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Hodgson: Whangarei Marine Engineering Initiative

Hon Pete Hodgson
Minister for Economic Development

1 April 2008 Speech

Launch of the Whangarei Marine Engineering Initiative


Good morning.

It is always a pleasure to come back to Whangarei and see the progress that Northland is making, using its particular competitive advantages to develop its economy.

One of these, of course, is the marine sector. And it has been heartening to see how work such as that involved with the Project Protector contract, for example, has spurred activity in Northland.

Today I am here to talk about a new initiative that will help Whangarei build on its marine expertise. It aims to develop a major shipbuilding export industry focused on two types of ships for which there is growing worldwide demand–“megayachts” and large steel-hulled vessels.

I am delighted to announce that the government, through New Zealand Trade and Enterprise, is putting forward $2 million to help drive this project – the Whangarei Marine Engineering Initiative.

This will be used to help ensure that Northland has the infrastructure and marketing resources required to make the most of this opportunity.

Why are we involved? Well, there are several reasons.

Firstly, it is a project that will add significantly to New Zealand’s offerings in the marine sector.

Recognised internationally for its flexibility, innovative design and production processes, our marine industry backs this up with high quality products and competitive production costs.

New Zealand Trade and Enterprise has been working with the industry for many years to help build capability and increase its international profile.

While the industry is well placed to benefit from international growth, it will only capitalise on this if we have the necessary resources and infrastructure that allow us to compete with offshore builders.

Today’s initiative is another piece of that work and should have significant spillover for the industry nationally.

It is worth noting that this project complements similar funding granted to the Hobsonville Marine Precinct last year to create a new superyacht construction and launching precinct in Auckland. Together, the two projects represent a significant investment by the government, to ensure one of our stellar export industries continues to shine.

Secondly, it is a project that focuses on collaboration. Yes, it may have been possible for an individual company to build the required infrastructure, attract the necessary investment, and explore the market opportunities by itself. Our support, however, is helping to broaden the benefits.

In essence, this initiative is about helping to assemble a consortium of Northland companies that are able to bid for, and win, large marine projects from around the world.

It will also help the region establish infrastructure at a scale and type beyond what currently exists. And this infrastructure will be accessible by the region for launching and retrieving large ships.

This project also paves the way for collaboration between regions – particularly with Hobsonville – on issues such as the continued development of a skilled workforce to help New Zealand capitalise on international marine opportunities.

This is, of course, an issue that I’m following closely as Minister for Tertiary Education. Indeed, I am likely to be considering a request shortly from NorthTec for financial assistance to reconfigure their current facilities to enhance the provision of tertiary education, especially in the higher levels, not only in the Whangarei area but throughout the North. The need for increased numbers of qualified trades people is a component of the NorthTec request, and it should assist local businesses to cater for planned growth in the marine industry in the medium term.

Thirdly, this project is an excellent opportunity for Northland to make the most of its regional strengths. Strong and enabling regional business environments are vital if New Zealand firms are to have a solid platform upon which to reach the global market.

The final reason for our involvement in this initiative is that it aligns so well with our focus on transforming New Zealand’s economy into one that is innovative, export-led and globally competitive.

A key part of this is supporting New Zealand businesses to go global and extract full value from the global supply chain.

Earlier today I visited a company that is starting to do just that. You are all no doubt familiar with McKay, the electrical and instrumentation engineering and contracting business that has been around for more than 70 years.

It is a company that has recognised the opportunities that the global marketplace is creating for growth. McKay’s success on it’s work for Project Protector has provided a platform for it to launch into new markets, including the marine sector, and in particular superyachts.

In terms of the way it is recognising new opportunities globally, McKay’s story matches that of the Whangarei Marine Engineering Initiative and I know there are other Northland companies that are similarly placed for growth.

Congratulations to all the partners involved with this initiative so far and thank you to Enterprise Northland for your work in bringing it together.

I believe the opportunities that beckon for the region and the marine industry are exciting. I encourage you to embrace them by continuing to work collaboratively and pushing on to ensure this initiative is a success.

Thank you.


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