Three days ago I watched a series of lorries barrel through Gisborne carrying unprocessed logs to the port where they were loaded on to a ship.
That wood is heading overseas. Workers in another country will add value.
New Zealand unlocked just a small part of the wealth tied up in those logs.
We ate in The Works, a restaurant housed in an old Gisborne port building. There chefs took locally produced raw materials like fish, meat and vegetables then added value by turning them into $30 plates of food. We sipped Gisborne Chardonnay – a few cents worth of grapes turned into $40 bottles of wine.
At the time I thought how the economy would be boosted if New Zealand could move more of its economy higher up the value chain. Just as the restaurant does.
That’s what Callaghan Innovation could do. If the project succeeds, it won’t just move food, agriculture and wood processing up the value chain, it will help our industries capture the crowning heights. It’ll make us richer as a nation.
There’s a danger it could just become another top-heavy bureaucracy acting to widen the gap between innovators and the market. What we don’t need it more paperwork or more red tape. We certainly don’t need officials meddling at the sharp end of the economy.
Let’s hope CI can broker partnerships between innovators and industry. I’d like to see Callaghan Innovation get early runs on the board to prove its worth.