Thursday, April 27, 2006


A reader named Guy was amused by this sign while going for a quiet drive in the English countryside.

By Ana Samways

Alex Chiu, inventor of the The Eternal Life Rings noted in Sideswipe yesterday, has another remarkable product available. The Gorgeous pill will make you "prettier and more beautiful every morning. You will gradually look PERFECT, even more gorgeous than supermodels", says Chiu's website. The pill is strong enough to change the shape of your facial bones, shrink your head size, make your eyes look beautiful. Here's the explanation on how it works: "The more beautiful a person is, the more superior that person's genes is. A superior person is more smart, more fun, more romantic, more flexible, and more productive. Just by looking at people's faces and you can tell who is romantic and who is dumb. If the blood circulation to the brain is poor, that person's facial expression will be ugly ... This pill, if used correctly, will stimulate all cells in your body forcing them to rebound and regroup themselves. The pill pulls your entire body together, increases Chi energy and circulation to all organs, and gets rid of Chi blockades around the body. The human body is very much like a sex balloon doll. The air is its Chi energy. Without enough air, the doll will look ugly because its body or its face will not be in the perfect shape. Just like humans. If a person has weak Chi flow, he will look ugly because his body or his face won't look perfect."

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There's an easier way to relieve Auckland's traffic congestion (and save fuel gas and time behind the wheel). A bloke called Brandon Hansen has written an article on saying minor tweaks to departure times can significantly decrease commuting time. After collecting an impressive amount of data for over a year and analysing the results, he reduced his personal driving time by 30 hours a year. In an example of tell-us-something-we-don't-know, he found the most consistent explanation for morning commute variations was whether schools were in session. And that instead of leaving home at 8am and leaving work at 5:30pm, he could save the most time by changing that to 8:30am and 6pm. Now there's a good idea.

Editorial: Licensing builders is first step

There can be little quibble with the thrust of the Government's new builder licensing scheme, which aims to recognise skilled builders and increase consumer protection. If the likes of drain layers, plumbers and gasfitters have to demonstrate that they meet national standards, why not builders? The leaky buildings crisis has caused many people to lose confidence in the sector, and licensing will help to rekindle faith. But it is only a small step, and one that will have little resonance if the scheme proves insufficiently robust, or if other strands of the systemic problem identified by the 2002 Hunn Report are not tackled.

The licensing scheme seeks to strike a balance between recognising skill and providing scope for, and the protection of, the do-it-yourself culture. Builders will need to be licensed to carry out "significant" construction. This is deemed to encompass new buildings, a change of building use - for example, converting a house into flats - and major alterations and extensions. The question is whether that definition is strict enough to bar those not up to the task (Building Issues Minister Clayton Cosgrove's "cowboys"). And whether there are loopholes in the scheme, or shortcomings in scrutiny, that will mean the days of such practitioners, and the construction of unsound houses, are by no means numbered.

In fundamental terms, the licensing of builders represents a reversal of the light-handed regulatory regime that permeated building controls throughout the 1990s. Then, a less prescriptive building code coincided with the arrival of new building techniques, permission for the use of untreated timber, and greater activity by developers. The upshot, to the cost of thousands of leaky-home owners, was what Government-appointed investigator Don Hunn described as a "major crisis".

The full extent of the problem is yet to unfold. But even now, four years after the Hunn Report, there has been no cogent or concerted response. First, there was a state of denial. Now, there is buck passing and frantic attempts to limit liability. For the home owners, misery has been heaped upon misfortune. At the moment, for example, some cannot get building code compliance certificates on their new homes because local councils fear potential legal repercussions. The lack of this final sign-off creates major problems for the sale of these houses.

Equally, the vehicle intended to examine and assess the plight of individual homeowners and provide redress, the Weathertight Resolution Service, has proved a major disappointment. Currently, if belatedly, it is being reviewed. While this is going on, its operations appear to have succumbed to some type of malaise. Only when changes make the process faster, more efficient and more cost-effective for home owners will progress be made.

