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.

The Orchardist - - Contents - Mike Chap­man is chief ex­ec­u­tive of Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand

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.

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