Live from Malaysia NZ FTA signing in Kuala Lumpur

This will be short as I am blogging from my iphone. PM John Key will be signing the FTA with the Malaysian PM

tonight. Approximately 60 businesspeople are accompanying John Key on this trip. It has been a full on day, from the embargoed briefing this morning to visits of the Fonterra plant in Shah Alam and Datacom office in Banda Utama. We are now back at KL Hilton for a

briefing before the reception and official signing ceremony later tonight. Just sneaking in a few linea while the PwC guy is speaking. The Kiwis enjoyed being in the official motorcade. More on that later.

[Update 3/11/09: Full report on the signing of the Malaysia NZ FTA]

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Wellington company on cover of Inc magazine

ponoko on incIt’s always good to see Kiwi businesses doing well. Which is why it’s really cool to have the CEO of a fledgling Wellington-based firm, Ponoko, appear on the cover of Inc Magazine.

I read Inc Magazine regularly, and it’s certainly widely read and respected publication. Probably this one article would do more to boost their image and valuation than all their marketing efforts over the past year combined.

I know at least one Ponoko investor who’s happy.

Ponoko is in the business of letting ordinary folk access a laser cutter via the internet and make whatever you want. Ponoko is so radical it’s difficult to imagine what they do. At first I thought they were in the business of selling laser cutters. But no,

they actually sell you the process of making whatever you want (choose from their extensive list on the Ponoko website). After some playing around on their website, you have your own product and they will then have the parts cut up and shipped to you. You can then assemble this

at home. Basically, it’s customise-to-suit IKEA if you want to have something that you can’t buy in shops.

This story illustrates what possibilities lie ahead.

Ponoko has also become a destination for undiscovered designers and inventors who use it to make and market their stuff. There is, for instance, the Bloom Lamp, which was created by a Los Angeles designer named Igor Knezevic and which you can buy for $160 on Ponoko. It’s a bedside lamp that resembles a delicate flower and is made out of 18 precisely cut pieces of plywood encircling a light bulb. Like something you might pick up at a big-box store, the lamp comes in a flat box and must be snapped together by the buyer.

But unlike a store-bought lamp, this one costs Knezevic’s start-up design company, Alienology, exactly nothing until someone pays for it. The lamps are stocked digitally and manufactured on demand. Ponoko cuts the parts and ships them to Knezevic; he inspects them, drops some instructions and a light fixture into the box, and ships the box to the customer. “Right now I’m making a couple hundred dollars here, a couple hundred there,” he says. “But five years from now, people will still be paying a couple hundred bucks, and I won’t have to do anything. That’s revolutionary.”

So if you’re keen to make your own line of necklaces, table-lamps or whatever, give Ponoko a try.

If they have their way, it would mean a radical shift in current supply chains. In the words of CEO David ten Have: “We’re trying to take Made in China and smear it across the globe…We’re designing a factory for the 21st century.”

Check out the Inc Magazine- Ponoko article. Well done guys. This will surely inspire many local businesses to keep going for it.

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Cool jobs available at Shanghai World Expo 2010

Anyone keen to work in Shanghai next year at the World Expo? NZTE are looking for people at the moment. These are PAID positions, NOT internships. Key things to note: You have to speak Mandarin AND English well. Also have to have valid NZ work visa, permanent residency or citizenship. I just received this email so just thought we should share this opportunity with everyone. Those of you who did not heed our advice to learn Mandarin can still do so… we have a few spots available for tomorrow's intake or the 10-week Mandarin course starting 12 October. This is a brilliant opportunity and would suit those thinking of an unconventional OE. Spending 6 months in Shanghai during the World Expo would not just be great for your CV, but will also be a good business networking opportunity. Who knows? Maybe you'll meet a big shot who ends up offering you an expat package plus all the travel perks. That would be nice…

The World Expo to be held in Shanghai, China in 2010 will be the biggest in world history.

During the six months the expo will be open – 1 May to 31 October 2010 – it is expected to draw 70 million visitors.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise is now seeking a number of individuals who are enthusiastic about representing NZ on the world stage. Positions available include;

Attendants (24 positions available)
The Attendants will be representing New Zealand with credit by making visitors feel welcome, and enhancing their experience through friendly and helpful interaction with them.

Receptionists (2 positions)
Based in the VIP entry to the pavilion, the Receptionist will be our first point of contact for guests and visitors and assist them around the pavilion as required.

Operations Manager
The Operations Manager will be responsible for managing the teams of attendants, and will co-ordinate the delivery of operational and technical support as required in order to maintain high standards of ‘host performance’ in the pavilion.

Relationships Manager
Part of the management team, the Relationships Manager will be responsible for the organisation of official visits including Ministerial and key sponsors to the pavilion.

