Thursday, August 18, 2022

SWAG announces new entity to drive growth

Wool Impact New Zealand will be the new service delivery model to drive NZ’s strong wool sector growth.

SWAG chair Rob Hewett says Wool Impact NZ will not be a mash-up of industry representatives, but a newly constituted entity with its own clear purpose.

Wool Impact New Zealand will be the new service delivery model to drive NZ’s strong wool sector growth.

The new entity, the result of the Strong Wool Action Group’s (SWAG) 16-month project to devise a plan to lift the strong wool sector out of the doldrums, will kick-off in July.

Wool Impact NZ’s purpose is to facilitate innovation, support demand growth and enable a unified voice for strong wool in NZ to grow existing and generate new demand for strong wool consumer brands, products and services.

Essentially it will be for a three-year period as the catalyst to work with consumer-based projects to bring to life the work identified by SWAG, which ended its tenure on December 31.

SWAG chair Rob Hewett says the consumer-driven demand for natural and environmentally sustainable materials is a significant opportunity for the NZ strong wool sector.

He said the view is that NZ will run out of strong wool in five to seven years because of the proposed success of the new strong wool model.

Wool Impact’s core function is service delivery and its ability to engage with, and support others, will be critical.

“While the purpose and functions of Wool Impact are important, success will only come through effective connection across the strong wool industry ecosystem,” Hewett said.

Wool Impact will work alongside existing and new commercial partners to establish a wool fibre incubator and accelerator programme to deliver services facilitating innovation, support demand growth for commercial strong wool success and enable a NZ strong wool voice.

“There’s industry organisations out there doing some good stuff and this is about bringing the industry together in a complementary way, the bottom line being a unified voice and I’m confident that will happen,” he said.

“It’s not about a takeover, it’s a merger of interests added together under one umbrella to turbo-charge what Wool Impact will deliver.”

Wool Impact will begin as an industry-government funded entity, transitioning to a sheep-related industry-woolgrower funded partnership once established.

“It will be the glue on key issues incorporating diversity and independence in governance and a strong voice across key issues such as training, standards, innovation and funding,” he said. 

The new entity will not sell wool or wool product and it will not be contained within any existing commercial company, nor competitive with commercial value chains.

It will not be a farmer or industry entity nor a representative body or federation.

“The key will be a unified voice around a strong wool industry,” he said.

“Wool Impact will provide the core sector services that enable the strong wool sector to be match fit and better equipped to pursue the market-led future.

“We are not an industry body, we are a catalyst.

“We are not in for a long time, we are in for a good time.”

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

Wool Impact will pursue three years of project-transitional funding through the Ministry for Primary Industries (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.

“We are currently going around the meat industry and have confirmation from a big portion of the big five processors who have agreed to a three-year commitment,” he said.

Several industry organisations are also committed, with farmers the next target.

Woolgrower funding is not part of the initial budget, but will be sought as part of a transition to a sustainable model.

“The revenue that is deficient at the moment is farmers, but we are of the view farmers need to see it’s working before they put their hand in their pocket as we work through a three-year phased transition from Crown support to a self-funding model,” he said. 

“We expect by the end of year two farmers will see the value proposition is so compelling and see the logic to invest.”

Over the coming months a skills-based board of five to six members, including an independent chair, will be appointed.

He said Wool Impact will not be a mash-up of industry representatives, but a newly constituted entity with its own clear purpose.

“We will be recruiting a skills-based mix of directors that can support achievement of Wool Impact’s vision, purpose and functions,” he said.

“This does not mean that engagement with industry participants is not important – deep and consistent industry engagement will be critical to ensure Wool Impact’s services and activity meet industry needs and to support operational delivery and the organisational culture to underpin this.”

Wool Impact’s operational delivery will be guided by a small executive management team of three to four people who will scope and coordinate service delivery.

A residual group of SWAG, including Hewett, Dave Ferrier, Tom O’Sullivan and John Rodwell, together with chief executive Andy Caughey, will govern the transition period with Wool Impact NZ scheduled to be officially operational on July 1.

Minister backs call to unite sector

Minister for Primary Industries Damien O’Connor described the Wool Impact report as a “good solid report”.

“It’s not rocket science, it’s predictable but it does lay down clearly the pathway forward,” O’Connor said.

He said coordination among existing industry players is essential supported by some kind of levy income for an organisation that is going to be focused on areas identified in the report.

“It is essential that industry good activity is recommenced and driven by some independent but committed people and that available government funding will go into projects that have widespread support of this (Wool Impact NZ) organisation and industry players,” he said.

“At the start of this process my view was we can do no harm, we have committed quite an amount of taxpayer money and we have some clear guidelines for progress.

“It’s now up to all industry bodies and stakeholders in the wool sector to make it work.

“This should have all happened from an industry that had a vision, the absence of action has been caused by many different factors and it’s of little use litigating those issues.

“It’s now time to move forward with more unity than we have seen for decades that will deliver the progress and confidence we need.”

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