Local insights report: March/April 2023

Bay of Plenty's local insights report for March/April 2023.

Top regional insights

Aquaculture in the Bay of Plenty presents immense opportunities, but its realisation is conditional on better regional co-ordination and alignment

Aquaculture has the potential to become a primary industry that creates as much GDP and employment as farming or forestry activities. Its benefits could impact not only historically deprived areas of the Eastern Bay but also spread more broadly into the region.

To address the need for collective action regional stakeholders have established the Bay of Plenty Aquaculture Group (BOPAG)

It is a collaborative platform that brings together Iwi, industry, education system stakeholders, and local and central government around sector needs. The Group has formulated the Bay of Plenty Aquaculture Strategy and Stocktake with the common mission of “well-being through aquaculture” that seeks to elevate economic and social benefits for key communities.

The BOPAG has identified that one of the key areas of focus must be supercharging support for the sector’s workforce to properly support the kaupapa

As mentioned above, a multi-organisational and systemic approach is necessary, and the BOPAG platform is already helping to address it.

Workforce requirements need to be considered over the short and long term

Many regional initiatives support this, such as the Te Kaha mussel spat hatchery and the ongoing work of Whakatōhea Iwi and Whakatōhea Mussels Limited. Regional stakeholders can act together around immediate needs by looking at barriers for workers, and actions based on the education system and research and innovation that need to be worked on over the long-term.

Aquaculture is one of the seasonal sectors identified in the Bay of Plenty Regional Workforce Plan (the RWP)

It is a growth sector in the region that will require a suitably skilled workforce.

Bay of Plenty Regional Workforce Plan

Top labour market opportunities

Opportunities to increase the number of school-to-employment pathways across the region

There are opportunities to increase the number of school-to-employment pathways across the region, brought about by collaborations between iwi, schools, government, and ITOs. They provide work experience and apprenticeships in local industry, facilitating an increase in education-to-employment pathways. Whakatōhea Mussels (Ōpōtiki) is an example of this, where school leavers are developing hands-on skills and experience across the aquaculture sector. This opportunity supports the education-to-employment transition actions under the education pou of the RWP.

Action plan – Education – Bay of Plenty Regional Workforce Plan

A regional centre of excellence would lift labour market performance across the region

Originally identified by Toi Ohomai (this includes research around tech) a regional centre would provide opportunities around research and information/data sharing. One option being considered for improving data sharing between regional stakeholders is a data platform. This opportunity would support the research actions under the seasonality pou of the RWP.

Action plan – Seasonality – Bay of Plenty Regional Workforce Plan

Involving a wider range of stakeholders may yield further improvements

Employers have identified that regulatory requirements are a significant part of the training required and involving the regulator in the discussion would lead to even better outcomes and less need for re-training or gap filling on-the-job training from employers. This primarily applies to maritime related roles such as skipper, marine fire-fighter etc.

As aquaculture as a primary industry picks up pace it will in turn contribute to the regional circular economy

 An example of this is development of industry led - green skills creating new workforce opportunities, such as climate mitigation and adaptation roles. Harnessing these opportunities will require working closely with industry and tertiary providers like the University of Waikato and Aquaculture Centre in Toi Ohomai. This opportunity supports the climate change action in the RWP.

Action plan – Climate change – Bay of Plenty Regional Workforce Plan

Top labour market challenges

Employers report that administrative requirements are getting in the way of a smooth uptake in training on-the-job opportunities

Some employers have found that there can be practical issues around onboarding workers into courses with tertiary education – for example, there are fundamentals such as how to proceed where the employee cannot provide valid ID for enrolment purposes. Access to digital devices and internet connections are also barriers that cause problems.

Prospective employees are struggling with standard employment processes

Many have difficulty with face-to-face interviews and fail Ministry of Justice pre-employment checks. A history of behavioural problems in the past also hinders applicants who now want to work. Redeeming people through pastoral care and mentorship is one way forward, however, it is an expensive and time-consuming activity where greater support from central government partners should be a consideration.

Competition is countering the drive and motivation to collaborate across key stakeholder groups, particularly between commercial entities

Companies need to protect against the perceived disadvantages of sharing what works or new innovations and intellectual property – particularly around technological advancements that alleviate workforce pressure around automation. Co-petition models may help broker past this challenge and BOPAG has noted this as something to investigate.

The education system can struggle to keep up with the sometimes rapidly changing skills needs of the sector

One example an employer gave was around the establishment of a new PTE by an Iwi Trust. Over the period the PTE was being set up to deliver programmes specific to sector skill needs, the skill needs changed. The key barrier to meeting these new sector needs was the time required by the education system process to establish the PTE to meet the needs – and a more agile approach would be more effective.

The Bay of Plenty region

A number of marine farms are already in operation across the Bay

Approximately 20,000 hectares of marine farms are consented and operational stretching from Whakatāne and Ōpōtiki, through to Te Kaha. These farms are supported onshore by facilities such as the completed Ōpōtiki harbour and the Te Kaha mussel spat hatchery.

Iwi proactively developing a mussel farm in the harbour

Whakatōhea Mussels (Ōpōtiki) is an example of iwi proactively developing a mussel farm in the harbour utilising school leavers and training them in metal work and construction skills. School leavers can immediately apply to the building of marine farming vessels that will directly support their own community and provide them with a chance to start a lifelong vocation.

Research and development operations are based around Sulphur Point

This includes:

  • the University of Waikato’s Coastal Marine Field Station and Farm
  • a commercial Ecklonia (native radiata seaweed) hatchery
  • the Tauranga Marine Park research and education facility, which is integrated with Tauranga Moana Iwi.

Focus for the next 2 months

Focus on refreshing the Regional Workforce Plan for 2023/2024.

Trends at a glance

20,000 hectares of consented operational marine farms in operation, which will provide for:

  • 250-300 new jobs forecast by 2025 across processing and hatchery facilities
    Source: Bay of Plenty Aquaculture Strategy Stocktake

  • 4.7% job growth forecast for aquaculture farmers through to 2025.
    Source: Infometrics

Prepared by the regionally led Bay of Plenty Regional Skills Leadership Group.

For further information, please contact: bayofplentyrslg@mbie.govt.nz

Last updated: 26 April 2023