Prime Minister on city business

04 April, 2013

Tauranga's innovative business sector was showcased this morning on Prime Minister John Key's trip to the city which included talks by a group of successful young professionals and a visit to co-working space Ignition.

John, who is visiting Tauranga today and will later open the Port of Tauranga's new wharf, was excited to see businesses focus on using technology to increase productivity – saying encouraging research and science for future growth was a key government focus.

Tauranga MP Simon Bridges says the morning visit was aimed at showing how increasing numbers of young families moving to the region is helping to grow the Western Bay.

“It's about showing the side of Tauranga that he hasn't already seen with the young vibrant professional culture.”

The Prime Minister was told of 11 success stories and community initiatives happening in Tauranga.

This included a talk from Mount Maunganui based PowerSmart general manager Rogier Simons about the company's success in installing solar power systems across New Zealand and Tokelau - as the first country to go completely solar.

John was particularly interested in hearing about PowerSmart's success, along with plans by Robotic Plus to commercialise its fruit-picker that picks 80 per cent of kiwifruit, which recently picked up a top international award.

Alistair Scarfe from Robotics Plus says it was great to get such a positive response from the Prime Minister about the future role of technology in the horticulture sector.

“My impression was that he was very excited about this technology and its future in New Zealand. He was a lot of more interested than I expected.”

When asked about the support to foster innovation and business growth, John says they are aware that the two planks of support to grow businesses had some gaps and the government is looking at way to improve the system.  Support is available with innovation funding for early business development and support from New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to help grow established businesses into major players.

Priority One projects analyst Michelle McCarthy says as young people all the speakers have a vested interest in seeing Tauranga become a vibrant place to do business, and are the new emerging force for “excellence, innovation and creativity in our community”.

 Young Innovator Awards supporters Reuben Woods, from Woods – The Creative Agency, and Timothy Allan, from Locus Research, talked about their own businesses and the key role that the student innovation awards competition was playing in encouraging students to enter.

Others included Tauranga Startup Weekend organiser Sheldon Nesdale, 4 Good social media charity giving group founder Dan Necklen and Locus Research's Blythe Rees-Jones about a project to add value to wool exports.

Carlton Bidois from Ngati Ranginui iwi spoke about the Rena Recovery Project, and Kim Cleland from Tauranga Council's sustainable living programme also spoke.

Sarah Martin from Urban Dance Youth Trust talked about how her hip hop classes were helping inspire young people – before her group ‘Hysteria' performed.

His trip also included a visit to businesses in the new Elizabeth St tower, after beginning with a tour of the Ignition co-working space which opened as a shared work environment for professionals and small service business operators in Grey St last year.

(Original article courtesy of