Newshub Nation panel discussion (video)

It was nice to be back on the Newshub Nation panel this weekend with Ella Henry and Dileepa Fonseka, talking about opening the border, climate change, and a few laughs about the Winston Churchill painting controversy!
As New Zealand starts its journey to open to the rest of the world world, it was interesting to reflect on technologies being implemented globally that could play a part in NZ’s response:
🎤 The increased use of micro-influencers, particularly in the United States, to reach out to small pockets of communities that are vaccine-hesitant and allay concerns.
📌Wristbands (Singapore, South Korea, Hong Kong) and geotagged facial recognition (Western Australia) for ensuring home quarantine.
📱 Linking the Covid tracer app to vaccine status so that entry requirements can be varied based on risk and are validated when you scan into a venue (such as in Singapore, which requires double vaccination to enter restaurants, but a lesser requirement for office spaces).


New Zealand Institute of International Affairs 2021: Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern interview (video)

Interview with Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs 2021 conference, ‘Standing in the Future: New Zealand and the Indo-Pacific region’ with co-hosts Tim McCready and Ziena Jalil.


New Zealand Institute of International Affairs 2021: Kurt Campbell interview (video)

Address and interview with Kurt Campbell, White House Coordinator for the Indo-Pacific, at the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs 2021 conference, ‘Standing in the Future: New Zealand and the Indo-Pacific region’ with co-hosts Tim McCready and Ziena Jalil.


New Zealand Institute of International Affairs 2021 conference opening (video)

Opening of the New Zealand Institute of International Affairs 2021 conference, ‘Standing in the Future: New Zealand and the Indo-Pacific region’. Co-hosts Tim McCready and Ziena Jalil.

Agribusiness Report: Why care is a consideration, according to NZTE

New Zealand has relied on tourism as a way of keeping us alive in the hearts and minds of global consumers.

Research released by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) in April revealed that the five major challenges New Zealand exporters are grappling with are: building brand awareness, finding the right partners and channels, dealing with strong overseas competition, understanding how destination markets differed from New Zealand markets and each other, and determining the right export pricing strategy and product-related costs to remain competitive and profitable.

All these challenges have been heightened during the Covid-19 pandemic, particularly brand awareness and developing the right business connections, given there is no international travel.

NZTE’s “Made with Care” campaign aims to help lessen these barriers. Launched in October 2020, the campaign has been designed to grow awareness, preference and demand for New Zealand food and beverage products in key markets offshore, and share New Zealand’s commitment to being a trusted, sustainable global food source. It provides New Zealand food and beverage exporters access to a suite of free, ready-made marketing assets to use in their own sales and marketing efforts.

The campaign is part of a wider “Messages from NZ” country brand campaign — a New Zealand Inc effort to raise our international profile in key markets across trade, education and tourism with international consumers, buyers, and investors to help rebuild our economy.

To establish the Made with Care campaign, NZTE joined forces with Tourism New Zealand, Ministry for Primary Industries, Education New Zealand, and New Zealand Story, building on the positive sentiment felt toward New Zealand and raising the international profile of the New Zealand brand across priority markets.

NZTE’s lead for food and beverage, Craig Armstrong, says the openness of all organisations to work differently has been the key to the campaign’s success.

“We have borrowed a lot of tourism people for the last 15 months to make this work — it’s been fantastic,” he says. “It really became a partnership to say: ‘Well, how can we promote New Zealand products, as opposed to promoting New Zealand as a destination?'”.

Armstrong says businesses were telling NZTE the biggest issue for them was not being able to be in market to talk to buyers and consumers.

“What we realised was that we could use this budget to talk to shoppers and buyers at a time when New Zealand businesses could not get there and do it themselves.”

The Made with Care campaign includes paid media, social campaigns, and a suite of creative assets including templates, logos, stories, videos, and vignettes that businesses can use as part of their own marketing.

Since its launch, over 340 companies have been involved in the Made with Care campaign — by using the free marketing assets made available, or by participating in promotions managed by NZTE in Australia, China, East Asia, the United Arab Emirates, the UK and North America.

NZTE says because of the campaign, preference and appeal measures for New Zealand food and beverage are trending slightly upwards. As an example, after a short burst of promotional activity in the UK, spontaneous awareness of New Zealand as a country that produces premium quality food and beverage increased 5 per cent, with 57 per cent of research respondents stating they have either bought or are considering buying food and drink from New Zealand because of seeing the campaign.

