New Zealand is a commodities exporter…okay okay, I know that’s not a super sexy opening line, but don’t worry this isn’t an economics lecture, well it kind of is, but I’ll try and keep it brief and on point.

New Zealand makes her money from selling the ‘stuff’ we grow, design and build to overseas countries.  That ‘stuff’ is made up of things like our awesome wines, the milk powder which we sell to China, butter that we sell to Europe and lamb which we are famous for the world over. That’s our mainstay export business.  That export business succeeds in no small part on the back of the reputation New Zealand carries overseas for being a clean, green and principled Nation.

Here’s the numbers…(skip to the next paragraph If numbers aren’t your thing)

70% of our export business relies on our clean green reputationIn 2011 our Gross commodities exports (read all the ‘stuff’ we sold overseas) was worth a total of $50.4 Billion Dollars. Of that, $36.7 Billion of that stuff we sold thanks to our clean green reputation.  That means 72.87% of all the stuff we sell overseas, sells because we are known to be clean, green and principled.  That’s worth a chunk, and we’re lovin’ it! 

Put bluntly…

Seven out of every ten export dollars is directly attributable to New Zealand’s clean and green reputation.  A sobering thought, because if we are found to have just one case of foot and mouth or Creutzfeldt Jacobs disease in our livestock, the game is up.  Clean green rep out the window, seven out of every ten dollars evaporates overnight.  That’s why the Biosecurity guys are so stringent at the international airports, makes sense now.

So where did this clean green rep come from?  The BERL institute discovered that New Zealand’s clean green reputation is directly attributable to two events in our recent history; the first is the bombing of the Rainbow Warrior in 1985 which caused the eyes of the entire World to look at New Zealand, really for the first time in the Television era, and what they saw was a beautiful country and a strong independent people.  The second event was the passing of the nuclear free legislation in 1987 and with the passing of these key events the idea was galvanised in the perceptions of the world that New Zealand was a clean, green and principled nation that was free of pollution and they were lovin’ it.  They still are, to the tune of $36.7 Billion dollars a year, and our economic prosperity depends on it.

So when John Key says that it’s ‘just an advertising campaign’ he either completely misunderstands the issue or he is intentionally trying to mislead.  I don’t doubt either of those scenarios.

Tomorrow we'll carry on with the economic theme.