Kempthorne hails export potential

Tasman district mayor Richard Kempthorne is back from a 10-day trip to China over-awed by the size of its cities, the speed of infrastructural growth and interested in the potential the country's immense markets offer to Tasman exporters.

"One of the take-home messages for us and the community is the value of such trips," he said.

Kempthorne accompanied Nelson Tasman Economic Development Agency head Bill Findlater and representatives of the dairy and associated industries on a relationship building whistle-stop tour of seven cities. The group returned to Nelson last week.

Tasman ratepayers subsidised Kempthorne's journey by $8000 which he said was money well spent when the potential economic benefits to Tasman were considered.

And with the Chinese business community valuing relationships built on trust and respect his attendance as Tasman's mayor was recognised and valued, he said.

The Chinese markets are keen on New Zealand's niche clean green primary products produced on a scale to satisfy the demand.

"This was all about the development of our economy in Tasman, exploring business opportunities for primary industries to be able to interface effectively and co-operatively in the Chinese market."

A visit to one high-end Beijing supermarket where demand for niche top-end goods was growing 15 to 20 per cent annually illustrated the potential for the district's seafood, aquaculture and high-end horticultural products, he said.

"Forestry and dairy products are already major players in China," he said.

The size and population of China made it obvious how important that country's markets were to New Zealand. What was also clear was the value of the work already done by Findlater and the EDA in building relationships with Chinese business people, he said.

The trip was a big learning curve for him and he returned aware of the need for New Zealand exporters to target the high end of the Chinese market with a supply of goods that met the scale of demand.

"Chinese business people appreciate New Zealand quality and see the country as being clean and green. Primary products are our key to their market - and they need a lot of it."

He predicted there would be interest from Chinese buyers in buying Tasman land and buildings.

"That was not the focus of the trip but it became clear from discussions. And it only needs a small percentage of Chinese business people to buy land and buildings here to make a real impact."