Claire Trevett is the New Zealand Herald’s deputy political editor.

NZ: 100% tainted?

New Zealand's reputation is hammered as a new biosecurity mistake is revealed and Fonterra admits a fresh bungle

The 100% Pure slogan began as part of a tourism campaign, but was so successful it now represents NZ as a whole. Photo / Thinkstock
The 100% Pure slogan began as part of a tourism campaign, but was so successful it now represents NZ as a whole. Photo / Thinkstock

New Zealand will have to fight to save its 100% Pure image after the Fonterra scandal, says the man credited with inventing the slogan.

Former Saatchi boss Alan Morden told the Weekend Herald that the country could not afford to drop the phrase as it would be seen as a huge step backwards.

His comments followed an online attack on the slogan by Britain's Daily Mail which called it "pure manure" and said New Zealand's record on preservation of the natural environment was among the worst in the world.

In other developments yesterday:

• Fonterra had to apologise again after discovering it had sent possibly contaminated whey protein to Palmerston North Girls' High School, where students used it to make smoothies in a science project.

• The Government summoned company bosses to the Beehive, and will consider on Monday whether to hold a further inquiry.

• In a separate case (see story here), it emerged that the Ministry for Primary Industries took more than a year to respond to the discovery of an illegally imported kiwifruit vine that could have posed a risk to an industry already blighted by the Psa virus.

The 100% Pure slogan began as part of a tourism campaign, but was so successful it now represents New Zealand as a whole.

Labour's tourism spokesman, Andrew Little, said although New Zealand could deliver on spectacular scenery and tourism activities, it could be time for a new campaign that reflected that more directly.

"Maybe it's time to look at something that emphasises our scenic and natural beauty, as opposed to something which, if it's not promising environmental purity, is at least ambiguous about it."

But Tourism NZ said it would not dump the campaign. Its general manager of corporate affairs, Chris Roberts, said the message worked and had wide industry support.

"For as long as this is the case, it will continue to be the foundation of Tourism New Zealand's marketing work."

Mr Morden, now 67 and living in Byron Bay in New South Wales, is also adamant it must stay.

He said he first scribbled down the line "Pure New Zealand" while on a flight across the Tasman.

When the 100% was added, he knew it was a winner.

"It just took on a life of its own, which is great. And they've kept it for so long ... You can't throw it away."

Mr Morden said the campaign was now so entrenched that it was something for the Government, businesses and Kiwis to live up to.

New Zealand was special because it could credibly strive to do so.

The Fonterra incident and other environmental problems were more damaging because of the country's pure branding. But that, in turn, led to more focus on such issues.

"You could use that as a lever - 100% Pure New Zealand is worth protecting," Mr Morden said.

"There's nothing pure, but it's an advertising slogan, after all. That's what it is. But it is a good thing to live up to. It makes the country aware it has to live up to a thing like that and protect it."

Fonterra staff and health officials went to Palmerston North Girls' High to tell students and teachers that whey protein concentrate the company provided for the science project this year might be contaminated.

The company said it discovered only on Thursday evening that the product was sent to the school.

But the delay in tracing the school's concentrate will further concern the Government, which has made it clear it is dissatisfied at Fonterra's delays in providing information on the issue.

School principal Melba Scott said there had been no reports of ill health from smoothies made in the students' experiment, which ended in April.

Leftover concentrate was returned to Fonterra yesterday.

Health Minister Tony Ryall said the local medical officer of health had told the school the period in which any illness would appear had passed and students were no longer at risk.

Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce was briefed when he met Fonterra's chief executive, Theo Spierings, and board chairman John Wilson yesterday - before Fonterra publicly revealed the Palmerston North Girls' High School matter.

After that meeting, Mr Spierings said there were no further food safety issues.

Mr Joyce said that while it was good Fonterra was conducting its own inquiries, the Ministry for Primary Industries would continue making its own, and the Cabinet would decide on Monday whether a further inquiry was needed.

Mr Spierings has continued to maintain there were no undue delays in notifying authorities of the risk.

But Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy said there were questions to answer.

- NZ Herald

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