Under the Mikeroscope
It is just six months until New Zealand elects a new government.
Election year a time for action
This pre-election time presents us all with the opportunity to put forward ideas for the various parties’ election manifestos, as well as ideas for a new government to put into action once they are elected.
For a number of years, Horticulture New Zealand has campaigned for there to be mandatory Country of Origin Labelling (CoOL) on fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. This is so that New Zealand consumers can make choices when they are buying fresh fruit and vegetables about which country they come from. These choices may include supporting locally grown produce that contributes to both the local and national economy.
To establish some evidence about what consumers want, an independent Consumer NZ survey conducted in February this year asked a series of questions about buying fresh fruit and fresh vegetables. The survey confirms that consumers want to both buy fresh and to support their local growers. In fact, 71% of those surveyed and, three out of every four female respondents, want mandatory CoOL.This sends a very strong message to our politicians.
The government has previously presented at least two reasons given why mandatory CoOL should not be made law in New Zealand, but we don’t believe they stack up.
The first is that it could breach World Trade Organisation rules. Yet the majority of countries we export fresh fruit and vegetables to, including Australia, have mandatory CoOL and this has not been subject to any trade concerns.
The other reason is that there is voluntary compliance and therefore, there is no need to mandate it. There is voluntary compliance in the major supermarket chains. But not all fresh fruit and vegetables are purchased at the supermarket. The Consumer NZ survey reported that 22% was purchased outside of these chains. The survey asked consumers if they look for country of origin labelling when shopping, and did they find it? The result was that 66% of said they looked for it but could only find it 32% of the time for fresh fruit and 29% of the time for fresh vegetables.
Another policy for election manifestos and the new government to adopt is a Food Security Policy.
Other countries around the world have policies like this to ensure that their domestic producers can feed (as much as is possible) their people.
Horticulture New Zealand has raised with government the need for such a policy for New Zealand. There needs to be a consistent approach across New Zealand for the protection of high-value land that is suitable for horticulture. Around every city and town in our major horticulture growing areas there are pressures for horticultural land to be turned into houses. The most critical at present is around Pukekohe, where the Auckland Council wants to put around 30,000 new houses.
Pukekohe is a prime example why a Food Security Policy is needed. In spring, New Zealand’s leafy greens and spring potatoes and carrots come from Pukekohe. If we lose Pukekohe to houses, then New Zealand will end up importing those vegetables from other countries. Without mandatory CoOL, consumers will not know where their fresh fruit and vegetables have come from.
A significant challenge that New Zealand has to face is how to achieve net zero emissions by 2050. A report prepared for Globe NZ asks this question and indicates how New Zealand may achieve this target. One of the scenarios has pastoral stock reducing by up to 35%. The report suggests that forestry and horticulture will need to replace the export returns earned at present. (This report is covered in greater detail later in this magazine).
Horticultural exports are already growing at a rapid rate – for the two-year period from June 2014, by just under 40% in value. But this growth will need to continue and for that to happen, there needs to be recognition and protection of existing horticulture.
More than just recognition of existing growing operations is required. There also needs to be a concerted focus on developing horticulture and this will need to be supported by the government of the day. This is not something that can be left to regional and district councils.The government needs to take the lead by putting in place policies that identify where our fresh fruit and vegetables comes from, protect the land they are grown on, and provide consistent national policies enabling the continued growth of horticulture to assist New Zealand meet its Emissions Trading Scheme undertakings.
Horticulture New Zealand is raising the need for action on these policies. Can you also raise them with your MP and the candidates for this year’s election?