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Fair Go: April 20

Published: 4:42PM Wednesday April 20, 2011

AWARD-WINNING, BUT WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?
Reporter:
Ruwani Perera

New Zealand currently has 700 vineyards and while the number is growing so too is the wine market. With so many choices available to the consumer wine growers look for anything to set themselves apart and second to price what consumers look for is an award-winning drop.

Winning a wine awards doesn't usually increase a wine's price but it will certainly increase sales.

NZ consumers buy 70% of their wine now in supermarkets. Wineries find using the award stickers a very good marketing tool to reinforce the quality of their product and to make them stand out on a crowded shelf.

Wine awards started at the Royal Easter Show where growers would showcase their wines and be judged amongst their peers. Now there's about a dozen New Zealand wine competitions - and many more internationally but not all awards are created equally.

Here's a rough guide for what you should know about award winning drops:

Trophy: Is the ultimate, the best in show. Trophy winners are the best of the best.
Elite Gold: Exceptional quality exhibiting highest level of concentration and complexity. Also a 5-star rating.
Gold: Outstanding quality showing varietal purity and exemplifying regional type. 5 stars
Pure Gold: Rewards organic or sustainable production practices.
Blue Gold: Wine judged with how well it matches food.
Silver: Excellent quality showing high level of concentration and balance. 4 stars.
Bronze: Good quality, attractive flavours and good balance. 3-star quality.

The top awards in New Zealand to look out for are the Air New Zealand Wine Awards, the Royal Easter Show, and Cuisine Magazine recommendations.

But don't be too concerned if the wine that you like doesn't boast a number of awards. Not all winemakers agree with the show system and don't choose to enter competitions. Also it costs money to enter these shows, so some choose not to enter.

It all comes down to personal taste - judge medals carefully and use them only as a guide.

FEELING PEAKY
Reporter:
Gordon Harcourt

Imagine paying your winter power bill all year round
Imagine if air travel was school holiday prices all year.
Imagine if hotel rooms were Rugby World Cup prices all year.
Imagine if petrol prices were crisis prices all year. (Well, we know what that feels like ...)
Now, imagine paying your winter power bill every month, all year.

That's what happens in the King Country/Ruapehu area. People there are the only ones in the country to get two power bills - one from their retailer, and one from the company that owns and maintains the lines, The Lines Company.

Peak demand
Not only is The Lines Company (or TLC) the only lines company to charge customers directly - everybody else's lines bill is part of their power bill - but TLC charges in a unique way, a way that makes some of their customers absolutely furious: They bill you for the single highest peak of your demand, a single three hour period, all year round, every month.
The RiverLodge is a B&B just out of Ohakune. They got a whizzy new "demand meter" installed by TLC. Their bill shot up from $1600 to $5700. OUCH!! They negotiated it down with TLC but it was still more than double. The reason is that little demand meter measured the single highest peak of their demand for power, on a cold winter night, with a full house of guests straight off the skifield. And that single night was what they had to pay for all the next year.

Rural, rugged, rickety
Now that sounds absolutely crazy. Why on earth do they do this? How on earth do they get away with it?
They're a monopoly after all. Well, this is the explanation - TLC's network is the oldest in the country; it's the most rural and rugged in the country; it leaks - loses - the most power of any in the country; it covers a sparsely populated and relatively poor area, without any rich urban areas to subsidise the costs. Taumarunui (5000 approx) and Te Kuiti (4500 approx) are the largest towns; a quarter of homes are holiday homes - more than a third near Mt Ruapehu - so they don't produce regular revenue under usual charging methods.

Use it? Pay for it
The network desperately needs renewal. Large chunks of it just can't make a profit. And other bits of it are suddenly hit with big spikes for just a few months of the year, during the ski season, especially Ohakune when the skiers come off the mountain.
So, TLC is telling its customers they have to pay for a network that can handle those spikes. They have to pay for the peak demand they want from the network, even if it's just that one full house night per year, that one huge night during Mardi Gras. If they don't like it, then they should reduce that peak demand. That clever little meter gives them the information they need to do that. Easier said than done in the accommodation or hospitality trades ...
TLC is sticking to its guns, but pressure is mounting. Commerce Minister Simon Power is one of the local MPs and he's concerned about it (though he didn't do an interview for Fair Go) and the Ruapehu District Council is worried businesses will be driven from the district.

WHAT KIND OF LEATHER?
Reporter
Hannah Wallis

Top grain, top grade, leather fibre, bonded leather, split leather, bi-cast, laminated.
It's all called leather, but all leather is not created equal. If you're buying leather furniture and don't know exactly what you're buying, you could be massively disappointed and massively out of pocket.
The Kane family from Auckland thought they'd bought a 100% leather suite but then it started turning from brown to red, in patches, and on the seams ... they tried to get it fixed, then tried to get a refund. They were told all sorts - it'd been damaged by the cat, by dust, by cleaning products, by sweat ... they finally discovered that the parts that were discolouring weren't 100% leather but split leather, a cheaper product with a much shorter shelf life. Martin and Shirley Kane eventually got the refund but only after they went to the Disputes Tribunal.
At Tasman Tannery in Wanganui Fair Go was shown how these leathers are made by splitting the hide into two layers. The top layer - usually described as full grain or top grain leather - is what you'll pay top dollar for - and it'll last you decades.
The bottom layer or split, can end up in furniture described as split leather, bi-cast leather, or laminated leather. You'll pay a lot less for it and it will last you a matter of years. It's made by glueing or fusing another piece of fabric, known as a laminate, onto the bottom layer of the hide. It can look and feel quite realistic, it essentially gives an imitation leather look.
Tasman's lower grade leather isnt used for furniture - just belts, shoes, bags etc. But that lower grade stuff - the split, bi-cast or laminated leather is certainly found out here, in our furniture stores, along with a third type of leather -not made at Tasman - which is called bonded or composite or leather fibre. This is reconstituted leather fibre or ground up leather, bonded together in a resinous mix, and also glued or fused to a laminate fabric. This can be very rubbery to the touch.
Richard Stevens used to work in the furniture industry ... he's worried that products that aren't 100% leather are being sold as leather - and that customers can't tell, and sometimes aren't told, the difference. Customers are likely to think that anything labelled leather will have the same durability and longevity as 100% leather, even though it is a lot cheaper.
Another problem with the cheaper leathers is they can be lot more difficult to repair than 100% leather, that's if they can be repaired at all.
Richard says if the retailer has not correctly labelled the product, and has not spelt out what type of leather it is, then do this test: 100% or top grain leather will usually be softer to the touch, and when pressed, the leather behaves like skin - it dimples around the pressure point.
The cheaper leathers will often be firmer to the touch, and will not dimple, will not have much give in them at all. The leather at the side and back of the couch, and on the underside may well be cheaper leather, with the cushions and arms more expensive leather.
The best consumer protection - Richard reckons - would be if only the top grain leather could be retailed as leather, everything else that isn't 100% leather - he says - shouldn't be called leather at all. In the meantime though it's up to you the consumer to really ask the right questions. If you go into a store and they say oh yes, it's leather - you've got to ask what kind of leather is it?
The Fair Trading Act says retailers cannot mislead or deceive consumers. The Commerce Commission says it may be misleading for retailers to use the words leather, or genuine leather if it's one of those other versions. We'd like to hear from anyone who's been caught in a similar situation to Shirley and Martin

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