I am passionate about Hawke’s Bay.

That explains, on the one hand, my enormous enthusiasm over the years for the exciting potential of our region. And on the other hand, it explains my frustration as I see so much wasted opportunity and clinging to the past in the face of almost incomprehensible change.

Mind you, this is not just some momentary or localised burst of change. So let me start with the big picture.

What is changing is the world order, perhaps on a scale and at a pace more profound than in any period of civilisation. The Western world in which we here in Hawke’s Bay stand rooted is in dire need of creating a new future, through new and different thinking.

Current thinking, based on the past, will not work for the West … it isn’t now and will not in the future. Anyone who pays even casual attention to global developments beyond our shores must now realize that. And even more so if you are a New Zealander who actually experiences firsthand the changes occurring globally – as you work abroad or with foreign partners in commerce, education, health, the digital environment … any field.

The West needs to reinvent itself and earn its place in a rapidly emerging new world order – one no longer driven by the economic might or thinking of the US. In ten, maybe twenty years, will the US dollar be the world’s reserve currency? Many say most unlikely. Today’s currencies wars will not allow that.

The world is now a much more integrated global economy, each of us interdependent and reliant on one another. Asian economies have, however, generally responded to the challenges of creating a new future much better than those of the West. Their more autocratic style of government has brought about fundamental change more rapidly. The thinking of the Asian people is vastly different – especially their intensely competitive nature and will to win. Innovation is a hallmark, with the young driving much new and different thinking.

The global financial crisis brought about profound change in consumer purchasing behaviour in the West. It is now all about frugal consumption. Even in Asia and other emerging economies, it is now also about ‘frugal innovation’. High value that is affordable is the driver of consumer goods and services for the future.

So the needs of, and solutions for, a rapidly changing world are vastly different than ever before. Amidst the chaos and uncertainty are so many new opportunities, for those who think differently.

But to create a new future, governments (at every level), central banks, businesses, the community at large and each of us as individuals needs to let go of the past.

Old paradigms are breaking; new ones need to be invented. The future will be all about innovation and use of new technologies … plus new values.

Against this backdrop of massive world change, countries and regions within them must adapt if they wish to create a new, sustainable and prosperous future.

The Bay is languishing

Hawke’s Bay is no different. We cannot escape the need for change. But today the Bay is languishing, even as our challenges and opportunities are unprecedented.

But the circumstances require quantum change, driven by bigger, braver and bolder thinking.

Hawke’s Bay desperately needs a single strategic vision for economic growth and future vitality. We must maximise the economic potential of the region, leveraging our agri-business base, which includes ensuring security of water supply, but also undertaking transformational initiatives.

And if we can maximise the economic attributes of our region at a local level (and other regions do the same),

we can better get the country right. Hawke’s Bay can become a major contributor to enhanced economic and social prosperity for the country.

The youth of today are our future, as they will introduce the new thinking … but they need employment. One of the most disturbing changes in the world order is the high level of youth unemployment in the West. A portent of future social unrest.

We must therefore prepare our children to take their place in the new world order. A world about to be taken over by highly motivated, highly industrious, highly competitive and rigorously educated young people from countries who are eagerly striving forward.

For our children to secure jobs in the future and be remotely competitive will require radical changes in how we educate them. We need much more direct linkages between ‘schooling’ and employers and the real-world workplace. More encouragement and recognition for those who achieve excellence, including mastering a trade apprenticeship. Build pride and self-esteem through striving to win.

What should Hawke’s Bay do?

So what should we do here in the Bay?

Although Hawke’s Bay continues to have unrealised economic potential, we need to focus on bigger projects, especially needed new infrastructure, if we are to maximise our economic and social development.

Hawke’s Bay in 2025 could look like this:

  • A University with faculties for world leading agri-business, Asian studies and tourism research and education … to create the intellectual capital for supporting and driving a new regional economy.
  • At least two four star plus hotels … to cater for major tourism opportunities, especially from Asia and New Zealand.
  • A major convention and conference centre … for national, Asia/Pacific and International conventions, especially in agri-business and tourism.
  • An airport with a jet-capable runway of appropriate length and associated facilities … to provide a better national and international gateway for business and tourism to a vibrant and exciting new region.
  • An additional major food company … to produce and export high value and affordable branded food products, especially to Asia.
  • A major kitset-type furniture manufacturing company – the Asia/Pacific export hub, for example, for IKEA.
  • An incubator for start-up IT companies to focus on agri-business … to leverage regional world leading strengths in agri-business.

