NZ Winners and Losers in the Spotlight in 2018

14 December 2018

For the third year in a row BusinessPlus has allowed me the opportunity to take the mickey out of a select group of businesses and individuals in this satirical Christmas “awards” wrap-up.

That’s a big call by the editor when my track record for saying the wrong thing at exactly the wrong time precedes me. If you are offended, I am in the phone book and on social media. If you have a laugh, then send the kudos to my brave editor.

Taking the Eye off the Prize Award – Auckland Council 

When a huge storm with 200kph-plus winds blew out the candles on 150,000 Auckland households last April, we all sympathised with the hardworking Vector crews and management as they scrambled to ensure the hippies out West didn’t lose their indoor light garden, marijuana crops.

Later it turned out that a big part of the problem was damage caused by Auckland Council-controlled trees crashing down under the weight of reduced maintenance programmes and inadequate planning rules.

More focus on the basics might have left us not having to cook defrosted freezer contents over gas barbecues for a week

Social Media Brand Genius Award – Clarke Gayford

Clarke, could you be any more savvy than to be photographed standing, dripping sweat, in a skin-tight wetsuit while gently tucking your infant child into your rippling biceps?

Creating a personal social media brand bigger than a Kardashian’s booty while retaining the job title of “stay-at-home dad”, you even found the time to construct a patio deck for your house while in the midst of new parenthood.

In a blow to husbands and partners across the nation, your smiling perfection has exposed our hopeless parenting inadequacies for all to see. To make matters worse for me the remains of my broken self-esteem were wiped away when my partner hissed those fateful words, “Why can’t you be more like him?”


Curdled Milk Award – Fonterra

Take billions of dollars’ worth of farmers’ hard-won milk products, package them up for international consumption, add a highly paid exec team and shiny new Auckland Viaduct offices, then deliver a loss of $140 million.

This is usually a recipe for pitchforks and flaming torches. It’s lucky Fonterra’s shareholders couldn’t afford the newly excised fuel to get their tractors to the ritual burning. Hopefully 2019 will see a return to form for what is usually the shining star of our agricultural economy.


Accident Waiting to Happen Award – Steel and Tube

Steel & Tube has been fined a record $1.885 million for breaching the Fair Trading Act by making false and misleading representations about its steel mesh products that are used in construction to provide strength and stability in the event of an earthquake.  

Getting the product testing wrong had the potential to wreak havoc on our roads, but for the timely intervention of the Commerce Commission and the prompt admission of error by the company.

The irony was not lost on the writer that recent company share buyers have included the New Zealand Government through the Accident Compensation Corporation.

If Fletcher Building’s takeover attempt of Steel and Tube proves a success, expect far greater attention to be paid to test regimes and quality control than proved to be the case here.


Unsung Hero Award – Rod Drury, founder of Xero

Founder and still 13 per cent shareholder of Xero, Rod Drury, has proved that Kiwi companies can fly in the highly competitive international marketplace for accounting software.

Rod stepped down as CEO this year in further proof that emotionally secure, servant leaders can make way for innovation and change without ceasing to be brilliant entrepreneurs.

Xero has surpassed one million subscribers globally and heads a long list of New Zealand tech enterprises flexing their muscles internationally. Xero ships no physical product as it spreads its wings across the globe. Food for thought in a world looking for clean, green, sustainable solutions from countries such as New Zealand.


That’s it for 2018. Have a safe and restful break and a wonderful Christmas. See you in the New Year.


David Spratt is a director of Total Utilities. Email [email protected]