In North America, awareness of New Zealand food and beverage increased by 10-14.5 per cent across seafood, wine, meat, and honey.

Armstrong says he has been surprised by the results and the cut through the campaign has had with consumers internationally.

“When you reflect back on it, we managed to get what can be at times a very competitive industry to work together and agree on something.”

Underpinning the Made with Care sentiment, and what distinguishes New Zealand food and beverage products from others, is the principle of Taiao — the interconnectedness of our people and the natural world.

The values of Kaitiakitanga (guardians, caring for people, place and planet, now and for future generations), Manaakitanga (caring for others and showing hospitality, kindness, generosity, support and respect) and Ingenuity (challenging the status quo with original and bold solutions) are also woven throughout the campaign messaging.

This interconnectedness of people and the natural world, and the desire for sustainable, safe and innovative products are all aspects of the megatrends that are currently shaping the industry, and Armstrong says the desire for these attributes have all been accelerated due to the pandemic.

“What Covid has done is really bring forward consumers’ changing preferences by years — whether that is five years, six years, 10 years… I’m not quite sure,” he says. “But what we are seeing now is a need or a preference from consumers that is playing into New Zealand’s hands. We are a very ethical producer of food, treat our people well, treat our animals well, and generally treat our land well.

“We have got to be able to tell that story and be able to capitalise on what most advanced and developing economies now care about.”

He says telling that story is critical, and that most of the growth from exporters is not hampered because we are not in the right markets or don’t have the right product, but rather because people don’t spend any money on marketing and telling their story.

“Look at the results we are getting through the Made with Care campaign,” he says. “Those kinds of numbers should give you an indication that if you invest in marketing and look at it as an investment, rather than a cost, you will get a return out of it.”

Insights into key purchase drivers from 14,000 international shoppers

NZTE partnered with global research and insights company Kantar to identify key purchase drivers, supported by insights into behavioural and emotive needs of the primary household shoppers in Australia, China, Singapore, Japan, United States of America and the United Kingdom.

With Kantar, NZTE conducted an online survey with household shoppers in January/February 2021 to examine what’s driving purchases within eight different F&B categories and 29 sub-categories, including meat, fruit and vegetables, dairy, seafood, alcoholic beverages, non-alcoholic beverages, sweet snacks and vitamins, minerals and supplements/mānuka honey.

“We learned that eight attributes drive consumer purchases: tasty, affordable, trusted brand, safe product, healthy, fresh, ethical and on-trend,” says NZTE’s Craig Armstrong.

“Those may sound obvious, but we must understand our consumers rather than base what we do off assumptions. Plus, there is a huge amount of depth and data behind these insights.”

Armstrong says the research found five key paths that companies could take to capture a premium: ethical, on-trend, health, safe product and trusted brand. However, he says these vary depending on the market and category, so how businesses construct and communicate their offer needs to be tailored.

“For example, China is influenced by health and safety; Japan by health, taste and freshness; Singapore contains a broader spread of drivers; while Western markets are more driven by affordability, taste and trusted brand.

“However, affordability and taste do not pull in a premium whereas there is real potential for ethical and on-trend purchases to do so, particularly in the US.”

Locking in brand sustainability

David Babich, chief executive of Babich Wines says they have seen a 4 per cent lift in website traffic over the time Made with Care has been running.

“While not double-digit growth, it is off good base traffic and in an environment where the investment (hence competitiveness) in this area has been intense due to the global constraint on face-to-face.

“As an exporter you have to make an investment in travel and visiting customers. While people understand the reasons why we can’t visit, the time that you can get away with not doing that is fundamentally finite.

“We are going to hit two years without visiting our customers, and meanwhile other competitors are either domiciled in the market or have face-to-face market access because of their own infrastructure — especially the large players.

“We have four people in the US, three in China, one in the UK, so we are not without representation in our key markets, but we don’t have an enormous team to continue to push our message relentlessly. A lot of other NZ companies are in that situation.

“Since we can’t put a billboard in Times Square, social media has worked particularly well for us to market to the world and get our brand messaging out.

“What has resonated for us in the Made with Care Campaign is that one of our brand platforms is sustainability.

“We lock right into that.”

