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Kiwi Edge Needs Sharpening

NEW ZEALAND -- New Zealand needs a new flag, a good slogan everyone can relate to, new myths and an optimistic spirit, according to New Zealand Edge web site co-founder and editor Brian Sweeney. Mr Sweeney says New Zealand needs to improve its image internally and externally and a good start would be to get rid of the anachronistic union jack on our flag and replace it with the most recognisable of all symbols the silver fern.

He says the country needs transformational, creative responses to fast moving ambiguous times, to become more global in its ambitions and grow businesses of scale by reaching through the internet.

Mr Sweeney, director of corporate communication company Sweeney Vesty, and partner in developing the nzedge site passionate provocateur of things Kiwi Kevin Roberts whos worldwide head of Saatchi and Saatchi, want to draw attention to 'world beating Kiwi ingenuity.'

Their site currently has 1500 members registered for regular mail outs, the majority from offshore. Although they wont reveal how many visitors the site gets hits are increasing on a monthly basis. The hits on the 28 hero stories are increasing 50-100 per cent a month with the biography of Ernest Rutherford for example achieving 12,000 hits in April alone.

The essence of the site it to empower and liberate the New Zealand spirit essentially a search for "Kiwi DNA, and a sense of our own relevance in the world," says Mr Sweeney.

"We're here to tell stories, celebrate heroes, share ideas and network the Diaspora the scattered New Zealanders around the world," says Mr Sweeney. He says good ideas can act virally and all it takes is 5 per cent of the population to stimulate a major social change. "Inspiration is infectious," he says.

The project came about after Wired publisher Kevin Kelly visited here claiming New Zealand's high level of creativity and innovation came from it being a nation on the edge. "Change and innovation happens on the edge. Edges are very active places," says Mr Sweeney. While the centre typically represents stability and comfort the edge is exhilarating or threatening depending on your personality. Creative people are often described as living on the edge...

Mr Sweeney says New Zealand was the last significant land mass to be settled and is most distant from any other land mass on earth. It has been variously described as a paradise, a sanctuary, an asylum, a laboratory, it's people moody, broody, dislocated, dysfunctional, introspective. This is coupled with an extraordinary sense of innovation and social progress including in engineering, art and design.

However he says while New Zealand has been at the edge it is rapidly losing its place in the world. "New Zealand is a $100 billion economy but there's a pathetic amount spent, about $150 million, on marketing and positioning New Zealand internationally."

Only 4 per cent of NZ firms export, 30 firms produce 50 per cent of our exports, were among the lowest in the OECD. "We need another war effort of total export focus that everyone needs to be involved in. We're good at taking on the world but weve got our focus wrong. We celebrate our sporting success rather than our business successes. Our export figures should be featured on the front page of the herald every week," says Mr Sweeney.

He claims the latest census results don't tell us enough about who we are. "Knowing how many toilets we have or how many hours are spend typing or fixing cars is not going to help the knowledge economy." Mr Sweeney says the true population of New Zealand is 5 million but about one million are 'lost' because theyre living outside the country.

Australia sees itself as the lucky country a myth that has served it well, the 'great American dream' has had enormous power suggesting you can come from anywhere and achieve anything in the US. However New Zealand's "she'll be right mate" didn't do us a lot of good, neither did the belligerent Muldoon inspired 'New Zealand the way you want it' which was "an uninspiring, authoritarian piece of politicking."

Rogernomics 'free market' approach in the 80s saw the country so busy with structural reforms that branding got left behind. "Weve had so much left brain functional reform we now need to focus on emotional reform," says Mr Sweeney.