stand on a possible ocean mining bonanza? Despite mining initiatives set in train by the last Labour Government Shearer was silent on the mineral minefield.

Vision and Focus
He finished his speech thus:
“If ideas help to build a new New Zealand, we like them. If they don’t, then out they go….“This new New Zealand will be the kind of place the rest of world would like to live.
It will be clean,
it will be green,
it will be clever …
and it will be a place that’s good for lambs.”

With the clean and the green are under threat from the sacred cows “clever” is the key here.The bit about the lambs should have got the chop.

We can and should learn things from other countries-we haven’t the time to make all our own mistakes-but we need to do things our way, without the necessity for neo colonial cringe. Picking up on innovative examples in our own country and amplifying them is the way to go. The body politic is less likely to reject home grown solutions than those transplanted out of context from elsewhere.

It’s not just about vision, it’s about focus. As the Finn Brothers sang:
“…You look into the eyes of the world
Hoping to catch your reflection again
Missing all the real life action.”
                   Eyes Of The World

 *Blinks
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6644473/Finns-bite-back-over-Brownlee-comments  
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/politics/6701037/Is-happiness-a-Brownlee-joke-away 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XojVmivqDrA  Finlandia   Sibelius    Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AYXiGhM-4nkDavid Shearer’s speech A new New Zealand Vid
http://labour.org.nz/newnz  Transcript of David Shearer’s speech to the Cullen Breakfast Club
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Zl6CHfjeORo&feature=related    Angry Birds Movie Trailer  Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=B7UGuyCLGCE&feature=fvst  Finn Brothers – “Weather With You” Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tnDnFUBWQsQ   Gerry Brownlee: Greetings from Finland Vid

#Lyall Lukey 10 April 2012
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


A Star for Earthquake Tsar!

May 15, 2011

 “We’re gathering everybody’s ideas so we can create an informed and inspiring vision for the Central City following the quakes. This is just the beginning of the conversation – over the next couple months we’ll be asking plenty of questions about a range of topics.”  Share an Idea*

 Like many Cantabrians I was nervous about who might be crowned the Earthquake Tsar.*  The appointment on Thursday of a local star from Orion, the powerlines company that has been in the thick of the emergency response to the series of seismic shocks in Canterbury,  is great news.  

 
The stellar Orion is a large and bright constellation on the equator.
As the man in the middle in Christchurch the equable Sutton will have more than his share of challenges to avoid polarising people and instead take them with him on a collective journey to the future of this city.

He seems to be an all round good guy and communication straight shooter who is highly regarded by his Orion people at all levels from the boardroom to the staffroom and by civic and business leaders and the wider community. Anyone who takes a $200,000 drop in salary, rides a bike to work and was photographed after the announcement of his appointment in a hastily donned suit plus work boots has to be ok.

He is, in his own words, an engineer who is big picture guy. This is good because for the rebuild we need re-imagineering before engineering. The trick is going to be sharing the palette and brushes.

That’s what is happening this weekend at the CBS Canterbury Arena with the Christchurch City Council’s Share An Idea initiative to engage the people of Christchurch in the CBD re-design.*

CCC has 9 months from conception through gestation to deliver on the CBD plan. The countdown is rather more imperative than the Rugby World Cup countdown clock which flashed its inexorable  reminders in the Square before the February 22 quake.

Re-building a city-or rather, building a new city, should not be a spectator sport. That is why the grassroots engagement process is important. But it must be more than surface tokenism while subterranean bureaucrats burrow away on unrelated plans. 

The sequence is the secret, eliciting and distilling key principles and values to inform the unfolding vision before planning starts.*

The old city slogan The City that Shines might even take on some new lustre if he and we get the deconstruction and reconstruction right, with a focused and shared vision and some radical new thinking. Follow that star!

 #Feel free to add a comment below and share this post.

 *Blinks
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com/2011/03/29/que-cera-cera-catch-february-22/
http://www.shareanidea.org.nz/  
http://www.youtube.com/shareanideachch#p/u/91/1XP2w8WuhjY  Vid Lyall’s  YouTube video from Share An Idea
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mjeXPh-4uNM  Music Vid Follow that Star Logistics

 #Lyall Lukey 15 May 2011
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

 https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


Christchurch Quake II-Faulty Towers?

