He Tirohaka ki Kā Rākai Mahi Hou | Emerging and Evolving Sectors

The 2023 Regional Workforce Plan (RWP) Update shines a spotlight on three sectors important to the region, particularly in terms of their workforce and education requirements:

  • Te Pūkao Whakahou – Te Hauwai | Renewable Energy – Hydrogen (Emerging)
  • Te Ahumoana | Aquaculture (Emerging)
  • Kā Mahi Waihaka | Construction (Evolving)

The needs of each sector have been considered alongside foundation aspirations and our existing pou:

  • Te Tumu Taiohi | Rakatahi
  • Te Whatu Rourou | Food and Fibre
  • Te Ohu Waihaka | Manufacturing and Engineering
  • Te Tōpuni Oraka | Health Care and Social Assistance
  • Te Pou Whakauwhi | Tourism and Hospitality

We recognise these additional sectors are not the only areas of significance or importance for Murihiku’s labour market. The RSLG will continue to assess the evolving needs of the region and be agile in considering further sectors and demographics in the future. We will also connect into Just Transition clustering and other business transition projects as opportunities are confirmed.

Renewable Energy and Aquaculture are included in recognition of their significant regional and national potential, both in terms of employment and contribution to GDP. Both sectors have been allocated funds as part of the Just Transition process, recognising their potential to raise confidence in the region by driving outcomes such as strengthening regional resilience, developing pathways for decent work, and building economic diversity.

While their regional employment and GDP contribution may currently be small, we recognise the future potential of these emerging sectors. Therefore, we are planning for the skills and workforce needs of these and supporting sectors, now. We are also looking at the needs of Construction as a sector connected to the establishment of Renewable Energy and Aquaculture in Murihiku, yet already facing labour market pressures. Other areas will be considered as opportunities arise (for example, advancement in the Tech sector).

Te Pūkao Whakahou – Te Hauwai | Renewable Energy – Hydrogen

While the majority (80-85%)[3] of electricity we use in New Zealand comes from renewable resources, we are still heavily reliant on fossil fuels. Globally, hydrogen is emerging as an important priority for decarbonising energy. New Zealand has considerable renewable energy resources that could be used to produce green hydrogen as a next generation, low-emissions fuel.

Hydrogen has the potential to enable renewable energy production and distribution systems. It could reduce emissions by replacing fossil fuels in harder to decarbonise sectors, such as long-distance and heavy transport; iron, steel and chemical production; marine and aviation sectors.

There are currently 22 hydrogen projects across New Zealand[4], and Murihiku has already begun to invest in this sector.

From tradespeople to technicians, equipment certifiers to electrical engineers - hydrogen industry workforce requirements will be diverse, involving a range of skill levels and training pathways. Using data and insights to plan for industry workforce requirements over time is a critical first step to determine the skills we need within the region. The RSLG is focused on hydrogen as an emerging energy industry, but recognises that there are other opportunities on the horizon (i.e., wind farms) and will explore the potential for these as workforce requirements arise.

The Renewable Energy sector links closely with our Manufacturing and Engineering Pou.

Across the Region

From a Local Governance Perspective:

Just Transition funding is supporting Murihiku Regeneration to explore options around their clean energy ambitions. Their work will bring together interested regional and national partners to identify how Murihiku can take advantage of the energy transition[5]:

  • Murihiku Regeneration’s mahi will identify how projects, training, investments and policy changes can support Murihiku’s clean energy ambitions. It will identify how local clean energy ambitions interact with the national energy system. It will also generate interest in the sector as a career pathway for young people, by incorporating learning opportunities into the education system[6].
  • Beyond 2025 Southland’s Future Energy workstream will develop the Southland Murihiku Regional Energy Strategy 2022-2050, facilitated by Great South, in partnership with Murihiku Regeneration. This Strategy will provide clarity surrounding the likely energy demand and associated actions required to achieve an energy balance for Murihiku[7].

From an Industry Perspective:

H.W. Richardson Group plans to lead the heavy transport industry’s transition to hydrogen through dual fuel, where trucks run on both hydrogen and an existing fuel source. HWR plans to have 10 of these trucks on the road in 2023 to coincide with its first hydrogen plant being commissioned[8].

Woodside Energy were selected by Ngāi Tahu and Meridian Energy (in partnership) as the preferred partner to move forward to the development stage of the proposed Southern Green Hydrogen (SGH) project. The proposed project will target production of 500,000 tonnes per year of ammonia utilising electrolysis from renewable power. Technical work on the facility is continuing in parallel with the design of the commercial structure for the project. Options for the supply of hydrogen and ammonia to the domestic market, as well as for the potential to export ammonia to Asia and Europe, will be assessed[9].

