Vodafone defends rebrand to 'One NZ', despite white supremacist connotations

Vodafone is changing its name to 'One New Zealand', or One NZ. Some have criticised the name as a "racist dog whistle". Photo / Supplied

The chief executive of Vodafone has been forced to come to the defence of the company’s rebranding, after commenters likened it to a white supremacist wolf whistle.

Jason Paris, announced Wednesday Vodafone would be rebranded to ‘One New Zealand', with the company’s red and white swirl replaced by what it claimed was a greenstone or emerald green circle.

Online commenters however immediately called into question the brand’s judgment given it's virtually identical to the ‘One New Zealand Foundation’, a group which actively lobbies against Māori, te tiriti and the Waitangi Tribunal.

Paris took to social media Wednesday evening to say the company was sticking to its new brand, despite what some perceived as a marketing and due diligence fail.

"One NZ stands for the best of NZ (diversity, inclusion, trust, innovation etc)," Paris tweeted.

"Ultimately we won't be judged on the name but the actions we take. That's our focus," he said.

Vodafone international had divested its shareholding in the New Zealand arm of the network, Paris said, and so the Aotearoa business would be forced to pay royalties to the UK if it kept the Vodafone branding.

After the rebrand, that licensing money would be invested in the New Zealand operation, he said.

The branding change will also see the Vodafone Warriors become the ‘One Warriors’, and retail stores get a makeover.

One New Zealand was also the name of a short-lived political party modelled on Australia's One Nation, founded by right-wing politician Pauline Hanson, according to NZME.

The party - at its height in the early 2000s, accused then PM Helen Clark and her government of apartheid for granting "special privileges" to Māori.

Other commenters questioned the decision-making of rebranding a company ‘New Zealand’, at a time organisations across the motu are moving to embrace the te reo Māori name Aotearoa, or the dual 'Aotearoa, New Zealand' option, adopted by government departments.

Paris adopted both names in his initial release.

"Three years ago, we moved from global to local to focus 100 per cent on New Zealand, and since then we have been laying the foundations to serve Aotearoa long into the future," Paris said overnight.

"Now, it is time to take the next step. To become One New Zealand. One team of over 3000 employees, with one focus on one country and on one goal, to unlock the magic of technology to create an awesome Aotearoa."

Public Interest Journalism