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Richie Rich

In the past I have been quite impressed with Richie McCaw, the previous All Blacks captain. He was a great (I use that word deliberately) player and an effective captain. He was humble when interviewed about his achievements, but wasn’t obviously just following a PR script. And, most importantly, he rejected the offer of a knighthood in 2012 because he thought he didn’t deserve it yet (he now has an Order of New Zealand which is theoretically a higher honour).

When he was All Blacks captain he probably made well over a million dollars a year according to various sources, so you might think there would be little need to make extra cash by participating in activities of doubtful moral value, like doing advertising for large corporates.

But, unfortunately, that’s what he has done. After having such a high opinion of McCaw it is very disappointing – and I might even go as far as saying sickening – to see him in a TV advertising campaign trying to improve the public perception of Fonterra, the biggest company in New Zealand and the largest milk exporter in the world.

Fonterra has a poor public perception because of the way they manage milk exporting from New Zealand where they have a virtual monopoly. They have concentrated on producing larger amounts of low value products like milk powder and this has lead to two big problems: first, more cows have lead to major issues with water pollution; and second, when the price of commodities has slumped many farmers have been adversely affected and many have had to get out of farming.

There’s no excuse for it because various commentators have been saying for years that a better strategy would be to emphasise lesser volumes of higher value products instead, or at the very least have a greater diversification in production.

The criticisms of Fonterra don’t end there though, because they have also been criticised for extravagant director salaries, excessive numbers of managers and bureaucrats of doubtful value, and unfair payment terms for suppliers.

Sure, there have been times in the past where the company has been held in high regard. But these have been primarily when the price for milk has been high and payments to farmers have been generous. Any company can do a good job in those circumstance and it’s only when things go wrong that the true value of those highly paid executives is really tested.

And – disappointing but perhaps not surprisingly – they fail miserably. And not only are they incompetent but they are also immoral. And I’m afraid that, by association, so is Richie. Was he not rich enough? Why did he sell his soul to the devil? Surely he cannot possibly believe the inept drivel in the advertisement.

And in addition, I’m not impressed with the fact that he accepted an honorary doctorate as recognition of his sporting achievements. So he got a degree for running around a rugby ground throwing a ball around? Makes me wonder why we bother with universities. I think almost all honorary degrees are a travesty. A degree is supposed to be a recognition of academic ability, not a reward for being a good sportsman.

It seems more that honorary degrees are a dishonest attempt for the university to gain credit through association with a famous person. Lincoln University might say “oh yes, the All Blacks captain has a degree from here, aren’t we great?” I do admit that McCaw almost completed a bachelors degree before rugby took over his life, but many people don’t complete study for various reasons, so I don’t think that can really be used as a justification.

The fact that McCaw accepted something that he must have known was morally wrong is also a point against him, in my opinion. So, along with the Fonterra propaganda campaign which is even more morally wrong I find the whole thing very disappointing.

Sure, no one is perfect, but there are some actions which are unforgivable. It’s just as well Richie Rich isn’t playing for the All Blacks any more or I might have ended up supporting England or South Africa instead… or even (gasp) Australia!

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