Te Ahumoana | Aquaculture

Aquaculture is among the fastest-growing food production sectors in the world and is expected to become an increasingly important source of the global fish supply.  Aquaculture presents the biggest diversification opportunity for Murihiku, and we aspire to a goal of achieving $1billion GDP contribution by 2035 (which is one third of the National Aquaculture Strategy’s goal of $3billion GDP). 

Murihiku’s coastline has strong potential for open ocean salmon farming, with optimal growing conditions. There are further opportunities to maximise the potential of existing industry, new projects, and emerging pilots in Murihiku (including, CH4 Aotearoa Global Limited [Asaparagopsis], Premium Marine Technology Limited [Whitebait] and New Zealand Abalone Company [Paua]).

Aquaculture as a sector incorporates occupations in Longline and Rack (offshore) Aquaculture, Caged (offshore) Aquaculture, and Onshore Aquaculture. It does not include seafood processing (an industry within Manufacturing) but the two could not exist without each other.

Aquaculture sits within our existing Food and Fibre pou, with close links to our Manufacturing and Engineering pou.

Across the Region

Aquaculture in Murihiku is a small sector with a big social impact on the communities involved in this mahi.

Aquaculture contributes to the local identity of Bluff and Murihiku. Large employers perform a social engagement function within a small town such as Bluff, and the contribution of employees to the delivery of critical social services such as the Volunteer Fire Brigade, Coastguard, and St John Ambulance is significant[10].

Similarly, the industry brought people, income, and skills to the Stewart Island/Rakiura community at a time when commercial fishing was declining significantly. Aquaculture is no longer a seasonal activity, meaning it provides consistent year-round work for employees[11].

While employee numbers have historically been low, interest and investment in the sector is growing through the recognition of Aquaculture’s importance for Murihiku.

Just Transition is working within our region to support NZ Government’s Aquaculture Strategy vision and enable the region to advance potential initiatives in the sector:

  • Murihiku Aquaculture Working Group, funded by Just Transition, will identify the investment needed to establish a sustainable open ocean aquaculture industry in Murihiku. This work will provide clear guidance on immediate needs for initiating projects quickly and efficiently.
  • Beyond 2025 Southland has supported the Murihiku Aquaculture Working Group and other businesses and stakeholders associated with this key regional diversification opportunity. Beyond 2025 Southland is recommending the region aspire to realise $1b GDP contribution from aquaculture by 2035 and a review of the 2015 Southland Aquaculture Strategy in partnership with the sector and iwi, will clarify the pathway to achieve this. 

Kānoa, the Government’s regional economic development and investment unit, is also working to identify and support regional investments in industries more broadly in line with the goals of the Just Transition. This includes supporting local opportunities that enable further Aquaculture growth in Murihiku.

Aquaculture NZ states that Aquaculture currently employs over 3000 people in regional New Zealand communities. They predict the overall sector will need to double the number of workers by 2035[12].

Kā Mahi Waihaka | Construction

Construction is an important sector for Murihiku. Our 2023 RWP Update gives us the opportunity to consider Construction in more detail, especially as Construction is inextricably linked to other emerging sectors such as Aquaculture and Renewable Energy provision (Hydrogen facility).

The Construction Sector is linked closely to our Manufacturing and Engineering Pou.

Construction Overview[13]

In 2022 the Construction Sector contributed $428m to Murihiku's GDP, a growth of 9.8% on 2021.

The number of filled jobs in Murihiku’s Construction Sector averaged 4,650 in the year to March 2022, 8.4% of the region’s economy.

The workforce is predominantly male. In 2022, around 15.1% of the Construction Sector workforce was female (compared with 46.4% of the Murihiku workforce as a whole). 

In Murihiku, workers in the Construction sector are more likely to be self-employed. In 2022, there were 1,184 people self-employed in the Construction Sector (24.5% self-employment rate compared with 16.1% across the entire region).

In 2018, the average age of Construction Sector workers was 42.5 years, close to the figure of 43.9 years for all workers in Murihiku.

In 2018, 21% of Construction workers were qualified to a level 4 certificate equivalent, with 16.8% of the workforce not having any formal qualifications. Around 5.2% held a bachelor’s degree or higher.

Current workforce practices follow a short-term project view of contracting and hiring based on short-term economic cycles. This produces wide ranging peaks and troughs in workforce capacity, which is detrimental for developing capability, improving productivity, or upholding the reputation of the industry.

Across the Region

Murihiku is facing increased workforce supply and demand pressures in the Construction sector. The current labour and skills shortage across the Construction sector implies we will not have supply to meet projected regional demand. The peak wave in demand will continue to roll forward as deferred and additional projects come on stream[14]. This may push out timeframes for the completion of current work.

Reliance on getting labour from other regions or via immigration to cover labour shortfalls may increase due to the overall shortage of Construction workers across the motu. More support is potentially required for short, flexible and bespoke training to be developed and initiated rapidly via employers and/or training providers.