Typical test automation people should be a lot more talented that your developers. That being said, all your activities related to test automation should be done in context. What do I mean? Well, Jonathan Kohl has a great article on when to do effective automation. Really, it comes down to having tools in your tool box and knowing when to use a hammer vs. a saw. You also get more out of having the machine run the work while a person evaluates it.
Given that, I do see a huge role in automation, but I'll preface it by saying it requires a critical thinking cap to be running to evaluate each test that is being automated, and in turn being evaluated. I have seen recently where manual testers handed their tests to automators who automated the test case. Sounds great, right? It took over 6 days to run ONE regression.
A critical thinker would have taken a group of tests and figured out the best path to automate the manual case. Also, they would have to adjust the data to get this completed. The manual tester also would need to log the nuisances of test they were doing, as if they were meticulous to detail.
So, developers, take note. If you are planning a code activity, talk to a critical thinking tester first. Get their input BEFORE you start coding. In fact, you could even get them to build (or better yet, review) your test fixtures and xUnit test suites so that you can have an idea of what they are trying to test. This is just a starting point, there are still many other ways this interaction can occur, but always within context!