The outcome of the resolution service review is keenly anticipated. In the meantime, the Government was clearly keen to trumpet the new licensing scheme. It was happy also to link builders' shortcomings to the leaky building crisis. But these were only one of a plethora of contributory problems. People should not, as Mr Cosgrove suggests, be able to strap on a toolbelt and call themselves builders. But licensing is far from the total solution. It is merely the most easily addressed of the problems.

The Hunn Report detailed a rational response to the leaky buildings crisis. Too few of its recommendations have been acted upon. The Government may not have been responsible for the regime that precipitated the present woes, but it has been too slow to address both the failings and the consequences. We should not have to wait years before further steps are taken.

John Armstrong: Government relief as report clears ex-minister

David Parker will surely go down in history as the first politician to resign for something he did not do.

Yesterday's report covering the month-long investigation by the Companies Office draws the reader to one inescapable conclusion: The former Cabinet minister effectively pleaded guilty to the prime allegation made against him by Investigate magazine when the evidence overwhelmingly points to his innocence.

That has left Mr Parker in the uncomfortable position of trying to explain why he confessed to making a mistake with respect to the filing of company returns when he had not.

He has himself to blame, for he has been the victim of his own sloppiness.

The 14-page report is a tale of missing documents, memory blanks and poor record-keeping on his part, all of which contributed to him being unsure whether he had erred or not when confronted with the allegations.

However, Mr Parker's discomfort was minuscule yesterday compared to the huge sense of relief evident in both his and the Prime Minister's reaction to the report's exoneration of him.

Coming in the wake of the police investigations into David Benson-Pope and Labour's election spending, the Government's big fear was that authorities would again find there was a prima facie case and then decide not to prosecute.

However, the crown solicitors advising the Registrar of Companies found the essential allegation made against Mr Parker could not be proved "even to a prima facie level".

Whether it was deliberate or not, the Government will be especially grateful for that wording.

Mr Parker's return to the Cabinet is now a formality next Tuesday when the Labour caucus will rubber-stamp the Prime Minister's recommendation that he return after six weeks in the wilderness.

There is nothing now to disbar his reinstatement in three of the four portfolios he previously held - energy, climate change and transport.

Whether he should resume his other former responsibility as Attorney-General is more tricky. It seems likely the Prime Minister will err on the side of caution and not give him that job back.

The investigation found infringements covering the late filing of returns and lodging of company records, which were deemed to be so minor that the crown solicitors did not believe they warranted prosecution as it likely would have resulted in discharges without conviction.

Some of these infringements are also the equivalent of minor traffic offences.

It might be setting an impossibly high standard of behaviour for future Attorneys-General if Mr Parker was ruled out of the job because of such minor misdemeanours.

However, Labour wants to retain the moral high ground that the Prime Minister managed to rescue by dealing firmly with Mr Parker when faced with the Investigate allegations last month following the leniency she extended to David Benson-Pope.

That requires keeping everything squeaky clean and not leaving an opening for the Opposition.

In hindsight, Mr Parker's dumping from the Cabinet instead of being merely temporarily stood down until investigations were completed may now look to have been over the top.

But it must be remembered that the MP was under a cloud and possibly facing a prosecution which, on conviction, would have required his leaving Parliament.

Mr Parker also got the shove because an example had to be made of the next minister who appeared to have blotted his copybook.

That may have been unfair on Mr Parker. But the Prime Minister simply did not have the luxury of treating his case in isolation.

Garth George: One man's junk food is another's slice of heaven

I had a Big Mac for lunch on Tuesday - and savoured every single mouthful. I didn't have french fries because I wasn't that hungry, but I washed it down with a lovely, creamy chocolate thickshake.

McDonald's hamburgers and their various accessories are among my favourite foods, although they are outclassed by Wendy's, which supplies better burgers and chunky, proper-sized chips.

However, since Wendy's outlets are few and not conveniently placed for my purposes, I rarely have the joy of eating in one and happily make do with second-best.

Last Friday night in our house no one could be bothered cooking so a phone call and a quick visit to Pizza Hut provided us with a tasty, filling and nutritious meal.