March 15, 2011

“So many lives have been lost as a result of the February 22 earthquake that we must find answers, particularly about why such a significant loss of life occurred in two buildings…” PM John Key*

A tourist snapshot from the Port Hills, now half a metre higher since Canterbury Quake II on 22 February, caught the city in stunning strong seismic motion. From the opposite perspective a worker near the top of the Forsyth Barr building in the central city saw the shockwaves approach and the dominoes falling.

This building, originally the Robt. Jones Building, was an inappropriately tall building for its context-a Ronson lighter stuck up alongside some sawn off stubs. It was built soon after the failed controversial attempt to build an even higher and even more inappropriate tower diagonally opposite in Victoria Square. There will be questions about the way much of its concrete interior staircasing collapsed, with one enterprising staff team abseiling 5 floors to the car park with mountaineering gear stached after the 2001 attacks on New York.

Other tall and quite modern buildings-not Brownlee old dungers-did not perform well. The majority of casualties was in the PGG and CTV Buildings, neither heritage nor stone buildings. The Grand Chancellor hotel, originally designed as an office block, has adopted a Pisa-like lean and there are structural question marks over a lot of other CBD buildings, historic and not.

The recently announced inquiry will examine issues around the built environment in the Christchurch CBD including, but not limited to, the CTV and PGC buildings.

It will also look at the “adequacy of the relevant building codes and standards into the future”. As former Christchurch City Council engineer the late Bryan Bluck said in a graphic 1996 TV documentary*, this is the key to a safer future. Ever since the 1931 Napier earthquake attempts to update the codes and take account of new building technology were too little and too late.

In  a typical Kiwi  belts and braces approach,  which keeps down the rate of judicial unemployment, The Royal Commission will also take into account, but not be limited by, a technical investigation already underway by the Department of Building and Housing into the performance of the Canterbury Television, PGC, Forsyth Barr and Hotel Grand Chancellor buildings.

By way of contrast the earthquake strengthened Canterbury museum, a classic heritage building, came through both big quakes in fine style.

Christchurch is located in a medium risk of earthquakes area while Wellington is shoehorned into a high risk area. Wellington city mothers are suddenly upping the planning for a worst case quake. If Christchurch didn’t get things moving, Friday’s Japanese earthquake certainly has.  The apocalyptic photos and video clips coming out of Japan’s  triple header disaster have caught everyone’s full attention.

There is nothing like witnessing the toss of the cosmic seismic dice elsewhere to concentrate the civic mind.

#Feel free to add a comment below and share this post.

*Blinks
 http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/4767484/Inquiry-into-Christchurch-earthquake-building-collapses 
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NkTy6ogLDX8   Vid  Earthquake!  Christchurch 1996
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/4725618/Christchurch-fault-risk-crucial-to-rebuild
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-At leastearthquake/4725585/Earthquake-fault-known-of-since-September
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/4764623/Wellington-plans-for-worst-case-quake 

#Lyall Lukey 15 Mar 2011
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


Christchurch Quake II-Crisis and Opportunity

March 2, 2011

“The level of the damage to the economy in Kobe was such that it became a national project. With Christchurch the second largest city in New Zealand it may have to be a national project to protect the future of that urban area”. David W. Edgington  Reconstructing Kobe: The Geography of Crisis and Opportunity. 

Eight days on the centre of Christchurch still looks like a war zone after last week’s 6.3 quake-not an aftershock on the previous faultline, definitely a gnarly new event, albeit with a subterranean connection.*

The death toll rose to 159 this morning, with another 80 people still missing. Despite the fierce hope the only signs of life found in the rubble in the  last week have been a bedraggled cat and a stsrving pigeon. 

Today, to add to the misery, the Canterbury Nor’Wester that’s been blowing strong for the last 12 hours or so has whipped up a Middle Eastern duststorm from the estimated 150,000 tons of now dried silt that has been spread everywhere. Some of the silt was also mixed with raw sewage forced to the surface by liquefaction. The shit is really hitting the fan and masks are needed.

Yesterday at 12.51 pm the city and the nation stopped for two minutes silence*. For the first time in a week it was quiet in the ruined buildings where an apparently now fruitless search and rescue, but grisly recovery operation still continues, with Kiwi  crews helped by those from China, Taiwan, Japan, Australia and the United States.  Like the victims, the rescuers are a united nations.

