Opinion: Horticulture's ask from 2019 Budget

  • Opinion
  • 12/03/2019

By Mike Chapman, CEO of Horticulture NZ.

OPINION: The Government is preparing the 2019 Budget, to be delivered on May 30. 

This will be New Zealand's first well-being budget and very much a world first covering: (1) natural capital; (2) social capital; (3) financial capital; and (4) human capital.  Putting the budget, and as a result New Zealand's economic activities, through these lenses will doubtless produce some unexpected and telling outcomes.

This leads directly into the sustainability of New Zealand and extends to what we grow, eat and more importantly, what we should grow in the future. Our vision at Horticulture New Zealand is "healthy food for all forever". This very much encapsulates the budget's four well-being capitals.

The expectation would be that the budget would promote exactly that: healthy food for all forever. Healthy food, such as fruit and vegetables, cannot be grown on any land, or without water. Skilled and reliable labour is needed to grow this food.

The communities that form around food growing areas provide social and human capital.

Horticulture is more labour intensive than other forms of agriculture and as such, makes a significant contribution to social capital. Horticulture gives rural and urban New Zealand vibrant communities that work to grow food.

Importantly, this food promotes everyone's health and human well-being. As more consumers adapt their eating habits to include more fruit and vegetables, and the world's increasing population demands more food, New Zealand growers need to be able to respond. We need to grow more fruit and vegetables. We need to diversify into new fruit and vegetable crops  supplement traditional agriculture.

Here comes the difficulty. Competition for land and resources is high. Looking to the future and the possible effects of climate change, what we should be able to grow in the future is a vital ingredient for our food production sustainability, and something that I hope the budget will address.  It is no longer enough to hope that competition will effectively determine that the most sustainable crop is grown in the most productive place.  

I believe that the well-being budget should focus on how to achieve healthy food production, sustainably, well into the future.  Of necessity, this will involve creating a food supply, or security, framework that identifies what is the best food production use for our land, and preserves that land for those crops. It is absolutely vital that the other essential ingredients for food production are addressed.  This is where the focus on natural, social and human capital becomes very important.  The first step is to preserve the high quality land, the next steps are to ensure a consistent  and reliable water supply, and a quality workforce.

Many parts of New Zealand are experiencing drought this summer. In some areas this is having a drastic effect on the ability to grow food. Production is down. Vegetables are not being planted for winter. Trees and vines are at risk of dying for the lack of water. 

Looking to the future, and the sustainable well-being of New Zealand in a climate change environment, I believe that the budget needs to address water storage, so that we can grow healthy food, have healthy rivers, and have safe water for animals and humans. 

It is time, through this well-being budget, to take a holistic look at New Zealand and actively plan for our sustainable future. We need to be able to feed ourselves. We need to be able to grow healthy food.  Therefore, we need to plan and make provision for this.  

This is what I hope the well-being budget will do.

Mike Chapman is CEO of Horticulture NZ.