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Call For Urgent Streamlining Of Economy - Farmers

Farm, Technology And Research Leaders Join In Call For Urgent Streamlining Of Economy

Farming, science and information technology leaders today joined in a collective call to New Zealanders to urgently eliminate barriers to the development of a knowledge based economy.

Their blunt warning was that unless the nation rapidly made the most of technological advances, people skills and added higher value to New Zealand products and services it was at high risk of falling further behind advanced economies.

The messages came as leaders from the three sectors launched an economic commentary and blueprint for change that they hoped may be a catalyst for action in the private and public sectors.

Dr Andrew West, President of the Association of Crown Research Institutes, said government needs to apply an integrated suite of policies and programmes to change the business and cultural environment. He urged change in the educational sector: "Perhaps the crucial single action is to create two or three genuinely world-ranking universities by merging the eight we now have. New Zealand needs cleverly designed, well informed, interventions to help create and then capture more export value. We must change to improve our quality of life. If we don't it's all downhill."

Mr Jim O'Neill, Executive Director of the Information Technology Association of New Zealand, said the government has to create the climate for a knowledge economy to blossom: "It particularly needs to do so in those areas where only government has the ability to affect change, namely education, research and development, immigration, tax and regulations and legislation."

Mr Tony St Clair, Chief Executive of Federated Farmers, said the need for action was urgent: "Let's look at the situation in rural areas. Hundreds of farmers can't even access the Internet for their own use, let alone the interests of their children who need to do so for school projects, lessons and advancing their knowledge. Farming is a knowledge economy and the knowledge potential of this industry is by no means spent. It is vital, in our view, that Crown Research Institutes retain their applied agricultural and horticultural research capabilities. Farmers and growers rely on these innovations from CRIs to remain competitive in export markets.

"Extensive biotechnology research is essential to export growth and New Zealand faces a real danger in this area, as well as in science generally, of losing its most skilled people to other nations unless we create a value and rewards system, and a culture, that encourages them to participate in the New Zealand economy. It is also essential that the intellectual property from public funded science is retained in New Zealand and not allowed to filter into the hands of overseas competitors," he said. - ends

For further information: Bruce Kohn, Association of Crown Research Institutes, Tel: (025) 247-7748

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