Under the Mikeroscope
Delivering on a diversity of issues
These last weeks of my tenure at HortNZ have highlighted the diversity of our role and responsibilities; speaking to exporters and international colleagues at Asia Fruit Logistica in Hong Kong, biosecurity responses, discussing agriculture and the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) and responding to needles in strawberries – a criminal issue that threatens both consumers and growers.
Working for growers over the last three and a half years has been incredibly rewarding and interesting, and I thought it useful to reflect a bit on what has been achieved.
It has been my absolute pleasure to have served the growers of New Zealand by enhancing biosecurity; lifting the profile of horticulture in Wellington trade circles and helping to get recognition of New Zealand Good Agricultural Practice (NZGAP) for Food Act purposes.
A few highlights stand out in the biosecurity space over the last three years. Firstly, I’ve had the tremendous satisfaction of working with other biosecurity managers, researchers and Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) staff across the breadth of the biosecurity system.
Secondly, I’ve been able to recruit some of the best people available into HortNZ to deliver on biosecurity for our industry. With their support, I chaired the samurai wasp steering committee that prepared and lodged the biocontrol application with the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA). With sound guidance from EPA, we received approval for the first ever pre-emptive application for a biocontrol in NZ – a crucial result for growers. On behalf of the brown marmorated stink bug (BMSB) council, HortNZ will take forward the next phase of this project – actually getting the wasp into NZ should we need it.
In my last couple of weeks, MPI has recognised the industry GAP schemes for Food Act equivalence, and looks set to recognise our GAP auditors. This has taken many years but it finally feels worth all the effort. This will make grower compliance simpler, will save costs, and importantly recognises our industry’s systematic approach to food safety.
Our greatest challenge has been, and continues to be, getting acceptance of the need for a NZ primary industry story extending beyond meat and milk. With impressive growth and demand in our sector’s products, shifting the focus and resourcing to support this is both necessary and a critical function of HortNZ.
Our priorities are to enhance access to markets and labour, to drive the necessary infrastructure investment and to create the many other enablers for our sector to reach its full potential.
“With impressive growth and demand in our sector’s products, shifting the focus and resourcing to support this is both necessary and a critical function of HortNZ.”
I’ve been impressed by MPI and Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) staff I’ve worked with on our trade issues, but we need greater investment in this area for horticulture, so that when a meat quota issue pops up in a market we aren’t left stranded without experts and capacity. Likewise, the irrigation debate has been hijacked by anti-irrigation/ dairy interests without any consideration of the need to provide water certainty to high value horticulture, usually at a substantively lower emissions load. We can’t progress as an agricultural nation without broadening the base and enabling higher value land use propositions to flourish.
A rapidly changing landscape of NZ and global regulations, uncertain trade conditions and climate change all present challenges and opportunities for NZ’s horticultural sector. An important part of managing the challenges and fully realising the opportunities is having capable industry organisations to help advocate for policy, action, and investment that supports our growers and, in our case, gives certainty of fresh, healthy produce for NZ families. This advocacy occurs through HortNZ and product groups, but it needs the ongoing support of growers to make it happen; serving as directors, offering advice to keep things real, voting for commodity levies and providing a grower’s view to policy makers – there are important roles for all growers.
Supported by you, HortNZ continues to build, maintain and leverage strong relationships across government agencies in Wellington and around the country built on trust and mutual respect. I’ve strongly advocated industry views but sometimes policy, or the law, doesn’t work out for our collective position. The advantage of our strong relationships is that we can move past the bumps that occur and achieve more overall.
This is a long game and I’ve enjoyed working on a broad range of issues, being given the space to get things done, and meeting lots of amazing people along the way. I wish my HortNZ colleagues, and our growers, the very best for a prosperous future in food production as I head off to Jakarta with my family for a new adventure.