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Ten* After Ten: Veronica Harwood-Stevenson on the problems of farming and the knowledge-based economy

Have you been surprised by what has or has not changed in 10 years? 

On agriculture and tourism:  I am always surprised that the way we are farming, and its negative impact on what makes us an attractive place to visit for tourists, isn’t seen as more of a problem. A few Christmas’s ago I took some friends from the UK to a river and they didn’t want to swim in it. They’d heard the stories and read the headlines and while you can blame Mike Joy for calling international attention to it, we’re still not seeing a change in the incentives and direction we’re giving farmers. The “them and us” dichotomy between farmers and the rest of New Zealand hasn’t changed nearly enough.

On business: I have, particularly in the last 5 years, seen a huge change in the way we are talking about business. It isn’t just about agricultural efficiency anymore; it’s about a knowledge-based economy – and asking more people to get involved in the creation of this. I think Sir Paul Callaghan’s speech on this was a big driver and a much-needed vision for a lot of people.

I’d like to see more of this talk about how to implement a knowledge-based economy documented and the impacts shared.

Where are we headed over the next 10 years?

As many knowledge-based businesses mature, I think New Zealand will see the wide-scale adoption of social enterprise business models in New Zealand, with stronger links between the for profit and not-for-profit sector.

What keeps you awake at night when you think of NZ place in the creative economy?

How risk adverse we are when it comes to backing our homegrown initiatives. When something golden is created in New Zealand, we almost always wait for external validation in the form of offshore investment. I see this in the type of television content being commissioned, right through to the sale of New Zealand startups.

Veronica Harwood-Stevenson is a filmmaker, media strategist, science communicator, and entrepreneur.

*Dodgy counting alert: Initially, we actually we asked 10 people to answer these questions as part of our magazine cover feature to celebrate our tenth birthday. But we liked those 10 answers so much, we kept asking more people. Stay tuned for more over the summer months.

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