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NZ Fast Forward in Pastoral and Food Industries

11 March 2008 Speech
New Zealand Fast Forward - in the Pastoral and Food Industries

Embargoed until 12 noon, 11 March 2008

Pete Hodgson speaks after the announcement of the $700 million sustainable food and pastoral investment initiative.

This is a significant day for New Zealand innovation and for New Zealand's economic transformation agenda. It is a day when we take the next step towards a high growth, high wage, high skilled and sustainable economy.

For over a century our economic fortunes have been based substantially on our biological research skills and on our ability to deploy technology and marketing to put that research into practice; be it kiwi gold, progress in animal health, new pasture species, or our many breeding programmes, from dairy cows to pine trees, to green-lipped mussels.

Today we build on that legacy, and we do so in partnership with our various primary producers. We have skills to develop, markets to enter and R&D to expand.

Innovation doesn't just happen - increasingly the productivity and sustainability of our pastoral and food industries requires skilled people, and it requires them across the value-chain from production, to research, to marketing. Skills development is therefore crucial to the growth of the pastoral and food industries and to New Zealand Fast Forward.

It is crucial that new products can be effectively commercialised and marketed to global communities and that means we need to have very good intelligence about what those communities want. Consumers are becoming more focussed on sustainability and on food safety. One of the outcomes of New Zealand Fast Forward should, therefore, be a stronger market presence and more developed networks in international markets.

On the R&D front we have two aims. First we seek to further progress our research effort into sustainability of primary production. For New Zealand progress towards sustainability is not optional. For New Zealand sustainability and prosperity go hand in hand. Climate change, water quality, or the health of our soils, are issues of consequence. They demand progress. We cannot continue to be a premier food producer in our own eyes, or in the eyes of our customers, unless we can demonstrate serious progress towards sustainability.

Second, we aim to extend our research effort determinedly towards higher value products. We have been doing this for decades but it is time to lift our game. We must make more progress in new products, in food ingredients, functional foods, nutraceuticals, all the way to biologically derived pharmaceuticals. We must improve our technology infrastructure. For example we must be able to pilot innovative foods using better food technology. We must also be able to better measure what is in our food accurately.

So these twin elements, more basic environmental research and more advanced food technology, represent the new research emphasis that this endowment can deliver.

New Zealand often compares itself with Scandinavian countries, or with the Netherlands or Canada; all of which are a lot richer than we are. Without exception those countries are continuing to develop by leveraging their natural resource base. Even in Sweden, the Netherlands or Finland, which have significant high-tech sectors, their economies developed in large part, by the persistent upgrading of resource based industries and by the clusters that emerge from them. A primary production base can go hand in hand with a higher technology future.

And so it is today. Today we are rededicating ourselves to the things we have always done best, knowing that we will be deploying more innovation and more technology to get there.


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