Agribusiness Report: Plant & Food working to increase fish production

Open ocean aquaculture

Plant & Food Research, a Crown Research Institute, is working on ways to increase fish production through open ocean aquaculture.

Global demand for seafood continues to grow, but if production remains static, supply will fall massively short of demand. Managed sustainably, mobile oceanic fish farms off New Zealand’s coastline may soon provide a means to supply nutrition and sustenance to the world.

Suzy Black, Open Ocean Aquaculture Direction leader at Plant & Food Research, says the research programme is taking a unique approach by looking at the idea from the point of view of fish. “We are asking ‘what do they need to be at their best?’ This means understanding fish needs and behaviour and incorporating that into the design.

Black says the team is taking the knowledge it already has about near-shore aquaculture and making it more sustainable for the ocean.

“Our approach is a bit different from what you see overseas where ocean aquaculture systems are mostly enormous structures built to withstand harsh ocean conditions.
“We are taking a mobile approach and trying to work with the environment, rather than against it,” says Black.

The mobile prototype is still in development, and it is too early to know what it might look like. But Black says the aim is to move the systems around the ocean autonomously so fish can experience the temperatures, currents and water quality to ensure they are in the best environment year-round.

“If this takes off, there is so much opportunity for Aotearoa,” she says. “This has the potential to create a whole new sector with new technologies, new industries and regional jobs”.

The open ocean aquaculture work is being done by scientists at Plant & Food Research in collaboration with science organisations overseas and in New Zealand, including Cawthron Institute and the Universities of Auckland and Otago. The programme is funded by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment and Plant & Food Research’s internal Growing Futures investment.

Extracting protein from pasture

Generations of New Zealand farmers have excelled at growing pasture for livestock. The leaves of these crops are rare examples of plant proteins with a full complement of essential amino acids — the building blocks of proteins that humans need to keep their bodies functioning.

In response to the increasing population of people looking for plant-based protein, Plant & Food Research is looking into different ways to harness the goodness of plants.

“It’s important for Aotearoa New Zealand’s economic future that the food industry develops new plant-based food options for consumers, creating a wider portfolio of products and reducing our reliance on animals for both our own diets and for export,” says Dr Jocelyn Eason, GM Science Food Innovation at Plant & Food Research.

“The challenge in being so far from our major markets is that our export products need to be of high value, compared to alternatives. We can’t produce commodity plant protein ingredients, like pea or soy protein ingredients, for export as our competitors operate at scales we cannot achieve.

“We need something extra, something we can market as uniquely Kiwi, such as ingredients from plants that offer more or capitalise on our reputation for innovative sustainably-grown foods.”

Eason says by incorporating these crops into rotational farming practices, we could create a food protein ingredient with the unique characteristics needed for the New Zealand food industry and with positive sustainability credentials.

Proteins from plants could be used as foundation ingredients in a range of different manufactured foods, such as protein-fortified beverages, nutrition bars or healthy foods for seniors. They could also be used to create new vegan-friendly meat alternatives, providing the full range of essential amino acids in one product.

A side-benefit of extracting protein from plants traditionally used in animal feed is reducing the amount of protein in the diet of stock. The by-products of the isolation process still have nutritional benefits for animals but, by removing some of the protein — the compounds responsible for the nitrogen expelled in urine — the amount of nitrogen leaching into soils and waterways is reduced, improving the impact of animal farming on the environment and enhancing New Zealand’s clean green reputation.

High value marine molecules

Cyber Physical Seafood Systems (Cyber-Marine) is a research programme led by Plant & Food Research that is looking at extracting high-value molecules from seafood during processing. The idea is to create automated multi-operation flexible factories, monitored by artificial intelligence (AI) sensor systems. These factories will analyse seafood as it enters the factory and determine the best way to process it to achieve 100 per cent utilisation and maximise the value for all harvested wild and aquaculture seafood.

By making use of all raw material, this will allow the industry to achieve growth targets without increasing catch volume from wild-capture fisheries, as well as maximise value from increasing aquaculture. It is envisioned that once established for the seafood industry, the technology could be adapted for any bio-industrial process.

In addition to its role as a food source, seafood contains a range of marine molecules with special properties. They range from big structural proteins for biomedical scaffolds, through to anti-inflammatory omega-3s, and blood pressure-lowering or anti-aging peptides.

