What a fabulous ceremony for our Olympic champion Val Adams.

Thousands turned out to The Cloud on Wednesday night to see Val get the gold medal she should have been given in London.

Val doesn't want to waste any more breath on the Belorussian drugs cheat who robbed her of her moment of glory on top of the podium at the Games, so neither shall I.

Suffice it to say that Val looked pleased and proud that she finally received the medal she earned in front of her family, friends, fellow Olympic medallists and her New Zealand fans.


The organisers deserve a pat on the back for the way the event was put together. A great speech from Governor-General Sir Jerry Mateparae; a song; the medal; the national anthem; a dignified, heartfelt gracious speech from the gold medallist - then it was over.

Short and sweet and no politicians, local or national, gatecrashing to garner a little conflation. Conflation is a term used by Joe Bennett in his latest brilliant book to describe the way politicians and corporates try to snaffle public approval and reflected glory by hanging out publicly with popular winners and high achievers.

Whoever put the kibosh on hangers-on turning up and speaking is to be congratulated.

So cheers all round - the event, like Val, was all class.

Aid can harm instead of help

Lord Michael Ashcroft has called for the British government to turn off the "golden taps" of financial aid to foreign countries.

Lord Ashcroft is a British billionaire and is probably best known to New Zealanders for offering a $200,000 reward for the return of the war medals stolen from Waiouru Army Museum.

He also donated a quarter of a million dollars to the Canterbury Earthquake Relief Fund, so his comments don't come from a lack of generosity.

Rather, what the good lord is concerned about is that he believes Britain's approach to aid is flawed and self-defeating.

His comments come as the newly appointed International Development Secretary investigates revelations that consultancy firms working on programmes in developing nations have been paid millions from the foreign aid budget.

Sir Bob Geldof has had to defend his BandAid charity from accusations that millions of dollars of aid given to Ethiopia had been siphoned off by the rebel army operating there at the time and the UN estimates 50 per cent of food donated to countries is stolen.

Lord Ashcroft said that he had spent much of his life travelling in Africa, Asia and South America and had seen the people living in grinding poverty. He said if aid worked, he would be right behind the government's efforts. But he said evidence showed aid undermined progress and encouraged corruption and conflict.

When we were discussing this issue on my radio show this week, a young man from Malawi rang and said if you were a bright kid living in his country, you wanted to work for an NGO delivering aid. That's where the money was and that's where the doors to power began to open as contacts were made and favours were granted.

If you saw a white person in Malawi, he said, you'd know they were there to give you something. He believed the best thing would be to let countries carve out their own futures and for donor nations to withdraw their support gradually.

According to the OECD, New Zealand is the 16th most generous nation in the world, based on aid per percentage of GDP. Not as giving as Belgium, but better than the United States.

But it's one thing to care. Quite another to write out cheques blithely without a thought as to how hard-earned taxpayers' money is spent.

This country's aid budget has been set at $550 million over the next three years. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade says ensuring the dollars net real results is more important than how much is given.

Our aid projects are focused on things that will create long-term employment and revenue. Shame we can't do a bit more of that in our own country.

There is regular monitoring and auditing of the projects New Zealand helps fund, such as the Kiribati water collection and sanitation project and the Tongan photovoltaic power plant, a solar plant that will eventually offset the importation of 470,000 litres of diesel.

I think it's vital for countries to assist others in need, especially their neighbours.

Yes we have problems in this country but until you travel and see the need of people in developing nations, you don't understand what poverty really is.

However, though it's good to give with an open heart, giving with monitoring and audits attached will do more for the people we want to help.