The sun shone, birds sang obliviously but not a word was spoken.

The night before, en route to the Salvation Army food depot to pick up supplies to do a Rotary food and water run to the stricken eastern suburbs, we saw a young woman standing alone in a small park in the middle of a devastated area playing a keyboard and singing to an invisible audience as her expression of the human spirit in the face of a crisis. She obviously had portable electricity; thousands of others still haven’t.

In 7 days more than $14 million had been poured into relief funds for Christchurch by yesterday. See below if you’d like to help.**

Danger and Opportunity-Kobe Lessons
I recall that the Chinese word for crisis was depicted in two ideograms : wei–man confronting tiger or danger and ji (or chi)- the energy of the universe or opportunity.

David W. Edgington is Associate Professor, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia and author of Reconstructing Kobe: The Geography of Crisis and Opportunity says there were lessons from the 1995 Kobe earthquake that can inform disaster recovery and reconstruction efforts  in Christchurch.*“The puzzle with reconstruction after such a terrible disaster, whether its Kobe, Haiti or Queensland after the floods and cyclone, is that decisions are squeezed into such a short period of time. People want to know where they can build. With the best will in the world, not all of the decisions made will be palatable, but the planning should start immediately. They have to inject certainty into the situation as soon as possible.

Unfortunately in Christchurch lightning does strike twice… [in] my own city Vancouver…[we] have a building stock very like Christchurch because we are an old colonial English city – brick and masonry buildings from around the turn of the century. They’ll never make code no matter how you try to strengthen them”.

The neo-Gothic slow burning horror story is that Christchurch was built on a “useless” complex of wetlands. The two main rivers, the Avon and the Heathcote, acted like seismic arteries during Earthquakes I &II. Perhaps our revered founders did not lay such a good foundation after all for the stone buildings floating on a swampish miasma.

In the words of Tipene O’Regan in 2000  “I find it difficult to restrain a small chuckle at the thought of some proxy for the Christchurch City Council being confronted with a contemporary resource consent application to develop a modern city on the nation’s most extensive and complex wetland system.”*

Now the endangered species is us.

Getting through the cordon
I’ve worked in the city centre for 33 years. After the September quake I was back in the office next day, although in the cordoned off area. This time it’s going to be months and I don’t see us returning to work there. Luckily, with mobile technology and cloud computing it’s easier to work from anywhere, but the learning and development hub and a club I was building up won’t have a physical inner city venue any more. I’ll have to make a virtue of the virtual.

Even though we took out my laptop and backups and other devices I do want to retrieve other gear and IP. This won’t be straightforward. As Brian Palliser said on February 28: “There must be plans to allow access to some buildings where the ‘risk’ is acceptable… to retrieve essential computers and files and it is reasonable safe to do so…. If that cannot be done, even in a limited way, then you can forget any comprehensive economic re-growth of the city. It would take maybe 1 to 2 hours at the outside to retrieve essential files and computers… If we cannot (and I accept that many may never be able to) then you cannot even begin to calculate the economic cost – and I am NOT talking about bricks and mortar). …To destroy a building before a reasonable effort can be made to recover such items is absolutely unacceptable UNLESS the building is utterly unsafe and or unstable…the longer we procrastinate the more impossible the business recovery becomes.”

Business Recovery
 According to David W. Edgington, in terms of business recovery it took Kobe ten years to recover, though the economy has never fully recovered.
“The level of the damage to the economy in Kobe was such that it became a national project. With Christchurch the second largest city in New Zealand it may have to be a national project to protect the future of that urban area… “Kobe had the fourth biggest port in the world. Within two years, the shipping had gone elsewhere. The delay was inevitable in fixing the port, getting the gantries back together. Kobe’s traditional industries, ship building and steel making were declining. They never really recovered after the earthquake. It was up to the national government to work with the local leaders to build up new industries and revive tourism for the region. They focused on biotechnology.”

 The government in Japan plays a big role in choosing new industries. They thought Kobe might never recover without some outside help so money was given to try and generate new start-up biotech firms. There have been some successes, but some failures. It has been a mixed bag. There are a lot of new, gleaming buildings in Kobe, but it has been a very slow economy since 1995.