“Many of these molecules can be found in marine by-products and by-catch, so by extracting them for new products our seafood industry can grow without affecting seafood availability or needing more fish to be caught,” says Dr Susan Marshall, leader of the Cyber-Marine programme.

“It also ensures that we can use all of the biomass grown through aquaculture, not just focus on the food portion. The challenge is how to efficiently extract everything from really diverse marine organisms that contain different types and combinations of the molecules, whilst not destroying one component to recover another.”

● Case studies supplied by NZ Plant and Food Research

Tapping into the Multinational Opportunity (Callaghan Innovation)

Originally published on Callaghan Innovation’s Healthtech Activator website

Tim McCready from BioPacific Partners spoke with healthtech multinationals about changes in the industry and why they are interested in NZ innovation

The healthtech sector is broad, and big corporations in pharma, consumer health and medtech all have slightly different attitudes toward accessing external innovation – but they all share an increased reliance on external innovation to supplement and bolster their pipeline.

Multinational corporations can bring with them strong investment, a powerful workforce, and access to global markets for local New Zealand (NZ) innovators. But regardless of whether a partnership or investment happens or not, there are always insights to be gained from them. Even a 15-minute conversation can reveal insights that might help reshape a product to be more suitable or better accepted by the market, or perhaps adapt a business model to one that had not previously been considered.

Most of these multinationals are not embedded within the Australasian region. They might have sales and marketing teams here, but there are few business development personnel. While it can be a challenge identifying and reaching relevant decision-makers within the confusing hierarchies of multinationals, there are many reasons why it can be a worthwhile activity.

Strong desire to access good innovation

“Innovation does not have a boundary. There is no border limit, wherever there is good science, we go for it,” I was told by a business development executive at a healthtech multinational. It helps that generally these companies are positive about NZ innovation – thanks to our well-regarded education and science, robust regulatory environment, and diverse population.

“If something is making headway there, there’s a whole lot of hurdles it has overcome and it makes me think I can pick it up and run with it elsewhere,” they said.

For the pharmaceutical industry, the cost of research and development for new drugs, the high risk of failure, and the significant exposure many have due to the expiry of blockbuster drug patents means they increasingly look to external innovations for their product pipelines. If the technology fits a gap in the company’s pipeline they will be interested – and are largely ambivalent about the stage of development.

But for medical technologies this is slightly different. For traditional medical devices, multinationals will often prefer to wait until a technology has regulatory approval and can demonstrate strong sales. This is because some of the most challenging aspects of bringing a device to market are the registration of the device, and the considerable work required to convince physicians and surgeons that an innovation is worth considering (and often retraining for) over existing alternatives. Multinationals prefer to see a technology that is proven to mitigate these risks.

Digital innovation

There has been a rapid shift in digital innovation in healthtech, and the development of technologies for a consumer market, including mobile phone sensors, smartwatches, fitness trackers, apps and the use of big data for diagnostics and treatment. This is causing huge concern in the medtech and consumer health industries about where future revenues will come from.

I was told by a business development executive in a medtech multinational: “I joke that I’m glad I am closer to the end of my career than the beginning because I’m not wired to think this way. My gut feel used to be pretty good, but I don’t have that for the future… I think it is incredibly naïve to think that technology and digital won’t fundamentally change the sector.”

The onset of digital giants entering the healthtech space has made traditional medtech multinationals nervous. They are hesitant to enter the consumer market since the big players – the likes of Amazon, Samsung, Apple, Google and Huawei – could quickly wipe out the market share of new technologies that begin to gain traction.

A business development director joked with me that “One day I will need a new hip. I’ll go onto Amazon, where there will be a base one, and then ones with extra features… I’ll select my hip, pick my doctor, choose a hospital – after checking their reviews – and take my basket to the checkout. Somebody is going to figure that out.”

Making the connection

Before the pandemic, these big players were reluctant to travel the 12 to 24 hours required to visit NZ and saw the significant time zone difference as a barrier.  This meant that costly visits to the big conferences – the likes of the BIO Convention or The MedTech Conference – were the only places to sit down for 15 minutes with the relevant people in these companies.

But over the past year these interactions have moved online, and with it so has a growing acceptance from large corporations that new technologies can be discovered using digital platforms – no matter where in the world they might come from.

Capital Markets report: Megatrends shaping the markets

Living through a global pandemic has seen existing trends in capital markets accelerated.
When considering the global megatrends in capital markets over the past year, few new trends have emerged.

