Wool Impact leaders exude confidence

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has called on New Zealand businesses and consumers to get...
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has called on New Zealand businesses and consumers to get behind the nation’s wool clip. PHOTO: SUPPLIED
Wool Impact Ltd — the new industry body for the strong wool sector — has announced four of the five board members who will lead the new entity.

A collaboration between the Government and sector partners, its formation came out of the recommendations last year of the Strong Wool Action Group (Swag).

Launching operations on July 1, Wool Impact would be funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries’ Sustainable Food and Fibres Future fund ($4.5 million). Industry groups would cover the remaining $6.9 million.

Independent chairman Mike Allen has more than 25 years’ experience in investment banking with previous board roles in New Zealand and internationally for Investore Properties Ltd, Quay St Asset Management, Taumata Plantations Ltd, Rick Armstrong Motors, Michael Higgins Family Trust and Vincent Capital.

Nick Aubrey is the founder and management director of the New Zealand Luxury Group, a marketing and market development company working to deliver New Zealand leather and textiles to discerning global customers.

He also works as a business development manager for Wool Source, developing market value propositions for new-use strong wool products.

Sharon Cresswell is a director of The Network for Learning, a Crown company which provided a safe and secure internet network for learners in New Zealand schools and kura.

She had many years’ experience working with boards as a director, adviser, auditor and senior executive.

Originally from Karitane, Bridget Giesen is a board member of Puketeraki Ltd, Ngai Tahu Holdings and runaka startup business Taramea Fragrance Ltd.

She leads the Maori investment team at New Zealand Trade and Enterprise to develop the aquaculture sector through capital-raising activities.

Swag chairman Rob Hewett said the group was delighted with the quality and calibre of appointees.

All had extensive skills across multiple sectors with demonstrable experience building brands and revenue on a global scale.

That was crucial for the wool sector to meet changing consumer demands for natural, sustainable, regenerative and hypo-allergenic products, he said.

"Quite frankly, we could have appointed high quality candidates to this board three times over. The level of interest from people with the capability, passion and interest in this sector was profoundly rewarding and a vote of confidence for the future of this sector," Mr Hewett said.

Wool Impact would also have three full-time employees who would work with project partners to implement the strategic plan.

Its sector partners comprised WoolWorks, the Wool Research Organisation of New Zealand (WRONZ), AFFCO, ANZCO, Alliance, Progressive Meats, and Silver Fern Farms.

Damien O’Connor
Damien O’Connor
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has called on New Zealand businesses and consumers to get behind the environmentally friendly fibre. It would be "fantastic" if strong wool became the first choice of fibre in homes, schools and businesses, he said.

Wool Impact was charged with making it a compelling and affordable alternative to synthetic fibres and reversing the significant under-investment of the past three decades that resulted in poor returns for growers and across the supply chain, he said.

MPI’s latest Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries showed wool export revenue was forecast to rise 5% to $420 million in the year to June 30, 2022, partially recovering but remaining below 2018-19 levels.

Higher export prices were expected to more than offset an 11% drop in volumes, reflecting the start of the wool sector’s recovery to pre-pandemic levels.

Although fine wool was performing well, strong wool (31.4 microns or greater), which constituted 75% of New Zealand’s wool exports, continued to struggle.

Research and trials into alternative uses for strong wool presented upside to the forecast, the report said. New higher-value uses, shifting consumer demand for natural fibres and New Zealand’s new national standard for wool had potential to lift performance.