The Insider

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The Insider: Ralph Lauren dropping rugby

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FINAL WHISTLE
The Insider is sure this can't be a comment on the overseas appeal of the national game, but US fashion giant Ralph Lauren this week said it will be dropping its Rugby label. Lauren launched Rugby in 2004, selling the traditional, conservative sports-casual wardrobe of upper-crust Americans - in fashion shorthand, the "preppy look". Now, Rugby stores in top fashion locations will close next year.

FOLDING THE TENTS
In Opposition, National MPs bemoaned the disappearance of the beachfront campsites which feature so heavily in many people's childhood memories. A 2008 election promise pledged that a National Government would require the Department of Conservation to increase the number of coastal camping areas. But DoC is managing its way through some tough budget constraints, and beachfront campgrounds have been picked off because the land is too valuable and the rate of return from camping is too low. No one has yet made much fuss about the latest campground to go on the block. The Whangaruru Motor Camp at Oakura, just north of Whangarei, has been put on sale alongside a neighbouring 62.6ha property. The campground - which overlooks the golden sands of Parutahi Beach - is likely to be turned into large-sized residential sections. A 2009 Whangarei District Council valuation sets the campsite's land value at $8.31 million, while the neighbouring 62.6ha hill country area, which has panoramic views of the Poor Knights Islands and Cape Brett, has a valuation of $1.047 million.

With the campground pulling in just a small amount of money in comparison to its value, the only chance of things staying as they are would be for DoC to fulfil National's election promise by buying the property. Don't bet on it.

VOTE-BUYING
With all those flags, ticker-tape and TV adverts, US election campaigns don't come cheap. According to America's Centre for Responsive Politics, which monitors US political spending, businesses gave US$1.83 billion ($2.23 billion) to parties and individual candidates in the just-decided elections - including US$627 million for Democrats and US$905 million to Republicans.

SHUFFLING ON
The stars are moving into alignment for December reshuffles in the ranks of the main parties. It is notable that Chris Finlayson was given the title of acting Labour Minister when Kate Wilkinson stood down from the portfolio. He will keep the role until John Key's reshuffle to accommodate Lockwood Smith departing the Speaker's chair to take up his new job as High Commissioner in London. Ambitious backbenchers are already lobbying, and one Auckland MP has made it clear she wants to move up. Labour leader David Shearer has gone quiet about a reshuffle, after raising the prospect some months ago. Shearer has even more problems balancing egos and factions than Key, and his position is also far more precarious than Key's.

AUSSIES TOO
With Bill English's hopes of getting the government books back into surplus in the near future looking ever more unlikely to be fulfilled, he will have some sympathy for his counterpart across the Tasman. It seems the lucky country is not looking quite as lucky as it once did. A slim A$1 billion surplus is now expected to shrink into deficit, and that deficit is likely to go expanding unless serious spending cuts are made - which looks unlikely with an election looming. The mining tax is looking less and less like the goose that laid the golden egg. Though English is not one to engage in schadenfreude, Aussie's problems will come in handy when fighting political battles here in New Zealand.

NEXT BIG THING
After the failure of New Zealand's bid to gain a seat on the United Nations Security Council, more diplomatic and political effort is going into the - as yet unofficial - bid to get Trade Minister Tim Groser the job of heading the World Trade Organisation. Foreign Minister Murray McCully will have been putting in the word for Groser at the Asia-Europe summit in Laos, while John Key is scheduled to go with Groser to the East Asia Summit to be held this year in Phnom Penh. Many ministers are wishing them success.

SITE SIGHT
In case you missed it, the web passed a small milestone this week. According to the Domain Name Commission, there are now 500,000 active domain names ending in .nz. The half-millionth name was drct.kiwi.nz, home of the Disabilities Resource Centre Trust.

- NZ Herald

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