Learner-Focused, Industry-Led, Government-Enabled

Insights from Primary Industries Summit 2023

Food and fibre – roughly 80% of Aotearoa’s export receipts – will remain the mainstay of our export economy, but the growth of quality products (including value added) will require: a skilled workforce; the smart use of technology; and resilience to extreme events to be balanced with environmental sustainability, and industry’s ability to manage and afford compliance.

Not unsurprisingly talent, or the lack of it, was a hot topic. People remaining in the workforce longer simply does not offset the need for younger skilled talent. The ability to attract talent is only going to get worse. Continuing urbanisation, provincial population reduction, an aging workforce, long term changes in race demographics, and the lack of a national immigration strategy has far reaching impact for Aotearoa as a whole.

Coffee conversations post Distinguished Professor Paul Spoonley’s presentation on ‘New ways of thinking about the current and future primary sector workforce’ highlighted that a more sector cohesive approach to the deployment of talent is required. Muka Tangata’s proposal (which Food and Fibre CoVE supports) for more flexible and sector-wide qualifications should be pursued to allow skills to be shared across the food and fibre sector.

Technology’s role in combating talent availability should be carefully considered.  The role of technology, data collection and analysis must be complimentary to and enhance traditional techniques. Bio-tech (including the managed use of genetic engineering) is essential to the sector’s future growth and long-term viability, as well as climate change adaptation.

The duplication of effort and initiative that currently occurs across the food and fibre sector needs to be addressed. We should be looking for sector-wide cooperation and cohesion. A number of presenters said that to deal with the significant issues facing the sector and Aotearoa, a ‘joined-up’ discussion, between industry, government and the wider community needs to happen. To quote Nicole Rosie, CEO, Waka Kotahi, “New Zealand needs to have an adult conversation about what it wants its future to look like”.

It’s time to be part of the solution. Let’s make it happen.

@Paul Hollings is General Manager @FFCoVE

Posted as LinkedIn article 20 July 2023