Many of the key trends that were gaining traction prior to or during the pandemic have dramatically accelerated into 2021.

Here is a look at some of the most interesting ones:

A green and ethical recovery

One of the big trends remains the push towards socially responsible investing.

This gained momentum during the pandemic as Covid-19 highlighted how connected humans and society are to each other and to the world around them. Many leading investment firms now consider ESG (environmental, social and governance) performance important to consider alongside traditional financial metrics as a fundamental way of creating value and mitigating risk.

Last year, a study from Morgan Stanley’s Institute for Sustainable Investing showed that US sustainable investment funds focused on ESG factors outperformed traditional funds and reduced investment risk during the pandemic.

Morningstar data shows global sustainable fund assets grew 18 per cent in the first quarter of 2021 compared to the previous quarter to almost $2 trillion, supported by strong inflows from Europe.

Further bolstering this trend is the increased attention combatting climate change is being given by governments around the world. Take for instance the United States, where last month President Joe Biden pledged to cut US greenhouse gas emissions in half by 2030 — more than double the commitment made under the 2015 Paris Climate Agreement by the Obama Administration. He has also begun rolling back some of President Trump’s initiatives that side-lined ESG investment.

This shift is bringing with it dramatic change in many areas that will continue to shape investment activity — with many attractive opportunities in energy, transport, agriculture, and infrastructure.

Earlier this month, Bill Gates-led fund Breakthrough Energy Ventures invested in Ecocem Materials, an Ireland-based firm developing low-carbon cement — a material that currently contributes some 8 per cent of global carbon pollution.

Investors are expecting to see the number of attractive opportunities to become more and more frequent.

The events of last year have also heightened the awareness of inequality — women, minority populations and those on lower wages were most impacted by the pandemic.

There is a growing demand to understand how businesses operate, treat employees and customers, and whether they are engaged ethically with their global supply chains.

Boards and management will be increasingly required to address questions from investors and customers about social purpose, inequality, diversity, pay ratios and executive remuneration.

Technology adoption set to continue

One of the most omnipresent trends over the past year has been the leap forward in the digitisation of the economy. The lockdowns, social distancing, and the inability to travel and shop in traditional ways have acted as catalysts for the digital adoption by businesses and customers.

Capital markets are no exception. The same broad trends are accelerating a push towards digital as well as a new wave of innovation at a pace that was previously only seen in consumer-facing financial services.

While most trading technology architectures remain cumbersome, a recent report by the World Economic Forum suggests distributed ledger technology (DLT) — of which blockchain is the most well-known example — is reaching an inflection point. They say it has the potential to reshape capital markets by simplifying operations for leading players and expanding access to markets for small businesses and retail investors.

The use of DLT is growing in acceptability, due to growing institutional and regulatory comfort with the technology, the potential for central bank digital currencies in several jurisdictions, and commercial dynamics including cost pressures and client service expectations.

As an example, the UK Chancellor Rishi Sunak last month set out proposals to enhance the UK’s competitive advantage in fintech — from regulatory support and reforms to help firms grow, to the establishment of a Central Bank Digital Currency (CBDC) taskforce to coordinate the exploration of a potential UK CBDC.

“If we can capture the extraordinary potential of technology, we’ll cement the UK’s position as the world’s pre-eminent financial centre,” he said.

In more practical ways, technology adoption across the industry saw acceptability in the industry for remote and flexible working.

Regulators have had to support this and adapt to ensure money laundering, anti-fraud, data privacy and conduct regulations continue to be equivalent whether working from the office or working from home.

But there are still concerns around market abuse and cybersecurity that come with remote working, and whether this trend will persevere long-term following the relaxation of lockdowns around the world remains to be seen.

New Zealand demonstrated that the lack of personal contact after so long working remotely, along with Zoom fatigue, saw most working in capital markets return to the office.

However, the inability to entirely wind back the new remote working culture has made flexible working a likely requirement for capital markets of the future.

Rise of unpredictable retail investors

The past year saw a surge in amateur investors engaged with the stock market. During the level four lockdown, for the first time ever, amateur investors were more active than professional investors in New Zealand.

Services like Sharesies and Hatch have created accessible platforms for retail investors to engage in share trading without needing to go through traditional fund managers. Their rapid growth in interest has been attributed to the pandemic keeping people idle at home, low interest rates limiting savings returns and many people being shut out of the property market.

