Aotearoa's first Grocery Commissioner promises to 'make difference', change the industry

For the first time, Aotearoa has a Grocery Commissioner and he's promising to "make a difference" and change the industry.

Pierre van Heerden will officially step into the role on Thursday, a job he describes as a "once-in-a-generation opportunity".

The role was established after the Commerce Commission report last year found Aotearoa's grocery sector isn't "working well for New Zealander consumers", with small retailers unable to effectively compete with the two major players - Woolworths NZ and Foodstuffs.

On Tuesday, van Heerden told AM it's time to "level the playing field for consumers".

"We must make sure we've got better prices, better rangers, better choices for consumers."

He told AM's Laura Tupou his focus will be "shining a light" on the sector. In van Heerden's role, he's given various powers to access information but he can request information too.

"The primary thing is focusing light, measuring and monitoring the industry. Because that's the way that you get change if you measure and you monitor," he said.

"Then if necessary, you go on to doing further actions if necessary."

Following last year's market study, van Heerden said there have already been positive changes.

"The land covenants which have been removed to make space for other retailers to come into the market. Those have been done," he said.

"Prices have been frozen over winter on many products. So the grocery retailers know the spotlight is on them and that drives change as well."

He said change isn't going to be seen immediately, it's more of a "long game".

"The focus will help increase competition. But it's really about the long term right because that is what's going benefit New Zealanders into the future."

"We want all consumers to benefit."

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Duncan Webb said van Heerden had a deep knowledge of the industry across Aotearoa, Australia and the United Kingdom.

"Pierre brings more than 25 years' experience in the grocery sector, having held roles such as chair of the Food and Grocery Council of New Zealand and has been recognised as an advocate for consumer value and transparency."

Van Heerden has previously been the chief executive of Mojo Coffee, general manager of commercial development at Zealandia and executive general manager at Farrah's Breads.

He also held roles in Dick Smith Foods and Sanitarium in Australia.

Watch the video above for more.