ISSUES : Imagine NZ – A 2020 Vision

If imagining the future is large part of creating it, then the next couple of decades will see this country characterised by skilled and innovative people able to make the most of our distinctive heritage in global marketplace from base that is both business friendly and environmentally sustainable.
That’s if we get our infrastructural issues sorted, win the talent wars, save some dosh to fuel investment and get excited about what we can do in the world.
Those were some of the themes that emerged when we asked some of our top chief executives, directors and leading business figures to imagine New Zealand’s business environment and its place in the world in 2020. If there is shared vision for our business future, then it perhaps devolves around new confidence in what we can offer the world and the energy to embrace the future we want.
But we won’t do it without the right people.
“A skilled and deep talent pool is just fundamental,” says NZX chief executive Mark Weldon. “If we don’t adjust our immigration mindset into recruiting and retaining great people, don’t develop value-adding sectors be they technology or biotech, and don’t have markets around which our skilled human capital can build company value, then our future won’t look that good. If we have those things, they’ll create very virtuous circle for success.”
NZIM chair Robin Dunlop also puts strong emphasis on the quality of our human capital.
“We have to retain innovative people and demonstrate they can achieve their life objectives and work globally from New Zealand base. There is retention issue – people tend to leave the country to gain work or life experience, but why not acquire it from here?”
Brett Gamble, strategy director for Solid Energy and the 2006 NZIM/Eagle Technology Young Executive of the Year, agrees that attracting and retaining highly skilled people is key to success – and that “global competition for skilled human resource has never been more intense”.
“This is significant issue for many industries as New Zealand struggles to match employee packages in the global market.”
Overcoming this means creating world-class onshore opportunities, advancing offshore investment by local companies whose ability to provide offshore career opportunities will help bridge the OE gap – and ensuring the tax framework is not out of step with competing countries, says Gamble.
This country’s unspoilt, friendly character is major benefit, notes Air New Zealand CEO Rob Fyfe.
“What perfect ingredients to retain, attract and inspire some of the most talented people in the world to want to work here on projects that can genuinely make significant difference in our world be they innovations in technologies that lead to more sustainable environment – critical to preserving our natural beauty and quality of life for future generations – or be they in bioengineering, IT or communications.”
That, says Fyfe, will require huge change to how we educate, attract and retain business and people.
“It requires that we take some risks and transform our economy away from the safe and secure industries on which we have built our nation – but that won’t provide for our future.”
Perhaps inevitably he sees tourism as key path to this success.
“We want people to come here to what we’ve got – and to want to be part of the New Zealand dream.”
Deloitte chair Nick Main envisages future where the development of New Zealand as an innovation centre is supported by an increasingly well-educated workforce.
“One of the key features has been the increasing involvement by business in education to help ensure people have great opportunities to develop in ways that will give them meaningful careers. This is now well integrated in the education system and seen by business as part of their social responsibility as well as pragmatic response to global skills shortage.”
This in business environment that is inclusive, linked with the communities it operates within and networked into offshore markets where it has proved an adept provider of niche products as well as itself providing an ideal market for product development and testing. By 2020, says Main: “The amount of money ploughed back into research by both the government and by industry is now an OECD benchmark.”
And we have “a deep savings pool” on which business investors can draw, adds Weldon. That’s because compulsory super has come into effect and someone has had the guts to put capital tax on property investments (excluding own home). Main also sees advantages in compulsory savings.
“Unless people invest then they can only expect to be paid as employees and they and the country will not get the bene-fits that accrue to the owners of capital.”
Weldon also sees future for New Zealand as player in massive global carbon markets.
“We’ve got the green brand, the brand for honesty – and authentication is important here, we sit well in the time zones and have very strong renewable energy profile. There is real economic opportunity in becoming one of the homes of all knowledge around the renewable sector.”
Gamble also sees opportunities in enhancing our natural resources as well as building strength as an exporter of high value niche products and services. By 2020 we will be “balanced between economic transformation and environmental sustainability”, he says. There are opportunities to apply our mineral resources to producing low-cost power, high quality, low-emission diesel and the production of pure hydrogen which would position us to capitalise on the much touted zero emissions hydrogen economy.
Our wealth of renewable energy resources “gives New Zealand the ability to be energy self sufficient by 2020, securing key global competitive advantage”, says Gamble.
Several of our business leaders note that one vital ingredient to future success is confidence.
“That’s the single biggest challenge – it drives everything,” says Weldon. “We have to have corporate sector that is confident about going offshore and absolutely owning and managing assets… I think we’re on the cusp of that.”
Yep – New Zealand in 2020 will have new-found confidence about its place in the world, says Deloitte’s Main.
“It no longer apologises for itself as small distant country but gets on as if that does not matter. It understands its unique and valuable roles in the Pacific and in Asia and its historic links to the ‘old world’.
“Its mix of peoples and cultures provides an exciting environment and New Zealand is no longer afraid to make major decisions about the future.”
The world, he says will not wait for hesitant New Zealand.
“It is up to us to decide what sort of country we want, how we participate with the rest of the world and what sort of business environment we need to achieve these objectives. Business leaders have an important role in this debate.
The big message for business, he concludes, is to become more involved.
“If you don’t speak out about the important role business plays in creating wealth for society – then who will. You have big role in developing sustainable economy and need to be aware of the environment issues that concern the society you operate in… And it is business that can make success of growing our overseas markets. Developing New Zealand’s economy is not sideshow – and, at least in part, it’s up to us.”

Mark Franklin: CEO, Vector

New Zealand’s business environment in 2020 will be: bold, global, innovative, skilled and converged.

And its place in global markets: competitive, attractive investment destination, exciting prospect, inspirational and connected.

Biggest challenges to overcome: In order to ensure our ongoing evolution as dynamic and responsive economy, we need to be fully resourced in terms of access to knowledgeable and skilled workforce, enabling the investigation of emerging technologies and how to maximise these for the benefit of all New Zealand. We need to have enough foresight for our people to understand the

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