One of New Zealandís recent exports, A J Hackettís inaugural dive in 1986 resounded globally and spawned a new sport

Life on the edge
Kiwi ingenuity is fuelling cutting-edge global industries in communications, biotechnology and, of course, film

New Zealand enjoys one of the lowest population densities in the world. Four million inhabitants in a space similar to the size of the United Kingdom mean New Zealanders have plenty of room to think.

Its people have taken advantage of this space to make the country what it is today, coming up with the ideas that have driven New Zealand forward. These ideas were often unreasonable: a belief in conquering the world’s highest mountain, or in making the world’s highest grossing film series outside Hollywood. Yet New Zealand’s innovators continue to have a real impact on the world.

So how to translate this can-do attitude and creativity into economic growth? “We intend to move up the quality chain,” insists deputy premier and finance minister Michael Cullen, “In the agricultural sector, for instance, we have to become more of an experimental farm and less of a production farm.”

This kind of thinking has seen New Zealand move to the cutting-edge of traditional sectors such as agriculture. However, the latest Kiwi innovations are shaking up a range of industries worldwide. By combining unreasonableness and a gift for creative problem-solving, New Zealanders have the world in their sights like never before.

Wellington-based Weta Workshop provided design and digital solutions for the filming of ‘The Lord of the Rings’ trilogy, winning a whole host of international awards in the process, and has gone on to become a fixture of the international film and television industry. Company director Richard Taylor sees New Zealand as the inspiration for such achievement: “Over a very short lifespan, we have seen New Zealand make a big contribution on the world stage, fashioning things from our unique attributes, our unabashed enthusiasm to give things a go.”

New Zealand ranked 2nd out of 175 countries in The World Bankís 2007 Doing Business Survey

The country is also benefiting from advances in communications that mean the ‘tyranny of distance’ is no longer such an issue.
“We have a very specific and significant role in the world: to make new things,” says Brian Sweeney (INTERVIEW), founder & director of The New Zealand Edge. He is convinced that being at the edge of the world is definitely not the end of the world. “New Zealand gives you a great vantage point from which to run a global business. It gives you perspective as you spend your time looking at and thinking about the rest of the world.”

The business environment is certainly attractive. In 2007, the World Bank ranked New Zealand second out of 175 countries in its Doing Business survey, recognising the space and freedom New Zealand gives its people and those from abroad who all share a common aim – to do business.

“You can register a company and be up trading within about two hours,” says New Zealand Trade and Investment CEO, Tim Gibson (INTERVIEW). “What we need to do is ensure that the broader business environment in New Zealand remains benign to companies.”

Premier Helen Clarke’s government is providing space for the growth of New Zealand’s reputation, with the 2007 Business Tax Reform lowering corporate rate tax to 30% and bringing New Zealand’s tax laws in line with international norms. “Whilst we are focused on the need to provide more of our own capital, we are aware that there are a lot of good New Zealand companies who would benefit greatly from some degree of offshore involvement,” says Dr Cullen.

Legislative reform is facilitating growth and FDI, and developments in new sectors such as communications and biotechnology are creating confidence in the future. In this environment Kiwi ideas will keep coming. In New Zealand there’s time to think, and plenty of opportunities to act upon.