If you are keen to be part of this landmark event, have a degree of fluency in both Mandarin and English and are available from April to October 2010 then please visit the NZTE Recruitment website for further information and to apply.

For information about New Zealand's participation at the expo, please visit

Please note all applicants must have the right to work in New Zealand.

Applications close Monday, 12 October 2009 and must be submitted through the NZTE Careers Centre. Late applications will not be accepted.

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Why we cannot ban bbq dog meat

The huge uproar over a Tongan man found barbecuing his pet dog is a demonstration of cultural insensitivity bordering on ignorance and hyprocrisy. Paea Taufa was found roasting the pitbull terrier-cross in an umu at his Mangere home. “If we eat heaps of… pig you get a (sore) stomach. But when we eat … dog, it doesn’t matter how much you eat, nothing is wrong with the tummy,” Taufa told Sunday News. Major dailies reported this, and today CNN carried the story, citing “the case infuriated and repulsed many New Zealanders.”

The Tongan guy had decided to cook the dog because it was too skinny and had become unmanageable. He rendered the dog unconscious with a blow to the head before slitting its throat. Under the Animal Welfare Act it is legal to kill a dog in New Zealand if the animal is slaughtered swiftly and painlessly.

The SPCA is very upset with Taufa, with the CEO saying “Even though the law says you can humanely kill an animal, you should not be treating any animal like this.” Many people are now calling for a law change, led by the SPCA, petitioning for the eating of dog meat to be banned. Various editorials swiftly condemned the practice of eating dog meat. The Tongan guy was demonised and probably traumatised, and he has since told media that he wouldn’t bbq another dog.

I am opposed to any attempt to ban the eating of dog meat and backyard dog barbecues.

New Zealanders love their meat and is only behind Demark globally (and ahead of the Americans) in terms of per capita consumption, 3.5 times the world average. The average Kiwi eats over 90 kg of meat per year, 65% red meat vs 35%

white meat.

What is the difference between sheep and dogs? Some argue that dogs are pets. But some sheep are pets too. So are some chickens. Why ban the consumption of one type of meat but not another?

It is more inhumane for most of the pigs in New Zealand to be locked up in cages for all their lives and then slaughtered for their meat, than for Mr Taufa to kill a free-range dog swiftly. Why did people not revolt against pig farmers, especially after Mike King’s expose on TVNZ’s Sunday? When told that the cost of pork in supermarkets will rise significantly if farmers moved to free-range farming, people stopped complaining.

Some argue that cattle and sheep are raised specifically for their meat, and dogs are not. By that token would the protesters be placated if enterprising individuals started dog farms in New Zealand? We export tonnes of horse meat offshore. This means we are killing farm horses in huge numbers. Would horse-killers be regarded as barbaric too?

The argument that we cannot kill dogs for food because they are cute/friendly/small/intelligent doesn’t wash. We don’t see our vegetarian friends getting all judgemental when we meat-eaters confess our love for meat (as long as it’s not from an endangered species). Why can’t meat-eaters afford the same courtesy to dog-eaters? No one is asking you to join them.

SPCA CEO says: “The slaughtering, roasting and eating of a dog or nolvadex pils other companion animal is simply abhorrent to our culture as New Zealanders”. Dogs were eaten in New Zealand long before the Europeans arrived. Taufa himself is probably a NZ citizen. The SPCA is venturing into dangerous territory by becoming an arbitrator of what is culturally right or wrong.

The main thing that the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals should be worried about is exactly that, prevention of animal cruelty. As long as animals are slaughtered in a humane manner, then what people eat should be left up to them.

The law doesn’t need to be changed. It’s the hypocritical mindset of protesters coming from the second biggest meat-eating country in the world that does.

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Economist: China's capital spend to overtake US

Economist: China vs US capital spend

The Economist this week reported China's fixed-asset investment leapt by an astonishing 39% in the year to May, or by a record 49% in real terms.

This year China’s domestic investment in dollar terms is likely to exceed that in America (see chart).

There are concerns that a lot of the investment is directed by the Chinese government, and hence a lot of it would be wasted in pushing out overcapacity.

Investment amounted to 44% of GDP last year (compared with 18% in America), which many economists reckon was already too much. Worse still, as well as forcing state firms to invest, the government is directing state-owned banks to lend more, despite falling corporate profits.

The fastest expansion in spending has been in railways (up by 111% this year). As a developing country, China still lacks decent infrastructure; railways, in particular, have long been an economic bottleneck. Investment in roads, the power grid and water should also yield high long-term returns by allowing China to sustain rapid growth.

Further evidence that increasingly New Zealand will be engaging more with China as reliance on our traditional Western markets wane. The Americans will struggle with maintaining market dominance, and the developing economies will no doubt emerge stronger as a result of this recession.