Since the demise of Pizza Haven, absorbed into the inaptly named Domino's - which I tried only once - Pizza Hut's excellent products make a regular and welcome appearance on our dinner table.

I am very fond of KFC, but since chicken in some form, casseroled or roasted, is invariably on our weekly menu, the opportunities to partake of Colonel Sanders' (may he rest in peace) scrumptious variety are limited.

He has no doubt been joined in the hereafter by the person who first decided meat would go well in a pastry crust and invented the meat pie, and who, I sincerely hope, has been allotted one of heaven's very large mansions.

For it is the meat pie - and any other sort of pie, for that matter - that I would request should I find myself offered a last meal before execution.

(I was driving along Greenlane Rd the other day, for the first time in a long time, and at its intersection with Great South Rd had cause to remember the finest of all fast-food joints, the late - and still lamented - Georgie Pie).

I must have made it clear by now that I am rather fond of, and appreciate hugely, the products of various fast-food outlets.

So when I hear these products referred to as "junk food" by an increasing number of obesity-obsessed so-called researchers and other single-issue meddlers, I get thoroughly pissed off.

Even more so when those same misguided fools begin to refer to such food as "unhealthy" - as they did in this newspaper on Friday.

They are liars.

Fast food is not junk. It contains legitimate, nutritious ingredients, is prepared in generally spotlessly hygienic surroundings and provides a convenient, tasty and filling meal without the need to prepare it or clean up after.

Fast food, be it hamburgers, fried chicken, pizza or pies - or any one of the other multitudinous offerings to be found it today's food halls - is a modern-day blessing for which society has cause to be grateful.

If it contains the latest invented bogeys of fat, sugar and salt, then all the better, for food that does not contain a modicum of at least one of those is sure to be tasteless and unappetising.

Neither is fast food unhealthy. It is some of the people eating it who are unhealthy, not the food - just as it is the people who drink too much beer, or other alcoholic beverages or soft drinks, who are unhealthy, not the beverages.

The wackos who were dribbling on about "unhealthy" products in the Herald on Friday, taking aim at fast-food chains and breweries which sponsor sport and children's events, are yapping up the wrong sapling.

Fast-food chains and breweries are in the business of making money from the products and services they provide and are perfectly entitled to promote their wares as they see fit. Without the demand they would all cease to exist.

And while some of us might shudder at the arcane nature of some alcohol advertising, we have to accept that it is promoting legitimate products, which are harmful only to those who over-imbibe - about 10 per cent of the population.

The obesity and booze problems we face have next to nothing to do with fast foods or alcohol and everything to do with the people who misuse food and abuse drink.

And the fact that the number of those misusers and abusers is increasing has nothing to do with the provision of and advertising of products, and everything to do with the state of the society we have devised for ourselves. To blame products rather than people is moronic.

You want to know what's unhealthy?

It's when a parent is too buggered after a day at work to prepare a meal and tomorrow's lunch for the kids; when people need booze to take the edge off the stress of chasing money, property and prestige; when children are left to themselves and never taught self-discipline; when instant gratification is the norm; when television dictates behaviour and lifestyle ... Need I go on?

Obesity and youthful drunkenness are simply the latest symptoms of what ails society - just another couple of the social ills that afflict us because of the way most of us choose to live.

And I'll tell you what: you ain't seen nothin' yet.

PS: I suspect Colonel Sanders will also have met in the hereafter those who first put bacon with eggs, steak with kidney, tripe with onions and fish with batter; those who devised a sausage, first cured a ham, pressed a tongue, wrapped a Bluff oyster in a slim strip of bacon and lightly grilled it and put a battered hot dog on a stick; the Frenchman who first fried fragments of spud; and the person who devised the recipe for Watties baked beans.

With them will surely be the creators of rice custard, trifle, pavlova, chocolate cake, ice cream and bread pudding.

Frances Grant: A long way from home

Blink and you missed Anzac Day on the mainstream channels. TV One, however, made a nod to the season of remembrance with a local documentary the night before, Our Lost War: Passchendaele.

