Celebrating 100 years of Buy Kiwi Made

  • Maryan Street
Economic Development


Ladies and Gentlemen
Greetings, talofa lava, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.

It is my pleasure to be here today to join in the centenary celebrations. Reaching 100 is no mean feat and while we won’t be getting a telegram from the Queen, the fact that you are all here today shows just how important this occasion is.

Because this hasn’t happened in isolation. What we have seen over the past 100 years, and what we expect we’ll see for the next 100, is a story of real partnership and collaboration. In fact, all that’s best about being Kiwi.

For 100 years Kiwis have been encouraging other Kiwis to buy New Zealand made goods. In 1908 domestic manufacturers recognised the need to appeal solely to the domestic market.

This was a time when many shoppers sought out goods from their ‘home’ countries in a belief that these would be superior to goods made locally. In many cases they had little knowledge of what was made in New Zealand – which is as much a live issue today as it was 100 years ago.

So, manufacturers in Auckland, Canterbury and Wellington, with support from the New Zealand Shopkeepers’ Association convinced local retailers to create a series of shop window displays. This “New Zealand Industries Week” was so successful that the railways put on special excursion trains to bring country people to see the displays.

Government rapidly grasped the benefits of this and supported further Industries Weeks over the following decades, which extended into other provincial areas.

The first Dominion Industrial Exhibition was held in Christchurch in 1922 to appeal to the public to support the products of New Zealand industries. It was so successful that the profits funded further shows in Auckland and Dunedin.

In 1924 an advertising campaign was funded by Government and delivered through the New Zealand Industrial Corporation, focusing on the quality and range of goods available and appealing to national pride.

In 1927 the Post Office was postmarking stamps urging people to ‘Buy New Zealand Made Goods’. Throughout the Great Depression of the 1930s, the Auckland Manufacturers’ Association funded a series of weekly advertisements urging shoppers to support their fellow workers and buy New Zealand made goods.

While you’ve no doubt heard about the unemployment riots during the Depression, few people today would have heard about the many Buy New Zealand Made street parades in town centres at the time.

But perhaps one of the most remarkable feats was that of Esther James, to whom Sue Bradford will pay tribute later this morning. Esther’s single-minded determination to connect New Zealand in a display of physical endurance was the news of the day in 1931 and 1932.

Not many people would know that Government was a leader in the development of advertising media, establishing one of our first forms of ‘transit’ advertising. It issued instructions that all passenger train locomotives be sign-written with the words “Buy New Zealand Made Goods”, and in 1939 you would have seen 57 of them touring the countryside.

From the 1930s until the 1980s there was a steady decrease in the pace of the campaign as the effects of a protected economy were felt. With heavy state intervention came import substitution and a regime that effectively favoured local goods over significantly more costly imports.

From 1984 New Zealand implemented a series of radical reforms that included the abolition of subsidies, tariffs and import licensing. This shake-up brought to the fore the need to continue with New Zealand-made campaigns.

In another typically-Kiwi partnership, the New Zealand Council of Trade Unions, the New Zealand Manufacturers’ Federation (now Business New Zealand) and principal sponsor Printpac-UEB established the Buy New Zealand Made Campaign Ltd.

I remember this because in 1988 when it all happened I was Auckland Vice-President for the NZCTU and we were very proud to be associated with this development. After all, a significant portion of this nation’s workers are engaged in manufacturing. Today that’s more than 250,000 workers – a sizeable chunk of the workforce and obviously critical to our nation’s well-being.

Government continued to support this initiative by providing funds for various advertising campaigns. It also issued guidance for government purchasing practice to ensure that local producers were given full and fair opportunity to compete for tenders.
And that leads us to where we are today, in the midst of a highly successful Buy Kiwi Made campaign, run by the Ministry of Economic Development in partnership with Buy New Zealand Made Campaign Ltd. The results speak for themselves although I know Sue will want to share some of the latest achievements with you.

As we look back, we also look forward. The reasons that Buying New Zealand Made was started 100 years ago are as relevant today and will be as important in the future: job creation, strengthened communities, sustainability, and firms better able to enter the world stage as exporters.

And the critical success factors for effective Buy New Zealand Made campaigns remain the same: workers, manufacturers, retailers and government all working together to benefit New Zealand.

After all, if we buy Kiwi – we’ve got it made!