PM's Business Hall Of Fame Speech
Rt Hon Helen Clark
National Business Review
Business Hall of Fame
Thursday 20 September 2001
It is a pleasure to be here this evening for the induction of six new laureates into the NBR Business Hall of Fame. The new laureates' names join those of fifty others who have been accorded this honour in recognition of their significant contribution to business in New Zealand.
The Hall of Fame is a "Who's Who" of New Zealand business, containing names like those of Todd, Fletcher, Tait, Corban, Paykel, Carter, Holt and Harvey. Their enterprise is part of the story of New Zealand.
Enterprise has several meanings. It could suggest:
- a project or undertaking which is especially difficult, complicated, or risky;
- readiness to engage in daring action, and/or;
- a unit of economic organisation or activity; especially a business.
The Business Hall of Fame celebrates the achievements of those who have displayed outstanding enterprise in the field of business. But enterprise as such is not confined to any single walk of life. We see it everywhere we look: at the Wearable Arts awards in Nelson this weekend, in Alan MacDiarmid's achievement in winning the Nobel Prize in Chemistry, in the work of the Tindall Foundation, and in Rob Waddell's gold medal, as just a few examples. Enterprise is one of the building blocks of success in almost every area of human endeavour. It involves seeing opportunities, taking risks, applying skills and knowledge, giving wholehearted commitment and effort, and having qualities like grit, determination, flexibility, imagination and persistence.
Enterprise is essential in addressing the challenges we face as a nation. And as a government we want to partner New Zealanders to fulfil their aspirations of earning world class incomes at home, in a fantastic physical environment with a dynamic cultural life, and in a society which is inclusive.
The foundation of our economic success must be an innovative and enterprising business sector. We must be a nation of diverse traders and be world leaders in our areas of specialisation. Our emerging companies should aim to be global leaders with a commitment to operate from their New Zealand base. We must encourage foreign companies to locate here, alongside local leaders in our areas of expertise.
To build that prosperity, we need to collaborate and further strengthen partnerships - between government, business, education, and research institutions. That's what our government is determined to do, to get the best results for New Zealand. We have to work as New Zealand Incorporated. As events across the Tasman have shown in the last week, the actions of any one element of New Zealand Incorporated can reflect on us all.
As of last week, the New Zealand economy was performing better than its key trading partners,
- unemployment is at its lowest level since 1988;
- the growth in employment last year was the highest since 1996;
- the current account deficit has been shrinking;
- our exporters have been getting good returns;
- our economy has continued to grow.
Then, last week, all of humanity suffered a terrible blow from terrorism. That blow has immediate economic effects and implications. Most commentators agree that we are in a better position than many other countries right now to face these new economic challenges. The Reserve Bank's action yesterday was very helpful, as have been the actions of regulators in the United States.
Well before last week's events, the New Zealand Government was on the front foot in advocating economic change. In an increasingly linked and competitive world, New Zealand must strive for continuous improvement.
We have been working closely with business and other stakeholders on how to transform New Zealand into a more innovative and creative society which will prosper in the 21st century.
We are a small distant country. We are a new country. We have never been a particularly rich country. As Sir Ernest Rutherford once said, "We haven't the money, so we've got to think". Our people do have great ideas. We are creative and innovative. To overcome our natural disadvantages of small scale and great distance, we need to be smart and imaginative. We need to collaborate, and to specialise. In all of that we need to be enterprising.
Many people have been working on the challenge of taking our economy upmarket.
For example, the Science and Innovation Advisory Council recently released a draft New Zealand Innovation Strategy which puts forward a framework for the future. The government itself is leading two public-private sector studies on attracting foreign investment and talent to New Zealand, the results of which are due soon.
Last month in Auckland many here will have been involved in the Knowledge Wave conference. It brought together people from across the sectors to discuss how, by working together, and better using our resources, intellectual and physical, we can position New Zealand well for the future.
Many useful things came from the conference. First, there was considerable agreement on the diagnosis of the problem. It was understood by most of those present that New Zealand had had to break with the isolationism and protectionism of the pre-1984 period.
It was also recognised that the correction which occurred thereafter was not in itself sufficient to help New Zealand out-perform its peers. The restructuring had focused on how to make the New Zealand economy more efficient rather than on growth and on moving upmarket. This government has seen its task as being to learn from the strategies of other successful small countries, and to construct New Zealand's unique path forward.