The war memorial arch in Queenstown, with its stout declaration of "service above self" can strike an ironic note these days, sited alongside the hustle of a town dedicated to the pursuit of the tourist dollar.

Our Lost War, fronted by genial actress Robyn Malcolm, went a long way towards reinvigorating the meaning and sacrifice behind the memorial's maxim.

Malcolm told the story of her great-uncle George Salmond, a God-fearing Queenstown lad with a strong sense of duty to the mother country, through his war experiences to his death in one of World War I's most notorious battles.

The story was the more powerful for its typicality.

Salmond wasn't a war hero, just one of the many ordinary soldiers who faced the hell and terror of the Belgian trenches for months on end.

Malcolm fleshed out the sparse comments in his diary by following his footsteps through training camp on England's Salisbury Plains to the boggy hell of Flanders, wheeling out local war experts on the way.

The documentary was moving - how could it not be? - and informative, although its modern packaging was a little distracting.

Malcolm, staunchly lugging her baby son around the battlefields, dressed and looked like she'd had a hard night's mothering most of the time, a casual note which seemed slightly incongruous for a story about a generation who believed in respect reflected in personal presentation.

You had to wonder, too, what the "Service above Self" generation would have thought of Malcolm's emoting over gravestones and personal reflections playing such a large part in someone else's story. Still, that didn't detract from the sad paradox of the nobility of the sacrifice and the futility of the war.

To young men, slaughter and OE of a much more trivial, modern kind: Jamie Oliver has come a long way from the young geezer with an MTV-style cooking show, banging on about pukka tucker.

He made the smart move of growing up fast and delivering a much meatier watch with his reality show in which he tried to turn unemployed kids into chefs.

It was Oliver's coming to grips with the notion that you can offer somebody the big chance but you can't make 'em grateful which made it such an entertaining watch.

The same can be said of Jamie's School Dinners, in which he upped the ante even further. Disaffected youth were pussycats compared to intransigent school dinner ladies and kids screaming blue murder over the loss of their chicken nuggets.

At first glance, his latest show, Jamie's Great Italian Escape, with its silly swank about wanting to "just let me be me", looked like a lurch back to the days of being an awful young blister.

But the series has been a fascinating clash between a culinary culture entrenched in glorious tradition and a foreign upstart with a desire to experiment.

Oliver's strength has never been his powers of description or charm: it's the challenges he sets for himself and determination to go out of his comfort zone.

It's not easy going out to kill a lamb - Oliver looked positively traumatised - as the locals do, cooking it and having granny tell you that "it stinks", or laying on a meal for a town in which everyone is a food expert, or facing down a line of grim Italian mamas with their wooden rolling pins determined to beat the hell out of you in a pasta-making competition.

The Italians are giving him no quarter which makes his odd victory all the more sweet.

Brian Fallow: Market blocks electric shock

We flick the switch with a high degree of confidence that electricity will flow.

But behind the switch lies an industry entangled in uncertainties and beset by risks, and where no single party is responsible for keeping the lights on.

Directors sitting around the board table of an electricity generator - or a major power user for that matter - and wrestling with a major investment decision have a daunting list of things they need to know but don't.

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Will Comalco's Tiwai Point aluminium smelter still be there after 2012, when its existing power supply contract with Meridian Energy runs out?

The smelter consumes about 14 per cent of the country's electricity production, equivalent to about six years' of growth in demand.

Electricity is a critical cost for the smelter. The price it pays is based on the average spot price of the previous year - and that has been climbing.

If it is going to be out of the picture, the focus shifts at once from generation investment to transmission, because the smelter is hard-wired to the Manapouri power scheme and it would require substantial investment in the grid to make that electricity available to consumers further north.

There is a theory that one reason the Electricity Commission will deliver a negative, make-do-and-mend decision today on Transpower's plans for a new line into Auckland is that it wants to preserve the option of a direct-current spine to the national grid, allowing power to flow with less spillage from the energy-rich south of the country to the metropolis.

But it won't say so because it does not want to be seen as interfering in a commercial negotiation or as keen to see a major export industry killed off.

Comalco and Meridian are due to conclude their renegotiation of the power contract next year.