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Why Auckland will attract more migrants

Economist Intelligence Unit just announced their list of most liveable cities in the world. Vancouver came out tops. The City of Sails was ranked the 12th best city to live in. Wellington is ranked 23rd. This is a poor showing for Auckland compared to the April 09 announcement by Mercer that Auckland is the 4th most liveable city in the world. According to Wikipedia, the EIU and Mercer surveys are the most authoritative surveys of liveable cities.

When Mercer announced the list of most liveable cities for 2009, the Aussie paper Daily Telegraph headline was “Auckland beats out Sydney in Worldwide Quality of Living Survey“. If there is one thing the Aussies hate more than losing, it’s getting beaten by the Kiwis. Anyway, the order 5mg cialis cheap online latest survey from EIU released this week will surely make the Aussies happy. Their 3 major cities, Melbourne, Sydney and Perth all rank within the top 10 list.

These most liveable city surveys look at factors like stability, healthcare, culture and environment, education, infrastructure etc in deciding the rankings.

I think most people choose to emigrate to New Zealand because of one or both of these reasons:

1) Clean and green environment, generally safe ie. great quality of life

2) Children’s education


As more and more people get burned out living in the larger European and Asian cities, I’m sure the appeal of New Zealand will only increase. Most migrants end up in Auckland, largely because it’s a good compromise. Auckland may be the big smoke in a South Pacific context, but not really if compared to

the major European and Asian cities. 1.4m is approximately the population of an average Shanghai suburb.

Living in Auckland is about getting the best of both worlds. Easy access to some of the most beautiful spots in the world, reasonable climate, and generally good quality of life. These reasons will surely keep people coming.

Immigration policy should focus on facilitating easy access for skilled migrants. We also need to define skills pretty widely. Smart people may not have university degrees. In fact the majority of the self-made billionaires on the Fortune Magazine Rich List don’t either. Current immigration policy makes it difficult for people who may not be well qualified but could add a lot of value to New Zealand to be granted residency.

EIU’s list of most liveable cities in the world 2009:

Vancouver Canada
Vienna Austria
Melbourne Australia
Toronto Canada
Perth Australia
Calgary Canada
Helsinki Finland
Geneva Switzerland
Sydney Australia
Zurich Switzerland

Auckland ranked 12th

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Job summit the answer to unemployment?

When I started working as a graduate in 1999, the unemployment rate was 7.5%. The unemployment rate now is about 4.2%. It just seems to me like everyone is so much more despondent this time around. Is this because we've had so many years of low unemployment and economic growth that we've forgotten what a recession looks like? OK so the New Zealand Institute is projecting a rise in unemployment to 11%. At this rate, it seems it will be a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Everyone knows we're going through a serious recession, but hey, we can't change that.

All we can do is to choose our response. The last thing that we should do is to keep complaining about how bad the recession is to our colleagues, customers and suppliers. That's not the best way to build co


Source: Businessday

So, will the Job Summit on Friday make a difference? I don't know. Ultimately, it's up to individuals to make a difference. People with the right attitude committed to delivering superior value.

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Why NZ needs more immigrants in recessionary times

There are some sectors calling out for a reduction in the number of immigrants to New Zealand as the economy slows down and jobs become more scarce. This will intensify in coming months as the unemployment rate creeps up. Unions and out-of-work locals will no doubt pressure government to tighten immigration policy. We may see an increase in protectionist measures; more funding for Buy New Zealand made and government bailouts of uncompetitive firms.

In my view, this would be the worst possible response to an already dire situation.

I came across an interesting article in the New York Times by the author of “The World is Flat”, Thomas Friedman a few days ago. He says

If there is one thing we know for absolute certain, it’s this: Protectionism did not cause the Great Depression, but it sure helped to make it “Great.” From 1929 to 1934, world trade plunged by more than 60 percent — and we were all worse off.

Immigrants to New Zealand work the hardest, get paid the least and put their hard-earned money to good use: investing in local businesses and saving for their children's education. Immigrants are less likely to splurge on non-value-adding plasma TVs and imported Italian designer furniture.

Immigrants, by their very nature, tend to be ambitious and enterprising. Why else would they travel thousands of kilometres to a distant land, far away from their families, to start over?

More than half of Silicon Valley start-ups were founded by immigrants over the last decade. These

immigrant-founded tech companies employed 450,000 workers and had sales of $52 bill

ion in 2005, according to research by Vivek Wadhwa,  in an essay published this week on

The fear that many ordinary Kiwis have is that immigrants will steal their jobs because they are willing to work for next to nothing. Even if this was true (which it is not), so what? We all need to wake up to the new reality. We cannot afford to rest on our laurels and become increasingly less competitive on a global scale. We need smart, resourceful, connected and hard working immigrants in New Zealand. Current immigration policy does not give much scope for low-quality immigrants to enter New Zealand in any case.

