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Ideas from New Zealand

The Financial Times recently interviewed New Zealand Prime Minister Helen Clark, an independent-minded woman who grew up one of four daughters on an isolated North Island farm. Clark has opposed several wars, but she has been "a driving force" behind the unveiling of the New Zealand memorial at Hyde Park Corner, to commemorate those who died fighting Nazi Germany in World War II. She told the Financial Times,

“There’s been a lot of unfinished business for New Zealand soldiers - traditionally they came home from war and everybody shut the door on it, they never talked about it again. But I have a great interest in heritage and I think you have to properly commemorate significant events in a country’s history.”

She describes the memorial - 16 slanting bronze “standards” in formation that could be troops on parade, or Maori performing a haka, or a cricketer leaning forward to play a defensive stroke - as a work of art: “It is a beautiful and creative design. The patterns on each standard are highly symbolic of the people who make up New Zealand, the literature, the birds, the shoreline, the forest. It’s a statement about New Zealand today.

“We are a country of four million people. We are geographically remote, so we have to find ways of saying ‘Look at me’ as a country.” Not a natural show-off, she laughs, almost apologetically. But this philosophy is one of the reasons her government has increased funding to creative industries such as film. “Film is an iconic industry and if your country is producing great movies then that has a cachet about it. The Lord of the Rings has given New Zealand fantastic publicity in the past seven or eight years, and it was followed by. . .The Chronicles of Narnia, also made by New Zealanders.

“The other way to get international attention is to host very large events, such as the America’s Cup, and then leverage off that. We’re now looked on as world-leading yacht designers, and builders of super yachts and marine technology. . .so New Zealand becomes a place where you’d be interested in buying very sophisticated goods."