Decisive Leadership
Edgington stresses the need for decisive leadership: “The local city did all the heavy lifting but the financial aid came from the Government. Kobe assembled a shopping list. They asked for a new regional airport, the biotech cluster on reclaimed land, a new convention centre, an earthquake museum. The World Health Organisation put a large medical research centre there. There was an opportunity. The planners build on the crisis. They had a clean slate.”

 Lifting public morale-the RWC
 As Edgington recounts, within the first year the leaders came up with something to keep everyone’s spirits up. The Kobe earthquake happened in January, the coldest part of the year. People were displaced, living in temporary housing and barracks. They started a “light up the city” programme with these astounding illuminations, a bit like Blackpool in England. It brought in people outside who spent money. It was a highlight for the locals in the second winter when things still weren’t really functioning a year after the big event.

It could be at least seven months before tourists, staff and shoppers can return to the inner city of Christchurch but if AMI Stadium is safe, our morale booster will be staging our leg of the Rugby World Cup. About a third of the city’s hotel accommodation has been knocked out. In September people will be just about ready to open their homes again, not to earthquake refugees but to visiting rugby fans to take up the accommodation shortfall.

New Planners-New Pioneers
Last Tuesday’s quake did reveal two time capsules in the base of the fallen statue of John Robert Godley. The messages are still being deciphered. As we re-build and create a new cityscape, what will we put in our architectural time capsule for future generations?  Certainly no more neo-colonial forelock tugging facades or out of context high rise buildings.

 If small is beautiful, low is safe.

PS Police received a large number of calls from spooked residents after an earthquake jolted Wellington last night. The 4.5-magnitude earthquake struck at 10.07pm, according to GeoNet. It was 40 kilometres deep, and centred off the Kapiti Coast, 20km northwest of Wellington. A 4.6-magnitude aftershock also struck Christchurch 35 minutes later, centred 10km south of Christchurch and 10km west of Lyttelton at a depth of 5km. In terms of my first EQ II post last week* a narrow win to Christchurch.

#Feel free to add a comment below and share this post.

*Blinks

http://www.abc.net.au/news/infographics/christchurch-quake/beforeafter.htm  Satellite images of the city before and after the 2nd quake
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/4715113/Nation-stops-to-remember-Christchurch-earthquake-victims  
http://www.stuff.co.nz/national/christchurch-earthquake/4711189/Tuesday-quake-no-aftershock 
http://www.linkedin.com/profile/edit?trk=hb_tab_pro_top  Lessons from Rebuilding Kobe…   Vid
smc@sciencemediacentre.co.nz  Contact the Science Media Centre on (04) 499 5476.
www.rotarysouthpacific.org   ** Rotary Earthquake Appeal-please help
http://quake.crowe.co.nz/   Right hand column shows exact location of aftershocks
Southern Capital Christchurch  ed. John Cookson and Graeme Dunstall
https://lukeytraining.wordpress.com/2011/02/25/strong-emotion-22211-christchurch-quake/  My first EQ II post

#Lyall Lukey 2 March  2011
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz
https://bluggerme.wordpress.com  My other less serious blog


BP-Big People? The Dinkum Oil

June 19, 2010

“(Obama)… is frustrated because he cares about the small people. We care about the small people. I hear comments sometimes that large oil companies are greedy companies or don’t care, but that is not the case in BP. We care about the small people.”  Carl-Henric  Svanberg  BP Chairman

BP’s credibility is sitting on empty after its latest PR efforts tanked.

While New Zealand health experts are debating the merits of stomach stapling to combat obesity, BP’s PR experts, assuming that they have any, given  the number of spoof sites proferring help*, will be considering the merits of mouth stapling to fight verbosity after Carl-Henric Svanberg’s off-the-cuff comments about “the small people” to reporters* after his White House meeting with President Barack Obama on Wednesday.

This was about the first time since the Big Spill that the BP chairman had poked his head above the public parapet, certainly in the US. His scripted statement was fine,  if somewhat stilted, but his response to questions was less so, no doubt because of language difficulties with slang terms like “the little guy”.  Erstwhile Muppets fans, even if antipathetic, would concede that the urbane chairman was more Swedish chief than Swedish chef.

