Co-operatives consider feedback

To provide constructive feedback to the Prime Minister’s newly formed Business Advisory Council, Farmlands recently hosted a roundtable with representatives from 12 New Zealand co-operatives.

Arranged by Cooperative Business New Zealand CEO, Craig Presland, the attendees discussed threats and opportunities to future business and the role of technology as a key driver in developing new business.

When considering threats to future business, including via compliance requirements and legislative constraints, Craig says the group made a number of conclusions.

“At least 95 percent of businesses will want to do the right thing, however compliance costs (money and time taken) are far too high and are therefore restricting progress and the speed of change,” he says.

“There are frustrations with the Resource Management Act 1991 (consents), the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 and the Employment Relations Act 2000, including inconsistent interpretation of all three. Timelines on new legislation are taking too long. There are also concerns over more frequent and impacting strikes by our public servants, the looming prospect of fair pay agreements (with at least two more to come before the next election) and raising of the minimum wage.”

The group deliberated the role of the media in helping to drive an unhealthy urban/rural divide. “This often involves the issue of environmental sustainability, including polluting of rivers and waterways. Yet sewerage and sedimentation are not driven by rural communities,” Craig says.

“Skilled labour is being lost, labour shortages are being met by overseas workers at an increasing rate. There is a need for better industry training programmes and better communications with government.”

The group made several conclusions about future business opportunities and how the government may assist in developing these (including exports).

“We are looking for consistency and a level playing field with regulations, incentives and driving overseas trade,” Craig says.

“We see opportunities in further developing and promoting authenticity through utilisation of technologies, so that our products and services in overseas markets are easily traced back to New Zealand. New Zealand Trade and Enterprise promotes ‘New Zealand Inc.’ well overseas, however are our agri-exporters doing the same?”

With the future of work rapidly changing as new technologies and worker expectations continue to evolve, Craig says we need to see the future more clearly and the New Zealand government can help.

“Contestable funding is also important to both fully understand and seek.”

The final discussion topic was the role of technology as a key driver in developing new business, as well as increasing the speed of business and support required from the government. Craig says the group concluded that New Zealand businesses need to be better connected with central and local governments, including those living in remote areas.

“The roll-out of broadband has been good, however is the pipe big enough to meet future needs and what contingencies are in place if we have problems?”

Automation replacing human labour was another issue that was considered.

“Workforce skills and capabilities will need to change,” Craig says. “We need to utilise hard facts that are discovered via technologies, so that we are acting on clear proof or evidence. There are also concerns over cyber security and how we store and protect data.”

Following a similar meeting held in Auckland in November, an overview of the discussions was collated and sent to the Business Advisory Council, providing co-operatives with a strong voice in the feedback process.