Un­der the Mikero­scope

Telling our story to bridge any ur­ban-ru­ral di­vide

NZ Grower - - Contents - Mike Chap­man | Chief Ex­ec­u­tive | Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand

Back in 2008, the Min­istry for Pri­mary In­dus­tries (MPI) com­mis­sioned a sur­vey to look at the re­al­ity of this di­vide and the sur­vey was up­dated in 2017. The re­cent re­sults make very in­ter­est­ing read­ing. As the Min­is­ter for Agri­cul­ture noted when re­leas­ing this re­port on Fe­bru­ary 26, 2018, the key find­ings of the 2017 sur­vey were that “the views of ru­ral and ur­ban New Zealan­ders are very sim­i­lar across key top­ics in the pri­mary sec­tor in­clud­ing wa­ter qual­ity”.

The Min­is­ter noted the sur­vey’s find­ings were very dif­fer­ent to what was be­ing re­ported in the me­dia, where it has been sug­gested that there is a grow­ing di­vide and po­lar­i­sa­tion be­tween ur­ban and ru­ral New Zealand. A copy of the sur­vey can be found on the MPI web­site https:// mpi.govt.nz/dms­doc­u­ment/27582new-zealan­ders-views-of-the-pri­ma­ry­sec­tor

While the sur­vey had some pos­i­tives to re­port, we have all ex­pe­ri­enced a lack of un­der­stand­ing from ur­ban New Zealand about how the ru­ral sec­tor works, and what it con­trib­utes to the coun­try. This is ev­i­denced in many ways in­clud­ing a lack of un­der­stand­ing about how the weather and cli­matic events af­fect pro­duc­tion, about our fo­cus on sus­tain­abil­ity, and about how fruit and veg­eta­bles are sea­sonal, for ex­am­ple. But what the sur­vey shows is that when it comes to views on the key is­sues af­fect­ing all of New Zealand, ur­ban and ru­ral peo­ple are think­ing much the same way. I do not find that sur­pris­ing. What I re­main con­cerned about is many ur­ban peo­ple have a real lack of un­der­stand­ing and ap­pre­ci­a­tion for what the ru­ral sec­tor does and how their food is grown.

One of our key Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand goals is to tell the hor­ti­cul­ture story, as this un­der­pins ev­ery­thing that we do. We need to tell ur­ban New Zealand, politi­cians, and other gov­ern­ment de­ci­sion-mak­ers about hor­ti­cul­ture. In my ex­pe­ri­ence, there is a dis­tinct lack of knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing about hor­ti­cul­ture. Every day, we are look­ing for ways to bridge that gap and in­crease aware­ness, knowl­edge and un­der­stand­ing. This is so that when we ask for sup­port for labour; sup­port for pro­tect­ing high qual­ity land; for manda­tory coun­try of ori­gin la­belling; and for wa­ter stor­age and ir­ri­ga­tion, those who make the de­ci­sions can un­der­stand the im­por­tance of that sup­port.

We also have a very good story to tell. This is a theme that will be con­tin­ued at our con­fer­ence this year in Christchurch, from July 23 to 25. We can build on this sur­vey and use it to help in­form our cam­paigns to in­crease un­der­stand­ing about the hor­ti­cul­ture sec­tor. En­cour­ag­ingly, one of the sur­vey’s find­ings was that both ur­ban and ru­ral re­spon­dents were most pos­i­tive about the hor­ti­cul­ture in­dus­try. This was an in­crease on the num­ber of re­spon­dents that were pos­i­tive about hor­ti­cul­ture back in 2008 for both those in ur­ban (up 6%) and ru­ral (up11%) New Zealand.

It is en­cour­ag­ing that the ma­jor­ity of both ur­ban and ru­ral re­spon­dents agreed that ex­pan­sion of the pri­mary sec­tor is good for New Zealand. Ev­ery­one also agreed that wa­ter pol­lu­tion and qual­ity are the most sig­nif­i­cant en­vi­ron­men­tal is­sues fac­ing New Zealand and the pri­mary sec­tor. Con­cern about the biose­cu­rity threat from pests and dis­eases also rated highly across the board. It was pleas­ing to note that a ma­jor­ity of the re­spon­dents were of the view that a wide range of skills are needed to work in the pri­mary sec­tor and that the pri­mary sec­tor in­volves cut­ting-edge think­ing and tech­nolo­gies. Un­for­tu­nately, un­der half of all re­spon­dents agreed that pri­mary sec­tor busi­nesses are good em­ploy­ers.

The is­sues iden­ti­fied in the sur­vey are where we at Hor­ti­cul­ture New Zealand are fo­cus­ing our ef­forts to create an en­dur­ing en­vi­ron­ment where you can pros­per. To this end the sur­vey has en­dorsed what we are do­ing.

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