As I See It : Rob Eliott

How would you describe the New Zealand identity?
Wine and meat, stunning landscapes, adventure, rugby and in certain circles – sailing. The world sees us through our food and drink exports, our sporting achievements, the 100% Pure campaign, that mother of all NZ billboards – the Lord of the Rings, and our major events.
Events play huge role in helping to shape our identity and bring aspects of it into focus. I spend lot of time championing our food and drink scene. We might all think it’s pretty good, but events like Taste at the Cloud and the Taste of New Zealand Festival highlight to everyone just how good. They provide relevance for media to talk about our chefs and prompt consumers to explore the industry. Soon we will be promoting the Taste Festival offshore, encouraging food tourism, which will in turn stimulate trade opportunities. Hopefully RWC will help whet our appetite for big events and we can look to promote other aspects of our identity in this way – contributing more vibrancy to the community in the process. Much more exciting than billboard in Kings Cross.

What are our major challenges?
If we like our clean, green 100% Pure image, then we’d better try to hang onto it. Much of the developed world is marching on ahead of us. Trade in our beloved V8s, pull back on the pesticides, clean up the Manawatu (in 2009 ranked most polluted river in study of 300 in the western world). We could even learn something from London, whose local household refuse service now includes compost collection for kitchen scraps.
However, as important as our international image is, we have to be more than pretty landscapes and adventure holidays. We need New Zealand to be land of opportunity for New Zealanders. Currently we have one of the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD, massive child poverty rate amongst Maori and Pacific Islanders, and every year thousands of our most talented young people leave to pursue greater opportunities abroad. No youth, no future. New Zealand will never prosper until our young people are given hope for brighter future and we reverse the brain drain.

What do we need to do to prepare for this?
Concentrate on what we are good at. Let’s cultivate great film industry, not just an occasionally good one. Let’s secure our position as leading producer of premium wines. Give 100% focus on building industries that will inspire our youth and lead to their employment. Let’s regularly stage events that celebrate our talents, promoting them to the world and to ourselves. And if we want to ride the tourist wave of clean green image, let’s all get out there and practise what we preach. M

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