In previous articles I have talked about the need to develop higher value industries and jobs in the Western Bay.
While this region is viewed by many as being well off, the reality is that we have lower incomes than the New Zealand average and other comparable cities.
Coupled with our high costs of living via housing prices, this causes problems in our community. While at least our incomes are improving relatively quickly off a low base, we need to accelerate this further.
The announcement last week of a proposed joint venture between Zespri and Plant & Food Research is a great step towards creating that higher value economy.
The proposed Kiwifruit Breeding Centre strengthens the existing relationship between the two organisations and will provide the industry with more focus and investment in the breeding programme.
Kiwifruit is very important to this region; it is our largest export earner and creates many jobs, with future plans to expand the footprint of the industry.
It is a great crop to have from an economic point of view, having successfully increased both price and volume for a number of years. The industry’s focus on taste and the needs of their customers has allowed them a strong market position.
On the other hand, we really felt the PSA crisis – the effect of the disease on the Western Bay economy was the same as what we would see in a wider economic recession.
In that case we were spared it lingering by the very quick introduction of a new variety which came out of the Plant & Food / Zespri breeding programme.
Our future needs to be based on creating higher value out of our existing industries, creating more valuable jobs for our community and ultimately putting more money in the back pocket of our people.
Creating opportunities for increased investment in R&D in our primary and export industries puts us well on the way to that.