The targets to which Fit for a Better World aspires align very much with those of the seafood industry – productivity, sustainability and inclusivity, and I am delighted to represent the industry on this forum.
The seafood industry generates $5.2 billion in total economic output and is hugely important to Māori after the historic Fisheries Settlement in 1992. We employ around 16,500 people, many of whom reside in regional communities, and we have always recognised the importance of employing New Zealanders and maintaining strong connections to our coastal communities.
The COVID-19 pandemic further highlighted how important that is, and with significant labour shortages across the industry, MPI supported the sector to develop a Workforce Transition Plan, designed to attract and retain New Zealanders in meaningful employment in our sector.
The Plan outlines a series of initiatives designed to increase awareness of the industry and provide an understanding of the unique rewards and reality of working in the seafood industry—there’s simply no job like it. We are working with the education sector to make sure it is responsive to the industry’s needs.
Ensuring sustainability and environmental protection will continue to be front and centre, and innovation plays a big part in ensuring the industry’s environmental footprint lessens over time. Automation and technology are also key initiatives industry-wide, but particularly in the aquaculture sector.
The health and wellness of our people is critical. Seafood New Zealand is a supporter of another recently established initiative called FirstMate, set up to provide one-on-one support for our people. It is run by those who know the seafood sector and who understand the challenges that people face. These 'Navigators' can connect people to a range of services to provide support for physical and mental health, business and finance, or simply to be someone to listen at the other end of the phone.
We know that this is a particularly challenging time for many in the Food and Fibre sector, and that looks set to continue for some time. Initiatives such as Fit for a Better World, along with wider Government support, will help to ensure our economic prosperity.
Our people are resilient but, like much of the primary sector, are facing unprecedented times.
As part of Fit for a Better World, the food and fibre sector is well poised to do its part in achieving the economic and social goals needed to meet these challenges, and New Zealand’s future prosperity.