Nicola is a Senior International Policy Analyst at the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI), covering trade and relations between New Zealand and China.
While most people are aware that the vast majority of New Zealand's primary products are exported, many don't understand the issues associated with it. Trade and trade relations are complex. Some countries refuse to import particular agricultural products for a variety of reasons, and they do this through a range of means, such as imposing high tariffs or through blocking them with domestic legislation.
Nicola and her colleagues aim to prevent these from affecting New Zealand. They promote free trade and negotiate with other countries to allow imports of New Zealand’s products at the best possible rates through lower tariffs and open access. They negotiate preferential access for New Zealand products (enabled through Free Trade Agreements for example); identify and troubleshoot possible issues; and build strong relationships with other countries.
Nicola leads the ‘China desk’ – MPI’s team focussed on building and maintaining good relations with China to ensure continued access for New Zealand’s primary industry exports – a role that keeps her extremely busy. China is New Zealand’s number one market and is increasing in importance. Just under 90 percent of New Zealand goods exported to China last year were from the primary industries.
Nicola describes her role as often requiring detailed analysis, lengthy negotiations, travel, strong political and professional relationships, cultural awareness and a thorough understanding of the New Zealand primary industries. Nicola has recently returned from a trip to Beijing, as part of the
team negotiating the Free Trade Agreement Upgrade between China and New Zealand.
Although now Wellington-based, Nicola’s interest in agriculture began from birth. She originally started life on a sheep and beef farm, as a young girl waddling amongst stud bulls and appointing herself a honourary member of the shearing gangs. She has a Bachelor of Business Studies (hons) in Economics and Management from Massey University, where she met her husband Tom, who was then studying agriculture.
Nicola previously worked for MAF in a very similar role (responsible for different countries); before Nicola and Tom moved to London, where she worked for a consultancy company. But the pull from agriculture led the couple to move to Edinburgh, where Nicola took up a role as Policy Manager for the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) Scotland, Scotland’s leading agricultural organisation. In this role, Nicola oversaw all cross-commodity technical and legal issues, helped with legal cases and led most NFUS negotiations. Some of the more interesting issues she led on included renewable energy, tenancy negotiations and land court cases.
Outside of work, Nicola and husband Tom have two beautiful children, Kate and Henry, who get as many opportunities to experience country life as possible. Nicola has also taken up a new hobby — taking to the skies for flying lessons!