Bit­ing the fer­tile land that feeds us


We’re paving par­adise.

Farm­land - a lot in Pukekohe - is be­ing swal­lowed up by ur­ban de­vel­op­ment as the pop­u­la­tions of Auck­land, Hamil­ton and Tau­ranga grow.

Be­tween 2001 and 2016, about 10,000 hectares of hor­ti­cul­tural land was lost, said Hor­ti­cul­ture NZ chief ex­ec­u­tive Mike Chap­man.

Sixty per cent of that was in veg­etable pro­duc­tion and the re­main­der pro­duced fruit.

‘‘There are ar­eas where we should be di­rect­ing houses and ar­eas where we shouldn’t be di­rect­ing houses and we should do a lot more plan­ning for it,’’ Chap­man said.

‘‘We need a na­tional food se­cu­rity pol­icy, fo­cused around veg­eta­bles and fo­cused around our be­ing able to feed our­selves and pro­tect­ing the land that feeds us.’’

Hor­ti­cul­ture NZ has been push­ing its food se­cu­rity agenda for sev­eral years, Chap­man said.

Prior to the elec­tion, it re­leased a man­i­festo call­ing for bet­ter pro­tec­tions of high-qual­ity grow­ing soils.

In 2016, it made a sub­mis­sion to the Na­tional Pol­icy State­ment on ur­ban de­vel­op­ment high­light­ing the threat to food pro­duc­tion.

More than 50 per cent of New Zealand’s pop­u­la­tion lives in Auck­land, Waikato and the Bay of Plenty.

That is ex­pected to grow to more than 70 per cent in the fu­ture.

It also makes up a sig­nif­i­cant part of food pro­duc­tion, es­pe­cially at Pukekohe, where soil qual­ity is high and there is a climate that al­lows for year-round veg­etable grow­ing.

The pop­u­la­tion there is ex­pected to dou­ble in the next 30 years.

‘‘They grow our spring veg­eta­bles, not just for Auck­land, but for all of New Zealand,’’ Chap­man said.

‘‘If there are houses planted in Pukekohe in­stead of veg­eta­bles, we’ll be im­port­ing them.

‘‘That’s what we are re­ally talk­ing about ... which is crazy.’’

City ex­pan­sion is also putting pres­sure on agri­cul­tural work­ers who are now strug­gling with home af­ford­abil­ity, es­pe­cially in Auck­land, and with the cost of travel.

‘‘The fur­ther they are away from town, the harder it is for work­ers to get there and the less chance there is for work­ers,’’ Chap­man said.

‘‘It puts a real con­straint on your abil­ity to get high-qual­ity labour if they have to travel a long way.’’

*Con­tin­ued on P7

Ur­ban de­vel­op­ment around Drury and Pukekohe, where the coun­try’s spring veg­eta­bles are grown. Hor­ti­cul­ture NZ’s Mike Chap­man.

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