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Brett O'Riley - EMA

Brett O'Riley - EMA

New Zealand's Manufacturing Sector: A Call to Action


Our manufacturing sector is at a critical juncture, and it’s time to rally together for positive change. As Brett O’Riley, Chief Executive of EMA, aptly puts it, “Our manufacturing sector is struggling, and it pains me to say it.” But we’re not here to dwell on challenges; we’re here to explore solutions and opportunities.

The Current Landscape:

  1. PMI Signals Concern: The Performance of Manufacturing Index (PMI) reveals that manufacturing activity in New Zealand has been shrinking for the past 11 months. While global economic slowdown plays a role, our underperformance compared to other major economies demands attention.
  2. Sector’s Significance: Manufacturing contributes over $23 billion to our economy, accounting for approximately 10% of GDP. It’s the backbone of our exports, employing 12% of our workforce. But when manufacturing falters, our entire economy feels the impact.

Challenges and Opportunities:

  1. Understanding the Decline: Let’s delve into the root causes. Supply chain disruptions, changing consumer preferences, and global economic shifts demand our scrutiny.
  2. Embrace Innovation: Modernization is non-negotiable. Technology—automation, data analytics, and smart practices—can boost efficiency and competitiveness.
  3. Collaboration: Industry-academia partnerships foster innovation. Let’s jointly invest in research, development, and skill-building.
  4. Incentivize Investment: Policies encouraging investment in new hardware, software, and R&D are essential. Tax incentives and grants can drive progress.
  5. Export-Ready Focus: Our high-quality goods have global appeal. Let’s support manufacturers in accessing international markets.
  6. Regional Empowerment: Manufacturing isn’t confined to one corner. It’s vital in our regional economies. Infrastructure, training, and localized support matter.
  7. Sustainability: Environmentally friendly practices resonate with conscious consumers and investors.
  8. Government Collaboration: Regulatory clarity, streamlined approvals, and industry-specific policies create an enabling environment.
  9. Skills Development: Apprenticeships and vocational training ensure a skilled workforce.
  10. Celebrate Success: Spotlight innovative businesses; inspire excellence


About the presenter:

Brett O’Riley is the Chief Executive of the EMA, having commenced in that role in January 2019. He is a graduate of Victoria University of Wellington, with post graduate qualifications from MIT (Boston) and Singularity University (San Jose). Brett returned to New Zealand from Australia in 2009 and has spent the last 10 years dedicated to the goal of growing the New Zealand innovation eco-system, as founding CE of NZICT, founding deputy CE of the Ministry of Science + Innovation, and recently as Chief Executive of Auckland Tourism, Events & Economic Development, Auckland’s economic growth agency until September 2017. Prior to that Brett worked in the telecommunications and IT sectors for 20 years in New Zealand and internationally.