Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman: One pohutukawa logo to bind them... and no exceptions

Photo / Supplied
Photo / Supplied

How droll that Bob Harvey, the chief judge of the Auckland Super City logo contest last year, doesn't want the new emblem flying over his little corner of the new empire.

As chairman of Waterfront Auckland, Mr Harvey wants his organisation to be able to retain the "W" logo his organisation subsequently adopted. As a compromise, he says he will look at some way of incorporating the winning Pohutukawa blossom with the W.

This is the same Mr Harvey who, in April last year, hailed the Pohutukawa as "a stunning design" that just "leapt off the page".

He also called it "unique" which it wasn't. The design was remarkably similar to a logo used by the Auckland Regional Council for 25 years, on everything from Christmas cards to the shirt pocket badge of park rangers.

Still, as Mr Harvey predicted, this not-so-unique symbol quickly caught on, slipping into its expanded role like a natural.

Now councillors want it to be the superbrand for the Super City, to be used in all communications, marketing and advertising by every council controlled organisation (CCO).

It is to ensure "all branding and external communications devices reinforce the ownership link back to Auckland Council".

To achieve that, a "brand navigation group" is to be established to ensure "supply efficiencies, consistency and clarity of brand communications for all Aucklanders".

Put simply, they want ratepayers to be able to identify the services they are paying for and be suitably proud, thankful or grumpy.

But the Auckland Council's various trading offshoots seem to go out of their way to hide their parentage.

Waterfront Auckland's homepage, for example, gives absolutely no hint that it's not a private developer, but a development arm of the council.

Watercare Services similarly hides its ownership under a bushel. You have to delve down to the third level of its website before ownership is revealed.

The same shyness goes for Ports of Auckland, Auckland Zoo, The Edge and even the institution we once called the Auckland Public Art Gallery, but is now Auckland Art Gallery.

At least, unlike the others listed, the gallery does bury a small Auckland Council logo, complete with pohutukawa, at the bottom of its home page, but it's in non-regulation grey.

To confuse the issue, a logo runs alongside as though the Government shares ownership, which it doesn't.

Auckland Transport also, rather confusingly, has the same government link at the bottom of its page, but at least at the top of the page, under its name, it declares itself "an Auckland Council organisation". No pohutukawa logo though.

Over the years, there have been several efforts to create an Auckland brand, with mixed success.

In 2007, Auckland City chief executive David Rankin unveiled a wavy blue logo which led to complaints of plagiarism from Triangle Television, a part backdown from the council and a $37,000 payout to Triangle for legal fees.

A year later, the regional council's business arm came up with a lava-coloured letter A, the frayed legs apparently simulating volcanic eruptions. It's that unlovely image which now appears on Rugby World Cup promotional material and so annoys councillor Cathy Casey.

She says: "I am angry that the raggy 'A' is the only sign of the $100 million that Auckland ratepayers have poured into the Rugby World Cup."

This week's decision relates to the seven big CCOs, and the councillors' focus seems to be on the promotional benefits to ratepayers and other consumers. But branding these organisations with the pohutukawa would also be a constant reminder to the private enterpriser board members of who they are there to serve.

What's not clear is whether the organisations run by the big CCOs will also have to wear the council badge. I've listed some of them above. The port company, the art gallery, the zoo. The first has a blue and white logo incorporating a couple of wavy lines and an outline of Rangitoto. The gallery relies on distinctive lettering and the zoo employs an elephant head.

For me, it's time we took judge Bob Harvey's advice and embraced the pohutukawa. "It's a stunning design," he said. "We love it."

- NZ Herald

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Brian Rudman is a NZ Herald feature writer and columnist.

Brian Rudman's first news story was for Auckland University student paper Outspoke, exposing an SIS spy on campus during the heady days of the Vietnam War. It resulted in a Commission of Inquiry and an award for student journalist of the year. A stint editing the Labour Party's start-up Auckland newspaper NZ Statesman followed. Rudman decided journalism was the career for him, but the NZ Herald and Auckland Star thought otherwise when he came job-hunting. After a year on the "hippy trail" overland to London, he spent four years on Fleet St with various British provincial papers. He then joined the Auckland Star, winning the Dulux Journalist of the Year award for coverage of the 1976 Dawn Raids against Polynesian overstayers. He has also worked on the NZ Listener, Auckland Sun, and since 1996, for the NZ Herald as feature writer and columnist. He has a BA in History and Politics.

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