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Hon Jim Anderton: Launch of Radi centre

Hon Jim Anderton
Speech Notes

Launch of Radi Centre, New Zealand's National Centre of Excellence in Wood Manufacturing

Thursday, December 4 2003

Tena kotou
Tena kotou
Tena kotou katoa

Members of the tangata whenua;
John Blakey of Forest Industries Training;
Rotorua mayor, Graham Hall;
RADI Centre chairman Grant Carruthers;
Dr Reynold McPherson from Waiariki Institute of Technology;
Prof. Peter Brothers from the University of Auckland;
Distinguished guests.

Last month I had the opportunity to open an unusual art exhibition.

It was called 'Metaform', and it was an exhibition of wood furniture.

Young designers took a pine product and turned it into high value products.

This was furniture good enough to be on display in an art gallery.

And it was also a symbol of the manufacturing standard of excellence that our wood processing industry aspires to.

Today we are here to launch another symbol of innovation in our wood industry.

This centre of excellence will help us to develop the design and innovation that is crucial to our standard of living.

New Zealand's per capita GDP - our earnings per head of population - currently sits between Cyprus and Slovenia.

We simply need to lift our performance.

We need to build on our natural advantages by adding our unique talent and creativity.

The only way we are going to do it is through design and innovation.

Consider this: The United States exported in the year 2000 the same weight of goods that it exported in the year 1900.

Yet the value of its exports increased several hundred-fold.

Selling more of the same did not make the difference.

The difference was the value of creativity and design.

This is as true of our wood processing industry as any sector of our economy.

Wood processing could become our most valuable industry in fifteen years.

But if we want to grow the industry, we are dependent on more innovative products being developed.

Some of you will be aware that last week I entered debate with one timber industry figure.

He described the government's support for - and development of - the timber industry as 'a necessary evil'.

He represents a point of view that thinks we should simply export low-value sawn wood.

But we can do better than that.

We have to do better - as a matter of demographic imperative.

Most New Zealanders don't realise we face a falling population in a few decades.

Unless there is a significant change in immigration, or birth rates, our population will never reach five million.

At the same time as our population begins to fall, other developed countries will also lose population.

There will be a tremendous demand for skilled labour.

New Zealand will be competing against all other developed countries - just to retain our own best and brightest, let alone attract others.

We will need to offer competitive incomes and an attractive lifestyle.

Neither one on its own will be enough.

Fortunately, we enjoy many advantages to work with.

Over the next twenty years, we will harvest a wall of wood.

We can generate much higher earnings for New Zealand if we can create higher value wood products from that harvest.

Products such as mouldings, laminates and composites, through to designer furniture and kitset housing.

Two of New Zealand's competitors - Canada and Chile - export almost NO wood unless it has been processed.

The challenge is for New Zealand's wood industry to transform itself to the same status as these countries.

That is why we are here today.

This centre of excellence is already notching up some early successes.

It's first higher education programmes have been approved: a new Bachelor of Engineering (Mechanical Engineering with an option or a sub-specialisation in Wood and Woodfibre Composites) and a Diploma in Wood Manufacturing.

These courses are due to enrol students in 2004.

These programmes are innovative and unique in New Zealand higher education.

They will fill gaps in higher education that have short-changed the wood processing industry of a workforce - particularly at the senior technical and managerial level.

They will develop high quality specialist knowledge and skills.

These initial education programmes are just the first steps.

The Centre will provide facilities, technology, and technical expertise for a variety of programmes.

Ultimately, the Centre will develop a new think-tank.

'DesignWood' will bring together professionals from a mixture of disciplines. It will foster new approaches to design, new wood products and construction techniques.

The Radi Centre is unique.

There is nothing like it in New Zealand nor internationally.

For their support of this project I would like to acknowledge: Forest Industries Training, The Waiariki Institute of Technology, The University of Auckland. The Rotorua District Council's economic development agency.

This is a partnership.

Partners in this project have included: Central and local government; Industry; Tertiary education institutions; and Professional societies.

The Radi Centre demonstrates that regional strategies link closely with industry strategies.

It was established in 2002 as a strategic initiative under the Wood Processing Strategy.

Not only was it given top priority by the wood processing industry, but also by the region.

It is one of nine Major Regional Initiatives the coalition government has funded in partnership with regions.

The others are: Hawke's Bay - Food Processing. Waikato - Innovation Park Marlborough - Wine centre of excellence Taranaki - Heavy engineering Northland - Tourism Nelson - Seafood Southland - Broadband And another to be announced in Wellington before Christmas.

Each of these builds on the existing strengths of the region.

Each initiative helps to lift the economic performance of the region.

Each project will lead to high-value, high-skill, job-rich development.

Once a region has adopted one regional initiative, it can come back to the well for another Major Regional Initiative.

Regions will get an accelerating boost as one initiative comes in on top of another.

Over time, the industrial base of each region will be broadened and deepened.

Each region is benefiting simply from the process of planning, focus and improved networks.

The integration of Industry NZ and Trade NZ into NZTE will help to lift the regional partnership programme even further.

Regions will better incorporate offshore market intelligence in their economic development strategies.

This will mean a stronger export focus.

It will also ensure economic growth in one region isn't at the expense of growth in another.

Strong regional economies will result in a stronger national economy.

We already have considerable success to celebrate.

Every one of our regions is in positive growth mode.

Our economy was one of the fastest growing in the developed world over the last four years.

Unemployment is down to 4.4 per cent of the workforce.

Unemployment is lower than it has been since 1987.

We have 61-thousand more jobs than just one year ago. New Zealand has experienced sixteen consecutive quarters of employment growth.

On Wednesday, the NZ Herald predicted a 'Jobs Bonanza' in its frontpage headline.

It said: "Nearly half New Zealand's companies expect to take on more staff next year in the strongest forecast of hiring intentions in five years."

We have much to celebrate.

But there is much more to do to secure our future performance as well

This new centre of excellence helps to set us on the way.

It is a good example of the work this coalition government is doing to accelerate our wood processing industry.

Higher-value returns flowing from new skills and technology could run into billions of dollars.

I would like to congratulate everyone associated with the development of this centre.

I am going to proudly add this centre to my list of the reasons that New Zealand is better off because of the work my team has done in economic development.

I wish you well for the work you do in developing this industry and this region.

ENDS


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