Horticulture industry warns new house construction must not come at expense of productive growing land

On Tuesday the Government announced a plan to ease the housing crisis.
On Tuesday the Government announced a plan to ease the housing crisis. Photo credit: File / Getty

The horticulture industry says although moves to tackle the country's housing crisis are welcomed, it's crucial new homes are not built on productive growing land.

On Tuesday the Government announced a plan to ease the housing crisis, making it easier for first-home buyers to get into the market and introducing more rules for investors.

The plan including increasing caps for financial support and extending the bright-line test - the minimum period needed to own a property before selling in order not to have to pay a capital gains tax - to 10 years 

In announcing the plan, Housing Minister Megan Woods said modelling showed between 80,000 and 13,000 new homes could be built over the coming two decades - providing councils, iwi and private developers also came to the party.

Mike Chapman, chief executive of Horticulture New Zealand, said while the country needed many more new homes built, that could not come at the expense of valuable land used for fruit or vegetable growing.

"Every New Zealander deserves a house just like every New Zealander deserves fresh, healthy locally grown vegetables and fruit," Chapman said.

"We can have both but current policy settings favour housing over food security, and keeping New Zealand's most highly productive soils safe from urban creep."

Chapman said almost two years after the Government launched its draft National Policy on Highly Productive Land "nothing has been finalised".

"Wouldn't it have been great today to have both housing and this aspect of food security supported by changes to Government policy? 

"Because if New Zealand is not careful, a healthy diet will become just as unaffordable as houses for increasing numbers of New Zealanders."

Chapman said according to research from 2018, if growing in Pukekohe was not able to expand in step with Auckland's growing population the volume of produce grown could halve, while prices for vegetables such as lettuce could rise by more than 50 percent.

"The Government needs to ensure that New Zealand has a viable horticulture industry, for the health and wellbeing of every New Zealander, especially as in a COVID-affected world, we cannot rely on a steady supply of imports of any sort."