* * *


Natural gas is the fuel of choice for fossil fuel-fired generation. But the giant Maui gas field is running out and the successor fields, Pohukura and Kupe, are much smaller, so the need to find new gas supplies is urgent.

The geological prospects are reasonably good, apparently, but there is a global shortage of drilling rigs and time is running out before the gas-guzzling generators, Contact Energy and Genesis Energy, will need to commit to importing liquefied natural gas to keep their plants going.

That would be a fateful decision, however, because by and large it is the thermal generators that set the wholesale price of electricity, and it is probably not desirable that electricity prices should become linked to world oil prices (as LNG prices in the Asia-Pacific region are) and hostage to the gyrations of the exchange rate.

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Antiquated and congested, the national grid is in the same sort of state as Auckland's road network. But it is now up to the new Electricity Commission, not the grid's owner and operator Transpower, to decide what transmission investments can be made, and when, and who pays.

Transmission bottlenecks have impeded the development of competition by creating regionalised markets.

And transmission is also vital, of course, to the ability of new renewable sources of power to reach a market.

A new and illuminating study of the electricity reforms by Professor Lew Evans of Victoria University and Richard Meade of the Institute for the Study of Competition and Regulation, calls the future of grid investment and pricing the single greatest risk to investors in the sector.

They see the establishment of the commission as part of a drift back towards central planning, despite what they argue is the success of the market-based reforms of the 1990s.

The problem is generation and transmission are interdependent.

"Where grid and generation investments are not co-ordinated through some formal/public or informal/private means, risks of stranding and costs of transactions can be so large that investment overall is inhibited and inefficient investment take place," write Evans and Meade.

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Nine years after a multilateral climate change treaty was negotiated at Kyoto, domestic policy in this area is a shambles.

The (relatively) broad-based carbon tax, the central plank of the 2002 policy package, has been scrapped but a carbon tax just for large emitters, including thermal power stations, remains on the cards. Or maybe not. We will have to wait and see.

The less crude option of a domestic trading regime for rights to emit greenhouse gases seems to be stuck in the too-hard basket.

All this leaves potential investors in generation uncertain about what carbon price they or their competitors will face, if any.

Other elements of the policy environment are also a source of uncertainty and risk.

For example, resource consents to use water are granted for a finite term, which is fair enough, but they are also at risk of ad hoc political intervention, like the Waitaki Water Allocation Board affair which came close to confiscating rights Meridian has to that river's water, with potentially dire consequences for security of supply.

Overarching all these man-made imponderables lies the biggest unknown of all: How much rain and snow will fall in the catchment areas of the hydro lakes which we still rely on for the lion's share of our electricity.

In the context of a changing climate, how reliable a guide can the past be to the future? In light of this concatenation of uncertainties, how sure can we consumers be that timely and efficient investment will occur and the lights stay on?

Can the market model cope?

Given a chance, yes, say Evans and Meade.

"That new generation in the 1990s was at a level commensurate with that of the preceding two pre-reform decades should offer reassurance that the market has not, in fact, failed but delivered much in the face of great challenges."

True, there is no one party responsible for ensuring demand is met when supply is scarce. But why should there be? Should all demand be met when supply is scarce?

Demand for electricity is not all equally critical or valuable to the consumer, they argue.

The only reason voluntary savings campaigns are needed during dry-year winter crises is that many consumers, including residential ones, are insulated from wholesale prices by fixed-price contracts. If those prices don't move to ration a scarce resource, other means are required.

Power crises were not unknown before the reforms and typically required involuntary measures like blackouts to deal with them. Since the reforms, blackouts have been avoided as impending shortages have been signalled months in advance through rising wholesale prices, giving those most exposed fair warning and an incentive to seek supply contracts that reflect their tolerance for supply and price risk.

The greater danger, Evans and Meade argue, lies in the prevailing trend towards recentralisation of the sector and a retreat from reliance on market mechanisms.

Tom Hutchins: Nationhood a gradual process

Maori academic Danny Keenan claims that Maori participation in two World Wars saw "their own demise as a nation".

