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Address at opening of Waikato Innovation Park

Address at opening of Waikato Innovation Park

Hon Jim Anderton
Address at opening of Waikato Innovation Park

I'm delighted to be here for the opening this exciting new facility.

I would like to mention an apology from my parliamentary colleague Martin Gallagher, who cannot be here today. I also acknowledge my colleague Dianne Yates who is here today.

When I first announced in December 2001 that the government would support the development of the Waikato Innovation Park, it was - at that time - the largest single regional development announcement in New Zealand in a generation.

I remember One News told us they would consider covering the event 'when the first sod of earth was turned.'

I guess things would have been different if the Park was opened in downtown Auckland.

There may not be, here today, much attention from the national news media but this is an event of national importance.

It marks the turning of the tide for New Zealand's regions: the dawn of an era of partnership and investment in innovation.

It marks the progress that is possible when the government commits itself to working as a partner with communities and with industry. It is also, however, the beginning of much, much more.

We need strong regional economies if we are to have a strong national economy. The government supports this initiative because it builds on the strength of the Waikato regional economy. The region is positioned as 'A World Centre for Life Sciences'. Enormous scientific talent is concentrated here in the CRIs, the University and private companies. This project helps to unlock the economic potential of all that strength.

We need to lift the incomes of New Zealanders, and commercialising more innovation and science is one way we are guaranteed to do it. So the government supports this initiative because it will help us to better commercialise our science, our research and as a result, our economic development.

And the only way we are going to build successfully is with partnerships across the community - between industry and central as well as local government.

So the government supports this project because it is the result of intelligent partnerships. It was developed only after funding from local sources was committed to complement the contribution of central government. The Waikato Innovation Park is initially being funded in large part through the local community, WEL Energy trust, the Hamilton City Council, and the Government.

It was chosen through consultation across the whole regional community as the highest priority for development in the region.

The regional partners in Waikato did their work and produced a regional plan with this as their priority. The Park represents a true collaborative approach involving a partnership of local and central government, research institutions, educational institutions, local Iwi Tainui, economic development agencies, community organisations and business representatives.

As Derek Fairweather, Innovation Waikato's CEO, commented recently, while the public/private partnership increases the pain of getting initiatives underway, it increases the commitment to success.

This project represents a major investment in innovation and a determination to build our economic base on high-value innovation, rather than on just being a low cost producer of commodities.

Innovation is a key not only for the Waikato's development, but for the economic development of New Zealand.

New Zealand simply doesn't have enough exports that are built on innovation. For example we export a lower proportion of complex manufactured goods than any other developed country. That's why our average incomes are much lower than many of our trading partners like Australia.

We need far more high value industries in New Zealand.

A raw log is worth about $70 a square metre.

Process it into kitset housing or furniture, and it's worth $3000 a square metre. The cellphone handset manufacturer Nokia used to be a forestry company. Now it manufactures handsets

Its latest products are worth not $70, not $3000, but $700,000 a square metre. That is why I get excited about the development of high value new industries.

Of course, high-value, high-technology innovation not only means computers and cellphones. It means anything that depends on the unique innovation and creativity of New Zealanders. Of particular relevance here in the Waikato, it means the life sciences.

The government believes the biotechnology community is one of the most important for the future of our economy.

The idea behind this park is that it will make more innovation - and more high-technology exports possible.

It will be a place for established businesses to share resources and ideas for future development.

The park will also include a technology incubator, with subsidised rentals and sponsored support services for new technologies. It will allow new ideas to be researched and brought to market.

The Park builds on the great strengths of the Waikato.

When the case for this park was first made, the advantages listed included the strongest and largest dairy industry in the country. It also listed spin-off industries from the dairy industry that don't exist elsewhere in New Zealand, and a national leadership position in specific areas of biotechnology. In a nutshell, the Waikato has the raw materials for success in dairy-based agriculture and agricultural biotechnology.

While agri-biotech is the Waikato's most significant strength, the first fourteen tenants cover a diverse spread of technologies including biotech, agri-tech, ICT and electronics.

This mix will establish a solid foundation from which the total park will be developed.

It is attracting businesses that see commercial advantage in being clustered together.

I would like to pay tribute to B2H.

I hope the local business community will support B2H's efforts to push economic development in Hamilton.

By working together, business can improve economic growth for both the Waikato and New Zealand.

This park and the Ag Biotech cluster are two examples of what can be achieved.

Tourism Waikato, B2H and the Business Development Centre have recently been brought together under one Waikato economic development banner "Waikato Economic Development" (WED).

This newly formed regional economic development agency will work closely with Innovation Waikato and I wish you all the best for your success.

I have high hopes for this Park.

The economic evaluation prepared by the Economics Department at Waikato University found the Innovation Park has significant potential.

The Waikato's existing research sector is the greatest driver of regional economic activity, ahead even of the building sector

At projected full capacity the Innovation Park could add approximately 4% annually to Waikato's gross regional product and 3% to the Waikato's workforce.

That is a significant boost to both jobs and incomes.

This project is one of ten major regional initiatives the government has announced to date.

Now that the Waikato has this one underway, it can come back and begin the process of getting another major regional initiative started.

Each on its own will make a contribution.

But coming in; one on top of another, year after year, Major Regional Initiatives will begin to transform our economy - both in every regional and obviously our national economic performance which is simply the sum of all our regional performances. Regional partnerships are already making a difference.

We are enjoying the best period of stable economic growth in a generation.

Last year our growth rate topped the OECD.

Instead of sliding down the national income tables - as we have been doing for thirty years -- we nudged up to rejoin the world's top twenty economies.

Unemployment is lower than it has been since 1987.

Every region of New Zealand is in positive growth mode.

There was a lengthy radio report the other day about how terrible everything was in the regions.

It said house prices were booming, staff were becoming too expensive - and it was hard to find anyone to work because they all had jobs.

Maybe we should stop!

House prices are soaring in many regions because the regions are strong again. Wages are higher and rising - and that's great! It means there is demand, good jobs, and people are being paid for their skills.

I hope wages rise higher still. For too long, New Zealand has been a low wage economy.

If employers are finding it hard to employ skills, it's both because unemployment is low and we stopped training sufficient apprentices up to fifteen years ago.

We didn't give our talented young New Zealanders sufficient reasons to hope or believe they would have a future in their own region or even their own country.

But now is a good time to be a New Zealander.

We should be optimistic about New Zealand.

We have more opportunity and cause for hope than we have had in a generation.

We need to build on what we have.

We need to promote our innovation, our creativity and our talent.

Every success we have promises jobs and higher incomes.

Every creative business successfully selling to the world promises a more secure future for the region.

We need to be sure that the gains we make from our development success are invested wisely.

We need to invest in our futures.

We need infrastructure that will allow business to flourish.

We need social values and opportunities that allow people to flourish.

We need to invest in the skills, health and well-being of our children. We need to support the talent and innovation of New Zealanders. And most of all we need hope and confidence.

Waikato University informs me that the first new company to be developed at the Park will be launched today. Ectus is a high tech electronic education company, a good example of the benefits of this approach.

This news gives me hope and confidence about the potential of this innovation park.

I believe we can be confident about what lies ahead of us as New Zealanders.

I would like to congratulate everyone who has made this Park possible.

And I have much pleasure in wishing you every success for the future.

ENDS

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