Growing soils should be sacrosanct
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.