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Jim Anderton address at 2005 Champions of Cheese

Jim Anderton address at 2005 Champions of Cheese Awards
Economic Development
07 April 2005



MC Vic Williams
Bob Berry, Chairman, New Zealand Specialty Cheesemakers Association

I’ve got the responsibility for getting the New Zealand economy right.

It’s a crucial job for our well-being and it’s something everyone here is involved in.

One of the most urgent jobs to lock-in a stronger economy is to build partnerships in the industries, with the highest potential for growth, at the top of the list.

We need to develop New Zealand’s skills, increase our innovation levels and improve our connections with the world.

If we have learned anything from the past thirty or forty years, it’s that we couldn’t solve these problems quickly enough when government was ‘hands off’.

We need all hands at the pump to clear away the obstacles to growth and build on our advantages.

The Labour-Progressive government set up New Zealand Trade & Enterprise to be the agency that works in partnership with industry.

So NZTE is sponsoring the export award I’m presenting later tonight.

It’s supporting the cheese industry because of its importance to our job of fixing the New Zealand economy.

NZTE is working with cheesemakers to grow their export markets.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries is working on specific local issues, while policy agencies such as Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade are working on wider areas like the recent WTO rulings over geographical names in the wine industry.

These partnerships will all help to unlock more opportunities for the industry.

The industry’s importance to New Zealand makes it a high priority for development.

The cheese industry contributes around four percent of New Zealand’s total export returns each year.

That’s just over a billion dollars in export earnings a year.

It makes New Zealand the fifth biggest cheese exporter in the world.

And while countries like France and Holland export more cheese than we do, cheese makes up a bigger proportion of our export earnings than any other country.

So this industry is crucial to our standard of living and to our export incomes.

In the last ten years, the 125 percent growth of our cheese industry has added $450 million to the pockets of New Zealand cheese producers and exporters, and therefore to New Zealand.

It’s no surprise to you that most of those earnings are from a basic commodity.

But we are becoming better known throughout the world for our production of high value premium cheeses.

We need to build on this.

It’s great to see growth in specialty cheese varieties from New Zealand.

As the branding of excellence awards increases the profile of our best cheesemakers, there will be a pay-off for both our domestic and export industries.

Whitestone Cheese for example, has been listed in three USA supermarket chains on the strength of its success in the Champion Export Cheese category of these awards last year.

The OECD predicts that in coming years the world will demand more cheese.

Most of the increased demand will come from developing countries.

But it also expects prices for commodity products to fall from their current record levels, although prices will be strong for three years or so.

We need to use that time with urgency to develop our high value niche markets.

High value production is the best protection against the vagaries of commodity markets.

As the world demands increasingly sophisticated and more unique products, the opportunities to produce and market high value, distinctively New Zealand cheeses are growing.

So I congratulate the industry on the progress it has made in moving up the value chain.

I know market access is crucial to this industry.

It remains one of the most difficult areas of trade negotiations.

But New Zealand is pushing hard for substantial improvements in access for all products in all markets.

The Government is also pushing for improved market access through bilateral and regional agreements.

We are in dialogue with a number of important or potentially important markets – especially China and ASEAN nations.

And we have recently concluded an agreement with Thailand, which should bring significant benefits to the dairy sector over the next decade or so.

The only way we are going to increase New Zealand income securely for the long term is by locking in more high value exports.

High-value results are created by uniqueness, and from our own creativity and talent.

These things can never be taken away from New Zealand.

They are qualities celebrated in these awards and I hope tonight’s event helps to inspire more.

We need to celebrate our successes.

We’re not good at celebrating businesses and entrepreneurial success in New Zealand.

We don’t like to see wealth flaunted – but we do need to celebrate the creativity and vision behind a well-run business.

Creative New Zealand enterprises, competing successfully on the world stage, create jobs, incomes and opportunities for all New Zealanders.

That is something worth celebrating.

Economic development is about building on our strengths.

Our high value dairy exports are an enormous strength for New Zealand.

We can produce high value cheese products efficiently, and the New Zealand ‘Pure’ brand is positioning New Zealand as healthy and pleasant.

These are important building blocks of success.

Mainland’s famous slogan is ‘good things take time.’

That’s fine for cheese but we don’t have the luxury of time for New Zealand for the development of our economy.

Our time is now; it has to be.

Out young families won’t wait for us if we don’t provide them jobs and opportunities here.

We have immense potential in New Zealand.

Sure, we have a great physical environment, but our greatest advantages are the talents and creativity of New Zealanders.

These awards celebrate our innovation.

They celebrate cheese-makers who are succeeding in taking New Zealand creativity and distinctly New Zealand products out to the world.

So I commend the awards.

I commend all those who are being recognised tonight.

And I urge you to go on from this night of celebration to build a stronger industry yet.

I should close by saying I believe there is one profound cause for optimism in the industry.


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