The other myth is that immigrants make no economic contribution to New Zealand. Recent studies show the net impact for having an immigrant here is $3.29 billion, or $3547 per capita, while the net per capita contribution of a New Zealand-born is just $915. Immigrants are 4 times more valuable than locals.

Immigrants are willing to work harder and not mind getting paid less. Is that such a bad thing? Are we crying exploitation because we are genuinely concerned for the welfare of immigrants or simply because we don't want anyone to rock the cushy boat?

Smart, ambitious and hardworking immigrants are good for this country. Having more such immigrants in New Zealand would increase not just the number but quality of jobs, resulting in a more prosperous nation in more ways than one.

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Different cultural attitudes to navigating the recession

It's a privelege to have my friend Mitchell Pham, Director of Augen Software Group, to be our guest blogger today. We share very similar views on how we should approach the current recession; and we're both perennial optimists. Mitchell has just come back to NZ after having spent a month in Asia. Mitchell's views on how Vietnamese entrepreneurs (and by extension many Asians) approach the recession vis-a-vis New Zealand entrepreneurs should be required reading for New Zealand managers.


The common view of the cause for the global financial crisis has been largely held to be the over-exposure of the credit systems, with too much credit being handed-out too easily even where the risks of failure of repayment have been very high.

Governments around the world have been putting in place mechanisms to bail/underwrite the credit systems under their influence, so by and large, the ‘crisis’ seems to have been ‘managed’. However, the worry at the moment is that banks are still reluctant to lend as they have swung the other way and become ‘too risk-averse’ through the crisis. Without credit, it is difficult for businesses to develop/grow, which makes it difficult for economies to claw their ways out of the down-turn or recession that they are in. That seems to be the macro picture that we have been seeing.

At ground level where we connect with other businesses from large to small, we certainly see the effects of the crisis every day; from down-turn in demand for goods and services to cash flow crises from delayed payments, companies laying off staff, businesses scrambling, or restructuring, or diverting, or even dissolving. You name it, we have seen it in the market place. The crisis has certainly created a multitude of challenges for businesses to wrestle with. So, the economic down-turn has been noticed and even expected by many to last for the next 12-18 months, wherever we have been. However, in our own experience, what has been remarkable to observe is the difference in the way many Asian businesses seem to see and deal with the down-turn in contrast to that of many of their Western counterparts.

In Vietnam and other South-East Asian countries that we have been to, for example, most of the entrepreneurs we know have already gotten over the fact that there is an economic down-turn and that it will be around for another 12-18 months. They have already updated their busines

s plans to reflect that, and is now more preoccupied with what they can do to exploit the situation, while it is ‘here for a limited time only’. Oddly (and pleasantly) enough, the mood is still positive as businesses aggressively seek out temporary but strategic opportunities to further themselves, even divesting and/or spreading into new areas of activities. Many South East Asian entrepreneurs seem to be in the ‘opportunity’ mind-space no matter what situation the economy throws at them. It is very encouraging to see and

be surrounded by when we are there.

In contrast, few New Zealand entrepreneurs seem to be in the same mind-space right now. Despite the very real effects being felt, many of the businesses that we are surrounded by still seem to be either in denial (that the down-turn is really here and that it will be around for another 12-18 months) or in depression – still going through the emotional processes, with some businesses taking the ‘waiting to see what happens next’ approach to dealing with the situation. They are yet to go through the complete updating of their business plans, and are still a fair mental-distance away from the aggressive and intense focus on looking for temporary opportunities to exploit the down-turn while it is ‘here for a limited time only’.

The new New Zealand Prime Minister, John Key, is the first to have come from the private business sector. He has a lot of support from businesses, and the rest of the country also seems to have a lot of confidence in him. He has committed to refocusing government resources to push for growth towards 3%-4% for the New Zealand economy to recover from the down-turn and begin to go places again. As a modest group of companies, we are looking forward to taking part in that push and hopefully seeing the outcome in due course.

Another important effect of the economic down-turn, that we see as positive, is that businesses have been forced to streamline/optimise or evolve for the better.

Even the Augen Software Group has now become ‘leaner and meaner’ than we have been for many years.

We had a good run of growth and success in recent years and became complacent in a number of areas, and so now is a good time to ‘spring clean’ and ‘shape up’ for going forward.

As a New Zealand enterprise, we are very multi-cultural, with more than 15 different nationalities in our Auckland head office alone.

Our board of directors is also very diverse, and is made up of 40% Asian origin, 20% Kiwi origin, 20% European origin and 20% US origin.

So it has been an interesting range of cultures and perspectives in the mix as we take on the current challenges and set direction for the future.

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