A report claims New Zealanders could pay almost 60 percent more for vegetables in the future if proposed new rules around land and water use go ahead.
The Deloitte report was commissioned by Horticulture New Zealand in 2018, and is being highlighted amid intense debate around proposed new central and government policies.
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It says vegetable prices could increase by as much as 58 percent by 2043 if policies that will stop new vegetable growing are accepted.
The report said that if vegetable growers are prevented from expanding to keep up with demand, by 2043, New Zealanders could be paying as much as $5.54 in today's money for a Pukekohe-grown lettuce, instead of about $3.50.
HortNZ Chief Executive, Mike Chapman said an increase in fresh vegetable prices would have a negative impact on the health of New Zealand's most vulnerable communities.
"Already one in five children do not have enough healthy food to eat, while malnutrition rates in children and older New Zealanders are also increasing," he said.
He said vegetable growing across the country was under a lot of pressure from competition for highly productive land, access to fresh water, climate change mitigation, the need to further protect the environment, and increasing government and council regulation.
"If all these pressures are not well-managed in a coordinated, long-term way, New Zealand-grown fresh vegetables will become a luxury that few can afford. This will have a negative impact on most New Zealanders' health, putting even more pressure on our health system," said Chapman.
Under the Government's new freshwater proposals, farmers and councils would be held responsible for protecting waterways "under serious threat".
The policy aims to cut fertiliser use and pollution going into waterways, protect urban streams, and improve protection for wetlands on both public and private land.
"If we don't fix things now they only get worse and will be more expensive to fix," Environment Minister David Parker said at the announcement of the proposed policy in September.
"Cleaning up polluted waterways is a long-term challenge that will take a generation to fix, but the steps in this plan will make a real difference and get things heading in the right direction."
The Government also recently unveiled plans to protect prime food-growing land, amid growing concern about the impact of urban sprawl.
It would see councils be required to ensure there's enough highly productive land available for primary production now and in the future, and protect it from inappropriate subdivision, use and development.
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said New Zealand could not afford to lose its most highly productive land.
"It brings significant economic benefits including employment for nearby communities, and adds significant value to New Zealand's primary sector," he said.
"Continuing to grow food in the volumes and quality we have come to expect depends on the availability of land and the quality of the soil," said O'Connor.