CWF Hamilton chief Keith Whiteley (left, with fellow
submitter David Bennett of Pacific Helmets) yesterday told
the parliamentary inquiry that the exchange rate had to
become part of the policy mix. Photo / Mark Mitchell
More leading export companies are on the verge of moving
overseas due to the high dollar, Opposition MPs were told
yesterday by manufacturers, who challenged the Government to do
more to control the exchange rate.
Labour, the Greens, New Zealand First and Mana were holding
the first of a series of hearings into what they say is the
crisis in manufacturing.
MPs heard from business and union leaders as well as the
chief executives of several leading export companies.
All said the exchange rate was their biggest headache and
most warned they were considering moving overseas to stay in
David Bennett, managing director of Pacific Helmets, which
manufactures helmets for fire services and other specialist
applications, said his company wanted to stay in Wanganui,
where it began in the 1970s, "but things are against us".
In 2001, a helmet selling for US$100 would generate $250 for
the company; today the same helmet cost the same to
manufacture but was generating just $127, Mr Bennett said.
Even at the average exchange rate over the last 10 years the
return on the helmet would have been about $140 to $150.
Today's exchange rate meant a loss of about $27, Mr Bennett
"Now you multiply that across tens of thousands of helmets
and then across lots of companies that sell products overseas
and that's the dollars that we're missing out in the New
Stewart Hyde, manufacturing manager of Wyma Engineering,
which makes vegetable polishing and handling machinery, said
his company was recognised internationally as producing
But difficulties competing internationally with a high
exchange rate had forced it to source about four-fifths of
its componentry from overseas, mainly China.
That had cost about 40 local jobs. The company was now
considering moving its final assembly overseas.
"The question I would pose is how much does the Government
want us to stay in New Zealand?"
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce yesterday said he
didn't agree there was a crisis.
"Nobody is arguing that being a manufacturer isn't
challenging - in my history in business every time in
business is challenging - but going around and trying to talk
down the New Zealand economy and talk about a crisis in
manufacturing is not particularly helpful."
Hamilton Jets managing director Keith Whiteley said other
countries were "moving away from the single policy setting
and are using interest rates to control exchange rates. New
Zealand has to start looking at those issues."
- Adam Bennett of the New Zealand Herald