Svanberg made his comments standing on the path leading into the White House with three senior BP staff lined up behind him. Two looked like Football World Cup players protecting their nether assets from a penalty shoot. The third, BP CEO Tony Hayward, relegated from the spokesman’s role, was protecting his back. This was wise after his earlier petulant sound bite  “I’d like my life back.” So would the wildlife of the Gulf and those who depend on it for their livelihood.

Hayward has become the most unpopular Pom since George III. He was excoriated by US congressmen on Capitol Hill yesterday, especially for his refusal to comment on drilling activities on the jinxed Deepwater Horizon off-shore well as Energy and Commerce Committee members took pot shots at BP for taking unacceptable risks.

It was like shooting dying fish in an oil barrel and it was certainly no barrel of laughs for the wayward Hayward. The more the committee members drillled down the redder his face got as he stonewalled in a manner which have made General Thomas Jackson proud. It may also make Hayward, like Jackson, vulnerable to friendly fire, in his case of a non-accidental variety. It’s hard to see him lasting the distance.

So  BP  still have their backs pinned firmly against the wall despite the fact the Chairman had just announced a long-term US $20 billion compensation fund, after a little help from the President, immediately before his blunder. 

The power of  social media to  amplify and multiply  gaffes at the speed of light detracted from any kudos the company might have won back. 

It’s not  that Svanberg is a dipstick: he fronted Eriksson for five years as CEO from 2003 and turned the company around. Before that he’d earnt the sobriquet the “Gentle Conqueror” at Assa Abloy, where he was key to the lockmaker’s acquisition of 100 firms in five years.

 Svanberg immediately apologised for having spoken ”clumsily” (at least he didn’t use the American politicians’ excuse that he“misspoke”) and gave media the dinkum oil in a subsequent attempt:   ”What I was trying to say – that BP understands how deeply this affects the lives of people who live along the Gulf and depend on it for their livelihood – will best be conveyed not by any words but by the work we do to put things right for the families and businesses who’ve been hurt.”

But his six spontaneous words will come back to haunt him and the company.

New Zealand Telecom head Paul Reynolds did a much better job of consuming humble fish pie in public, while keeping his tongue firmly in his cheek, after the agony of the XT system failures, even if his fly was a little undone*.  A scripted ad is easier to manage than a media bunfight, but Reynolds still did it with style.

But one shouldn’t mix oil and water even if  BP have given it their best shot. Elsewhere in cyberspace  Wwxploration’s website quotes Newsweek in declaring that  “Drilling is the very best tax advantaged investment”.

 “The world is addicted to oil. Put it to your advantage.
• The best tax advantaged investment
• Make up to 65%
Recession proof business
• Minimum investment – 10k
• Monthly dividend for 15 – 20 years
World’s #1 Commodity”
.*

The biggest lesson of the Gulf debacle is that risky, cost-cutting oil exploration in marginal and  difficult sites isn’t going to cut it any longer. The disaster is an oilshed for the development of alternative sources of energy. The oil companies themselves will be increasingly seen to be the fossils fuelling innovation by others to find substitutes for the black gold touted in the ad.

New oil exploration is scheduled off New Zealand’s coast with the same drilling company used for Deep Horizon. Minister of Energy Gerry Brownlee must be nervous in case this turns out to be a case of  going to the well once too often.

Given the stick he’s received recently from more than the  Greens over mineral exploration in Godzone, mineral water to settle the stomach could be just what the doctor orders. That might not be so effective  as a staple diet but it knocks a smaller hole in the ministerial credit card.

#Lyall Lukey 19 June 2010 
http://www.lukey.co.nz/  http://www.smartnet.co.nz

 BLINKS     Wo Words   Vid-Video   So-Sound   Mm-multimedia

 BP Chief: “We Care About the Small People”    Vid 17 June 2010   
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vAnsA96JK6Y  Vid   Classic BP Apology Spoof by Bob “Jack Mehoff”  Genz
BP Parody: Press Conference Ends Awkwardly  Vid
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwhXRxGlOcQ   Telecom CEO Paul Reynolds and the XT Network
http://www.wwxploration.com/invest/    Wo  Why Invest in Oil & Gas?


New Zealand lunches above its weight at Copenhagen

December 19, 2009

Wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen
Friendly old girl of a town
‘Neath her tavern light
On this merry night
Let us clink and drink one down
To wonderful, wonderful Copenhagen
Salty old queen of the sea
                   Frank Loesser

In an incontrovertible example of global swarming 35,000 official delegates and hangers-on descended upon Copenhagen two weeks ago for the UN’s climate change conference, which concludes today.

