University researchers, top executives and the recently appointed Minister for Economic Development Hon. Simon Bridges, pictured, were among the presenters at our first Co-operative Business Leaders’ Forum held at Auckland’s Fonterra Centre on March 3rd.

In his address to a large audience of Cooperative Business NZ Members, Minister Bridges said that while the New Zealand economy was performing well currently, the challenge was to keep it going over the long term and that consistency was required.

“You’re a really big part of the economy and you’ve stayed very strong for a long time.

“You’re responsible for 20 per cent of our GDP and those profits and value stay local,” he said.

Mr Bridges talked about the challenges facing Kiwi exporters, including co-operatives, with the risk of protectionism.

“As far as the importance of free trade is concerned, you get it really deeply. Co-ops are the poster children for this,” he said.

The one-day event included an overview provided by leading academics Dr Lisa Callagher and Dr Elena Garnevska, pictured, from the University of Auckland’s Business School and Massey University respectively of a recently published joint university research project titled: The New Zealand Co-operative Economy.

Cooperative Business NZ Chief Executive Craig Presland says the forum provided “a great opportunity for those attending to learn from each other as part of the strong co-operative and collaborative spirit that exists amongst our Members, as well as across the co-operative sector globally”.