Dan Steele, 2015 Nuffield Scholar
In September I attended Australia’s Nuffield conference in Darwin to catch up with the scholars I had met before and to meet some new ones.
The Northern Territory was an interesting part of the world to see, and what better way to explore new territory and gain some valuable insights than a Nuffield tour? I was the only Kiwi to attend, and found myself in the company of one English, one Irish and one Dutch scholar, and many Australians.
The Northern Territory?
Well, it’s hot, flat and full of crocodiles, and it has been periodically bombed, invaded and flattened by cyclones. The tour offered a top look around a very diverse and difficult area, from buffalo milking, croc farming and raising barramundi by the tone to growing durians, jackfruit and oranges bigger than your head.
We saw and tasted much of what the far north of Australia has to offer. As one of the local scholars told us, a lot of the terrain is ‘GAFA country’, it has great amounts of… not much.
Nonetheless, the northern half of Australia produces 54% of Australia’s export, and that from 5% of the population! Most of their export products come from under the ground, I believe – mainly mineral fuels and ores.
Darwin and the Northern Territory consider themselves the gateway for products from Asia, with 400 million people only a few hours flight time away. Therefore, Asia’s close to one billion emerging middle class and their strong demand for quality produce, formed a significant theme of the conference.
Also, some problems that emerge when trading with Asia were cited: animal welfare, over-regulation and a lack of labour and agricultural leadership. Surprisingly, there was no mention of synthetic foods becoming an issue – a major point of discussion in New Zealand at the moment.
From the conference
…and the Australian scholars in particular, I gathered that New Zealand is seen as having a fantastic rugby team, a jointly named plant called ‘manuka’ (which they strongly claim) and a very strong business model: we know how to market the quality and story of our products worldwide.
The Australian Wool Innovation company seems to be doing some good work educating people around the planet. They have partnered with the global high fashion brand Prada whose salespeople will be showcasing the health and quality benefits of wool products all over the world – quite a coup!
New Zealand is rather competitive with Aussie – but look, they are quite easy to beat at rugby. I believe that we should form strategic partnerships with our mates over the ditch. Sort out a joint honey plan to take on the world. Try to get alongside some of the good work they are doing with wool and utilize their gateway into Asia.
We are very different countries but surely there could be some great strength in unity. Nuffield could lead the way in forming some of those relationships.