I am not sure about old queens but at the proverbial end of the day at the end of the fortnight, the negotiating glass was neither nearly half full nor half empty, depending upon your personal optimism setting. This was despite President Obama coming off the bench with his cheque book for the last play. (His speech about all nations “giving ground” would have had the leaders of low lying Pacific nations nodding their heads).

In fact, there is not much to celebrate.  Despite the self congratulations of its diplomatic drivers and even if, as a negotiating vehicle, it was pointed in the right direction, Copenhagen looks more of a clunker than a clinker.

Hans Christian would have had a field day separating the fairy stories from the factoids. There were only some Thumbelina-sized advances, despite the Snow Queen and her ilk, including Father X and polar  livestock, purportedly being in grave danger of getting the third degree treatment within the next century.

As might be expected very few officials- or protestors, for that matter- had arrived in the salty old town by sailing ship and several invited luminaries, including Prince Charles, arrived in private jets. (Even his scarf wearing mother used a scheduled train service two days ago to go to King’s Lynn in Norfolk for Xmas).  It was just a tad too soon for Branson’s Virgin Galactic so the city was spared any ETs. Just as well-the ETS was quite enough. 

Apart from the live and lively activities of a green deluge of tens of thousands of protesters, electronic petitions were a significant factor in accelerating cyberspace warming. With two days to go Avaaz* invited the global digital community to “sign the petition for a real deal” — the campaign already has a staggering 11 million supporters — over the next 48 hours let’s make it the largest petition in history! The name of every signer is being read out right now in the summit hall — this sign on at the link below and forward this email to everyone!“ 

Even if no one else signed the petition in the last two days-and it seems another 3 million odd did-to get through the list of names they would have needed 125 people simultaneously reading out aloud continuously for 48 hours. The Guinness book of records may be interested.

So was at least one politician.  On an “emergency conference call” with 3000 Avaaz members two days ago, UK Prime Minister Gordon Brown said: “What you’re doing through the internet around the world is absolutely crucial to setting the agenda. In the next 48 hours, don’t underestimate your effect on the leaders here in Copenhagen”.

Not quite a brown out, but the other 109 (no, make that 110) presidents and prime ministers negotiating in Copenhagen no doubt also got the message:  “We call on each one of you to make the concessions necessary to meet your historic responsibility in this crisis. Rich countries must offer fair funding, and all countries must set ambitious targets on emissions. Do not leave Copenhagen without a fair, ambitious and binding deal that keeps the world safe from catastrophic global warming of 2 degrees”.

Apart from the online mobilisation there were 3000 climate vigils in 140 countries last Saturday. Protests in the digital age make their analogue predecessors positively pedestrian, which, of course, they were.

Away from the last day’s superheated hyperactivity New Zealand can take some satisfaction from the agricultural pre-deal it initiated. Once he decided to go the Copenhagen Prime Minister John Key may have been elbowed out of the BBC climate change chat show by his  jostling Australian counterpart, but, as NBR columnist Matthew Hooton points out,  he at least has a significant agreement under his belt, courtesy of the work done in the months before Copenhagen by ministers Tim Groser and David Carter, supported by ex minister Simon Upton and MAF. 

This significant initiative is not based on dubious market trading schemes but on research, development and the application of new technology that can reduce net greenhouse emissions. There is an impressive lineup of foundation members for the Global Agricultural Alliance  who are funding new research, much of which will be done in New Zealand universities like Massey and Lincoln.

In this instance New Zealand was certainly playing to its strengths and lunching above its weight in diplomatic circles. That, at least, is worth celebrating.

 BLINKS

 Danny Kaye – Wonderful Copenhagen

Wallmans – Wonderful Copenhagen

Copenhagen vs. Tainted Love (Trentemøller Mash-up)

http://www.avaaz.org/en/save_copenhagen

http://www.nbr.co.nz/ 

 #Lyall Lukey 19 Dec 2009  

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New Zealand 100% Pure or Purblind?

August 1, 2009

“100% Pure forms a big part of our brand marketing for New Zealand Inc…”  John Key, Minister of Tourism.

