Country manager at Xero New Zealand
I love getting out of the office, out of the city and into the country. There’s something about that crisp, fresh air that can be so energising.
A perfect way to do this is by heading to an event like Fieldays, which provides the added benefit of being able to connect with our partners and customers outside the major city centres. It can be easy to forget about how businesses operate in regional areas, but meeting rural small businesses and finding out what issues they’re facing is a really simple way to begin to gain an understanding of an industry which has a huge impact on this country’s identity.
The agriculture industry is huge in New Zealand – more than 68,000 small businesses work in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries and in 2017, the dairy sector alone accounted for $7.8 billion of New Zealand’s total GDP. It’s safe to say that having a healthy business community in the regions, whether that’s small, medium or large businesses, reaps rewards for the entire country.
One of the unique features of regional small businesses is that outside of the major cities, nearly every small business is linked, in one way or another, to the agriculture industry. They rely on the health and success of this sector for their own success. It’s not just about the dairy farmers, or the meat and wool exporters – it’s the entire network which is woven together to help make it run smoothly. So whether it’s a family like the O’Briens who produce organic honey in Raglan, leading agri accountants and advisors Diprose Miller, or handcraft bakers Volare Bread, it’s vital to foster growth and healthy relationships between these businesses, so that the farming industry can thrive.
With the price of housing in Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch skyrocketing recently, the regions are an attractive option for those who want to get on the property ladder or improve their work-life balance. Not having to sit in traffic for a couple of hours each day is reason alone for many people to look for opportunities outside of the city. Unfortunately though, the majority of the country’s large businesses are in the major cities, making regional opportunities hard to come by in certain industries.
This is where larger businesses creating opportunities for their staff to work remotely could really make a difference to the distribution of wealth across the country. Technology makes it easier than ever before to work remotely. There’s been so much investment into broadband and infrastructure, the provinces should be humming with people working for high tech creative enterprises, taking the pressure off the housing market in the big cities and spreading the spending around.
Looking forward there is no denying the importance the agricultural sector has on the success of our country. It’s going to be essential that business continues to connect with the rural sector in person and on the ground, rather than try and decipher what is happening from afar.