Climate change was ranked as the most significant future issue for New Zealand’s primary industries, ahead of consumer trends, biosecurity, gene editing and alternative proteins by delegates who attended the 2019 Primary Industries Summit in Wellington in July.
In an unofficial electronic poll, climate change came out as of most concern for the 350 delegates at the summit. It was also a topic addressed repeatedly by speakers throughout the two-day event, hosted by Federated Farmers.
Other subjects to emerge as challenges for this country’s primary producers were the social licence to farm and grow, the Resource Management Act, water quality and access to water, and free trade agreements.
A message that came through strongly was the need for New Zealand farmers and growers to stand tall and take pride in what they have achieved, and for the industry sectors to co-operate in promoting this country internationally and to work more closely together on common issues domestically, including at local and national government level.
Encouraging co-operation in the primary sector was the motivation for Federated Farmers to host the inaugural summit, says Federated Farmers chief executive officer Terry Copeland.
“Now more than ever it is vital for primary industries to communicate and work together. We talk about ‘Team Ag’ but we haven’t been unified and it’s often hard to get everyone around the table, but that’s beginning to change.”
Terry says Federated Farmers didn’t really know how the summit would go. “We think it worked pretty well. We had people there from right across ‘Team Ag’ – farmers, growers, fishers, beekeepers and a whole range of industry suppliers and stakeholders. It was a massive networking opportunity, as well as a learning opportunity.”
Of those attending, 30 per cent were farmers, growers and other producers, 20 per cent were associations and industry bodies’ representatives, and 15 per cent were from government agencies. The rest were industry suppliers, scientists, researchers and the media.
Among those to address the summit where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Agricultural Minister Damien O’Connor; Ken Ash, who is director of trade and agriculture for the OEDC; Lisa Tumahai, kaiwhakahaere, Te Runanga o Ngai Tahu; National Maori Authority of New Zealand executive chairman Matthew Tukaki; Nestle’s corporate head of agriculture Hans Johr; and John Deere Australia’s senior staff engineer Broughton Boydell.
The summit also included six panel discussions, plus Federated Farmers national president Katie Milne and Steve Maharey, as MCs for the event, encouraged audience participation with questions from the floor and electronically via a ‘mobi-site’ link.
Terry says it’s been pleasing to get feedback about the event from those working with food and fibre producers – that they valued the way it focused on what everyone has in common, rather than highlighting the differences.
“We have a long way to go to figure out how to work together better. Our competitors are not across the road, they are across the other side of the world. All NZ producers have that in common, along with issues around biosecurity, climate change adaptation, technology uptake, and people capability.”
Although the date and venue of the 2020 Summit has been set for June 24-25 at Te Papa, Wellington, Terry says it’s a bit early to say what the full plans might be. “We’re already getting positive support from sponsors who want to continue their involvement. There’s no better sign that you’re on the right track than having people want to support you with their own investment commitment.”