Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni: 100 pure, 99 compliant

We should admire the minority who ask the hard questions of decision makers

Illustration / Anna Crichton
Illustration / Anna Crichton

A trio of advertising suits from M&C Saatchi sat on a plane one day, heading for Queenstown, and when they were handed a container labelled "Pure New Zealand Water", came up with one of the most enduring ad/marketing campaigns ever.

Over the years the "100 per cent Pure NZ" campaign has wowed the world with its simplicity and beauty.

But as its veracity is increasingly questioned by influential offshore media, local academics, politicians and greenies, hysterical right-wingers have started hyperventilating about what it might mean for the country's future if we don't all fall in lockstep behind the slogan.

Apparently these days, to question a - gasp - advertising campaign just isn't cricket.

The terms "economic terrorists", "traitors" and "enemies of the people" have been thrown around with an abandon that would make even North Korean dictator Kim Jong-un think twice.

And we hear lots of spluttering about how "stupid greenies" have no idea that the campaign is actually about the "purity" of the New Zealand experience - as if our wine, night life and vibrant cultural institutions put Paris, New York or London to shame.


Our tourists think of New Zealand largely as a beautiful, spacious, clean paradise, and have every right to want assurances that this impression - which we go out of our way to encourage - isn't too far from the truth.

New Zealanders who question the prevailing wisdom are far from traitors - they are spurring us on to live up to our marketing hype.

But the whole episode underlines the peculiar train of thought among many New Zealanders, who are extremely sensitive towards anyone they see as "upsetting the apple cart" by speaking out.

It is evident that times have become even harder for the anti-establishment thinker in Aotearoa.

The prevailing "How Dare You!" kicked into action in the days after the Pike River Mine explosion, when union leaders who questioned the safety of the mine were accused of politicising the tragedy for their own ends.

"How can you ask puppy-dog-eyed Peter Whittall questions like this at this time!" the union-haters raged. "Disrespectful!"

The same charge is levelled at anyone who presumes to voice an opinion that differs from Sir Peter Jackson.

It is also on offer for anyone who doesn't show sufficient gratitude towards SkyCity and its life-affirming pokie machines.

The debate around the GCSB is the most recent example of pervasive herd-think.

Not that people can't, and don't, have differing points of view on the rights and wrongs of the legislation as proposed.

It's just that when the Prime Minister fronts up, the journalist who is only doing his job in asking the hard questions is the one who cops it in the chook.

The tenor of much of the criticism isn't "John Campbell, you got it wrong"; it's more "John Campbell, how dare you upset our lovely-jubbly Prime Minister with your nasty questions!"

Even though, if said Prime Minister's comments were put into transcribed form, they would probably be notated thus: "There will be no wholesale spying on New Zealanders*® (*there may be wholesale spying on New Zealanders; the term 'wholesale' is subject to change at any time; ®full terms and conditions will never be available).

The prevailing climate is one where naysayers are painted as kooks and loonies; unionists depicted as pinko commies; questioners of John Key as jealous socialists, and passionate greenies as deluded hippies obstructing economic boom times.

There's something in that that even Kim Jong-un himself could admire.

- NZ Herald

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Business columnist, with a political twist, for NZ Herald

Dita De Boni is a columnist, commentator and TV producer/journalist. She first wrote columns for the NZ Herald in 1995, moving to daily business news in 1999 for four years, and then to TVNZ in Business, News and Current Affairs. After tiring of the parenting/blogging beat for the Herald Online she moved back to her first love, business (with a politics chaser), writing a column for Friday Business since 2012.

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