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.