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HARD NEWS 22/12/00 - The Gateway to Summer

Approved: hardnews.kiwifruit
Subject: HARD NEWS 22/12/00 - The Gateway to Summer

HARD NEWS is first broadcast in Auckland on 95bFM around 8.45am on Fridays and replayed around 4.30pm Friday and 10am Sunday on The Culture Bunker. You can listen to 95bFM live on the Internet. Point your web browser to http://www.95bfm.co.nz. You will need Real Audio 3.0 to be able to listen, plus a 28.8k modem. Currently New Zealand is 12 hours ahead of GMT.

HARD NEWS ON THE INTERNET appears in text form at Scoop, at http://scoop.co.nz and on the Ihug homepage at http://www.ihug.co.nz . It is now available in MP3 form at http://www.mp3.net.nz . You can sign up for Hard News mailing lists at http://www.scoop.co.nz/mason/myscoop/ on Scoop.

GOOD DAY MEDIAPHILES .. and what a long, strange trip it's been. The Great Confidence Crash of 2000, the Winter of Discontent, soaring petrol prices, the Brain Drain the diving dollar, the failure to win an unspecified number of medals at the Olympics.

These were dark times. And then the Paul Holmes album came out and it appeared that our nerve as a nation might finally fail. That we might just slide into the ocean to the strains of 'Where Do You Go to My Lovely?'.

But we didn't. And suddenly the surveys show soaring confidence, the polls suggest public satisfaction and the sun is shining. GDP growth has recovered from its mid-year stall-out to hit 4.5% for the year to September.

Petrol has dropped 20 cents a litre in three weeks and the dollar roared back to 44 cents US this week - which is actually quite far enough, thanks. Getting there was pretty scary, but the dollar's readjustment to a level more commensurate with our place in the world has been the year's pivotal event.

The farmers, flush with export receipts, have begun to spend again and their money is washing down Queen Street and Lambton Quay. Theatro has closed but the Viaduct is alive again.

We're by no means out of the woods economically: the productive sector's failure to increase capacity to exploit the dollar boom; the tricky problem of how hard to squeeze inflation; and the prospects for the US economy, which was too hot for us this year but might be too cold the next. All these things - and to be honest, a bundle more besides - loom as challenges for us.

But we can head for the beach safe in the knowledge that the country won't be foreclosed in our absence. Actually, it never was going to be - no matter what Rich Poole and Roger Kerr told the world.

Their 'Young New Zealanders' scam was a turning point; things could not get more stupid and ugly and self-destructive. For me, it was having the agenda set by someone as just plain dim as Richie Rich. For Tony O'Reilly, it was a desire to avoid his assets flushing themselves down the toilet - hence the New Zealand Herald's overnight lurch to the centre. For the business leaders courted by the government it was the chance to become the new establishment. For most people it was just a chance to stop the national flagellation.

We finish the year with a government which has certainly had its whoopsies - more often to do with word rather than deed - but which is competent, stable and well led. It has, for better or worse, fulfilled all the senior partner's pre-election promises and has now hopefully settled into a more measured legislative style. It had better hope the image of prudence and ability to address the issues sticks, because it doesn't have a whole lot of money to spend itself to victory in two years' time.

I could go on about the national psyche, but I've done that at quite some length for the January Metro, so I suggest you read that. And I could go into an endless namecheck of admirable New Zealanders, but the December issue of Loop has already done that, so you should buy that too. And the Loop Select Edition, too. Feed Mark Cubey and you feed a nation.

I'll limit myself to showering thanks on everyone at and around bFM, which remains a force for all that is right about Auckland andNew Zealand. To the people who help distribute Hard News: Alastair Thompson at Scoop, Chris Hocquard at mp3.net.nz and Mark Proffit and Michael Witbrock at nz.com. To Ray Mills and Jonathan at the Goldmine for all the bargains. To everyone I work with in my various jobs and joblets. To Fiona, my partner in life and in Dubwise Arrangements Limited, purveyor of professional media solutions for discerning publishers. The directors have decided that the employees' Christmas bonus should take the form of a flash new espressso machine, and I can tell you that the workers - both of us - are most excited.

And thanks, in a broader sense, to everyone who makes something. In bigger economies you can - in fact you're pretty much obliged to - sit back and be a consumer. If life here at the end of the earth is to stack up to anything at all, we need to produce, especially in the cultural domain. The money's secondary - the work's the thing.

And so, of course, is the play. Auckland's party inclination is peaking as I speak and for the next month or so it's only going to get partier. But as you prepare to party like there's no tomorrow, do bear in mind that there is a tomorrow; you actually do have your whole life in front of you. Look after your friends too.

The Hard News Health Warning out of the way, I'm up for it. See you at Roger Sanchez tonight, Outdoor Styles tomorrow and the beach all summer long. I can hardly tell you how much I'm looking forward to kicking back and sleeping in. It's been a long year on the job. But it is Christmas in New Zealand; the Gateway to Sumnmer. And, in more ways than one, I'm so glad to be here ... G'bye!

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