Friday, July 1, 2022

Strong wool plan still under wraps

Frustration is mounting as the group tasked with  revitalising the strong wool industry remains tight-lipped.

While little detail has been revealed the new entity, Wool Impact NZ, is the result of the strong wool action group’s (SWAG) project to lift the strong wool sector out of the doldrums.

Just three weeks out from the scheduled July 1 launch of the proposed new entity and its business operating structure, industry is frustrated over the lack of engagement.

“There is concern that there’s been no update,” National Council of NZ Wool Interests (NCNZWI) chair Rosstan Mazey said.

Members want to know where the establishment committee is at.

“People want to know how the entity will run, who is the chair, who is the board and the business operating team.

“Industry is eager to learn who is this new entity and to be able start engaging with it,” Mazey said.

Campaign for Wool NZ chair Tom O’Sullivan says the lack of communication is not endearing to wool industry participants, suggesting a lack of transparency.

“We need this (Wool Impact) establishment committee to act in a transparent way, certainly there’s far too much happening behind closed doors.

“We have heard nothing officially for a couple of months now, we were told this would be signed off in January, we were told we would get board and chair announcements before Easter it’s almost the supposed launch date (July 1) and we know it’s not signed off but nothing more.

“What I am seeing in industry, and I am working with a lot of different industry people, is some real frustration, a lot of people are already grumpy, it’s certainly not starting on the right foot,” O’Sullivan said.

“We (Campaign for Wool) have been waiting for three years to sit down and discuss what is happening with this government initiative and still we have no chance to sit around the table.”  

Set to launch on July 1, Wool Impact is the new service delivery model identified to drive NZ’s strong wool sector growth, the work identified by SWAG, which ended its tenure on December 31, 2021.

Establishment chair Rob Hewett declined to comment other than to say, “things are on track we just can’t announce anything”.

He says there is no announcement because the contract with the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) is still waiting sign off by the Minister, Damien O’Connor.

Despite understanding that the establishment committee is well advanced with key governance, including an independent chair, and operational business appointments, Hewett is standing firm on revealing any detail until the contract with MPI is signed. 

The annual budget for Wool Impact NZ is forecast at $3.8 million a year for three years.

Wool Impact is pursuing three years of project-transitional funding through the MPI Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures (SFFF) programme.

Over the three-year transitional period government funding is expected to come in at 40% of the $3.8m with industry, meat processors and other commercial participants filling the remaining 60% funding.

MPI director investment programmes Steve Penno says MPI is working towards a date with an industry group.    

“We’re working with the industry group that is establishing Wool Impact to enable it to start by July 1,” Penno said. 

MPI referred Farmers Weekly to Hewett for further comment.

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