Home' Kapi-Mana News : August 13th 2013 Contents 11
KAPI-MANA NEWS, AUGUST 13, 2013
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NZ: 100 per cent vulnerable
Years ago, the Health
Department explained to
the media that its indepen-
dent testing of health remedies
only swung into action when
someone turns green or bits start
falling off them''.
Similar attitudes have been evi-
dent during the response to
Fonterra's whey products con-
In defence of Fonterra and New
Zealand's 100 per cent pure''
brand, some observers have even
argued that because no baby has
caught botulism (as yet, cross
fingers), the whole incident might
Global milk powder markets,
after all, have been relatively
unruffled. Nice try, but that argu-
ment misses the point by a
Yes, it would be worse if babies
Yet the fear they might get sick
was surely a disaster, whatever
the market calculations.
Parenthood is anxiety-inducing
enough, without asking parents to
play Russian roulette with what
they're feeding their babies.
Globally, this country's repu-
tation as a food exporter that can
be trusted to guarantee reason-
able protection for its customers
has taken a sizeable hit.
That said, there was some truth
in the claim that the Chinese
media seized on the scandal as
part of its wider campaign to dis-
credit foreign products and pro-
mote China's local suppliers.
Presumably Prime Minister
John Key had China in mind
when he said that we shouldn't let
anyone talk New Zealand down in
the wake of the scandal.
True enough. But not giving our
fair-weather friends in China such
golden opportunities to talk us
down would have been a better
Fonterra leads New Zealand's
export drive, and China is its most
valuable market -- and unlike big-
ger and more diversified econom-
ies, we're extremely vulnerable.
That's even before we try to pro-
mote to the world the truth of our
100 per cent pure'' brand, as a
tourist destination and exporter of
I'm not sure if there's a market-
ing version of Stockholm Syn-
drome -- when the people market-
ing a campaign get captured by it
-- but New Zealanders do seem to
treat 100 per cent pure'' as a
fairly accurate expression of our
Our hands are clean, our inten-
tions are pure. (Despite the pol-
lution in our rivers.) So, like us,
That national capacity for self-
deception means that something
like a contamination crisis is all
too readily seen as a puzzling
exception that can be put right by
reasserting our basic decency and
Yet despite Fonterra preaching
the virtues of transparency, that
word took on a very elastic mean-
ing last week.
It meant being transparent''
about the good news concerning
what Fonterra was doing to trace
its dodgy whey and reassure its
Fonterra was being remarkably
opaque about (a) why it had
delayed informing the public, (b)
the likely consequences for those
responsible, (c) the scale of likely
compensation claims against
Fonterra, and (d) what harm
(short of botulism) might poten-
tially accrue to the babies who
Fonterra had allowed to keep on
consuming the products con-
cerned, while it mulled over its
public relations strategy for man-
aging the revelations.
Ultimately, the scandal has
underlined New Zealand's danger-
ous dependence on the China mar-
ket, on a narrow range of exports
and on a dairy champion with
dodgy systems of quality control.
Tough problems indeed for any
government to manage.
Popular: One of the prolific William George Baker's sketches.
Photo: ALEXANDER TURNBULL LIBRARY, REF, E-628-039
FROM THE ALEXANDER TURNBULL ARCHIVES
By FIONA OLIVER
William George Baker may have
been familiar with the pitiful
plight'' of his dejected subject.
Untrained as an artist, Baker
nevertheless became one of the
most prolific landscape painters of
the late 19th and early 20th
centuries -- his widespread popu-
larity due in part because he trav-
elled up and down the country
selling his work at fairs, in bars,
and in exchange for accommo-
It must be supposed, however,
that if any hotelier didn't have an
appreciative eye for a rendition in
oils, Baker would find himself
homeless for the night.
His way of life as an itinerant of
New Zealand's back roads ended
at Titahi Bay, where he stayed for
30 years, until his death in 1929.
When he made this sketch, in
the early 1920s, the bay was being
promoted as an idyllic place to
spend a holiday, or to stay while
doing business in Wellington.
Accommodation was in demand,
most of it catered for by the
imposing Titahi Bay Club Hotel --
which later became known as a
place to procure illicit grog, and
which is now demolished.
Baker's sketch is prophetic of
the housing shortage that affected
Titahi Bay in the 1940s.
It led to 500 ready-cut state
houses being assembled by a large party of Austrians brought in for
Many of them, like Baker, liked
the place enough to stay.
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