Taxes, water and land
By the time you read this column we should know the make-up of our government and have an idea about what policies it will pursue in the next three years.
Pre-election, we set the scene for working with the new government through our election manifesto, which is available on our website. With the change in leadership of the Labour Party, we expanded that manifesto to include horticulture’s views on proposed taxes that would affect your growing operations, particularly a water tax. We are now preparing evidence-based submissions to inform policy development by the new government.
No matter what the coalition make-up is, as an industry we need to be prepared to deal with tax and water issues. Whether it is later this year or sometime in the future, the government will look to tax the primary sector. Working with the other primary sector organisations, we have commissioned an independent economic analysis of different taxes on the primary sector, including what the unintended consequences might be. These include the range of impacts from the grower, to rural communities they support, to the wider New Zealand economy, increased costs of healthy food, and tax collection efficiencies and administration. Added to this critical analysis will be key policy submissions directed to encouraging: innovation; research and development; and the growing and eating of healthy foods. Our overall point is that tax is a disincentive and does not promote good public policy outcomes.
Another feature of the election campaign was the focus on the urban-rural divide, suggesting increasing numbers of urban dwellers have little or no understanding of how their food is grown. Whatever the parties said and whoever becomes government, we need to bridge that divide and tell our stories better. Such a divide suggests we are unlikely to get support for some of the policies we need to ensure industry growth. There is a positive global trend, in that consumers are increasingly interested in eating healthy food and understanding the story about how that food is grown. We have seized this trend as an opportunity to launch an Instagram campaign aimed at city dwellers and foodies both in New Zealand and around the world.
Growers of New Zealand (#GrowersOfNZ) went live in the last week of September and sparked interest from New Zealand and further afield. The idea is that each week a grower will be profiled at work, and the seasonal crop they have been working with will be highlighted in a recipe. Using the social media channel dedicated to great food and travel photography, we are targeting a younger audience and trying to give them an understanding of what growing healthy food is all about. It will also serve the purpose of attracting people to horticulture as an industry to work in.
Linked to the disconnection of urban New Zealand from the food chain, is another of our key election manifesto policies: the development of a national food security policy. Its essence is protecting high quality land for growing fruit and vegetables and ensuring that sufficient water is available to enable that growing. Such a policy will need to, as far as possible, prevent houses being built where we should be growing fruit and vegetables. The ways to achieve the policy outcomes are being investigated, including tools under the existing Resource Management Act (RMA), such as national planning standards.
We need to garner support across the primary sector and environmental groups to be able to develop national policies based on the value of healthy food production. This should also involve developing standardised rules for issues that are dealt with time-and-again in district plans across the country for example: reverse sensitivity; agrichemicals; noise; structures; setbacks; rural amenity; and landscapes.
These initiatives are all interlinked and do not detract from our everyday work, such as making submissions opposing the Water Conservation Order on the Ngaruroro River and Clive River in the Hawke’s Bay. To deliver the desired outcomes we have been refocusing and increasing our resourcing in Hort NZ’s key activity areas: RMA and biosecurity. Further support has also been provided for NZGAP and vegetables.co.nz to enhance their operations. Our goal is to provide you with the best possible support and to create an environment in which your growing operations can prosper.