Congratulations taxpayer - you are the proud owner of a digital meerkat that cost $400,000 to develop.
We've seen the native of southern Africa's Kalahari Desert popping up in health and safety adverts since October.
The perky wee creatures, related to the mongoose, are a key part of a $2.7 million WorkSafe campaign to improve workers' awareness of risks in the workplace.
In the adverts, the meerkats emerge as danger approaches, apparently showing how their animal instincts recognise threats early - the sort of response WorkSafe wants among workers.
What you didn't know was how much those meerkats cost - and the Herald on Sunday can now reveal they were bespoke computer-generated creations with a $400,000 price tag.
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Act leader David Seymour said the spending raised questions about sensible use of taxpayers' money.
"When I find out which minister was responsible for this idiocy, they will need to upgrade their workplace safety plan.
"Every hard-working taxpayer, worker and employer who's ever been browbeaten half to death by Worksafe will be ropeable. They will probably require anger management."
Seymour's comments earnt a stern rebuke from Workplace Relations and Safety Minister Michael Wood.
To be fair, the advert could have been a dog. Literally.
According to WorkSafe, the initial creative proposal for the advert didn't have meerkats. After WorkSafe briefed its advertising agency on the concept, it "came back with an 'I smell danger' concept which used dogs' faces emerging from actors' heads".
Feedback from cultural advisers included "potential cultural sensitivities around the use of dogs on people's heads".
The advertising campaign has been in the works since 2019, according to documents released through the Official Information Act.
An April 2020 briefing to Worksafe's board said the intent was "to amplify WorkSafe's work, and identify and support positive cultural attitudes and behaviours around New Zealand towards health and safety at work".
The board approved the plan around the time it received the 2019 Colmar Brunton survey on health and safety attitudes across New Zealand - a report that showed nearly half of all employers and more than half of employees had an "immature health and safety culture".
The survey identified obstacles to improving workplace culture, including perceptions among employers of costs, difficulty and responsibility. Among some workers, there was a reluctance to speak up, perceptions of low risk and having trust in their own and others' abilities.
It found those workplaces that focused on a health and safety culture, rather than an issue of compliance, had better employee engagement
And so came the meerkat, chosen for its extraordinary ability to sense danger.
The pitch from ad agency FCB to WorkSafe said: "We want people to notice workplace incidents before they happen. To spot the risk and imagine the potential harm, even when it's not obvious. Then say or do something to stop it.
"We all have a feeling if something's not right, or something bad is about to happen. The ability to predict danger is a basic human survival instinct - it's hard-wired into all of us.
"We dramatise the fact that sensing danger is a primal, animal instinct, by physically manifesting it - in the form of meerkats."
Contrary to Seymour's reaction, WorkSafe did not embark on the project on a whim. Board approval for the project came after three focus groups of 22 people in total were held in Auckland to "test the creative concept of using meerkats".
Rather than simply reporting that people found meerkats cute, it was able to discern that those in the focus groups understood the underlying message - "you can sense it, you can stop it" - and that safety was the responsibility of all.
"Respondents got the reasoning behind the meerkats quickly. Promisingly, even those with low-level English were able to recognise what the meerkat symbolised and explain the overall message."
WorkSafe chief executive Phil Parkes said the agency faced a challenge lifting health and safety performance because of the broad and diverse nature of the audience it needed to speak to.
"Once we received the feedback over the original concept, FCB presented the meerkat proposal and we agreed that and did not consider any alternatives."
Parkes said the CGI work on the meerkats was separated out from the advertisement production because they were intended to be used in a variety of formats. An upcoming seatbelt campaign would also feature the meerkats, as would other WorkSafe messaging in future.
"We are confident the benefits of the expenditure considerably outweigh the amount spent."
So far, WorkSafe had spent $1.3m on the Sense It Stop It advertisement and the upcoming seatbelt campaign. Another $950,000 was to be spent on both between March and June, bringing the agency in $300,000 under budget.
While WorkSafe has received data on how many people have seen the advert, it has yet to receive results from a new Colmar Brunton survey on health and safety in the workplace, conducted during the time the advert was launched. A formal evaluation of the campaign will be carried out in May.
Wood said he understood the meerkats would be used over multiple campaigns, "not just the single ad that's been shown at this stage, and so far around two million people have seen the ad".
"WorkSafe have a total ad budget of about $2.7m which when you consider they're our main health and safety regulator and a big part of that job is communicating with New Zealanders, I think that's a reasonable spend. New Zealanders expect us to be doing all we can to improve our workplace health and safety record, and sometimes that includes promoting better practices in unexpected, attention-grabbing ways."
Wood pointed out that about 70 people died every year, and there were up to 6000 hospitalisations a year, related to "work-related ill-health".
"David Seymour wants to take us back to the pre-Pike River days before WorkSafe existed and put even more New Zealanders at risk," he added.
"New Zealanders deserve better than MPs who make thinly veiled threats against other politicians. It's deeply inappropriate behaviour from anyone, let alone a party leader, and especially in the context of talking about keeping people safe at work."