16 Aug 2012

Exporters cautiously optimistic about Govt's plan

9:03 am on 16 August 2012

There's cautious optimism among exporters about the Government's plan to boost the sector's share of the economy to 40% by 2025.

Finance Minister Bill English and fellow ministers Steven Joyce and Tim Groser released the Government's first progress report towards reaching its target.

Mr English says it will be tough to reach, particularly since it can't do anything about the high New Zealand dollar, which is exporters' main gripe.

"We can't influence the dollar much, the tool kit is pretty limited and so we're focusing on what we can influence, which is making it easier for these companies to be profitable".

Mr English says the target could be reached if people continue to keep their spending under control and save more, and public spending is reined in so there's more money available for export firms.

Mr Joyce says building the export sector by reducing red tape, allowing more mining, and encouraging greater investment in value-added manufacturing will bring high wage, sustainable jobs.

He says without a better process for managing resource consents it would not be possible to get the capital investment to achieve the goal by 2025.

Wedgelock chief executive Matthew Clavert says access to capital remains the biggest barrier to expanding overseas.

He says there is no shortage of innovation and ideas in New Zealand, but it's about trying to build a business model of the right scale that is low on capital requirement.

Mr Clavert says smaller export businesses find it difficult to raise capital in lots of up to $10 million, so there needs to be a focus on strategies to assist businesses in that category.

ExportNZ executive director Catherine Beard questions whether there's enough new ideas to help exporters reach the target.

She says policies that encourage similar firms to compete and collaborate should also be considered.

The report also considers improving access to international markets, making it easier to trade from New Zealand and helping businesses become global entities.

Other reports will address innovation, skills, capital markets, infrastructure and resources.