Damien Venuto: Has Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern lost the room?

As we say goodbye to 2021 and welcome in 2022, it’s a good time to catch up on the very best of the Herald columnists we enjoyed reading over the last 12 months. From politics to sport, from business to entertainment and lifestyle, these are the voices and views our audience loved the most. Today it’s the top five from Damien Venuto.

Has PM Jacinda Ardern lost the room? – March 4

Listen carefully and you might hear an uncomfortable cough, the clink of a glass and the shuffle of some patrons heading for the exit.The 1pm Covid show goes on as scheduled, but the audience has heard all the same lines before and the impact isn’t quite as strong as it was the first, second or third time.

This latest lockdown feels different. Cracks are starting to show in the team-of-five-million solidarity that has carried us this far. Evidence of the fissures can be seen in the emergence of victim-blaming severe enough that Papatoetoe High School principal Vaughan Couillault had a frank discussion with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern about the narrative surrounding the infected families.

It can also be seen in councillor Efeso Collins’ impassioned op-ed on the Guardian website, calling on the country not to wag a disparaging finger at the people of Manukau. The details of what a KFC worker was or wasn’t told have also been centre stage in the strange search for answers on how things went wrong so quickly.

The old “be kind” mantra doesn’t seem to appeal quite as much when you have a villain to blame for your frustration.

Read the full story here.

Vaccine passports: The questions that still need to be answered – April 25

This week, Air New Zealand CEO Greg Foran became one of the first passengers in the country to use a digital health pass to board a plane. Air New Zealand has been working with the International Air Transport Association (IATA) over the last few months, and Foran’s check-in marks a major step in redeveloping trust in the travel industry.

Knowing passengers are cleared to board will go a long way toward encouraging others to brave the confines of a plane for a flight – particularly amid the recent opening of the transtasman bubble.

This progress is, however, limited to airports and we are yet to see anything local resembling the vaccine passports (or digital health passes) being used across a wider spread of sectors in the international market.

This has repercussions for both the Australian and New Zealand governments worried about this bubble experiment failing and also for businesses which might be nervous about being caught at the centre of the next outbreak.

Read the full story here.

MediaWorks CEO's big cleanout – has Magic Talk 'gone woke'? – September 7

News of the “retirement” of broadcaster Peter Williams yesterday quickly led to backlash from his Magic Talk listeners who phoned and texted in to vent their discontent. Replacement host Leah Panapa was peppered throughout her broadcast with accusations that the station had “gone woke”.

Whether Williams had voluntarily resigned as stated in the official press release – or whether he had been nudged out by management – was irrelevant to the arguments. What mattered was that another right-leaning voice had been cut from the programming. The departure of Williams was preceded by earlier moves, which saw the station part ways with John Banks and Sean Plunket.

All of these changes have come under the short tenure of new MediaWorks boss Cam Wallace. To the station’s listeners, the rapid cleanout clearly suggested that management was changing direction from the controversial opinions of these hosts.

It’s a sentiment shared by Plunket, who took to Twitter to say that the “team at Newstalk ZB must be breaking out the champagne as their only competitor in the lucrative talkback market self-implodes”.

Read the full story here.

Government's lack of trust in business is slowing Covid recovery – October 18

Studies have shown that countries with higher trust between the Government and the people tend to have higher vaccination rates. Russian sociologist Ekaterina Borozdina has written that Russia’s comparably low vaccination rates, despite being one of the first countries to develop a vaccine, are attributable to a history of fraught relations between citizens and the state.

Business consultant Stephen Covey saw so many examples of a lack of trust slowing down processes during his career that he felt inspired to write the 2006 book The Speed of Trust. In it, he argues persuasively that the higher the levels of trust in an organisation, the faster decisions and progress can be made.

On the one hand, we are seeing a lack of trust playing out with Māori and Pasifika population groups showing greater hesitancy to take the vaccine. After decades of inequitable policies, it comes as little surprise these groups don’t trust everything that comes from New Zealand’s political leaders.

But the speed of trust also runs in the opposite direction. A government that doesn’t trust its people and businesses to do the right thing will also be more hesitant to give them a long leash. In the extreme, this is why autocratic leaders govern with a paranoid obsession over who is doing what at any given moment.

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The section in the MediaWorks report that will make executives squirm – August 5

The entire report from Maria Dew on MediaWorks offers a harrowing look at the cultural issues that have plagued that business, but I think one section, in particular, will make executives feel particularly uncomfortable no matter where they’re sitting now.

Writing in the context of an allegation of sexual misconduct at a promotional event, Dew says the company’s response was “poorly managed, with serious consequences for the young female”.

The lack of host responsibility, communication around behaviour beforehand, the way the complaint was handled, the lack of expertise of the MediaWorks People and Culture team, and the lack of support for the complainant were all cited as examples.

“The failings … are not of just one individual but a collective responsibility of the senior management team involved,” Dew says. “The CEO and ultimately the Board at the time, all had some involvement in the decision making. The poor management of this incident, in the face of staff knowledge of the issues has damaged trust and confidence in the leadership of MediaWorks.”

Read the full story here.

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