Archive for March, 2011

Its All Back To Normal In Christchurch. Yeah, Right!

The initial shock is over.  The aftershocks are still happening though, both in a physical sense and as far as getting business life back to normal is concerned.  For some people normally is still a long way to go – and anyone who watched the TV footage of frustrated and desperate small business owners trying to light a fire under the Civil Defence bureaucracy will wonder what on earth is going in Christchurch. 

Railway Line Near Christchurch (AFP)

Thirty second video clips don’t always get the message across correctly, the danger being that sensationalism takes over. 

Here is a very eloquent way to sum up how a small inner city business inside the no go red zone is – or more to the point – is NOT coping with the aftermath of the Christchurch earthquake.  Treat it as a guest contribution if you like.  The author, Nicky Arts, owns a small business in High Street, inside the  inaccessible red cordon.

Chch CBD

It is now, 5 weeks since the CHCH earthquake. What has been achieved for the CBD business owners? Well if you are wealthy and “well connected” you will have been into your business and collected your car keys and jacket, maybe salvaged your stock, plant and records, or much more likely, If you are a small SME you will not have heard from Civil Defence for 5 weeks, you probably dont know officially if your building has been A) demolished B) looted C) standing but damaged D) a variation of above. ( Unless a kind Journalist/contractor/police man has helped you out.) In our case we are RED, but no one can tell me why! Though I suspect its my neighbour, who has frontage problems.

You will be checking the Recover Canterbury website every day- dont bother its out of date. Try Paul Lonsdale from the Central City Business Association he is supplying the best information I can find. ( My thanks to you Paul without you I would have given up long ago and I know we gave you a hard time at one of the protests.)

You will be ringing your fellow building owners/businesses every day in the vain hope that they know more than you do.

You will be checking the Press every day- don’t bother they are not even publishing cordon reduction maps. (Try checking out the articles in the NZ Herald, they have some excellent comments)

You will have reluctantly told your staff, that have loyally stuck with you, that they are redundant, and that you dont think you can re open in the same format.

You will spend every day worrying about how you are going to do the accounts for 2010-2011 because you dont have any records.

You will spend time worrying about finding that document that gives you… in my case- power of attorney for your elderly mothers affairs- she is in a rest home in Auckland because she does not have- power-sewer-water- dangerous house- liquifaction- take your pick!

You spend your day wondering what you are going to do about the February Invoices that you can’t get access to and you need the money.

You will be ringing the 0800 …whatever- number every day, and wonder what conflicting story they will give you today.

You will have stood at the portacom at the art gallery, day after day, and been fobbed off.

You will have felt sick when they they changed the cordon dates, yet again.

You will have faced the slick PR machine- which is lies, lie and lies. And is just a stalling tactic.

You will have wondered WHEN they are actually going to make a decision?

You will have wondered if there is any one in charge?

You will wonder if any one with commercial experience is involved in the decision making?

You will have realised that all Small/Medium Enterprises have been written off as collateral damage.

You will wonder why Labour/Greens/Act/who ever – is not helping you by attacking the government handling of this fiasco.

You will wonder why they won’t let the glazier/carpenter/brickie in to fix your building. In my case they won’t let in the Steel company to install the last 12 beams needed to finish the strengthening project we have been working on for 2 years. (He is now closing down because he can’t work).

You will wonder why 1/4 of CHCH work force is on a subsidy, (when we could work safely from our strengthened building, and contribute to the economy).

You will smile when you meet your lawyer at the portacom and he complains that it is a f…. shambles.  And you will invite him to the next protest!

You will wonder what sort of future Christchurch has, if no one listens to us.

Nicky Arts

Well, does that sort of stuff really concern us?  Produce is ok, isn’t it?  People still have to eat, don’t they?  Well, life has changed there as well.  Christchurch consumers are focusing on the basics.  Less fancy salads and more heads of lettuce.  More spuds rather than prepared potato salads from the Deli counter.  Apples instead of mangoes.  Wholesalers are reporting business is anything other than normal in Canterbury.  I am not surprised when I read what people like Nicky Arts have to say. 

Its time somebody pulled finger down there…

The Supermarket Debate I

Ol’ Sue Kedgley might be a loony lonely voice in this country when she engages in supermarket bashing , or anything else for that matter, but the topic of supermarkets and how they shape and impact upon society’s social fabric is not one she can copyright.  Particularly in the UK, the debate has long moved from the fringe into main stream and a week does not go by without one of the major UK Dailies adding  to the topic.  Here is a contribution from the Telegraph.

Someone Else’s Version Of What Our Industry Looks Like

I must have missed this last year but someone has obviously been busy.  Business New Zealand seems to have updated the info on its Food & Beverages pages in March 2010.  Check out the Horticulture section.  Not entirely complete and up to date but , hey, at least we are there.

The Benefits of Size & Scale

There are times when one wishes one’s national  industry was bigger than it can realistically be, given the size of one’s country.  One of those times is when one discovers that there is such a thing as a Produce Industry Credit Council in the US!

A Stroll Through Berlin (II)

You may remember the blog entry about munted expired Christmas trees flung indiscriminately off their balconies by Berliners in the weeks after Christmas.  I have been asked whether I had made that story up as some  Hortsource reader are clearly doubting Thomases. 

Politcal Footballs Are So Yesterday - How About A Political Christmas Tree Then?

The short answer is, “No, it’s the thruth, honest, Gov!”  Here is the proof. A couple of days after just about breaking my leg negotiating Christmas trees loitering on footpaths across the city, I came across this electioneering poster designed and displayed by the Berlin CDU – the conservative party of Chancellor Angela Merkel. It shows a candidate for the local body elections busy clinging to a Christmas tree.  The caption reads – “CDU cleans up.”  Abandoned Christmas trees are clearly a key political issue in Berlin, at least when it comes to local elections.  Any lessons for our elections later this year???

Staying with the concept of interesting sights.  Here is a carton of Jazz apples taking a couple of its minders for a stroll across the  Fruit Logistica exhibition.  A fairly sterile affair, a trade fair.  Everyone in his or her finery, spot lights on the product, every apple polished to make a good impression, crowds of people, no where to park the car, a need to get reaquainted with the concept called “winter coat” and “Garderobe”, the place where one needs to leave one’s coat in order to avoid suffering from overheating as one visited the fair.  When one wants to understand though how the punters on the street feel about new fancy apple varieties or if one wants to understand the scope of the market we are exporting into, one needs to keep wearing one’s coat and mingle with the locals in a spot where the locals shop! Like the Wochenmarkt - a German farmers’ market. 

Jazz apples with bodyguards

Apart from the aroma of Bratwurst and mulled wine which alone  are worth a visit, one gets to see apple varities one did not even know existed.  Many of these are heritage varieties, varities which existed when the old Kaiser Wilhelm was around – and you know what?  People are buying them.  The competition and the opportunity for our apple marketers is enormous!  A traditional apple market like Germany does not make it easy for something new from the Antipodes like Jazz to turn up and say, “oi, move over.  I am here now and want some shelf space”.  We should therefore not undestimated the effort companies like Turners & Growers and others have to go to, in order to achieve a degree of cut through and exposure, particularly in mature markets like continental Europe where every consumer is an expert!  Well done!

On another matter , I am yet to find a decent Royal Gala I am happy to finish in the local market here in Auckland.  What am I missing?  Bad season? Somebody better put me out of my misery and come up with an explanation, because I can’t accept that I should have to eat substandard apples in a country that prides itself on its pipfruit quality!

Kaiser Wilhelm Apples & Colleagues

Apple Buying Is Serious Business