NZ’s ‘RocketLab of the West Coast’

Innovation eliminates slippage for tracked vehicles and creates an 800 job future for South Taranaki.

The future is in the regions. The future is in automation. The future is not in oil and gas. That is the message delivered and heard by New Zealanders, business and in government. Each group has a different view on what the future may hold and while views provide a potential lens into where things might go, they’re not as reliable as the vectors of action taken by private enterprise.

One of those vectors that obeys the triptych of potential futures mentioned above, comes in the form of a private innovation hub that is being built on the back of patents worth millions created from a weird business niche that New Zealand is already dominating. What weird problem did this invention exploit?

Bulldozers and diggers are the biggest of toys for the heaviest of jobs yet their heft has a hard time gripping on slippery surfaces. With a lifetime of solving the mechanical, John Burling created a gripping track that attached to the biggest of machinery ensuring the driver could maintain a sturdy footing no matter what the terrain.

Sounds too simple, yet the best ideas are. John followed this through with action to get his patented invention in front of the people who made the biggest machinery in the world. He then went about securing a deal with Caterpillar USA that will save lives in the US and bring a high tech job boom to his home region of South Taranaki.

That’s where the story gets interesting, because while fears over the loss of certainty with oil and gas revenue has the region looking at alternatives, Carac Group has never had so much certainty about their economic future.

“We’ll be looking at needing 800 jobs to the region in the next five years.” John Burling — MD Carac Group.

John is hiring the smartest and most curious people he can find to work in his innovation lab to bring to market a long line of inventions that create the alternative economic fuel of South Taranaki’s future.

I’m excited by this story because it reinforces the thesis I put forth in the first chapter of 100% Kiwi Business. Our future is not in big oil or big dairy alone, although those economic powerhouses will always be a mainstay of our economy. Our future is in the weird business niches that may ‘only’ be worth $150m in revenue pa each globally, but if we had 80 more of these businesses exporting, that’s another $12bn per annum in export receipts.

New Zealand’s Weird Business Future

John Burling is not alone. There are new leaders of weird business niches appearing all the time. Paul Manning from Helius Therapeutics sees a $300m medicinal cannabis market ripe for the picking.

Karen & Martin Stratford from Aflex Technologies in Nelson are world leaders in inflatable play equipment for commercial pools. Dairy Nutraceuticals new $10m+ production plant will be doing it’s first full production runs soon specialising in milk colostrum to give infants the best possible start in life.

Individually, these New Zealand Made innovations won’t transform our economic future however taken together, these are the people and the businesses that are giving us the best possible opportunity for maintaining our quality of life and raising our standard of living.

Ryan Jennings

Executive Director — Buy New Zealand Made Campaign

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