Such is seafood's contribution to the Kiwi economy, and its potential for further growth, that ANZ backed the seafood industry's national conference for 15 years as principal sponsor. In an address to this year's event, Nicholls spoke of the opportunity to maximise export returns by thinking beyond natural resources while adding value through research, technology and innovation.
“Being a small island nation offers great natural advantages for raising world-class seafood," Nicholls says.
“But it also poses challenges for our exporters. To gain the scale to compete on the global stage, we need to see more collaboration and co-operation, including joint ventures, partnerships and shared arrangements."
FROM CLEAN TO GREEN
Nicholls believes fully grasping the opportunities and adding value will take a sector-wide approach. Kiwi exporters need to play to their national strengths and market New Zealand's points of difference. “There was a time when having the highest standards of food safety was a selling point but that's now – literally – a hygiene factor," he says.
“To persuade sophisticated consumers to pay a premium for our seafood we need to demonstrate that ours are truly premium products. That demands a really strong focus on quality, health, safety, traceability and reliability and that, in New Zealand's case, we also have a compelling environmental story to tell."
At a time when concerns about environmental degradation, excessive use of antibiotics and additives and resource depletion are starting to impact some established food producing countries, New Zealand's environmental credentials give it a head start.
Through its quota management system and aquaculture licenses it is home to what's regarded as one of the world's most sustainably-managed fisheries.
“This has made us think and act differently – providing a vision and platform for ensuring future usage," Nicholls says.
“That's sustainability. We should be using our status as a leader in sustainable resource management as a differentiator to strengthen our position in the global market. It's a great story and it supports our competitive advantage."
This advantage was reinforced earlier this year when the country's salmon farming industry achieved a world first with a 'Green Light' endorsement from Seafood Watch, an authoritative consumer guide on sustainable seafood.
Nicholls detects a sense of frustration from some that the industry doesn't always get the green recognition it deserves.
“The various stakeholders are sometimes portrayed as being pitted against each other," he says. “But the truth is that, as an industry and as a country, we all want sustainable fisheries. It makes no sense to not want this. It should be something we can all unite around.
“Everyone is interested in health and abundance for all. A sustainable resource makes good business sense – wasting resources doesn't. It's good for business, good for future generations and good for the environment."
Pete Barnao, Communications Manager Media, ANZ New Zealand.