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Politicians Waking Up To Critical Role Of Manufacturing

Politicians are finally waking up to the critical role manufacturing plays in New Zealand’s economic recovery with new announcements from National and the Government this week, says the New Zealand Manufacturing Alliance.

National Party leader Judith Collins’ caucus reshuffle has resulted in a new portfolio for MP Andrew Bayley as Spokesperson for Manufacturing. And Labour’s Minister of Economic Development, Phil Twyford, has also this week (21 July) announced that an industry transformation plan for advanced manufacturing is in the works.

Rachel Barker, CEO of Plastics NZ and spokesperson for the Manufacturing Alliance, says it’s about time the sector saw this level of political recognition.

“For years we’ve seen great government support for agriculture and the primary sector, but minimal backing for manufacturers. These announcements show that our politicians and the Government finally realise the sectors’ importance to New Zealand’s economy. Not only is manufacturing a valuable sector in its own right, it is a critical part of the supply chains of nearly every other sector and this role is detailed in our recent report Manufacturing Matters,” says Barker.

“It’s exciting to think that we can create some tangible growth through the development of effective policy and action. The Manufacturing Alliance is looking forward to working closely with Government to develop and implement this industry transformation plan. This aligns with our recommendation in Manufacturing Matters for industry and government to set out a vision of how the sector will contribute to New Zealand’s future and jointly commit to a set of actions that will enable the sector to achieve this vision.

“As part of this we’d like to see all political parties creating a manufacturing portfolio within their caucus as Judith has done and engaging with the sector.”

Barker says New Zealand has Ministers for Agriculture and Racing, which contribute 4.5% and 0.9% of GDP respectively, but there is no Minister for Manufacturing despite the sector contributing over 11%.

“Primary industries, which contributes 7.6%, has the support of an entire Ministry, whereas manufacturing has the focus of a couple of people within the Ministry for Business Innovation & Employment.”

Already employing 10% of the workforce and generating more than 50% of exports, improved support for the sector could have significant positive ramifications for the economy. Manufacturing is essential for achieving the Governments move from volume to value, says Barker.

“Manufacturing underpins our economy and most people don’t realise it. Every person, every single day, is interacting with manufactured goods. It’s easy to draw links between things you can see like cows on the farm giving us milk, or rockets shooting into space from Mahia.

“It’s much harder to perceive the value in complex systems and that’s where manufacturing is rooted. From fences, milking machines, and veterinary supplies, right through to the milk tankers and bottling plant, manufacturing is essential to farming. The hundreds, if not thousands, of parts used in rockets and satellites require the involvement of many different manufacturers not just the apex company.”

Barker says advanced manufacturing isn’t just about the end product, it’s also about the equipment and processes used to make that product.

“While New Zealand has some inspirational companies producing high-tech and innovative products, we also have companies making specialised parts and packaging using advanced manufacturing techniques. The use of robotics, automation and specialised systems is common in manufacturing.

“With the right government support this can be taken to the next level in terms of smart and green factories, big data and productivity growth. Alongside New Zealand manufacturers reputation for innovation and integrity, this increased support can only improve our competitiveness and presence in the global market.”

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