Looking back on the last 50 years of New Zealand export winners is like walking through a who's who of New Zealand business.

This year marks the 50th anniversary of the New Zealand International Business Awards (NZIBA), run by New Zealand Trade and Enterprise (NZTE) with support from Strategic Partner ANZ, which celebrate the success of New Zealand businesses on the world stage.

During the last half century some of New Zealand's most iconic businesses have been inducted into the awards' hall of fame, including Crown Lynn, Tonka, and Tip Top.

NZTE's chief executive Peter Chrisp said the awards celebrate the innovation and a can-do attitude among business leaders.

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"The NZIBA celebrates the emergence of these companies and leaders, and all the grit, fortitude and resilience that is required to be successful," Chrisp said.

"After a long period of liberalisation of New Zealands economy, only those companies that are internationally competitive will survive over the long term. Almost by definition, if they are here and succeeding then they have found an international niche within which they can compete"

NZTE held the first awards in 1966, when Tonka Corporation of NZ and publisher A.H. and A.W.6 Reed (now called Raupo Publishing) were among the first 10 companies to take home awards.

Chrisp said the list of award winners etched into the hall of fame reads like a history of New Zealand business - with manufacturing firms dominating until the 1990s, when those providing IT and services made an entrance.

Fast forward to 2015, and the shift in New Zealand's business landscape is clear with experiential tourism company Magic Memories taking home last year's supreme award.

The company captures the smiles of more than 80 million visitors to the world's greatest tourist attractions, and offers them personalised memorabilia of their visit.

Chrisp said Magic Memories is a company that epitomises the New Zealand story - it grew out the spectacular natural environment of Queenstown, underpinned by high integrity personal relationships and powered by big dose of ingenuity and innovation

"This company has got so much of the New Zealand story in it. They didn't have scale but were agile and nimble, and mastered the art of delivering experiences," he said.

Adapt and Survive

It's clear that the last 50 years have shaped the way New Zealanders do business.
In the 1960s New Zealand was spreading its wings internationally and relied on five main markets, with Australia as its main trading partner.

The products exported from this country were also diversifying during that time. A total 25 awards had been presented by 1970, and Export News reported that the range of products was indicative of the rapid diversification of New Zealand's exports.

Fletcher Building (then The Fletcher Group) was among the award winners in 1972 - it had grown its exports from $1.9 million to $5.5 million in the three years leading up to the award (the company has grown to include 50 divisions in its group).

But many businesses did not survive a series of economic crises in the decade following 1973.

New Zealand governments were overwhelmed by economic crises, including two serious supply shocks (the oil crises), rising inflation, and increasing unemployment.

Then in 1984, the Labour government embarked on a period of prolonged economic reform, deregulating the economy.

Export incentives were removed in 1987 - a year remembered for the sharemarket crash and the All Blacks Rugby World Cup win.

From the 1990s, New Zealand's economic performance improved and the country's export markets have moved towards the east - although Australia is the country's closest trading partner, the 2008 China NZ FTA resulted in China becoming New Zealand's biggest export market in 2013 (though Australia once again reclaimed the number one position in 2015).

New Zealand has successfully concluded 16 Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with World Trade Organisation (WTO) members, and there are further FTAs that are concluded but not in force.


Content provided by NZTE. To enter the awards head to www.nziba.co.nz.