Drought has contributed to New Zealand’s sheep flock falling over the past year.
Clifford Heath, who recently retired as Wool Equities Ltd (WEL) chairman, says this will help lift struggling sectors out their doldrums and build a diversified national economy.
Speaking at the NZ Primary Industry Summit in Wellington, last week, he urged primary sector leaders to see local carpet makers like Cavalier Bremworth and Godfrey Hirst as part of the agricultural sector.
“Godfrey Hirst and Cavalier Bremworth are no different from the Te Rapa dairy factory,” he told the 60 participants. “They are critical components of the New Zealand wool industry, because their almost total feed stock is wool off the farm.”
WEL’s applications for funding from PGP were knocked back because wool, when used in the textile sector, is not seen as part of agriculture.
Heath says this is sad and requires a change in attitude, particularly by the Government. The wool and sheep industry must be given the support dairy had in carrying its products around the world.
“Everyone talks all about the dairy industry as the prime, key driver of the New Zealand economy; we accept that but let’s ask ourselves ‘how did it get there?’ It got there because the Government actively decided that the dairy industry was a winner and it was helped to go places and get better access.
“If we did the same for other industries like wool and timber in particular, then we would have a strong and more diverse economy.”
Heath says the speech was his last speaking engagement as a wool industry leader.
He hopes the “little barb” about the lack of government support for the wool industry is carried to the halls of power. “In the halls of power, where I once strolled, they listened to us; they don’t appear to listen anymore.”