New ways and means needed to meet new challenges

Hort Talk
with Mike Chapman
HorticultureNZ CEO

Current ways and means will not meet the challenges of improving freshwater quality and mitigating climate change. In other words, the current Resource Management Act, and central and local government rules and processes need to change.

Similarly, reform of vocational education will not be successful if current central government structures around training and education are not also updated to support the system.   

All the changes the Government is talking about at the moment are revolutionary and intergenerational. They require everyone to embrace new ways of doing what’s been done in the past. 

The real risk though is that central government tries to deliver the new world with the same processes, rules and structures.

Currently, organisations such as HortNZ are making submissions to central government on the vocational education reform proposals and their implementation. However, design and detail of the new policies is being done with a high degree of replication, albeit with new names, of the structures we have now. If delivery and administration structures stay the same, it is likely that what was delivered in the past will be the same as what is delivered in the future. 

Biggest challenge

Ask growers or farmers to name the biggest challenge to making environmental changes and adopting new growing systems, and they will answer regional councils. So why aren’t we looking at new ways to deliver environmental improvement and mitigate climate change? 

When it comes to implementing these changes on orchard and in the vegetable garden, it’s the growers who’ll make these changes. This can best be done through independently-audited Farm Environment Plans based on risk assessment and good management practice for each property, with the regional councils setting the catchment outcomes but leaving how this is done on each property to the property owner. Keep the regional councils out of what happens on-farm.

At the same time, we need to ensure that the price of healthy vegetables and fruit remains affordable for New Zealanders. Deloitte estimates New Zealand consumers could face price increases as high as 58 per cent by 2043 if vegetable production does not increase. 

Fund research

What could central government do? It could help fund research and development of new techniques and technologies to underpin the careful balancing act needed to meet environmental and climate change challenges, and feed New Zealanders healthy food at affordable prices. 

While the health of the environment, economy and New Zealanders is a challenge, I’m confident it can be achieved – just not through the current methods and structures. We need to set up new processes to deal with these new challenges and trust the intergenerational stewards of the land to do what is needed. We can have healthy rivers and healthy affordable food.


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