He spreads the myth that Maori were indeed a nation. In any accepted meaning of the term "nation", they were not a nation.

Their tribes had no central controlling political structure or power, they shared no common territory, and had no shared name for the territory they occupied in these islands.

Each tribe had its own fiercely defended territory.

They were often at war over territory and women ("the causes of war are land and women" was a common saying), and there was no commonly recognised higher authority which could be called "national" in pre-European times.

That a nation in any meaningful sense did not exist is shown by the fact that more than 520 separate chiefs had to sign the Treaty of Waitangi - no one chief could sign for anyone else but his own iwi or hapu.

The Crown signed, not with just "One Equal Partner", as often wrongly claimed by activists.

It signed, over several weeks, with several hundred independent tribal groups.

Legally, each tribe had one partner, the Crown. The Crown had about 528 partners.

Maori political structure before European settlement was a form of local government with strictly limited and often aggressively fought-over local areas. There wasn't even a single accepted name for these islands.

It is a myth, propagated by Maori and uncritical Pakeha academics, bureaucrats, churchmen and teachers, that Aotearoa is the original and authentic Maori name for New Zealand.

Why does it not appear in the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, and the 1835 Declaration of the Confederated Tribes signed by a few Northern tribes?

Both documents use Niu Tireni, the Maori transliteration of New Zealand - because there was no overall single Maori name for this land. Aotearoa is a fairly recent, trendy adoption almost unknown when the Treaty was signed.

In his seminal work, The Coming of the Maori, Sir Peter Buck has only one reference to Aotearoa - as the arrival point for the Tokomaru canoe. But he has 38 references to Hawaiiki.

He makes no claim to Aotearoa being the accepted traditional name for our land.

It was adopted by early romantically minded European ethnologists, and was given false sanction by the School Journal in 1916, its original meaning Land of the Long Twilight being candied over into Land of the Long White Cloud.

Most Pacific islands have white clouds over them - what impressed the Polynesians coming to these southerly latitudes were the long twilights.

As for "forging a nation" in the land wars, Danny Keenan forgets that, although some large and important tribes took armed resistance, they were not joined by a big majority of tribes who had signed the Treaty.

The real beginnings of forging a new nation are in Article Three of the Treaty of Waitangi.

It is often ignored by Maori activists, for obvious reasons. It states that Maori are given all the same rights and privileges, duties and obligations as the people of England - that is, by accepting the Treaty they became subjects of the British Crown. Those "nga tikanga katoa" (a strongly normative concept of prescribed and proscribed behaviours) soon developed into political representation and participation in our evolving democratic system, as a means of achieving final corrections for injustices of colonial times, and for sharing in a New Zealand nationhood that brings increasing satisfaction to our varied population and a sense of valued identity internationally.

* Tom Hutchins is a retired university teacher.

Darcy Jones: Maori fervent to fight at Gallipoli

Some of the assertions of Dr Danny Keenan cannot be allowed to pass unchallenged. He writes: "In 1914, Maori were initially recruited for garrison duties. But, after the losses at Gallipoli, when New Zealand 'came of age', Maori were recruited for combat."

Is Professor Keenan implying that only when the New Zealand authorities realised what a dangerous business this war was did they begin recruiting Maori for combat?

In fact the opposite is true, as a fairly cursory reading of The Maoris in the Great War would show.

While it is correct to say that the original Maori contingent left New Zealand for garrison duty, it was never their wish to remain out of the firing line and in early July 1915 they proceeded to combat on Gallipoli alongside their Pakeha countrymen.

They greatly distinguished themselves there, but suffered severe losses from sickness and combat.

On October 3, 1915, they were evacuated from Gallipoli and sent to Egypt.

In 1914, after decades of decline, the Maori people were said to number approximately 50,000.

The race could not afford a military disaster to its tiny population of young men.

This fact was well understood at the time and, after Gallipoli - with the exception of one or two attempted raids - the Maori contingent was never used again in an offensive operation.

When the Maori survivors from Gallipoli were combined with later reinforcements, in Egypt, they could still not muster sufficient Maori personnel for more than two companies.