There is now an emerging consensus on how to move ahead. Although there may be differences in emphasis, most agree that the way forward must involve:
- creating and communicating a compelling vision for New Zealand, as a place to live, to work, to visit, to learn, to invest and to do business in - through publicising our strengths and celebrating our successes;
- focusing on talent - by investing in world class education, competing for talented migrants, and developing and utilising existing and new international networks, including that vast pool of New Zealand expertise and enterprise which lives and works offshore;
- developing our competitive advantages in selected niches and sectors. This will involve strengthening and better aligning efforts to encourage foreign direct investment into New Zealand, industry development, and research, tertiary education and talent policies and support;
- assisting individual firms to globalise, and;
- facilitating networks and clusters to assist collaboration, the sharing of information and the transmission of knowledge, all of which support innovation and enterprise.
The challenge now is to pull together all the initiatives needed to achieve what is increasingly a shared vision. To that end, the government has since coming into office;
- placed renewed emphasis on education - from increasing opportunities in early childhood education, to focusing on literacy and numeracy and the fostering of IT infrastructure and skills in schools, through to a fundamental overhaul of the structure and funding of tertiary education with the aim of improving its quality, encouraging collaboration and specialisation, and reducing fragmentation;
- pursued the development of centres of excellence for research programmes at the tertiary level; with a focus on developing world class research capability and improving the transfer of technology between research institutions and industry;
- brought a fresh approach to innovation - with increased public funding for science, more favourable tax treatment for R & D, and a stronger focus on commercialising new knowledge, to help turn good ideas into great ventures;
- demonstrated our commitment to fostering enterprise and entrepreneurship - including strengthening the market for venture capital, improving the regulatory environment for business with a focus on international harmonisation and compliance costs, and establishing a technology incubator development programme;
- Specifically, we have moved to close the gap in the provision of seed and start up capital by providing a $100 million leveraged capital fund, deployed in partnership with the private sector via drop down funds with minority government participation.
As well, we are establishing new and more focused government strategies to partner business success. For example, we have;
- set up Industry New Zealand to assist businesses grow and develop and committed funding of over NZ$300 million to it;
- boosted government's investment in Trade New Zealand, in particular through new capital to support its e-business strategy;
- established an export credit scheme, with a modest initial underwriting ability of $350 million, to work with exporters and export finance companies to exploit opportunities offshore. The scheme has been contracted to the Danish export credit agency to make use of its established expertise and networks, rather than start from scratch.
And just this week, the Minister of Immigration announced changes to streamline the process for approving residence in New Zealand to help attract talent to New Zealand. The target number of residence approvals has been set at 45,000 for the next three years, sixty per cent of which will be for skilled or business migrants.
In all these efforts, Auckland has a special role to play. Auckland houses many of our leading businesses, academic institutions, and a lot of the creative sector. It is the first port of call of most visitors, migrants and business-people. As our biggest city, and our only city of global scale, it has the ability to offer close networks, good information exchanges, and dynamic industry and service clusters.
In recent years, Auckland has not been leading the pack, but rather has trailed the rest of the economy. The most recent data for regional growth show Southland topping the division, and Auckland in 12th place.
The strength of the rural sector is encouraging, but a strong rural sector and a strong Auckland would be even better for our long term prosperity.
I therefore strongly support the efforts of Auckland business and wider interests to revitalise Auckland's economy, through region wide strategies which involve targeting key sectors for development and building a strong base of regional skills and infrastructure to support them. The six focus industries identified by Competitive Auckland were tourism, food and beverages, marine, information and communications technology, biotechnology and education. All would be on most lists of potential high growth sectors for New Zealand as a whole.
Today's awards are a reminder of the importance of enterprise, not just in the world of business, but in every walk of life. Our government is committed to encouraging enterprise throughout New Zealand. On the world stage, we want it known that New Zealand is "open and ready for business", looking to embrace the opportunities which flow from globalisation and technology development, and turning to our advantage the benefits of being small, nimble, creative, and enterprising.
The achievements of those inducted into the NBR Business Hall of Fame shows what can be accomplished in New Zealand. We have the ideas, and we have unique and diverse talents. We must strive to make the most of these for ensuring that New Zealand continues to prosper.