NZ has always been seen as a "clean" country, free from the corruption that plagues so much of the world. I realised how sheltered we've been while emailing a resident in another country.

He wanted my assistance, and naturally I was more than a little suspicious. Having verified he was genuine, we had a variety of misunderstandings and issues which seemed impossible to resolve. Part of this is due to the fact that English not his first language, but I came to see that a more crucial factor was a difference in mindsets.

He was so used to corruption he didn't see any difficulty in asking me to word things differently so they would be more acceptable for his purposes, even when that involved at best misrepresenting the facts. To me it was basically a case of him wanting me to lie for him.

That led me to thinking about NZ. We pride ourselves as being clean and green when the reality is different - and deteriorating all the time. So I suspect is the clean image of Kiwi morality. Money / business is always prone to less than moral behaviour. Just look at the current alcohol and tobacco industries for example. But the government should always be show the way. Not so long ago, the judiciary, the bureaucrat and the parliament were our standard bearers.

The trouble with Parliament is it's full of politicians, who have shown by their behaviour in recent years they are no example for us. I once had a situation where a scathing report I wrote ended up as a positive quote from the associate minister of finance. I don't blame him - it was tweaked and altered so much en route to parliament that it was a bad case of Chinese whispers. But it reduced my ability to believe anything a politician says. Maybe that's part of why I've never voted National or Labour - the system is designed not for the citizens but for those in power (and their cronies). There have been so many bad examples since then it's impossible to accept at face value anything they say. My MP (not current) answered a question I sent him about a coming vote - but when the vote happened he chose the other side.

Then we have the bureaucrats. They cop a lot of criticism and those who remember "Yes Minister" might say they deserve it. Despite that they generally fulfil their role responsibly, under less than ideal conditions. For example, WINZ was set up to help people in need - but has become a first option for an ever growing population who see it as a way of life. And it's not helped when politicians get involved. A classic example is diplomats. We've become used to ex politicians being appointed, but generally they are more or less diplomatic. I don't know him personally, but all I've read about him screams that our new US ambassador is hardly a model of diplomacy. I really feel for those who by training and experience are suited to the role but overlooked by this change.

And that takes us to the third arm of government - the judiciary. We see how political overseas judiciaries can become - but ours is different, isn't it? Not long ago we abandoned using the Privy Council as our supreme court. It makes sense to have that in our own land - but just as with the flag referendum, rather than come up with a proper approach, led by design specialists (the flag referendum), the Privy Council was simply replaced by a new court with a new name. I have no questions about their personal status - but now they are certainly much closer to the other arms of government and have to be influenced by what goes on in NZ (e.g. through the media) than the Privy council was. Some of the last Privy Council cases certainly show that NZ courts aren't infallible.

None of this says NZ is corrupt - but I believe it is not the shining example it once was (not that it was ever perfect - ask Maori how they've experienced it).