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Jim Sutton Speech To Open New Cheese Factory

Jim Sutton Speech To Open New Cheese Factory

Speech Notes
8 October 2004
Open Country cheese launch, Waharoa

Chairman Wyatt Creech, chief executive Alan Walters, Ladies and Gentlemen, thank you for the opportunity to speak today.

It's a pleasure to be here at this historic occasion. The Open Country company is the first major publicly-listed export-oriented dairy processing company set up under the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act regime.

That law brought about fundamental changes to the structure and regulatory framework of this vital industry, an industry that still earns about one in every $4 export dollars we earn as a country.

As I said in Parliament during the debate on the DIRA, that law removed the single desk powers of the New Zealand Dairy Board, and, for the first time in more than 60 years, allows manufacturers of dairy products to export in their own right without restriction. In effect, it enabled the establishment of companies such as Open Country.

The formation of Fonterra and the removal of the single desk was a bold step for any Government, I think it's fair to say.

This Government has a policy of facilitating producer board reform, driven by the will of those in that industry. The dairy industry restructuring was supported by the majority of industry players.

There was some debate on the way ? should there be one large company or two? I must say that for some time, I was personally sceptical of the one-company school of thought. But that was not the consensus the industry came to in the end. And certainly, the rules we were able to design, to mitigate any opportunity for the dominant company to close out new entrants, largely satisfied my concerns.

So, the Government, working in partnership with the industry and acting together to achieve better outcomes for the country as a whole, facilitated the reform. That meant exempting the process from the Commerce Act. Laws are important and should be followed. But there are occasions when the Government must act to ensure that the best economic, social, and environmental outcomes are achieved.

Now, we are here today to celebrate the seizing of the new opportunities provided by the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act. Wyatt, I extend my congratulations to you and your team.

There are media reports that say you formed Open Country within months of the DIRA being passed, because you could see the possibilities. That does not surprise me.

I'm delighted that you have been able to convince others of those possibilities, and we all stand here today, seeing those possibilities come to life in real, tangible form.

As trade negotiations minister, I spend a lot of time overseas negotiating greater market access to other countries' markets, opening the doors for New Zealand goods and services. That's important, and it's a key priority for the Government.

But it can all be for nothing if New Zealand companies don't take up those opportunities ? if they fail to step through that open door.

I'm confident that Open Country will take up those opportunities, as they arise.

You may be coming from small beginnings ? 0.4 per cent of the national milk supply and 1.5 per cent of export volume of cheese. But as we all know, from small acorns, great oak trees come.

Once again, Wyatt, congratulations to you and your team. I'm delighted to be here today., I look forward to sampling your products as they are marketed and I hope you will keep me informed of your progress in the future. I have great pleasure in formally declaring this factory open.


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