Cosying up to the Kiwis

By Greg Ansley

The day before the Black Caps took to the Adelaide Oval to begin their woeful second test against Australia, South Australia's Labor Premier Mike Rann opened the batting on a much smaller wicket at Chateau Tanunda, the 114-year-old bluestone winery high in his state's Barossa Valley.

With what one suspects was a touch of kindness from the bowlers, Rann made two runs for his team in the inaugural SA Premier's invitation match before retiring and heading back for a far less gracious innings in the State Parliament.

As for the humbling of the New Zealand cricketers over the following week, Rann had the luxury of choice about which team to back. He has citizenship of both countries - unique for a politician in a country that in every other state Parliament demands exclusively Australian devotion.

Rann wants to bring his state closer to his former homeland. He cut his school teeth in South Auckland, buddied up with Foreign Minister Phil Goff at Auckland University, and helped the then Prime Minister David Lange write the speech that turned New Zealand non-nuclear.

Former Prime Minister and World Trade Organisation chief Mike Moore is a close mate and godfather of Rann's daughter Eleanor. And Rann's mum still lives in Birkenhead on Auckland's North Shore.

Two weeks ago Rann flew into Auckland for his first official visit as SA Premier, to sell his state to his former homeland - and maybe encourage a few more Kiwis to follow him back across the Tasman.

SA ran full-page newspaper advertisements plugging the state as a place to visit, to do business in and migrate to.

This month Qantas will launch direct flights to Adelaide, the city Auckland has just displaced as Australasia's fifth-biggest.

The SA Government has underwritten the airline's break-even costs on the route. If enough Kiwis start flying into Adelaide's new airport, another direct flight from Christchurch will be added.

"As a Kiwi Australian, or an Australian Kiwi, I'm trying to put South Australia on New Zealand's radar, and vice-versa," Rann said.

Rann has been SA Premier since March 2002, pulling Labor from years of soul-destroying Opposition to a victory no one really expected. He has presided over a remarkable turnaround in the state's economy, restoring a long-lost AAA Moody's rating. He's also launched an ambitious plan to reverse an exodus of people north, lift exports, investment and employment, hammer crime, and keep kids at school longer.

His Government kept Mitsubishi in South Australia, securing a A$600 million ($649) investment for a new-model production line that Rann will open.

He has cut payroll and business taxes, established an economic council headed by Normandy Mining chief Robert Champion deCrespigny and including Moore and former Prime Minister Bob Hawke, and outlined a strategy to build on South Australia's strengths in defence, wine, food and electronics.

As far as polls can show, Rann is Australia's most popular premier. Last week a Morgan poll put him in position for a landslide victory at the next election.

Not bad for a man who arrived in Maraetai, Manukau City, in the early 1960s as a funny-speaking mite from England, moved to Matamata and passed through high school with (the later) TVNZ news and current affairs chief Bill Ralston, and became best mates with Goff at Auckland University while editing Craccum.

"Mike Moore was my kind of political mentor and Phil and Mike remain my closest friends," Rann said.

He followed his brother Chris to Adelaide after working as a current affairs reporter-producer for Radio New Zealand, returning home in 1984 to work on Lange's successful campaign to become Prime Minister. He co-wrote Lange's Christchurch Town Hall speech that declared Labour's intention to make New Zealand nuclear-free.

In South Australia, inspired by - and working for - former Labor Premier Don Dunstan, Rann worked on causes such as Aboriginal land rights, uranium mining and social issues, finally winning a seat in Parliament and, in 1994, taking the reins of a shattered party.

He has never surrendered his New Zealand passport. There have been other Kiwi-born Premiers and politicians - Queensland's Sir Joh Bjelke-Petersen and New South Wales' Premier John Fahey among them - but most have renounced transtasman citizenship. No federal MP can have dual nationality.

"There was an attempt, a miserable attempt, a couple of years ago [to outlaw dual nationality in SA], which was clearly aimed at me," Rann said.

"The legislation passed the Lower House but failed in the Upper House. I think people could see it was just a trick to embarrass me, because I was refusing to give up my New Zealand citizenship."

Adelaide has had several historical ties with New Zealand. Edward Gibbon Wakefield, an Englishman with colonisation designs, was involved for a while in plans for the colonisation of South Australia.

Wakefield also helped set up the Canterbury Association and the two cities, Adelaide and Christchurch, bear a striking resemblance.

Sir George Grey was SA Governor before sailing across the Tasman to become Governor, Governor-General and finally Prime Minister of New Zealand, an accident of history for which Rann is grateful.

Recently he welcomed back a shipment of tammar wallabies, shipped from Australia in the late 1800s to Kawau Island by Grey and later to become extinct in SA.

"I was the person who opened the crates to welcome them because they thought my accent might be less confronting," he jokes.

Rann sees other similarities. He admires New Zealand's global environmental policies, but is pushing his adopted state's credentials - the use of "hot rock" technology to produce geothermal energy, for example, and the fact the half of Australia's planned wind power projects have been approved in SA.

He has also signed up to the Australia-New Zealand biotechnology alliance, and welcomes Kiwi investors such as Sky City and Lion Nathan.

But SA remains a speck on most Kiwis' horizons. Rann wants to promote tourism to a state he promotes as three times the size of Germany, running from Outback to remote beaches to countryside reminiscent of Tuscany or Burgundy.

Last year only 27,000 New Zealanders visited the state - not even a fraction of the 792,000 who flew to Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria, and fewer even than far more distant Western Australia. Early next year a tourism roadshow will plug the state from Auckland to Invercargill.

Rann wants business and investment to boost growth in a A$49 billion ($53 billion) economy that in 2002-03 achieved growth of just 0.1 per cent, against the 2.2 to 4.7 per cent of the other mainland states. Exports to New Zealand run at about A$577 million ($624 million) a year, pushed by car exports worth A$270 million ($292 million). Recently, Kangaroo Island Sealink bought Auckland's Subritzky ferries.

Rann wants more New Zealand companies to set up shop in SA. He said a KPMG survey of 98 cities around the world, measuring 27 different indicators ranging from inflation and the cost of housing to regulation and workforce skills, ranked Adelaide as the most cost-competitive city in Australia, No 1 in Asia-Pacific and No 3 in the world.

And he wants our talent.

"We want to encourage New Zealanders to consider migration. People will say to me, I'm sure, 'Can a migrant from New Zealand make it in SA?' I can say, 'Well, I went there at the age of 21 and I haven't done too bad'."

 

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_n1 at 17 Sep 2014 07:12:44 Processing Time: 524ms