“Buddy can you spare a dime?”

Fund raising is very much part of our lives right now. Et is going on a Scouts Jamboree in January, This is a BIG DEAL in the life of a scout because it only happens every three years which means few scouts get to attend more than one.

tentsIt involves a gathering of most of the Scouts in the country in one massive tent village. For ten days they get together a do Scout things – splash though mud, build rafts, swim, ride horses, sing songs around the camp fire and generally have equal amounts of fun and dirty washing.

Because it is far away and lasts a long time it costs a lot of money. So everyone gets together and does fundraising.  Now this is a complete industry in NZ and it is fascinating to observe. The society is geared towards charity and there are some products reserved for charity and fund raising.


For example, the Girl Guides (like they do all over the world) sell cookies. But unlike the home-made, tasteless substances one usually has to ingest with a forced smile, these are baked by a large commercial concern and are like vanilla versions of Oreos. They are branded for the GGs and cannot be bought anywhere else. They are sought-after.

Then there are the chocolates. Cadbury’s has a special deal for anyone raising funds: you buy a box of 30 chocolates and the selling price is set at $2.50. So you get $75 per box for which you paid $14 so there’s $61 to be raised per box. Most often you’ll find these boxes in tea rooms at work with a note such as “XYZ Secondary School’s hockey trip to ABC” and then people take one and leave their money in the box. Cadbury’s moves mountains of chocolates in this way and people feel good about buying them: and they are the regular things you would normally get in the shops like Caramello, Top Deck, etc. Oreos (Nabisco) has a similar deal.

Then there is the profitable pastime of “The Sausage Sizzle”. Now South Africans would consider this to be quite sad. This is the Kiwi equivalent of selling boerewors rolls. Except that the sausages are pre-cooked, contain a blend of pork, beef, lamb and chicken, are virtually tasteless, are served on a slice of regular white bread folded over and the most exciting ingredient is grilled onions. For this people pay $2 (R15.40). Few people actually crave the taste, mostly they do it to support the charity. In fact some people just make a donation and (incomprehensibly) restrain themselves from having the sausage.

mitre101Yesterday we had our second Sausage Sizzle of the year. This one took place outside a Mitre-10 (like Builder’s Warehouse). They provide a little wooden shed which they place near the entrance to the shop. Inside is a gas barbecue and a full gas bottle. Everything else is provided by the charity. There is a $50 deposit to be paid and at the end of the day once you have cleaned everything and refilled the gas bottle, the store manager does an inspection and you get your deposit back less the cost of the gas. Simple. A forklift removes the little kiosk and parks it inside the warehouse till the next day or weekend. Every weekend of the year is booked up way in advance.

mitre102But the big hardware stores do more: all their stock taking is farmed out to charities. They pay minimum wage $13.5 (R104) per hour and you can earn quite a lot if a whole troop of scouts works for 5 hours. There is ample supervision and the parents are involved in counting and feeding the hungry mouths.

The cricket and rugby unions also subcontract all the cleaning of the stadiums after a big match to the charities – same deal, minimum wage and you get allocated a section to clean. The Kiwis are very clean anyway so there is little to pick up, but still, it is good money.

scrapOne of the biggest problems here is getting rid of stuff. Other than domestic waste and recycling it costs a lot of money to get rid of anything large and non biodegradable. So refuse collecting is another big fundraising opportunity. They have “metal drives” in which people get rid of bulky, obsolete metal things. The scouts collect the metal and sell it to scrap merchants. We got rid of an old fridge and metal shoe racks. It would have cost us a fortune to dispose of conventionally. The Scouts made $950 (R7,315) from a single day’s metal collecting.

Then there was the dinner I spoke about on Facebook about a week ago. In each case the people who participate earn points and the money that is collected is allocated according to the number of points you have earned. So for all the sausage sizzles, the metal collecting, the sponsored walks (still coming), book sale (still to come) the car washing, etc the Naudes have earned about $450 towards the trip – so we’re about a third of the way there.

Views to die for

We got the strangest notice the other day from the city council. Auckland has a city skyline which is dominated by the sky tower – big tourist attraction. But for those in the city looking out the trade-mark view is of the volcanic island just off the coast called Rangitoto (see previous blog). You can see this volcanic cone from just about anywhere in the city which is nice. rangitoto

What I did not know is that these view are not accidental. I guess the people out there who know about town planning may have heard of view shafts, but it was new to me. The letter from the council explained that our house was part of a view shaft and as a result there was a building limit of nine metres (!) which we could not exceed. Don’t know of many houses around which are taller than 9m but I think we’re OK on that score. view shafts

The Council explains that views of Rangitoto are part of the character of the city and there are key points throughout the area from which people expect to be able to see the island. View shafts are “protected” views in which nothing may be built which can obscure this view – even trees can be removed if they do. Remember all trees taller than 3m are protected by law and to cut one down requires lots of red tape and costs.

These view shafts are a great idea, I think. Here’s a view shaft map of the Auckland CBD and the one specifically for our peninsula. This also explains why there are not many high rises on the water front. view shaft 2

Meanwhile, on the job front…

Some of you may have heard through various grapevines that Pearson is withdrawing from the New Zealand market, pulling it publishing back to Australia and leaving the sales and marketing aspects with a local agent (who, until a few weeks ago, was my boss). This means that I will be made redundant at the end of August.

exitPearson is the last of the big educational publishers to move out and in the same time as we made the announcement two trade publishers (HarperCollins and Hachette Livre) announced they were doing the same thing leading to speculation about the future of the industry here.

The motives for each of these moves may be different, but they are all fuelled by a shift in consumer behaviour when it comes to buying and reading books and the relative size of the NZ market. With only 4.5 million people – even though they are avid readers – the market cannot compete with larger regions. The turnover our company made in a year is made by our China business in just a few days. Even though our profit was superb, our growth simply cannot be compared to the developing giants: China, Brazil, South Africa, India. Pearson is withdrawing from more than 100 markets of similar a size and with similar prospects as New Zealand.

In typical Pearson fashion they have done the descent thing and have contracted a group of career consultants to work with the staff to help prepare them for the job market and to advise them on things like CVs, interviews etc. It is always sad to see talent being haemorrhaged by corporates, but it is quite an interesting ecosystem and I am sure I will see some of my colleagues again in different business circumstances. 

It is a time of uncertainty for us and of tightening belts, but I am at this stage confident of getting something new. There are four prospective jobs in the pipeline and I am on the hunt daily. Three of the four jobs are based in Australia. Watch this space for more information. I might have to do many more sausage sizzles …

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