Lack of lead­er­ship mud­dies the wa­ter

Thanks to Bruce Wills who penned last month’s col­umn. His thoughts on wa­ter and the chal­lenges we all face gave us more in­sight on this im­por­tant topic.

The Orchardist - - President’s Word - Ju­lian Raine is pres­i­dent of Hort NZ

Clean and plen­ti­ful wa­ter is truly a com­plex sub­ject. There is plenty of opin­ion and few ev­i­den­tial facts used in much of the de­bate that swirls around New Zealand. I note there are many “so­cial me­dia ex­perts” who chip in their 10c worth at the drop of a tweet. Many are just emo­tive opin­ion with lit­tle con­sid­er­a­tion of the facts and lack any sci­en­tific ev­i­dence or even a sug­ges­tion of re­al­is­tic out­comes.

Clean and plen­ti­ful wa­ter is not just a New Zealand is­sue but also a global one. I am con­stantly read­ing ar­ti­cles on the same sub­ject around the world. In many cases you could cross out the coun­try name and write New Zealand be­cause these are sim­i­lar to the de­bates we are hav­ing here. Whose fault is it that we don’t have enough wa­ter or when did sig­nif­i­cant parts of our rivers be­come unswimable? Un­for­tu­nately, we have lots of peo­ple fin­ger point­ing and no lead­er­ship that would bring all sides to­gether to find so­lu­tions. In New Zealand the big­gest loser is still the en­vi­ron­ment and no one is sat­is­fied. How do we con­struc­tively con­quer this com­plex co­nun­drum?

I re­cently at­tended a sym­po­sium at Lin­coln Uni­ver­sity or­gan­ised by the uni­ver­sity and the Na­tional Science Chal­lenge Board of Our Land and Wa­ter. All sides of the spec­trum at­tended and there were some ex­cel­lent pre­sen­ta­tions. Un­for­tu­nately, I heard lit­tle about prac­ti­cal so­lu­tions as most pre­sen­ta­tions fo­cused on the prob­lems, and boy do we have them. Short of clos­ing the coun­try down and all hu­mans de­part­ing New Zealand, the sym­po­sium lacked real so­lu­tions. I will watch with in­ter­est as to how the Na­tional Science Chal­lenge deals with this over the com­ing years. In­ter­est­ingly more than 95% of the two days was about wa­ter and next to no one ad­dressed the ques­tion of pro­tect­ing our land.

The Land and Wa­ter Fo­rum spent years in this space and when we had all sides sit­ting at the ta­ble good progress was made on some very dif­fi­cult stuff. Un­for­tu­nately, a num­ber of the En­vi­ron­men­tal NGOs walked away, and there was a lack of po­lit­i­cal will from cen­tral gov­ern­ment to adopt the pack­age of rec­om­men­da­tions made by the fo­rum. Now, I’m not the Min­is­ter for the En­vi­ron­ment and I don’t know which sup­port par­ties he has to con­vince to sup­port the pack­age of rec­om­men­da­tions, but at some point we have to get a land­ing on this. Who and where is the road­block? The cost to New Zealand is too great if we don’t find a pack­age of so­lu­tions. From where I sit not only is our en­vi­ron­ment miss­ing out but also so­ci­ety is en­trenched in a blame game, rather than work­ing to­wards a so­lu­tion. Ev­ery New Zealan­der has a role to play at fix­ing this is­sue; we need lead­er­ship from a num­ber of key peo­ple and I sus­pect a ma­jor com­mit­ment to fund it. Many of the prob­lems have oc­curred over a long pe­riod of

time and so­lu­tions will equally take time be­fore we see im­prove­ments.

As we all know 2017 is an elec­tion year and all vot­ers have a choice to make at the bal­lot box on Septem­ber 23. Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand has made a num­ber of sug­ges­tions to po­lit­i­cal par­ties about poli­cies they should adopt. We wel­come in­formed de­bate on these top­ics and hope­fully we will see them be­come re­al­ity. Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand sees these is­sues and sug­gested out­comes as sound and good for our mem­bers, the wider com­mu­nity and the New Zealand econ­omy.

These top­ics in­clude

Coun­try of Ori­gin La­belling (CoOL) of fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles for in­formed con­sumer choice at re­tail.

Pro­tec­tion of our best and most pro­duc­tive soils for food, lead­ing to a food se­cu­rity pol­icy.

Hort NZ chief ex­ec­u­tive Mike Chap­man wrote a good ar­ti­cle in last month’s mag­a­zine that cov­ers these ar­eas in more de­tail. Please raise these top­ics with friends and fam­i­lies. Your help is ap­pre­ci­ated.

Two cy­clones Deb­bie and Cook cre­ated an un­usual and dif­fi­cult har­vest for many. Too much rain can be just as dev­as­tat­ing as too lit­tle. For those who have suf­fered floods and the heartache of los­ing a crop I hope that you have dried out and got some nor­mal­ity back in your lives. Sup­port is avail­able through the Ru­ral Sup­port Trust on 0800 787 254 or Hort NZ on 0508 467 869.

The ki­wifruit in­dus­try learned a lot when Psa dev­as­tated it. Dur­ing this time good sys­tems were de­vel­oped to sup­port those strug­gling per­son­ally with the chal­lenges.

For most of us the two cy­clones brought lots of rain and dif­fi­cult con­di­tions for 10 days. Many grow­ers I know just had to sol­dier on and get the job done. Mar­kets and crops don’t wait for ideal har­vest con­di­tions. Re­tail shelves have to be filled on time with qual­ity pro­duce. Su­per­mar­ket buy­ers and con­sumers adapted to what was avail­able, and in most cases were sat­is­fied. Un­sur­pris­ingly, con­sumers un­der­stood the dif­fi­cul­ties we were hav­ing.

Per­haps there is a les­son for us in there when deal­ing with the wa­ter is­sues in the en­vi­ron­ment space?

“Clean and plen­ti­ful wa­ter is not just a New Zealand is­sue but also a global one.”

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