The new gov­ern­ment: what's in it for you

Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand be­lieves there is an op­por­tu­nity for new eco­nomic in­vest­ment projects such as a $1 bil­lion per an­num Re­gional De­vel­op­ment (Provin­cial Growth) Fund, fol­low­ing the change in gov­ern­ment.

NZ Grower - - NEWS -

Hort NZ chief ex­ec­u­tive, Mike Chap­man ad­mits while it is still early days and there is not a lot of de­tail around changes to pol­icy and law yet, he says there are some op­por­tu­ni­ties sur­round­ing re­gional de­vel­op­ment.

"We have made it very clear that we want to work with the gov­ern­ment and be con­sulted as pol­icy and law changes that af­fect hor­ti­cul­ture grow­ers are de­vel­oped - and so far, there is ev­ery in­di­ca­tion this will hap­pen," Chap­man said. "A change in gov­ern­ment af­ter nine years, and par­tic­u­larly the makeup of the new gov­ern­ment as an agree­ment be­tween three sep­a­rate and quite dif­fer­ent par­ties led by the Labour Party, will un­doubt­edly have im­pacts on hor­ti­cul­ture. We are aware that grow­ers have con­cerns about some of the poli­cies that the new gov­ern­ment has posed. It is our job to give voice to those con­cerns through the pol­icy and law mak­ing pro­cesses as we rep­re­sent grow­ers in Welling­ton. We will con­tinue to do this and have es­tab­lished some good con­nec­tions with key min­is­ters."

One of the big changes to be an­nounced so far by the new gov­ern­ment is the scrap­ping of the pri­mary in­dus­tries port­fo­lio, to be sep­a­rated into fish­eries, forestry and agri­cul­ture. Hort NZ says while ex­act de­tails on how this will work are yet to emerge, the de­ci­sion could have some pos­i­tives and neg­a­tives.

"We wel­come in­creased fo­cus on the port­fo­lios that cover hor­ti­cul­ture, par­tic­u­larly biose­cu­rity and food safety," Chap­man said. "We do have some con­cerns about some of the panin­dus­try funds con­tin­u­ing. The Pri­mary Growth Part­ner­ship and Sus­tain­able Farm­ing Fund are vi­tal to sci­ence and in­no­va­tion be­ing de­vel­oped to keep New Zealand hor­ti­cul­ture up with the rest of the world, and prefer­ably ahead at the cut­ting edge. We would want to see some ca­pac­ity in pol­icy and law de­vel­op­ment to be in­clu­sive of all the pri­mary in­dus­tries, which has been the ad­van­tage of the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries."

He also has con­cerns over se­lect com­mit­tee in­quiries (the coali­tion agree­ment has one into biose­cu­rity). He says the dis­man­tling and re­build­ing of gov­ern­ment de­part­ments has the po­ten­tial to re­duce pro­duc­tiv­ity and slow down progress. One piece of leg­is­la­tion he does not want de­layed is the Green Party's Con­sumers’ Right to Know (Coun­try of Ori­gin of Food)

Bill 2016 which went through its first read­ing and was passed through to se­lect com­mit­tee prior to the elec­tion. The se­lect com­mit­tee is due to re­port back, which means it soon could be passed into law.

An­other change Prime Min­is­ter Ardern made was to the trade port­fo­lio, which was ex­panded to in­clude ex­port growth, and Hort NZ says re­tain­ing the cur­rent mar­ket ac­cess, while open­ing up new mar­kets is crit­i­cal to trade.

"We would want to see a con­tin­u­a­tion of free trade agree­ments, tar­iff re­duc­tions and the elim­i­na­tion of non-tar­iff bar­ri­ers," Chap­man said. "Hor­ti­cul­ture has a num­ber of crops try­ing for ac­cess to the im­por­tant Chi­nese mar­ket and we are cer­tainly pre­pared to fol­low an “as­pi­ra­tional” path and work with the gov­ern­ment on ex­port growth in our sec­tor. (But) We have some con­cerns around re­stric­tion of for­eign in­vest­ment and the im­pact that might have on driv­ing re­search and de­vel­op­ment and in­no­va­tion."

Chap­man is pleased to see that the wa­ter tax ap­pears to be off the ta­ble, but is mind­ful that im­prov­ing fresh wa­ter qual­ity is go­ing to be a strong fo­cus, and it is likely that ac­tion in this area will be­gin within the first 100 days when there is im­pe­tus for the new gov­ern­ment to shape up on its elec­tion prom­ises. He says plans to in­crease the min­i­mum wage over the next three years have all sorts of im­pli­ca­tions, in­clud­ing the con­se­quence that all other wages will have to go up ac­cord­ingly, cre­at­ing a con­cern for small and medium-sized busi­nesses.

Hort NZ has also been ramp­ing up its on­go­ing calls for a na­tional food se­cu­rity pol­icy for the coun­try, fol­low­ing mooted plans by In­fra­struc­ture New Zealand to grow a satel­lite city in Pukekohe hous­ing 500,000 peo­ple. Chap­man took to sev­eral na­tional tele­vi­sion pro­grammes, and other me­dia plat­forms, to ad­vo­cate for the sec­tor and wants the gov­ern­ment to take ac­tion.

"We have in­di­cated to the new [Agri­cul­ture] Min­is­ter Damien O’Con­nor that this is some­thing we want to see progress un­der the new gov­ern­ment," Chap­man said. "The ba­sis of this pol­icy is to en­sure an on­go­ing sup­ply of New Zealand grown fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles for New Zealan­ders to eat. With rapid ur­ban de­vel­op­ment in many parts of New Zealand, we are con­cerned lo­cal in­ter­ests will sur­pass the in­ter­ests of a na­tional food sup­ply, with prime grow­ing land be­ing lost to hous­ing and in­fra­struc­ture. There needs to be a wider na­tional in­ter­est view over the top of all the lo­cal gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion-mak­ing."

"We have in­di­cated to the new Min­is­ter… with rapid ur­ban de­vel­op­ment… lo­cal in­ter­ests will sur­pass the in­ter­ests of a na­tional food sup­ply."

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