Grow­ing soils should be sacro­sanct

The Orchardist - - Food Security - By Les­ley Wil­son

I’m afraid this col­umn will not be full of pop­ulist waf­fle, but

in­stead, be full of facts.

The Hawke’s Bay Fruit­grow­ers’ As­so­ci­a­tion has been in ex­is­tence for nearly 120 years.

We look after the in­ter­ests of pipfruit, ki­wifruit and stone­fruit grow­ers in Hawke’s Bay, and al­though pipfruit in­dus­try is un­der­go­ing a me­te­oric rise in for­tunes at the mo­ment, all of fruit­grow­ing is do­ing well.

Hawke’s Bay grows 70% of all the ap­ples in New Zealand and in the next few years that will equate to $700 mil­lion dol­lars be­ing poured into the Hawke’s Bay econ­omy. That money is spent lo­cally. It is a strong and re­silient base to our econ­omy.

How­ever there are a cou­ple of fac­tors that re­strict this growth, one is labour and the other is land. We have two labour needs. Firstly we have short-term peak sea­sonal labour re­quire­ments of which RSE work­ers fill some of those po­si­tions. We, as an in­dus­try, work closely with Work and In­come to get Ki­wis into em­ploy­ment. The RSE scheme is first and fore mostly a Ki­wis-first scheme. Some peo­ple will earn min­i­mum wage dur­ing this time, many will earn much more.

Sec­ondly we need more full-time work­ers who are keen to train for man­age­ment roles and any Kiwi who shows po­ten­tial dur­ing sea­sonal work is quickly moved into full-time work. This is un­der­scored by the fact that we have over 120 young peo­ple in fruit­grow­ing and post-har­vest ap­pren­tice­ships this year. Soon, many of our qual­i­fied ap­pren­tices will go on to com­plete newly de­vel­oped diplo­mas. Hor­ti­cul­ture is a valid and vi­able ca­reer for those suited to it.

The New Zealand pipfruit in­dus­try has, for the sec­ond time in a row, been voted the most in­ter­na­tion­ally com­pet­i­tive in­dus­try in the world; you don’t win ac­co­lades like that by grow­ing fruit on sub­stan­dard soils.

Year in and year out we, the as­so­ci­a­tion, sub­mit to the Hast­ings Dis­trict Coun­cil and fight against plan changes that al­low the good Here­taunga Plains soils to be put un­der houses.

The Hast­ings town­ship was started on some of the best soils in the world and the map on page 18 clearly shows we are run­ning out of it. The dark ar­eas are Class 1 soils, less than 5% of the soil world­wide is Class 1.

The Here­taunga Plains Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment Strat­egy 2010 (HPUDS) was sup­posed to put some stakes in the ground, to high­light ar­eas for fu­ture de­vel­op­ment, and to recog­nise the value of the pro­duc­tive soils, min­imis­ing the need for ur­ban and ru­ral life­style de­vel­op­ments on it.

There is very lit­tle ev­i­dence of this hap­pen­ing. HPUDS states that growth ar­eas should be 60% in­ten­si­fi­ca­tion, 35% green­fields and 5% ru­ral ar­eas, how­ever we have no ev­i­dence of this hap­pen­ing. It ap­pears, to us, that it is mostly green­fields. HPUDS is a dou­ble edge sword, while it uses a con­sul­ta­tive process to plan fu­ture growth, this sends a mes­sage to de­vel­op­ers and in­vestors who im­me­di­ately buy up the land ear­marked for de­vel­op­ment and in some cases this land is land-banked, ef­fec­tively tak­ing it out of the sys­tem.

We believe that ar­eas that were set aside for de­vel­op­ment in the 2010 HPUDS should be fully ex­hausted be­fore new ar­eas are opened up, this in­cludes Lyn­d­hurst, Wil­liams Street, Arataki, Mid­dle Road etc. It is ex­as­per­at­ing that in a re­cent rul­ing on the Howard street area, an ex­tra 6ha was re­leased for ur­ban de­vel­op­ment – this area was not in the 2010 HPUDS Strat­egy.

The cur­rent gov­ern­ment is about to re­lease a Na­tional Pol­icy State­ment, Ur­ban De­vel­op­ment Ca­pac­ity. We hope this will pro­vide clear guide­lines on the sanc­tity of good qual­ity soils.

The as­so­ci­a­tion is not against de­vel­op­ment, we worked with coun­cil to de­velop HPUDS 2010 for the best out­come for ev­ery­one, we only want to save the highly pro­duc­tive soils of the Here­taunga Plains.

Les­ley Wil­son

The map shows the Here­taunga Plains are run­ning out of soils on which to grow food. The dark ar­eas are Class 1 soils and less than 5% of the soil world­wide is Class 1.

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