Key Points:

Internet New Zealand held its annual meeting recently. You probably didn't hear about it. Just a bunch of people from across the political spectrum sitting in a room talking about stuff most of us now take for granted.

You might have heard about the Netsafe conference in Queenstown in the days leading up to it. That was a forum to discuss what could be done to stop the extraordinary openness of the internet being used against the young and the vulnerable.

Netsafe is backed and partially funded by internet NZ, as are a number of other initiatives aimed at improving how New Zealanders experience the internet in all its many guises.

Internet NZ exists as an independent, membership-based organisation because of a desire by the creators of the internet that it not be run by governments, corporations or other vested interests. Its key goal is a free and uncapturable internet. Its primary job is running .nz, the top-level domain assigned to New Zealand.

"It's now critical infrastructure, so it's essential it moves smoothly and well, so the registry company is the core of our business operation. We have to manage the critical components to make sure it never falls over," says Peter Macaulay, internet NZ's president.

The registry also provides the cash which keeps the show running, paying a $1.7 million dividend last year. By keeping the wholesale cost of registering a domain name relatively low, internet NZ has encouraged volume, with 300,000 .nz names reached last September.

It also dropped its domain name fee to $1.50 a month, so if your internet service provider is charging significantly higher, you might want to ask why.

There are always going to be people who are unhappy that someone else has got a name they think they are entitled to, or have some other gripe, so there is a domain name commissioner to look after the regulatory side of the operation.

The role which may make the organisation noticeable is its policy and advocacy side, which involves building up relationships with other organisations here and internationally.

A New Zealander, lawyer Peter Dengate-Thrush, now chairs ICANN, the internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers, which co-ordinates the technical resources at the heart of the global internet.

"As in so many things New Zealand does internationally, we tend to punch above our weight. The way we do that is having good people at the right conferences," Macaulay says.

A lot of its budget is spent getting the right people to places where decisions are being made on issues such IPv6, the next generation of internet protocols which will allow the creation of far more addresses - the number available under the current IPv4 are set to run out relatively soon.

A structural review has led to the clear separation of governance from operations. That means the sort of religious wars around the council table, which used to get the organisation into the newspapers, are less likely.

"The council can concentrate on looking at the bigger picture of what happens as we move into ubiquitous connectivity."

Former communications minister Paul Swain has been brought in to chair an executive board which will work with chief executive Keith Davidson and take on the advocacy and lobbying role.

A constitutional change has allowed internet NZ to apply for charitable status. If that comes through, it will add another million dollars a year to the budget it has to do things with. Things like the $800,000 spent participating in the debates and lobbying surrounding the operational separation of Telecom New Zealand.

"We now have a new role which will be monitoring the behaviour of the new organisations which have come out of separation," Macaulay says.

Macaulay says a lot needs to be done to give New Zealand the internet it needs.

"We have bipartisan agreement how to do things, but a failure to put real money into it.

"New Zealand small business has not stepped up to the mark because Telecom has stopped small and innovative businesses growing and being successful."

Initiatives like video to the home, telehealth, good video presence, local sport transmissions and anything else some local entrepreneur thinks a good idea are discouraged by data charging regimes which bear no relation to how the internet operates.

"We have got to stop thinking the internet is a telephone company business," Macaulay says.

"There will always be telcos because there are things you need to do with voice delivery, but this is about networks."

Macaulay says the restructuring will allow the organisation to respond rapidly to issues as they emerge, which in the internet world tends to be at extremely short notice. It will also continue to bring through people who are changing the way we view the world.