Fast Forward Fund will help cope better with high dollar

Friday 18 April 2008, 6:23PM
By Hon Jim Anderton


New Zealand needed to find a way to prosper even with a high dollar, agriculture minister and Progressive leader Jim Anderton said today in a speech to an agricultural innovation workshop.

Lincoln University he said farmers cannot credibly support the current Reserve Bank Act and at the same time complain our dollar is too high.

New Zealand needed to find a way to prosper even with a high dollar. A new vision for the industry built around innovation and market responsiveness would be needed.

“To some extent, the high value of the dollar is beyond our control. There isn’t much New Zealand can do about global financial tides. We should not try to resist the pressures of the US dollar falling in value,” Jim Anderton said.

“Instead we should structure our industries to prosper. Price setting businesses cope with the high dollar better than price taking businesses. Over time we want our incomes relative to the rest of the world to rise, and they do, then our dollar will surely rise too. We need export strategies built around prospering with a permanently higher exchange rate.

“I am very encouraged that the meat industry is looking to work together to address some of the longer term issues facing the meat sector. But if we’re frank then we need to acknowledge that even the most optimistic industry structure cannot be seen as a silver bullet that is going to solve all of our issues.

“The main priority, regardless of the ultimate industry structure, is that any proposal should be based around a clearly articulated industry strategy. Its vision needs to spell out how it can add value to the products we produce; How can we get into new markets; and how we can work together to grow the size of our exports instead of scrapping over the tidbits we have now.

“Our meat and wool industries will only achieve breakthrough growth through innovation.

“I was very pleased that last month the government stepped up to the plate with industry and announced New Zealand Fast Forward.

“Over time, because the fund will be invested over a decade or so while it is paying out for research, it will grow to be worth $2 billion. It’s locked in a fund because it forms a genuine long-term commitment - not the kind of ad hoc funding that can be whipped away from year to year as the pressure comes on budgets.

“We need to achieve a step change in our innovation and New Zealand Fast Forward is designed to achieve it; to be a catalyst for breakthrough science. This is a real opportunity to lift the fortunes of our economy.

“I regret that our political opponents have said they will axe the fund.” Jim Anderton said.