New study shows significant space sector contribution to New Zealand economy

Louis Dillon

New Zealand’s space sector contributed NZ$1.69 billion to the nation’s economy in 2018-19 and employed 12,000 people, according to a new report commissioned by the NZ government.

New study shows significant space sector contribution to New Zealand economy
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The report, prepared by consultants Deloitte Access Economics, said New Zealand is a unique example of a space economy almost entirely driven by commercial activity.

“The New Zealand space economy is New Space driven, characterised by a mix of start-up and well-established, small and large entrepreneur-driven and privately-funded space companies which service both government and non-government customers,” it said.

“This is in contrast with traditional space economies where large-scale government activity has been a major driver.”

It said New Zealand has strong space manufacturing and space applications sub-sectors and cutting-edge research and development capability within several universities across the country.

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It also draws on local as well as international talent and has strong connections with the global space economy.

The big player in New Zealand’s space economy is Rocket Lab, a US-based company founded by New Zealander Peter Beck, which manufactures its rockets in New Zealand and conducts commercial launches from its facility on the country’s North Island.

Minister for Economic Development Phil Twyford said the report showed that New Zealand was extremely well-placed to increase its share in the NZ$647 billion global space economy.

“The space economy’s NZ$1.69 billion contribution in the 2018-19 financial year is significant for New Zealand and there is huge potential for us to grow our share,” he said.

“The development of New Zealand’s space economy hasn’t followed traditional paths and its diversity reflects our innovative spirit.

“Through Rocket Lab, we are home to the world’s leading small-launch provider and we [are] attracting other leading international space companies, such as Silicon Valley start-up LeoLabs who have built their KiwiSpace Radar in central Otago.”

Minister Twyford said there were good reasons why New Zealand was attracting global interest.

“We are adaptable, innovative and the government is committed to supporting the growth of an industry that represents huge opportunities for New Zealand,” he said.

The New Zealand space sector represents 0.27 per cent of global space economy revenues.

The Deloitte report said the big revenue contributor was space applications, worth just over NZ$1 billion, followed by space manufacturing (NZ$247 million) and space operation (NZ$150 million).

The indirect contribution of the space sector to the New Zealand economy in 2018-19 was NZ$789 million.

Space directly supported an estimated 5,000 full-time equivalent roles (FTEs) and total employment (including indirect effects), was 12,000 FTE jobs.

The study showed some well-established companies earning significant revenue. 

There were 14 firms earning more than NZ$10 million a year and 16 employing more than 200 employees. 

So, how does Australia compare? The best information appears to come from the expert group review of Australia’s space industry capability released in March 2018.

It was that report that led to the formation of the Australian Space Agency in July 2018. It outlined the ambition to triple the size of the space industry to $10-$12 billion dollars a year by 2030.

That estimated the Australian space sector economy to have been worth $3.94 billion in 2015-16, with 88 per cent contributed by the private sector.

Most of this activity came from satellite TV, broadband and communications services.

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