New Zealanders hold their national heroes in high regard
but are not so sure how to rate business leaders. In the
final of a five-part series, Natalie Akoorie, of The New
Zealand Herald, writes on what it is like to be a Kiwi.
Sir Edmund Hillary is considered New Zealand's most
recognised hero but singer Lorde is ranked third by
under-30s, according to a survey about what it is to be a
In the final of the five-part series, the questionnaire by
Colmar Brunton shows 52% of the 1009 respondents considered
the late mountaineer to be a nationally or internationally
recognised New Zealand hero.
His closest rival was All Black captain Richie McCaw on a
mere 8%, followed by the late Sir Peter Blake (7%) and former
prime minister Helen Clark, Olympic gold medallist Valerie
Adams, film-maker Sir Peter Jackson and the All Blacks, all
Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Lorde came in at 3% but
was third overall among the younger-generation voters.
But when asked who was New Zealand's top business person, 36%
of respondents answered ''don't know''.
Rated the most successful business person on 10% was Prime
Minister John Key, a former investment banker, followed by
Sir Stephen Tindall, founder of The Warehouse, Graeme Hart,
one of the country's richest businessmen, and economist
Gareth Morgan, all on 6%.
When New Zealand advertising agency DraftFCB hired two
American anthropologists to analyse Kiwi culture, they
discovered that culturally, New Zealanders were not as open
to celebrating success as Americans or Australians.
''In New Zealand we're happier if people are a little bit
quieter about their achievements,'' DraftFCB head of planning
David Thomason said.
''One of the perceptions is that it's this selfish thing
where you climb on top of other people to get to the top,''
''Yet, when we got past that, New Zealanders consistently did
have an ambition. But the nature of New Zealanders' ambitions
is likely to be more collective - that it's for their family
or the kids or their partner.''
The anthropologists, from Practica Group in New York and
Chicago, concluded that Kiwis kept ambitions to themselves
and were poor at making plans to do something about it.
In an online survey in 2010 of 1000 people, DraftFCB found
35% of respondents wished they were more ambitious and 79%
wished New Zealanders as a whole were more ambitious.
Mr Thomason said tall poppy syndrome was very real and
intelligence did not necessarily go hand in hand with
''You're born with it. Intelligence is often seen as an
unfair advantage but people will celebrate things like hard
work and innovation more, rather than just they're really
Mr Thomason said Kiwis also appeared to be easily satisfied.
''People talk about the BMW, the bach and the boat and New
Zealand business people are often satisfied once they have
achieved these and don't want to go further.''
Economist and philanthropist Gareth Morgan said New Zealand
was a perfect place to do business for smaller operators.
''We're basically a nursery, where you can grow those
businesses to a certain level and either sell them or use
that base to build internationally.''
Mr Morgan dismissed criticisms such as being held back by
government policy or lack of funding as ''whinging'' and said
that having a small population was a huge advantage.
''You can develop your business in this test market pretty
much under the radar before you take it international.''
Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medallist Valerie Adams
is proud to be internationally recognised as a heroine by
other New Zealanders.
Putting New Zealand ''on the map'' was an honour, according
to Adams, who has gone up against shot putters from around
the world and come out on top.
''If I can put little old New Zealand up there amongst the
biggest countries in the world, especially in track and field
which is one of the most competitive sports ...
''One of my pet peeves at the moment is that people just
assume that we're part of Australia, if they don't know where
Adams, whose late mother Lilika is her hero, said Kiwis held
ambitions but did not talk about them in the way other
nationalities, such as Americans, might.
''We're so laid-back but also quite a humble country that we
don't want to say to the whole world what our ambitions are.
''I set my goals out but my ambitions I keep to myself. I
think in New Zealand that's just the way we roll here.''
Adams said one of her goals was to inspire young people in
''I've always said that if I can inspire one person, I can
die happy. If I can inspire one person to change their life
and make it better for themselves, and that's not necessarily
in sport, I can tell you now that I will be happy to die and
that my job is done.''