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Wood Hawke's Bay showcasing kiwi innovation

Wood Hawke's Bay showcasing kiwi innovation

A Hawke's Bay-based wood industry cluster group has won praise from the government for its innovation and contribution to regional economic development and growth.

Ministers and Government MPs have visited more than 50 businesses, schools and skills training organisations throughout the country as part of Smart Growth Day and Hawke's Bay was no exception.

Associate Minister of Social Services and Employment Rick Barker, also Member of Parliament for Tukituki, said the industry cluster group Wood Hawke's Bay was a shining example of how regional economies could benefit from innovation and practical skills.

"The bringing together of so much skill and innovation in the timber industry here in Hawke's Bay is a recipe for success and one which I look forward to seeing the fruits of."

Wood Hawke's Bay is a cluster of some 70+ firms either located within Hawke's Bay or connected to the region through relationships with regional companies. The cluster is administered by facilitator Ron Dragt from the Eastern Institute of Technology at Taradale.

Its main focus is to increase the export volume and worth of value-added timber products, made predominantly from radiata pine. The cluster is also seeking to improve its competitive advantage of secondary value-added wood processing for export markets.

Mr Barker said Wood Hawke's Bay had expertise in every aspect of timber preparation from saw milling to furniture design and manufacturing and had benefited from government support.

"Wood Hawke's Bay received initial funding of $28,000 last year from Industry New Zealand (INZ) for facilitation planning and members of the cluster have also received INZ and business growth funding."

Millbrook Furniture received $50,000 Business Growth Funding (BGF) from INZ and David Trubridge of Cicada Works was also supported by INZ to attend a design forum in Australia.

Furnware, another Wood Hawke's Bay member, is currently involved in a design audit with INZ assistance and last year the company also received BGF funding of $75,000.

The industry cluster also received strong regional support and sponsorship from the Port of Napier.

A prime example of Wood Hawke's Bay's innovation was member firms Cicada Works and Cicada Studios - understood to be New Zealand's first furniture design incubator.

Cicada Works is a group of five professional furniture designers (including David Trubridge) who design prototypes and specialist furniture.

Cicada Studios has nine design graduates from furniture design courses throughout NZ, including Jamie Sneddon who gained his degree in visual arts and design from EIT.

Ron Dragt has already introduced Jamie to Hastings-based firm Millbrook Furniture to get valuable manufacturing and commercialisation advice.

"Jamie is currently in the process of refining some furniture prototypes after discussions with Millbrook and Napier-based Waitane Mill Ltd has also come to the party with timber supplies."

Waitane produces radiata timber for the US market and like the entire cluster the company is keen to see value-added to pine domestically.

"Saw millers can play a vital role in this new product development process through supporting the innovative designs that are capable of being developed at Cicada Studios," Mr Dragt said.

He was delighted with the support the industry cluster had received from the government and was adamant that Hawke's Bay's regional economy would reap the benefits.

"If we're going to create wealth and help build a strong local economy, we really have to do that through exporting and we're moving to achieve that through collaborative projects in the cluster. Industry New Zealand and other government organisations have really given us a great start in that direction."

Mr Dragt said the wood industry cluster was also keenly focused on innovation.

"We encourage the uptake of technology within the cluster with the assistance of both Technology and Industry New Zealand on that.

The government recently announced that $85m would be spent on industry training and Mr Barker said Budget 2003 would also contain additional measures to support growth, sustainable development and initiatives to further up-skill New Zealanders.

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