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Opening of Richmond Foodtech - Jim Anderton

Hon Jim Anderton
6 July 2000 Speech Notes

Opening of Richmond Foodtech

3:30PM Thursday, 6 July 2000

For much of the last two decades – at least – the meat industry has experienced the pain of the restructuring.

And it has always been a matter of immense concern and regret to me that so little was done to smoothe the transition from the old meat industry to the one we will have in the future.

It's not as though over the years we weren't warned.

More than forty years ago, Bill Sutch was vigorously warning that New Zealand, as an agricultural economy, was particularly vulnerable to market closure or shrinkage.

He urged the development of an economy based on the export of our skills, rather than of raw materials.

We need innovation to lift incomes and secure jobs.

The process of change in the industry has led to both new costs and new sources of wealth.

Throughout the process of change it is important to ensure that both profits and costs are shared and borne fairly.

That hasn't always happened, either.

Over the last six or seven months, as Minister for Economic Development, I have given literally dozens of speeches about the changing economy.

I have spoken again and again about the need to develop our export base.

To broaden and deepen it.

I have stressed that the Government is determined to transform the industrial base of New Zealand.

That we want to see the emergence of new manufactured industries based on the innovation and creativity of New Zealanders.

One way I have often put it has been to say that 'Brains are in. Brawn is out.'

By that I mean that knowledge is rapidly becoming the most important component of production, rather than simple exploitation of natural or physical resources.

Knowledge and innovation have always been critical.

Now, though, we are seeing a more rapid shift in the structure of developed economies.

Innovation, intellectual capacity and technological advance are becoming relatively more valuable.

That represents a challenge for an economy like ours, which has been based very heavily on exploitation of our vast natural resources.

And it particularly represents a challenge for the meat industry.

The new Richmond Foodtech plant is designed to meet that challenge.

And that is the reason that I am very pleased to be here to open it.

The meat industry has been innovative in the face of necessity before.

New Zealand owes a heavy debt to pioneers like William Salthouse Davidson, who commercialised refrigerated shipping.

Our economy today was arguably founded on the brilliance of his innovation and that of countless other unsung innovators who followed on their farms and in their sheds.

The legacy of great New Zealanders like William Salthouse Davidson is not just the industry that forms the backbone of our economy.

It is also the legacy of innovation.

The next generation of pioneers is already in business.

I have read of Richmond's intention to develop into an international food business.

It is staggering that no New Zealand meat company has yet achieved that position.

That reality emphasises how narrow our export base really is.

Let me outline some facts about the New Zealand economy to underline for you why it is so important to broaden the export base.

We have had twenty-seven consecutive years of failing to pay our way in the world.

We import far more than we export.

Only 4% of our companies are exporting: That’s only 8500 businesses in the whole of New Zealand.

127 companies account for almost three quarters of our total merchandise exports.

Thirty of those companies earn half of our foreign exchange.

This adds up to a very narrow, and shallow, export base.

It needs to be boosted. We need companies like Richmond to suceed.

I want to assure you that this Government is doing its best to play our part.

We have launched Industry New Zealand.

It will form partnerships with innovative businesses, as well as regional areas of New Zealand – including Hawke's Bay.

It will invest in economic development.

Its mission is to help transform the industrial base of New Zealand, create jobs and lift the incomes of New Zealanders.

We are implementing other reforms to support those goals.

Investing the in skills of New Zealanders, for example.

And we are introducing new industrial legislation that will have particular importance for this industry – and indeed for this company.

It will require employers and staff to deal with each other co-operatively and in good faith.

It will present a challenge to you, because we all share a responsibility to improve the incomes and opportunities of New Zealanders.

Its emphasis on fairness, inclusion and co-operation is deliberate.

New Zealand should no longer have an economy based on competing by driving down cost and driving down wages.

The economy that will deliver higher incomes and more secure jobs will be based on investment in skill and creativity.

On good ideas and technological advances.

That is the investment being made here and it's why the future for Richmond and for this plant in particular is very bright.

I wish you well for the future, and I have much pleasure in declaring the plant open.


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