Rocket Lab Electron 'It's Business Time' on the pad at LC-1. Photo credit: Kieran Fanning

New Zealand’s space economy – Expert Reaction

New Zealand’s space sector contributed $1.69 billion to the economy in the last financial year, according to a report commissioned by MBIE.

The sector directly employs around 5,000 people, which is boosted to 12,000 full-time jobs when indirect roles are considered, the Deloitte-produced report found.

Compared to traditional space economies which tend to be dominated by large-scale government space programmes, the report found New Zealand’s largely consists of small start-ups and privately-funded space companies.

These companies mostly focus on ‘New Space’ consumer markets that want more affordable access to space technology by growing areas like space manufacturing and space applications.

The SMC gathered expert comment on the report, feel free to use these comments in your reporting. 

Dr Nicholas James Rattenbury, Te Pūnaha Ātea — Auckland Space Institute, The University of Auckland, comments:

“Through our work at the University of Auckland in developing research and educational satellite missions, we quickly learned that New Zealand is home to a great deal of research and development activity and capacity, both in our universities and private companies.

“This recent report substantiates this and indicates that commercial exploitation of space is an area of potential growth. We have seen a growth in demand for university graduates who can service this growing local economy. At the University of Auckland, we want to train our graduates in all aspects of study that support and drive innovation in space science, engineering and technology, and which takes advantage of our position as a new actor in space in a sustainable and ethical way.”

No conflict of interest.

Dr Moritz Lehmann, Senior Scientist, Xerra Earth Observation Institute, Xerra, comments:

“The most significant take-home message from this report, for many New Zealanders, is that we have a space industry, which may come as a surprise to some. Moreover, New Zealand punches well in its weight class in the global market.

“The report says that as a scientist using Earth observation data collected from space, I belong to the sector which generates the largest contribution to the New Zealand space economy. This is both reassuring and motivating for the Earth observation and space applications community.

“Recently, we have seen increasing government funding in this space, such as that for MethaneSAT, Xerra Earth Observation Institute and the Auckland Space Institute. When this is coupled with international collaborations, New Zealand scientists can develop advanced Earth observation systems to tackle problems that really matter, such as climate change, biodiversity and environmental stewardship.”

No conflict of interest.

Steve Cotter, CEO, Xerra Earth Observation Institute, comments:

“The findings of the report confirms much of what we have experienced in our first few years as an Earth observation startup in New Zealand—there is a great amount of activity and opportunity in New Zealand, and some excellent talent. But the global industry is moving quickly, so therefore we too must quickly scale up our capabilities.

“Earth observation data and analysis are considered ‘space applications’, which make up 57% of the space economy revenue in New Zealand. These applications provide some of the greatest potential for future economic growth, especially as a contributor to other sectors of the economy, such as forestry, agriculture and fisheries, and in areas such as environmental monitoring, resource management and economic modelling.

“We are facing unprecedented challenges with respect to our environment and the climate, which will impact everyone in New Zealand in the coming years. The key to elevating our decision-making to meet these challenges is by improving the quality and the regularity in which we collect environmental data. Satellites and the Earth observation data they produce have a critical role to play.”

No conflict of interest.