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To be sustainable, NZ needs local manufacturers

12 March 2007

To be sustainable, NZ economy needs local manufacturers

In its efforts to enhance exporting, New Zealand cannot afford to neglect the local manufacturing base and the local markets that so often provide the necessary platforms for success within the global economy, Green Party Regional Development Spokesperson Sue Bradford says.

Ms Bradford was speaking in response to the NZ Institute report So Far Yet So Close by Dr David Skilling on the future of NZ exporting.

"It would be hopelessly shortsighted to think we can shift our production base offshore without caring about the impact this would have on our communities, and on the skills base essential to the creative industries that we are seeking to nurture. The fashion industry for instance, still requires the local clothing industry for its inputs of skills, experience and expertise.

"We need to recognize our competitors have not simply put all their eggs in one basket and shifted production entirely offshore. In Australia and elsewhere, campaigns to buy locally made goods run alongside other assistance programmes for exporting, and enjoy wide public support.

"For decades, we have let global forces decimate local manufacturing. Thankfully, we have now started to see a re-balancing, reflected in the 'Buy Kiwi Made' programme. It is mystifying why Dr Skilling has singled out local manufacturing as a barrier to lifting our export performance, when it can and should be assisted to work in tandem.

"Only last May, Dr Skilling was urging NZ Herald readers to save more, to become less dependent on foreign capital, and thus be less vulnerable to the flows offshore to overseas investors. For those same reasons, Dr Skilling should be supporting local manufacturing, not attacking it.

"The sober reality is that the New Zealand economy is based on primary exports, from New Zealand farms, which cannot be located offshore. The Green Party would like to see value being added at all stages and in all dimensions of our export effort. However, the report leaves us wondering if Dr Skilling does.

"More investment in broadband technology, as the report urges, would be welcome - to help foster the 'weightless economy' While promising, this sector still constitutes only 5 percent of our economy, and NZ is currently losing call centre and IT work to low wage economies.

" In reality, designers and creatives rarely spring fully formed out of thin air. Most learn their skills and hone their vision within local manufacturing. Local markets serve as both a springboard and a safety net for NZ exporters - why is why local manufacturing should be nurtured, not sacrificed."

ENDS

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