Carmel Sepuloni hopes Grocery Commissioner will make a difference - but doesn't know how

The acting Prime Minister says the newly-appointed Grocery Commissioner will monitor unfair behaviour in the sector.

But Carmel Sepuloni told AM on Tuesday she hadn't seen the work programme for the Commissioner, so couldn't say how quickly he could effect change.

New Zealand's first Grocery Commissioner was named earlier on Tuesday. He is Pierre van Heerden, who's held various chief executive roles within the grocery sector.

"That allows us to have this particular person in place who is monitoring, shining a light, highlighting where this is anything that is unfair or unreasonable that is occurring. That information can then inform regulatory change or legislative change but also the watchdog will have a role in making sure there is the right level of competition in the grocery sector," Sepuloni said of the Commissioner.

A recent Commerce Commission market study into the grocery sector found New Zealand supermarkets were earning $1 million a day in excess profits. Appointing a Grocery Commissioner was one of the multiple recommendations made by the study's authors.

Asked what change the Commissioner would be able to effect from the get-go, Sepuloni said she wasn't sure.

"I haven't seen the work programme for the Grocery Commissioner but I'm sure the Commerce Minister will be working closely with Commerce Commission and Grocery Commissioner on what that might look like."

Sepuloni said the Government hoped to see "gains that make a difference to the lives of New Zealanders".

Following last year's market study, food price inflation continued to skyrocket by more than 12 percent year on year despite general consumer prices trending down

Van Heerden believed New Zealand had a once-in-a-generation shot at shaking up the grocery sector.

He told AM the sector was already taking positive steps but more needed to be done.
"We must make sure we've got better prices, better ranges, better choices for consumers," he said. "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.

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

"The grocery retailers know the spotlight is on them and that drives change as well."

He admitted, however, the change wouldn't be immediate.

Van Heerden said the major focus would be on increasing competition.

"It's really about the long term, right? Because that is what's going benefit New Zealanders into the future."