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If we look after the world, it will look after us

24 Aug 2016
By Rebecca Smith
Hero Blog

As New Zealanders we are concerned about inequality, our waterways, child welfare, the impact of rapid immigration and diversity, species loss, housing affordability, foreign ownership of anything and the transparency of everything. And that’s just the shortlist! 

As New Zealanders we strive to be better, we’d like for these issues not to be issues. And here in lies the beauty of what being a New Zealander really means. The fact that we care about these issues and want action is what makes us who we are. It denotes how seriously we take our role as Kaitiaki (guardians) and coincidentally, this also contributes to our positive international reputation. 

Those familiar with the New Zealand story will know that Kaitiaki is one of the key values we promote. When the New Zealand story was first developed, industry and government leaders debated what make us unique and while the term Kaitiaki was not front of mind for everybody, or a term everyone was familiar with, all agreed it was the most apt description that embraced our shared sense of guardianship, our duty of care and protection for people and place. It’s also a concept that rings true in offshore markets, although different countries and cultures use different words to describe the intent. 

It rings true because it is more than an idea or aspiration, it’s real, tangible and based on actions we’ve taken both in the past and the present: 

  • That we were first to give women the vote in 1893 demonstrates our commitment to equality and freedom of speech. 
  • Our approach to the Treaty of Waitaingi shows a deep commitment and care of people and place. 
  • Our bold nuclear free position in the 1980’s is still quoted around the world as one of our most visible and well regarded positions. 
  • And more recently there’s Zero Pests by 2050 – A gutsy Government initiative to eradicate predators which have decimated native birdlife stocks. 
  • Thirty per cent of New Zealand’s Economic Exclusion Zone is protected from fishing and our Fishing Quota system is seen as best practice and admired around the world 

Do these points above solve all of the issues we face? Of course they don’t. They do however demonstrate a sense of care and highlight some of what is being done to address the challenges we face as a country and as global citizens. When it comes to our global reputation, consumers and buyers tend not to chastise countries for having problems. But they do judge countries on how they deal with their problems. So we need to continue to focus on resolving our issues in the unique way that we do - as citizens and businesses of New Zealand and the world. 

New Zealand ranks 10th on the Social Progress Index (The Social Progress Imperative 2016). New Zealand's ranked most highly in terms of personal rights, scoring top or joint top on every one of the range of indicators used in the category. Those indicators included freedom of speech, political rights and freedom of assembly. 

"Not only it is clear from this year's results that New Zealand is one of the best countries in the world to live, perhaps more importantly it proves that you don't need to be a global economic powerhouse to provide a good quality of life for citizens," Michael Green, Executive Director for the Social Progress Imperative. 

This is echoed through many country indices with consumers around the globe valuing integrity, kaitiaki and creativity above the traditional “hard power” metrics of economic size, scale or military might. 

Our actions and behaviours will deliver more positive reputational value than any advertising campaign can ever achieve. Marketing ourselves to the world is about taking the best of what we have to offer, and sharing that with others in authentic ways that showcase our personality, our values, and our commitment to being good global citizens. 

Whatungarongaro te tangata, toitū te whenua. 

People come and go, the land remains forever. 

This whakatauki, Māori proverbial saying, reminds us our role as Kaitiaki is momentary compared to the longevity of our planet, so we need to do our part while we can.