But recent months have seen another factor come into play — the rise of social media-driven traders. The most well-known example is video game retailer GameStop Corp, where amateur investors worked together to drive its stock price up 1500 per cent over two weeks to take on Wall Street investors who had betted against it. This wasn’t a one-off, with other stocks including BlackBerry and Nokia targeted.

These investors are unpredictable and bullish and have rattled sophisticated professional investors. As a result, the chair of the US Securities and Exchange Commission, Gary Gensler, is considering new rules for apps that “gamify” trading and use visual graphics to reward an investor’s decision to trade.

“The SEC must remain attuned to rapidly-changing technologies with an eye to freshening up our rules,” says Gensler. “If we don’t address this now, the investing public, those saving for retirement, and education, may shoulder the burden later.”

Capital Markets report: Three business leaders on the Government's wealthy investor proposals (NZ Herald)

Capital Markets report: Three business leaders on the Government’s wealthy investor proposals (NZ Herald)

Anna Kominik

Wisk’s Asia-Pacific regional director Anna Kominik leads a multinational team bringing the world’s first all-electric, self-flying air taxi to market.

On the government’s recent announcement about changes to immigration policy she says anything that supports greater investment in New Zealand is useful.

“But we need to do more to amplify New Zealand’s capability and capacity to scale businesses,” she says.

Kominik says we also need people, like current and former chief technical officers and chief operating officers — those people not just with the funds, but also the skills and experience in growing companies and taking them global.

“We need to be really ambitious for the start-ups that have been nurtured over the past decade and who are ready and wanting to take on the world.”

While the announcement came with little detail, Kominik says rather than letting in random high net worth individuals, we must identify the gaps in the New Zealand companies that are scaling fast and/or who need the capital most acutely along with the ability to have the biggest impact both economically and socially.

“This is the perfect time to be focused on building high-value jobs,” she says. “But our Covid advantage won’t last for long and we need to seize it more aggressively.”

Kominik says we need an overarching strategy for how we are planning to grow our trending industries, including digital, creative, gaming, medtech, food and aerospace.

“These are industries that are growing quickly in New Zealand and have the potential to deliver high quality returns — both socially and economically.

“It would be good to see how this scheme was feeding into supporting these sectors and companies to scale up and become even more ambitious.”

At the Auckland’s Future, Now Summit held earlier this month, Kominik told attendees that she is aware of companies with amazing technologies that would love to come to New Zealand right now.

“They want to do due diligence, they want to come through the border.”

She says New Zealand has the opportunity to define what our vision is and attract companies that support it to come and locate themselves here.

“These are billion-dollar companies already that are going to create high-value jobs,” she says. “We could take any kid who likes an engine, and we could turn them into an electric aircraft maintenance engineer — it’s a very, very high-value job right now.”

Early last year, the NZ Government signed a memorandum of understanding with Wisk to support a world-first passenger transport trial of its air taxi.

At the time of the announcement, Kominik said: “New Zealand’s focus on decarbonising its economy as part of the electric transport evolution directly aligns with Wisk’s mission to deliver safe, everyday flight for everyone through effective, accessible and sustainable urban air mobility solutions.”

Caroline Rainsford

Country Director for Google New Zealand, Caroline Rainsford, is pleased to see the Government’s announcement to support targeted, high-quality investment in New Zealand.

“This will lead us in a positive direction toward bringing skills and new technology here,” she says.

Rainsford says the targeted investment, coupled with the investment of $44 million to support small businesses through the extension of the Digital Boost Training Programme announced in the Budget — which Google has pledged to support — is critical to ensure the benefits of the growing digital economy are shared widely and equitably.

The Government says the programme will provide up to 60,000 small businesses with digital skills training to aid in “the transition to future ways of working”.

Speaking at the Auckland’s Future, Now Summit earlier this month, Rainsford said she has always believed in the role of digital transformation to support Auckland’s economy — but more so now than ever, and what is important is the uptake of skills.

“We can have all this technology and we can invest in ICT infrastructure in New Zealand, but if we don’t have the digital skills and capability, we can’t realise the benefit of it.”

She says whilst we are not doing a bad job in Auckland of embracing some of these, there is so much more opportunity.

“Every day I get first-hand experience of seeing businesses in New Zealand that over the last year have grappled with the impacts of Covid,” she says.

