Friday, February 23, 2024

Group has plans for wool’s impact

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The Government has invested $4.5 million in a new venture to drive export growth for New Zealand’s strong wool sector.

Under new industry body, Wool Impact, the $11.4m programme is designed to facilitate innovation and support growth to enable a unified voice for strong wool in NZ while growing existing and generating new demand for strong wool consumer brands, products and services.

Wool Impact is a collaboration between the Government and industry sector partners under the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFFF) fund.

The new service delivery model is the result of the Strong Wool Action Group’s (SWAG) project to devise a plan to lift the strong wool sector out of the doldrums.

The three-year programme sees sector partners, including WoolWorks and sheep meat processing entities, contributing $6.9m on top of the Government’s $4.5m investment.

In line with the Government’s funding commitment signalling the green light to launch the new model on July 1, Wool Impact has announced four of the five board members that will lead the new entity.

The new members joining the board of directors effective immediately are Mike Allen, independent chair; Nick Aubrey, Sharon Cresswell and Bridget Giesen.

Allen has 25 years’ experience in investment banking with previous board roles in NZ and internationally, including Investore Properties Limited, Quay St Asset Management, Taumata Plantations Ltd and Vincent Capital. 

Aubrey is the founder and managing director of the NZ Luxury Group, a marketing and market development company working to deliver NZ leather and textiles to discerning global customers. 

He also works as business development manager for Wool Source developing market value proposition for a suite of new use strong wool products. 

Cresswellis a director of the Network for Learning (N4L), a Crown company providing a safe and secure internet network for all learners in NZ schools and kura. 

With strong commercial and financial acumen, she brings many years’ experience working with boards as a director, advisor, auditor and senior executive. 

Giesen is a board member at Puketeraki Limited, Ngai Tahu Holdings and Runaka start-up business Taramea Fragrance Limited. 

She has17 years’ experience in leadership, professional services, corporate finances and strategy roles for NZX-listed organisations, Iwi and government and currently leads the Māori Investment team at NZ Trade and Enterprise to develop NZ’s aquaculture sector. 

One further board member is yet to be announced.

SWAG chair Rob Hewett says the directors were all measured and selected against a specific set of transparent competencies to deliver a high-functioning skills-based board. 

“SWAG is delighted with the quality and calibre of appointees to the Wool Impact board. 

“All have extensive skills across multiple sectors with demonstrable experience building brands and revenue on a global scale. 

“This is crucial for the wool sector to meet changing consumer demands for natural, sustainable, regenerative, and hypo-allergenic products,” Hewett says.

The level of interest from people with the capability, passion and interest in the sector is a vote of confidence for the future of strong wool.

“We have a fresh bunch of new faces with new blood introduced into the sector with a couple of wise old heads, one who is not in a position to be announced just yet.”

Wool Impact will employ three full-time employees, including SWAG chief executive officer Andy Caughey, who will work with project partners to implement the strategic plan. 

Hewett says the confirmed funding model demonstrates how industry and government can work together to drive growth for NZ’s strong wool sector. 

“I can’t recall a time where there has been such widespread collaboration between our wool and meat sectors. 

“We are seeing consumers around the world driven by sustainability, environmental impact, and animal welfare by seeking these attributes from the products they choose to purchase. 

“As a result, our industries are coming together to create these opportunities in ways we haven’t seen before.”

Future funding will need to see farmers investing over time.

“There’s a three-year runway to get projects off the ground and in operation.

“Farmers will need to invest over time, how that invokes, I’m not sure, that’s for Wool Impact to work out.”

So, what now for Rob Hewett?

“I always knew I wouldn’t take SWAG through this next level, but I’ll still have investment interest as a sector partner through the meat industry.

“Meantime I will be watching and observing from the back seat instead of the front seat – but yes, I am mindful of the back seat driver too.”

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