Government reveals New Zealand's first-ever grocery sector referee

Pierre van Heerden, the former head of Mojo Coffee, will become New Zealand's first Grocery Commissioner, the Government has announced.

The role has been established following the Commerce Commission report last year that found the 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.

The Government said the Grocery Commissioner will hold the sector to account, ramp up competition, and produce annual "state of competition reviews". 

They will act as a referee, the Government said, keeping the duopoly honest and blowing the whistle if there's a suspected issue. The Commissioner will have the ability to issue warnings and fines.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Duncan Webb said van Heerden had a deep knowledge of the industry across New Zealand, 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," said Dr Webb.

"This will be essential in his role addressing the nature of competition in the grocery sector and the improvements we want to see over time.

"An important focus of the Grocery Commissioner will be in levelling the playing field and ensuring increased competition in the grocery industry, and for the benefit of Kiwi consumers."

He's previously been the chief executive of Mojo Coffee, general manager commercial development at Zealandia and executive general manager at Farrah's Breads. He's also held roles in Dick Smith Foods and Sanitarium in Australia. 

As the Grocery Commissioner, van Heerden will join the Commerce Commission's board. He begins his five-year term on Thursday.

The establishment of a Grocery Commissioner is one of several steps the Government has taken to boost competition in the sector since the Commerce Commission report.

Other actions include requiring major grocery retailers to open wholesale offerings so other grocery retailers have direct access to a range of wholesale groceries at competitive prices.

The Government's also banned restrictive land agreements that locked new entrants out of the best locations and is establishing a dispute resolution scheme. Consultation has just closed on a grocery supply code.