“I have seen companies embracing technology to reach customers digitally online both here in New Zealand and overseas. I have seen people using AI to really sort out the impacts on supply chain during Covid — but we need to do so much more.”

A report commissioned by Google New Zealand that was released last month calculates that if leveraged fully in the economy, digital technologies could create an annual economic value of $46.6 billion by 2030.

“To put this in perspective, this is equivalent to about 14 per cent of New Zealand’s GDP, or the combined GDP supported by Canterbury and Hawke’s Bay,” it says.

To fully capture the digital economy, the report has identified three main pillars of action the country could take.

This includes supporting the adoption of technologies in key industries, digitally upskilling the current workforce and future talent, as well as promoting digital export opportunities.

Across these areas, Google says it has made significant contributions in advancing New Zealand’s digital transformation journey.

This includes supporting the development of digital skills through programmes like the Google Certification Programme, Digital Fluency Intensive for teachers, and its partnership with Spark to run workshops to support New Zealand businesses in using digital tools by delivering digital skills training for small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) at no cost.

Rob Fyfe

The Government has foreshadowed opening the door to some 200 foreign investors through a reset of its immigration settings.

The announcement, made earlier this month by Tourism Minister Stuart Nash, was described by the government as a “once-in-a-generation reset” of the immigration system.

As part of the announcement, Nash — standing in for Immigration Minister Kris Faafoi — said new border exemptions would allow those representing high-value international investment interests to come to New Zealand over the next 12 months to conduct due diligence and transact the sort of deals that will play an important role in supporting New Zealand’s economic recovery from Covid-19.

“We want targeted, high-quality investment that establishes frontier firms, brings skills and technology to New Zealand,” he said.

“We have also created border exceptions for the Innovative Partnerships Programme and New Zealand Trade and Enterprise’s Investor Programme to enable representatives from global companies to come to New Zealand to conduct on-the-ground negotiations with companies that they wish to invest in.”

In making the announcement, Nash said the investment through these programmes will create highly-skilled jobs, enable the valuable transfer of knowledge and technology, and increase international connectivity for New Zealand firms as they allow us to position ourselves globally.

Rob Fyfe, who has been working as business liaison for the government, says he has been highlighting this opportunity since July last year, and the announcement took longer to arrive than he had hoped for.

“In the intervening period, some of the comparative advantage that existed in the back half of 2020 that was motivating interest in New Zealand as a significant destination for investment has probably dissipated,” he says.

That said, he says the opportunity is still significant and New Zealand continues to be an attractive destination for international investment.

“In principle I am encouraged by the announcement.

“As to whether 200 is enough — I have got no idea — a heck of a lot could be achieved by allowing 200 pre-qualified, validated investors into the country.

“I would hope if we exhaust that quota, because there is so much demand and opportunity, the Government would extend the quota.”

There is still little detail so far in the announcement, but Fyfe says it is important we move at speed to get the pipeline flowing.

He says we should be prioritising investment that stimulates either demand or supply of high value jobs in the economy and/or investment in technologies and capabilities that will enhance our global competitiveness and the advancement of our green economy and sustainability ambitions.

Competition, IP, and confidentiality issues mean that officials will need to be the decision-making authority to determine which investment interests are allowed to proceed, but Fyfe hopes they will consult with business leaders and academics to identify areas of focus and opportunities.

But he notes that any international investment needs to be supported by domestic investment in education and skills, and skilled migration to ensure we can provide the workforce to support inbound investment and the relocation of high-value businesses to New Zealand.

Green Building: Interview with Minister James Shaw (NZ Herald)

Green Building: Interview with Minister James Shaw (NZ Herald)

“When the Climate Change Commission released its draft advice in January 1, I said that I had never felt more confident that a climate-friendly, prosperous future for New Zealand was within reach,” says James Shaw. “But that will only possible if we take action to cut emissions right across the economy — including buildings.

“Right now, our homes and buildings are currently responsible for around 20 per cent of New Zealand’s carbon footprint.

“Emissions from the construction sector have increased by two thirds over the past decade. If we continue on this path and don’t change the way we build, the risk is that we lock in higher emissions for decades to come. That will only make it harder to meet our emission reduction targets and take us further away from fulfilling our commitment to future generations that we will pass on a cleaner, more stable, and less polluted planet.