And support infrastructure to attract further investment:

  • A major shopping mall adjacent to the convention centre … the Mall of New Zealand to attract international, especially Asian, retail and leisure visitors, as well as from New Zealand.
  • A children’s amusement park as part of the Mall of New Zealand … for a total family environment offering and to attract more visitors.
  • A cultural heritage centre … to reflect the ethnic diversity of the region and for tourism.
  • A closed-roof sports stadium for up to 20,000 spectators … for securing a better share of major sports and entertainment events.

If we can tick several of these boxes, the people of Hawke’s Bay really will have achieved something. We would be moving forward with the rest of the world … and especially with our friends and competitors in Asia, from whom much of the capital investment will need to come.

But that can only come about through a united regional vision promoted by a new, vibrant single local government organisation.

New and different thinking will also be required in health and welfare, the environment, and investment in business and education. Leveraging the economic potential of Hawke’s Bay is, however, the fundamental driver of the new future. It has to be ‘got right’ first.

What is the alternative?

Personally, I don’t think we have an alternative to making dramatic change. But I know there are those who say Hawke’s Bay can just stay the course, stick with the familiar, and glide comfortably into the future.

To them I say that will not be good enough to survive into the future. To prosper in a new world will require excellence at all levels and on-going continuous improvement. An egalitarian society will not succeed, or be good enough for those who cherish a high standard of living and prosperity for all citizens.

It means hard, hard work … but the opportunities are there for those who wish to take them and commit to the effort and visionary thinking needed.

Graeme Avery has over four decades of experience in export market development in Australasia, Asia, Europe and the Americas. For 33 years with his former world-leading pharmaceutical publishing business, and more recently, over ten years devoted to establishing Sileni in 58 global markets. He was instrumental in establishing the Hawke’s Bay Food Group and Hawke’s Bay Wine Country Tourism private sector group after his move to reside in Hawke’s Bay in mid-1999.

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1 Comment

  1. I certainly agree with Mr Avery's thoughts. Yes his vision is a little radical but clearly that is what is needed. Hawke’s Bay does need to reinvent itself? The recent 'Better Hawkes Bay' movement may be the first step toward an evolution or maybe even a revolution.

    I am not a Hawke’s Bay native so have no real ties to the past – maybe that is good, maybe not. Hawkes Bay is a great place, you just have to look out the window to see that, and in terms of lifestyle it ranks right up there. Clearly primary industry has driven the economic growth and with that many supporting industries have sprouted and developed. Those industries will always be an important cornerstone in the local economy. But in today’s topsy turvy, ever changing world is that now enough? For Hawke’s Bay to really add value to its economy does it need to reinvent itself?

    Reading the local economic statistics is scary. The region is not going backwards (yet) but it is also not moving forward either. The key is adding value to the the Hawke’s Bay brand. We don’t want to wrap Hawke’s Bay in a brown paper bag and sell it for a 50 cents a serve. But rather reinvent it, make it glossy and shiny and something that is wanted and needed and give people a reason to happily pay $5, $10 or even $20 a serve.

    Cleary in order to add this value there would be a combination of things needed. Who knows maybe one day Hastings may become the NZ Centre of Excellence for Agricultural R&D and Napier becomes the becomes the Convention Centre capital of NZ, Onekawa the Centre for Engineering Excellence, Whakatu the IT hub etc. These ideas are possibly a stretch and a little left field but with the right incentives and unified local government structure it may be a starting point to attract more businesses to the set up shop in the region therefore increase salaries, skills, GDP and the long term future for the region.

    Bringing up a young family in Hawke’s Bay is great but what concerns me is the kids future. What does the region hold for them? At the moment I would have to say not much. The reality is that when they are at an age when they can move they will, that is unless there is something here that will offer them security, career development and a strong economic future.

    Most recently I have had firsthand experience at how the underperforming Hawke’s Bay economy impacts local people and families. My brother in law is university educated and has 15 years plus experience working in management roles in the agricultural industry here in Hawke’s Bay. In June last year he was made redundant and was unable to find work locally. At the end of last year an old colleague of his made contact with him, things progressed and he has since been offered a job in Melbourne. The house has just been sold and this week he, his wife, (who incidentally is a qualified kindergarten teacher and one of only a few specialized people in NZ who is qualified to trained gifted children), and their son (who attends Hereworth on a full scholarship) are heading off to start a new life in Melbourne. I doubt they will come back. He indicated that there are 4-5 other Hawke’s Bay families who have recently relocated – more or less for the same reason. For NZ that’s a loss but for Hawke’s Bay a tragedy.

    To me this is the crux of the whole issue and the reason why Hawkes Bay needs to reinivent itself.

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