Greenlife Industry Australia President's Report May 2020

Flying a kite

This month, rather than reporting on what has happened in the last few weeks, I want to start a conversation. I want to hear your thoughts, so please email me at So, here we go.
by Glenn Fenton
The issues that matter to the industry are often presented to us as threats and opportunities.
Case in point is the ongoing COVID 19 pandemic. Developing quickly, it’s been a clear threat to our people and businesses. GIA and our Member Associations have responded quickly to Government requests and this allowed our industry to continue to operate.
Now, as Federal and State Governments start developing a vision of a post-pandemic Australian economy, our industry needs to be strategically agile with our thinking, as other opportunities, that we haven’t considered, are presenting themselves. Therefore, our strategic policy development must be agile enough to take advantage of short-term opportunities and visionary enough to continue to develop long term policy, in areas such as biosecurity.
Our industry is in a unique position because its deeply rooted in primary production and gardening, and there are opportunities because our systems and processes cross over into manufacturing, sustainability and healthy living.
The pandemic has highlighted our over reliance on overseas supply chains and there is significant public and government discussion over the importance of Australian manufacturing.
The question and opportunity for our industry is, are we strategically agile enough to consider our production businesses as part of Australian manufacturing? Can we leverage the opportunities that could come from an industry policy that presents our production nurseries as high tech, clean and green, highly efficient and staffed with highly educated and trained staff? Do we change the outdated public and government perception of our industry as a cottage industry to high tech plant manufacturing businesses, populated with a mixture of trained specialists in everything from manufacturing and logistics to electronics, science and botany? Controversial?
Not really. The GIA Strategic Planning session last year unearthed many of these ideas and they have been built into the Association’s three-year strategy.
Some production nurseries are already making that transition and the Australian Plant Production Standard provides a world class architecture for plant production, but our industry is not known widely or understood by policy makers or the general public.
It’s interesting to note that some countries, such as Germany, have changed the perception of their manufacturing industry from dirty, low tech, low paid to high quality, high tech and well paid that attracts the best talent from all over the world.
In my view, and I encourage your input, we should not be left behind. As the Federal and State Governments consider a new Australian manufacturing industry, significant opportunities for our industry will emerge in training, recruiting and retention of our current and future workforce, should we be strategically agile.
Garden centres, the landscape sector and media also stand to benefit from this approach as more qualified horticulturalists make their way from production to communicate and teach about the benefits of gardening, sustainability and healthy living.
Our institutions are paying more attention to the interest of Australians in gardening; and their understanding of the health and societal benefits are at an all-time high. GIA has now launched the Plant Pals community hub and great work continues to be done through the levy projects on Plant Life Balance and Greener Spaces Better Places programs.
Is there an opportunity to change public perception of garden centres to sustainable living hubs where you go to get the best advice on gardening, community, healthy and sustainable living? I know of a few centres who have already orientated this way.
I have no doubt this would attract the best and brightest minds to our industry, to work, live and communicate to a population hungry for information. Should we own the sustainable and healthy living space?
I am looking for ideas from our members for a practical, operative approach. What do you think? I invite you to email your comments to I’m interested in your thoughts.
For more information:
Greenlife Industry Australia
T: (02) 8861 5100
F: (02) 9659 3446

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