At that stage an equal number of Pakeha platoons were added and a Pioneer Battalion was formed.

In September 1917, after further Maori reinforcements from New Zealand had arrived, the remaining Pakeha were sent to infantry units and the Pioneer Battalion became a totally Maori unit.

The rigours and danger of the construction work they performed in the frontline resulted in many casualties. Of the 2227 of all ranks who served, 321 died and 734 were wounded, making total casualties 1070 - nearly half the total number sent overseas.

Professor Keenan wonders about the reasons they went and "what direct interest Maori have ever had" in Gallipoli.

Britain was pretty important to both us and Australia, so we tended to take her side.

She took almost all we could produce, was almost our sole market, and gave us a system of law and order that, while not perfect, was better than the club and musket and protected us from even more rapacious nationalities.

There was even pride, yes "pride", in being a part of the great British Empire at that time.

Sir Maui Pomare wrote: "The rush of the Maori to offer his life in the nation's service not only gave proof that his hereditary fighting temper was as strong as ever at the call of danger: it enabled him to exhibit the supreme qualities of citizenship, a larger patriotism than mere clanship: endurance, valour and self-sacrifice in the highest degree."

It gave them adventure and mana, and they wanted that. Their efforts earned them respect and respect for the Maori race, as did the efforts of the Maori Battalion in the World War II.

They knew they could not just stand aside from the conflict and watch their friends and relations go.

So mourn but honour those Maori who sacrificed their life in European wars, along with their Pakeha countrymen, as their families do.

* Darcy Jones is a Herald reader from Hamilton with an interest in history.

Talkback: Time to set a benchmark for ad value

By Keith Norris

Last week, the Advertising Standards Authority released the industry revenue figures for 2005, which showed that turnover increased by a healthy 7.4 per cent to $2.3 billion.

But are we measuring the right thing? Is the cost of delivering our commercial advertising giving us the full picture?

I think not. We marketers, and our agencies, are well aware of the cost factor. In fact, we're almost obsessive about advertising spend but we seem to neglect the other side of the ledger - the return on our investment.

A company's balance sheet reflects the overall health of the organisation. The company accounts show the revenue generated and the expenses incurred in generating that revenue. We need to apply the same philosophy.

I get increasingly frustrated by the advertising rankings published in our trade magazines showing who spent what on which media.

These tables appear to make heroes of the biggest spenders. It's rather like awarding the "car of the year" title to the biggest gas-guzzler.

As professional marketers, we must commit ourselves to improving the measurability of our marketing spend. Even the authority's figures only reflect the ratecard placement costs of our advertising.

Mailbox spend, for instance, at about $90 million represents only the physical delivery cost of advertising, whereas the value to the economy, including printing and production costs, is nearer $700 million.

This makes the mailbox a much more significant advertising medium than magazines and radio when taking into account all aspects of delivering the message.

Let's also examine the digital media. None can doubt the increasing importance of the internet but the authority's numbers only tell part of the story as they too reflect only the direct placement costs of website ads.

They don't include, for instance, email campaigns which, in the business-to-business environment in particular, are a huge growth area.

I don't mean to knock the value of the ASA figures. Any stats which can reflect market trends are useful.

My real beef is that as marketers we are information poor in New Zealand. We have no numbers that indicate the real value of advertising to the economy.

In the United States, the Direct Marketing Association produces an annual Economic Impact Report that measures direct marketing and total advertising expenditures across all the major media.

It then extrapolates this into sales figures and the impact of the revenue generated on things such as industry and employment growth, enabling US marketers to benchmark themselves against the industry norms.

Better than that, it means they have the ammunition to convince their corporate colleagues of the value of advertising.

The marketing community here is mature enough to collaborate to produce similar meaningful information.

If we can afford to spend between $2 billion and $3 billion on delivering our messages, surely we can set aside a fraction of that to measure its effectiveness.

This would be an ideal opportunity for marketers, advertisers, agencies and media to collaborate and generate data which illustrates the importance of advertising to the whole economy.

Are you up for it?

* Keith Norris is chief executive of the Marketing Association.