“So what we need to be doing is rethinking the way we design, build and use our homes and workplaces so they have a positive impact on our climate and natural environment.

“Our Government has made a great start on this. For example, we are making sure all new Kāinga Ora public homes are energy efficient.

“We have also launched the Building for Climate Change programme to improve how we build while reducing carbon emissions.

“As my colleague the Minister for Building and Construction, Poto Williams, said in her piece for this business report, the change “envisaged by the programme is significant.” But it’s not only climate outcomes: the programme will also improve the energy efficiency of housing, meaning lower electricity bills, warmer, drier and better ventilated homes, and improved health outcomes for New Zealanders.”

The Herald asked Shaw, What is your vision for new builds?

Shaw: I think most people around the country want to know that their homes, and the places they work and spend time in at the weekends are part of the solution to climate change. Put simply, that’s my vision. I want people all over Aotearoa living, going to work, or socialising with friends in highly energy-efficient buildings powered by clean energy.

Changing the way we build to be more climate-friendly will be a huge part of this, but the truth is, most of the buildings that will be in place in 2050 — the date by which Aotearoa will need to be net-zero carbon — have already been built. So we also need to be thinking about how we reduce emissions from existing buildings.

In their draft advice the Climate Change Commission said that we need to improve the energy efficiency of buildings, alongside decarbonising the energy used for heating, hot water and cooking.

Once the Commission’s final advice is released at the end of May we will start work on an Emissions Reduction Plan setting out how we intend to meet our targets. That plan will need to cover every part of the economy — including, but not limited to, new and existing buildings.

Herald: What do you see as the biggest challenge for the industry to transform the built environment?

Shaw: I might not be the best person to explain the challenges of cutting emissions from buildings. What I’d most like is for the industry to share those challenges with us so that we can look at possible solutions.

I would imagine though that one of the main challenges is integrating low-carbon design principles right from the start. In other words, getting the engineering, technology, and design experts around the table right from the start.

Building emissions are primarily due to heating, cooling, and lighting, though the embodied emissions in materials are also significant. Decisions about all of these aspects of a building tend to be made fairly early in the process. If they could be made from the point of view of thinking about what can be done to reduce emissions, then that would make a huge difference. The Building and Climate Change Programme that I mentioned earlier will help with this, as it does set targets for new buildings to reduce embodied and operational emissions.

Herald: Building companies, real estate firms and others in the industry have urged the Government to speed up action on fulfilling its pledge on environmental standards in government buildings. Why are you not moving faster?

Shaw: The first thing to say is that I welcome the fact the building and construction sector want us to speed up action. It’s a positive sign of the part the sector sees itself playing in helping to meet our climate change targets.

There is no question that Aotearoa New Zealand’s future is low carbon. How quickly we get there will, of course, depend a great deal on the decisions we take over the next few years. And so if the sector does want us to move more quickly, I would encourage them to keep demanding more of us,

particularly as we start to think about what goes in the Emissions Reduction Plan. I would also encourage the sector to share their journey with New Zealanders more broadly so that everyone can see just how important this sector is to the future of Aotearoa New Zealand.

But that’s not all. The sector can also go further themselves. As I have said, the low carbon direction we are heading in is clear. And so, there is much the sector can do to generate new ideas, set industry ambition, and establish New Zealand’s building and construction sector as a global leader.

The Government does have a role to play in this and can lead by example.

As part of the recent commitment we made to require the public sector to achieve carbon neutrality by 2025, a new energy efficiency rating standard is being applied to government offices. Work is also under way on reducing embodied carbon in Government buildings and I have been leading an initiative to transition schools and hospitals up and down the country to clean energy. By making these changes we can harness the power of government procurement to lead by example and create opportunities for new skills and technologies to emerge.

Herald: Finally, what role do you hope the Government’s Emissions Reduction Plan will have in decarbonising buildings?

Shaw: The building and construction sector can, and should, play a key role in helping create a low carbon future for Aotearoa New Zealand.

Draft advice from the Independent Climate Change Commission says the same. In their report they identified some of the opportunities in this area, particularly around energy efficiency and construction materials.

Action to reduce emissions from all buildings will form a key part of the Emissions Reduction Plan which will be published later this year, after the Commission publishes its final advice.

Getting the Emission Reduction Plan right will be crucial. It is going to determine the direction of climate change policy for at least the next 15 years, so I would encourage the building and construction sector to input to that process.