MP all smiles over launch

By Roger Moroney

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ENTHUSIASTIC: Labour MP for Napier Stuart Nash sees no downsides to the Rocket Lab plans.
ENTHUSIASTIC: Labour MP for Napier Stuart Nash sees no downsides to the Rocket Lab plans.

"There are no downsides to this at all - it's all upsides," Napier MP Stuart Nash, whose electorate patch takes in Mahia, said.

"I have been up to visit the site and I have also visited Rocket Lab in Auckland and met up with Peter Beck and what I have seen and heard is just absolutely fantastic."

Mr Beck, who is the chief executive of Rocket Lab, was an exceptional individual who had effectively flown under the radar, Mr Nash said.

"He is so innovative and his vision for the future just blows you away - he has made this happen."

One of the initial "upsides" would be tourism into Mahia and the greater region, Mr Nash reckoned.

"And in the medium to long-term you are looking at assembly there - there will be highly skilled workers based there and of course they will be spending money there."
The arrival of Rocket Lab and the country's first launch site effectively completed the re-branding of Wairoa - a region which was pursuing and achieving "some innovative stuff", Mr Nash said.

"I take my hat off to the Wairoa District Council because they have helped make this happen."

Mr Nash said when he first met Mr Beck about a year ago, when the launching programme was still in its initial stages, he said he was "not exactly sceptical" but took a "let's take a look at this" approach.

"But after I saw him and spoke with him I walked out and just thought 'yes, this is going to happen'."

Asked if he would be there on the day of the first launch there was no hesitation at all.
"With bells on mate," Mr Nash said.

"If I can't get leave I'll probably start looking a bit green and I'll have to take sick leave."
Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce agreed that the imminent departures of small satellite-bearing rockets from the fields of Mahia would be a boost for the immediate region.

There will be spin-offs for the Wairoa economy - and among those spin-offs will be the technology sector as well as the tourism sector, as rocket launches are not exactly an everyday occurrence in this part of the world.

Mr Joyce described the expected economic spin-offs for the eastern region as "significant".

"Rocket Lab's launches from Mahia Peninsula has introduced new investment into the Wairoa District and they are likely to attract tourists from within and outside New Zealand to observe rocket launches."

Mr Joyce said New Zealand was in the position to "leverage" off the existence of a leading-edge rocket launcher in the form of Rocket Lab which was planning to provide frequent and low-cost launch services to what he described as a growing international small-satellite industry.

"The space economy is becoming immensely important to the world and is growing and changing rapidly," he said.

"Satellites enable critical services and infrastructure like banking, transport, telecommunications, navigation, remote sensing and national security - and as a result there is an increasing demand for small satellite launches."

As well as the tourism bonus for the Wairoa region, Rocket Lab was using what Mr Joyce said was innovative technology developed in New Zealand and which led to the employment of highly skilled people in New Zealand.

"Rocket Lab's Peter Beck is in the mould of other great Kiwi innovators like William Hamilton, Bill Gallagher and Ernest Rutherford."

Mr Joyce said other groups working in the satellite industry included two potential regional research institutes that had been shortlisted to develop business cases with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment - the Centre for Space Science Technology and Earth+Vantage.

It would also not be the first time there had been launches into the high skies and beyond as both Google and NASA had launched high-altitude balloons from the fine skies of New Zealand.

"These organisations show there is the opportunity to build New Zealand's capacity and expertise across a broad spectrum of space and high altitude activities, from rocket technology to the use of satellites to perform functions that benefit our economy, environment and society, as well as attracting off-shore talent and investment into New Zealand."

Mr Joyce said in terms of spin-offs, providing a "modern regulatory environment" which responded to innovation and enabled high-technology industries was a crucial part of building a diversified high value economy.

"The emerging New Zealand-based space economy aligns with the innovation stream of our business growth agenda in developing New Zealand as a hub for high-value, research and development intensive businesses."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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