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Hon Jim Anderton: Opening WIT engineering workshop

18 June 2004

Hon Jim Anderton: Opening WIT engineering workshops

Hon Jim Anderton Speech for the Opening of the Engineering Workshops at the Western Institute of Technology

18 June 2004

A politician comes to open an engineering workshop with some trepidation because there is a story about three MPs who took a train ride with three engineers.

At the station, the three politicians each bought tickets and watched as the three engineers bought only a single ticket.

"How are three people going to travel on only one ticket?" asked one of the MPs.

"Watch and you'll see."

So they all get on the train, and the politicians all sit down but the three engineers all cram into a restroom and close the door behind them.

Shortly after the train departed, the conductor came around collecting tickets.

He knocked on the restroom door and said, "Ticket, please."

The door opened just a crack and a single arm emerged with a ticket in hand.

The conductor took it and moved on.

The politicians saw this and –being opposition MPs, thought it was a clever idea.

So after the conference, the MPs decided to copy the engineers on the return trip and save some money.

They buy a single ticket, but to their astonishment, the engineers don’t buy a ticket at all.

“How are you going to travel without a ticket?" an MP asked.

"Watch and you'll see.”

So they all get on the train and the MPs all cram into the nearest restroom and the three engineers into another one nearby.

The train departed.

Shortly afterward, one of the engineers left his restroom and walked over to where the politicians were hiding.

He knocked on the door and said, "Ticket, please."

The moral of the story is, engineers are smart.

Engineering is an industry full of good ideas, skill and innovation.

And because ideas, skill and innovation are the source of increased value in our economy, engineering is a great industry on which to base the Taranaki economy.

Last year I was here to announce a Major Regional Initiative for Taranaki.

Major Regional Initiatives are partnership between regions and NZ Trade and Enterprise to build on the existing and potential strengths of regions.

The Capenz initiative is a significant example of what can be achieved through regional partnerships.

It brings together the strength of the region’s engineering industry, with the education and training offered by WITT.

It ensures all the region’s stakeholders are focused on improving the potential of an industry with great potential to rapidly increase its contribution to the Taranaki economy.

This project represents a major investment in innovation.

It will help 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 Taranaki’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 per capita incomes are much lower than most OECD nations.

We need far more high value industries in New Zealand.

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

Process it into kitset housing or high quality furniture, and it’s worth $3,000 a cubic metre.

The cellphone handset manufacturer Nokia used to be a forestry company.

Now it manufactures handsets – [SHOW PHONE]

Its latest products are worth not $70, not $3000, but $700,000 a cubic metre.

That is why I get excited about the development of high value new industries.

Of course, high-value and high-technology innovation not only means computers and cellphones.

It means anything that depends on the unique innovation and creativity of New Zealanders.

The development of the Taranaki engineering industry is an opportunity to unleash the creativity and talent of the region.

The talent in applied industry in Taranaki supports many other vital areas– oil and gas exploration, petrochemicals, dairy, food and beverages, and wine.

So it’s a growing part of our economy.

Taranaki is moving ahead rapidly.

Under Capenz, you’ve held roadshows around the region.

You’ve started work on developing a database of engineering companies and suppliers.

You’ve signed up more than 100 companies.

You’ve got your website up and running and you’ve attended your first trade fair in Australia.

So you’ve come a long way in a short time.

What you have now is a one-stop shop for engineering services from design to fabrication to installation.

It’s already paying off.

Valuable international contacts are being made.

Taranaki is being promoted as the centre of engineering excellence, and new work is coming into the region.

Congratulations to WITT on the success of your engineering courses.

You’ve extended the range of courses on offer and had strong growth in student numbers.

I’m told you’ve been able to double the number of trainees on your pre-apprenticeship courses.

So you’ve obviously scored a hit with apprentices, and their parents.

The skills that are learned here will hopefully be put to good use helping bring export dollars and jobs into the region long into the future.

Even more importantly, it will help creative young people realise their own potential here in their own community.

The course, and these new workshops, and the whole Capenz initiative are examples of what can be achieved when people work together in partnership.

The regional partnership programme has brought together not only industry, but central and local government.

I want to conclude by saying that I am immensely optimistic about the future of New Zealand.

To the optimist, the glass is always half full.

To the pessimist, the glass is always half- empty.

To the engineer, the glass is always twice as big as it needs to be.

We should be optimistic about New Zealand.

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

Unemployment is lower than it has been since 1987.

For the first time in a generation, every region of New Zealand is in positive growth mode.

That we are steadily becoming that prosperous as a nation is great news.

It has happened in part because the Government is predictable and steady.

Partly it has happened because the government works in partnerships.

And most of all, our prosperity has happened because fast-moving clever businesses are performing superbly on the world stage.

I congratulate you all on the contributions you’re making, as educators, as businesspeople, as engineers, and as students.

You’re helping to make New Zealand a more prosperous place.

There is a story about a foreign country where a priest, a lawyer and an engineer are about to be guillotined.

The priest puts his head on the block, they pull the rope and nothing happens -- he declares that he's been saved by divine intervention – so they let him go.

The lawyer is put on the block, and again the rope doesn't release the blade, he claims he can't be executed twice for the same crime and he is set free too.

They grab the engineer and shove his head into the guillotine, he looks up at the release mechanism and says, "Wait a minute, I see your problem...

Congratulations on these workshops, and I have great pleasure in wishing you all the best for the future with them, and in formally declaring the workshops open.


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