The Key to Taurangas Future

04 April, 2014

Today a group of us had the privilege to meet with Rt Hon John Key and Hon Simon Bridges as part of a gathering with the Tauranga Young Professionals Network. The Prime Minister was in the Bay of Plenty for the day and Simon wanted to get a local group from the young pro’s together.

Everyone was given a few minutes to share their story and what they are doing with the Prime Minister. There were some great talks: our own Timothy Allan talked about how we work at Locus Research, and presented the PM with our 10 year celebration book; Reuben Woods presented on what he and his team do at Woods Creative; Carlton Bidois spoke about local iwi development and the cultural significance and impacts of the container ship Rena incident on the people of the region; Dan Necklen shared what his super charity 4good is doing (very cool you should get involved); Rogier Simons talked about the work the team at Powersmart Solar are doing which includes their incredible Tokelau Renewable Energy Project; and Alistair Scarfe introduced the kiwifruit picker that he and the team at PlusGroup the Te Puna Innovation Park are developing. Tim and Reuben also presented the Young Innovator Awards programme and gifted a t-shirt and poster to Mr Key.

I took the opportunity to talk design and innovation in the primary sector, how to create value for New Zealand, and some of the success we have had in converting an abundant low value resource like wool into high value medical and healthcare devices.

After everyone had presented, John asked what he could do to help the group. Obviously a discussion around funding came up; how this may be better structured to support R&D and commercialisation activity in a more linear continuous way, rather than the current stop/start nature, and the gaps or lack of seamless connectivity across the various public funding channels including MBIECallahan Innovation, and NZTE.

John also touched on innovation within the primary industry sector, and MPI’s goal of doubling exports by 2025. The PM thinks this goal will be easily achieved. He mentioned that the global demand for quality food supply is growing rapidly and food and nutraceuticals represents 70% of New Zealand robotics exports (including dairy). He mentioned that while we are a big exporter of dairy it only represents 2% of global dairy supply/consumption, so there is definitely room for growth. Sounds pretty simple – focus on food and nutraceuticals or the supply of services and innovation to this sector.

The PM went on to talk about the future of this approach, obviously knowing that it may be quite difficult for New Zealand actually to double its dairy operation and herd size on the available land without dramatic environmental issues. The PM mentioned putting our IP into foreign countries, like what Zespri are doing with their kiwi fruit vines and genetics, and what Fonterra are looking at doing in South America and China. This is obviously an option whereby such growth can be achieved without doubling the size of production in New Zealand.

In many ways this is an idea not unlike the manufacturing of products onshore. It’s an approach that will likely usher in the return of ‘local supply’ making it less about export and more about locality, provenance, and originality, perhaps in a contemporary way. Is this a true transition from the old scarcity of source supply/demand value model (which brought about exporting in the first place)?

And the future of wool? The PM thinks it’s huge. “It’s about brand.” He said Icebreaker was too slow and that while it was right for their business, they could have scaled earlier and harder because there is so much global need and demand.

Special thanks to everyone that was involved and thanks Hon. Simon Bridges, Michelle McCarthy, and Priority One for making it happen.

(Original article courtesy of