 A decade ago, about the time the 100% Pure New Zealand campaign first saw the light of day, I attended the opening ceremony of an APEC meeting in the Christchurch Town Hall.

To enter the cleverly transformed auditorium guests had to make their way through a womb-like artificial cave, to emerge blinking in a recreation of prehistoric nocturnal New Zealand bush. There was not much to be seen except the glimpse of some stars and some dusky foliage, but there were lots of wonderful bird sound effects.

 It was an eerie and highly creative experience, but I wonder what sort of message about New Zealand it gave to the assembled and rather bemused Pacific and Asian delegates.

 It no doubt reinforced the Kiwi stereotype of a seldom seen flightless and nocturnal bird with a rather distasteful diet and strange breeding habits. (The clever, highly social, colourful and often airborne Kea was nowhere in evidence because of a lack of  4 wheel drive vehicles.)

 The APEC opening theme, then, was ornithological but not very logical. At least there were no sheep nor sheepish jokes.

Had the agenda of the meeting been solely about tourism perhaps the imagery would have worked fine. But because it was about new knowledge, new technology and new ways of doing business with new people, it fell flat on its multimedia face. The  landscape  decor was devoid of people, innovative or otherwise.

 Now, exactly 10 years after the campaign was first launched, with some wonderful film footage and effects from Ian Taylor’s Dunedin production company Taylormade, the Prime Minister, who also holds the Tourism portfolio, is reported to be in talks about expanding the 100% Pure New Zealand tourism campaign to become a “master brand” for the whole country.

“We think it’s a foundation brand to carry on into the future. We can use that to leverage not just our tourism activities but also our trade promotion and general promotion of New Zealand.” John Key he said in an interview Key seeks expansion of 100% Pure | Stuff.co.nz

In response the University of Waikato Management School’s Juliet Roper said using 100% Pure New Zealand as a wider national brand was risky unless the Government was serious about protecting the environment. “We’ve got to show the substance behind it…..The scenery is knock-out gorgeous, but we don’t want people coming here and saying, `But the water wasn’t clean’….”

Mr Key agrees there had to be integrity behind the 100% Pure New Zealand image. “We have to make sure that we, through our actions or our goods and services, don’t undermine the brand. “But, broadly speaking, I think it reflects reality, that New Zealand’s a largely unpopulated, unspoilt landscape….We are trying to balance our economic growth with our environmental credentials.”

But brilliant and heart swelling though it is, the 100% Pure campaign sweeps under the promotional carpet the dirty truth that, as a highly developed farming nation, we have transformed much of our land and waterways with a chemical cocktail of additives.  Giardia warning signs on the banks of New Zealand rivers are at odds with our 100% Pure brand.

Quite separately the image of a pristine and largely deserted landscape does not help our push in other markets to be perceived as a technologically savvy, innovative people. Nokia didn’t get to where it is today by staying fixated with forests and endlessly replaying the Finlandia Suite.

This is no doubt why some time ago NZTE launched its  New Zealand-New Thinking campaign.   This endeavored to make the point that if we are geographically on the edge, it is a creative cutting edge.  This is no Hickesville hinterland, and we have a lot of creative, scientific and technological talent to prove it.

Intensive factory scale dairying and tourism are opposite ends of a tricky balancing act. Old and new pollution muddy the  waters.  It may be that current primary product prices and land values are taking the heat out of dairy conversions, but it is difficult to ring electric fence the discharge of nitrates and cover up other depradations. Taking agriculture out of our emissions scheme, for example, is simply sleight of hand, though it is fair to acknowledge that many farmers are already using systems which reduce pollution.

As a country we have to be wary of falsely representing our environmental credentials with a proudly patriotic but purblind campaign. If we get it demonstrably wrong we will have no credibility and the campaign will be seen to be at least 50% pure bullshit.

As the Kingston Trio used to sing in a more innocent time “Do not muddy the water around us, we may have to drink it.”

BLINKS 

100% Pure New Zealand 

Early milking on a New Zealand dairy farm: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PWPnO88Vme8  

Jean Sibelius: Finlandia 

Muddy Waters – Blow Wind Blow   

The Kingston Trio – Early Morning Rain

Speight’s ad “Don’t mess with nature” feauterin… 

Best Beer Commercial ever

#Lyall Lukey 1 August 2009   http://www.lukey.co.nz/