Northland Tech Cluster kick-off event 8. Feb 2019

On 8. Feb 2019 we hosted the Northland Tech Cluster kick-off event in Whangarei.

The suggested purpose of the Northland tech cluster  is to “Bring together like minded Northlanders to utilize technology for economic and social wealth” by bi-monthly networking, helping each other, sharing knowledge & equipment (like CNC, surface mount machine, 3D printer… for small runs/ prototypes), joined internship/ upskilling for local talent, produce & consume tech solutions locally (buy Northland first) and where possible work together collaboratively as Team Northland…
Fig: green carbon fibre production, electric ferry serving Whangarei Harbour, GP Sails racing in Bream Bay, hydrogen production and export, autonomous transportation and smart city solutions …
We were able to trigger a variety of discussions on interesting technologies relevant for Northland including green carbon production & export opportunities, using Ngawha Geothermal Plan to produce hydrogen for heavy commercial fleet fuel, running autonomous mobility-as-a-service and smart city projects in Whangarei, establishing Northland specific sustainable building projects, how to establish an e-ferry service from Northport to town basin… and many more.
The agenda was the following:
  • Welcome by Councillor Anna Murphy
  • Keynote speakers:
    • Chris Clarke – learnings from Canterbury Tech Cluster for Whangarei
    • Susan Lake – Core Builder Composites/ Sail GP on fastest catamaran design and racing
    • John Gell (McKay Electrical) & Adam O’Connor (NB Smart City)-  Smart City options for Whangarei
  • Short lightning presentations by local heroes why tech is cool
  • Next steps with assistance of NZ Tech
  • Networking


We had over thirty people from local businesses, technology groups and other stakeholders participating.


If you like to be part of the Northland Tech Cluster, check our website or email us.


Tai Tokerau – needs YOU !!!!

We are looking forward to establishing a powerful network of tech entrepreneurs and companies in Northland. Many thanks for your fantastic support and contribution.

Martin, Bert, Joe & Team


Short Summary of the presentation at the kick-off event:

Northland Innovator Lightning Talks

  • Glen Harris, Inventor of Harmony Generic TV remote control (now owned by LogiTech)

Glen shared some insights from his successful technology development and business exit. His key messages were:

  1. Learn to kill your baby (it took Glen and his business partner 13 attempts to develop their break through product)
  2. Partner with someone you trust. Don’t go it alone
  3. Don’t give up, keep pushing if you believe in your product and your capabilities to deliver
  • Te Piha Tipene – InnoNative Business Hub

The InnoNative Hub has started a digital Maori tech group. They teach young Maori talent about game and software development, music recording, digital art and lots of other cool new tech. They are looking for local mentors and companies who can provide internships.

  • Dr Kevin Waugh – TechnoHackers

Kevin gave a fascinating slide presentation without slides. His topic was creativity. We will upload his slides soon.

  • Bert van den Berg – CruzPro
CruzPro Ltd. was the third business Wilda and I started and the most difficult to get running.  Took six years before we turned a profit.  Be sure to have good financing set up if you’re going to try to start a new business.
Most small businesses in NZ have only one or two people they can bounce ideas off so are in-bred. You always do the same thing and have no-one to mentor you.   No one to help you when you get stuck.  You can spend days trying to solve a problem.  If you had access to another person with complimentary skill set you could save a lot of time/energy.   Trying to explain your problem to someone else, even if they have no clue what you are talking about, can often force you to organize your thoughts and result in a solution.  It works but wife and daughter hate having to sit through those sessions so be sparing.
Opportunities can be created by developing technologies (e.g. you can do well writing software when PC’s just came out, website development was a good opportunity when the internet became popular, etc.).  Look for emerging technologies and take advantage of the fact that there is little or no competition. 
A friend of mine told me that businesses can go three ways:
1)  Immediately successful – end of problem
2)  Immediate failure – end of problem
3)  Neither of the above – this is one you have to watch out for.  You have to draw up an exit plan before you start and stick with it.


  • John Gell and Adam O’Connor (McKay Electrical, NB SmartCity), Whangarei

McKay Electrical started in 1936 as a small electrical supplier to local farmers. It has now close to 400 staff and six subsidiaries around NZ and in Seattle, USA. The latest venture is with NB SmartCity from Denmark. The JV is offering smart street light solutions. These allow for real time environmental monitoring using an internet of things (IoT) connected approach. With Spark the company is working on LORA, 802.11.p and 5G solutions. These can be used to provide surveillance, Wifi to shop owners, tourists, as well as vehicle-2-infrastructure/ vehicle (V2x) services.

  • Susan Lake – Core Builder Composites, Warkworth

The company was re-located from their Kiwi founders from North America to Warkworth. Reason was the founders worked mostly with Kiwis and decided to grow the business into high performance sailing. The company now has over 120 direct staff and provides jobs to many more sub contractors in the region. As a JV the company is running the GP Sail circuit in five cities with six international teams around the world. It is the brainchild of Larry Ellison, founder of Oracle and the 35th America’s Cup Winner. They took the AC50 design, massively improved that cat design and developed a competitive sailing circuit. First stop after tests around Marsden Point is Sydney. The whole circuit material is transported in 86 x 40ft containers to the racing sites. Core Builder is now not only doing the carbon fibre works, but is working with telemetry, electronics engineering, software and hydraulics development companies to provide a full sailing solution for the six participating teams. Susan also talked about projects where they used recycled PET to develop a movie set for clients, hemp fibre for a local community project. She suggested that Northland would be an ideal place to grow hemp for the yachting industry and that Ngwha Geothermal site/ Tiwai Point could potentially produce well sought after green carbon fibre. NZ has all the ingredients required for green carbon fibre: green energy, coal, oil, fibre and lots of talent. Susan invited two of the present Whangarei schools to visit the Core Builder facilities next month. The company is looking to hire apprentices, offer internships and hire top Northland talent.

  • Chris Clarke – NZ Tech and Canterbury Tech Cluster, Christchurch

Chris shared his learnings from working with several tech clusters around NZ. His message for us is: get several dedicated people to share organising the cluster activities, agree on a vision, form an organisation with a constitution, organise regular networking events and possibly a local conference. Just start and refine as you go. The Canterbury Tech Cluster started with a few local tech entrepreneurs meeting for a regular tech BBQ. It has now over 700 members, organises the Canterbury Tech Summit with over a 1,000 participants each year. Every month they meet and have one tech and one business speaker, as well as a great concept to trigger networking and collaboration. Chris and NZ Tech have offered us to assist to set up a Tech Cluster in Northland. Many thanks for that offer. We will come back to that offer.

Any comments or feedback are very much appreciated. Please contact us.


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