Bridge over trou­bled wa­ters

New Zealand is our beau­ti­ful home and coun­try. We are for­tu­nate to live and farm with a mild cli­mate, fer­tile soils, gen­er­ous sun­shine and rain­fall. Our ru­ral in­dus­tries pro­duce sig­nif­i­cant vol­umes of qual­ity food – much more than our own pop­u­la­tion needs

The Orchardist - - Contents - Ju­lian Raine is pres­i­dent of Hort NZ

Last month New Zealand held its tri­en­nial gen­eral elec­tion. There was no clear win­ner on the night – un­der the MMP sys­tem (as op­posed to the first-passed-the-post sys­tem) – deals need to done with two or more par­ties to de­ter­mine who will ul­ti­mately form the govern­ment. As I write this month’s col­umn there is still no cer­tainty as to which com­bi­na­tion it may be. Two or three com­bi­na­tions of pos­si­bil­i­ties piv­ot­ing around the two main par­ties could lead our coun­try for the next three years. Will it be Labour with Greens and NZ First, or Na­tional with NZ First or, at very long odds, Na­tional and the Greens? Auck­land, New Zealand’s largest city, has had a sig­nif­i­cant in­flu­ence on the out­come of the elec­tion. I note that it has as many seats (vot­ers) as the com­bi­na­tion of all of the South Is­land and all the Welling­ton seats. So in­flu­enc­ing Auck­land vot­ers is an im­por­tant tool in any po­lit­i­cal party’s tac­tics.

This years’ elec­tion has been, in my opin­ion, a par­tic­u­larly nasty one. I have never wit­nessed such in­tense per­sonal and col­lec­tive at­tacks on sec­tions of our com­mu­nity by a wide range of groups and in­di­vid­u­als. I have been sad­dened by not only the loss of con­fi­dence in our ru­ral com­mu­ni­ties and in­dus­tries, but also the emo­tive ha­tred that has em­pha­sised a grow­ing gap between our ur­ban cousins and the ru­ral sec­tor. What used to be seen as a grow­ing dis­tance or di­vide has grown into a huge gulf. It hasn’t helped with poli­cies pro­moted by a num­ber of the po­lit­i­cal par­ties and their NGO sup­port­ers. Pro­posed en­vi­ron­men­tal rules, new taxes and tar­geted mea­sures to throw many of us who live in ru­ral ar­eas un­der the fi­nan­cial bus have in­censed a large num­ber of coun­try vot­ers.

WHY HAS THIS HAP­PENED?

There is no doubt that all New Zealan­ders want cleaner water. I en­joy swim­ming in our lo­cal river over the sum­mer months like ev­ery­one else. As an or­chardist, I need potable water for all of our pro­duc­tion sys­tems. Sub­stan­dard water is not an op­tion for ir­ri­ga­tion in any crop I grow. We need clean water for ev­ery ac­tiv­ity from hand wash­ing and drink­ing to frost fight­ing and fruit pack­ing. Why would any­one not want clean water?

Our ur­ban cousins feel we have made a poor job of what we do and feel we have ne­glected parts of our pris­tine ru­ral ar­eas, es­pe­cially our rivers and streams. This sit­u­a­tion has been grow­ing for some time. It is pro­mul­gated by green NGOs and re­in­forced time and time again. Iron­i­cally Auck­land has the worst water qual­ity in our coun­try. This fact seems to be com­pletely over­looked by Auck­lan­ders and the green NGOs. When will they clean up their own back­yard and make the City of Sails’ beaches swimmable again? Both sides have work to do so why don’t we just ad­mit it and get on to fix it… to­gether?

Our ru­ral lead­ers need to stand up and ad­dress the is­sues that have been raised. In my view we have not been good enough in “telling our sto­ries” about why we do the things we do, but also there have to be changes in some of our prac­tices. How can we do things bet­ter? Each of us has a role to play in do­ing the right thing for the en­vi­ron­ment, not just water qual­ity. Soil degra­da­tion, nu­tri­ent leach­ing, car­bon loss, wast­ing en­ergy, lack of re­cy­cling and the like are all is­sues we need to look at in­di­vid­u­ally and col­lec­tively.

All ru­ral in­dus­tries have to do their bit, not only to re­think prac­tices but also to re­link ur­ban with ru­ral. At Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand we have started an In­sta­gram page to share grow­ers’ sto­ries, pho­tos and recipes (see #Grow­er­sOfNZ). For those of you who fol­low so­cial me­dia, post­ing and re­post­ing all things hor­ti­cul­ture is now a must do – ev­ery lit­tle bit counts.

Our on farm prac­tices are lead­ing the ru­ral in­dus­tries in good agri­cul­tural prac­tice (GAP). Hor­ti­cul­ture has ap­prox­i­mately 90% of its grow­ers in reg­is­tered GAP schemes. This in­cludes the likes of NZGAP and Global GAP. Third party au­di­tors in­de­pen­dently ver­ify th­ese schemes, giv­ing cred­i­bil­ity to those who doubt the per­for­mance of our grow­ers.

No mat­ter where all of this leads we must re­con­nect ur­ban and ru­ral af­ter the lat­est bat­ter­ing. We each have a role to play.

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