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Clark: Launch of New Zealand Fast Forward

Rt Hon Helen Clark
Prime Minister


Address at
Launch of New Zealand Fast Forward
A Plan for the Future of New Zealand's Pastoral & Food Industries


Grand Hall
Parliament

12.00 noon


Tuesday 11 March 2008


The Labour--Progressive Government is announcing today a major new investment in a plan for the future of New Zealand's pastoral and food industries.

This plan will see our government committing up front $700 million to be used in a new research, development and innovation fund.

Including earnings from interest the government's spend could be as much as $1 billion over the ten to fifteen year term of the plan. In addition, the pastoral and food sector industries will be expected to match the government's spend on an annual basis, making the commitment of around $2 billion one of the largest investments in innovation in our nation's history.

The new fund will be called New Zealand Fast Forward.

This large joint commitment will also see government and the pastoral and food sector working together as New Zealand Inc on establishing a shared vision and strategy for the future of this vital industry cluster.

It is part of the Labour-Progressive Government's overall plan to transform the New Zealand economy into a smart, sustainable, high value supplier of the goods and services which global markets demand.
Our pastoral and food industries are in many respects world class, but we need to lift our game even further in a rapidly changing world.

We need to be ahead of the pack when it comes to environmental performance, global competitiveness, and delivering new products and services to market.

We must innovate and add value at every step in the chain from the farm gate to the consumer plate.

That means moving beyond the current levels of innovation and change in the sector, and substantially lifting our levels of investment and commitment to transforming our most substantial export industries.

Our world class pastoral and food industries generate 57 per cent of our merchandise trade earnings and employ one in five New Zealanders.

But much of our existing export profile is meeting growing competition from lower cost, higher volume producers.

As well, consumers in affluent markets have rising expectations about the quality of the food they consume and the way it is produced. We can expect ever more focus on the functionality of food and on the extent to which it is sustainably produced and supplied.

The Government I lead is determined that our pastoral and food sectors will not only meet these challenges, but will actually exceed the expectations of consumers in markets around the world.

To do this we will have to build smart, sustainable, and highly innovative businesses, based on world class science and technology.

These businesses will need to employ well educated, highly trained staff, and be able to deliver dividends to their owners, and high wages to their employees.

To achieve these objectives we must lift our investment in innovation and our expectations of what we can achieve.

That won't be achieved by making incremental changes or by a business-as-usual approach. We need to take a bold step forward, and pledge ourselves to investment and substantial change over a long period of time.

The good news is that both the government and the wider pastoral and food sector agree that big change is needed, and that we should form a unique partnership to make our plan for the future happen.

In recent times :

we've heard from the Food and Beverage Task Force that New Zealand must do more to leverage the comparative advantages of our largest export sector.
we heard from the Pastoral 21 research consortium, which proposed a comprehensive programme of research and innovation focused on the value chain all the way from the farm to the fork.
we heard late last year at the Primary Industries 20/20 Summit in Christchurch about the urgent need to lift economic and environmental performance across the primary sectors.

The Minister of Agriculture and of Fisheries, Jim Anderton, and his officials have been talking to industry for some time about the way forward.

They've been discussing how much industry itself can contribute to the lift in investment in innovation which is required for the sector and New Zealand to succeed in the 21st century.

Government has now put its contribution on the table and asked industry to match it. Industry has pledged to do so.

I want to acknowledge Fonterra, Meat and Wool NZ, Zespri, Dairy NZ, and PGG Wrightson, all of whom are here today and are committed to participating. Other companies and industry organisations are also in discussion with the government.

Today's announcement sees the government stepping up to the plate to make this big plan for the future of our pastoral and food industries happen.

The Government's investment of $700m up front will go into a fund for research and innovation in the pastoral and food sector over the next ten to fifteen years.

The fund will be invested over that time period, and so the capital is likely to grow initially. That means as much as a billion dollars will be generated from the government contribution, and that will be doubled to $2 billion with private sector matching funding.

It has been decided to create a fund, rather than simply increasing baseline research funding, because it gives greater certainty for research and science in the sector.

With such a fund the investment is locked in, and it can't be meddled with.

New Zealand Fast Forward represents a new form of industry - government partnership.

Governance and administration will be carried out jointly. Guiding principles have been agreed, and we will now proceed to determine a detailed plan for the operation of the fund.

New Zealand Fast Forward will help existing industries and firms to innovate. It will help new firms develop further, and it should encourage international firms to locate their research activities in New Zealand.

It will aim to improve processing and technology, and support diversification into both new markets and highly differentiated new products.

New Zealand Fast Forward will also help us win the sustainability challenge by committing to the science, innovation and management needed to create production systems which protect our water, land and biodiversity, and climate.

The investments made through New Zealand Fast Forward will have a transformational effect on the New Zealand economy. That will lead to exciting opportunities for the youth of today and the workforce of tomorrow.

These investments will shape the development of the pastoral and food sector in coming decades. By having an agreed strategic direction, public and private investments can complement each other, and enable better workforce planning and skills development.

A higher value pastoral and food sector driven by world class science and innovation will make our whole economy stronger.

New Zealand Fast Forward is a joint commitment by government and the pastoral and food sector to lock innovation into the way the industry works.

It is also a big step forward in our plan to secure a prosperous and sustainable future for our largest industry cluster and for New Zealand.


ENDS

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