Food security; from paddock to plate

18 Sep 2017


It is good to see mainstream media asking the government to look at food security. In the New Zealand Herald yesterday, Business Editor at Large Liam Dann penned an excellent piece: Why aren’t food prices an election issue?

As we pointed out last week, wild spring weather has affected vegetable supply, and this will impact on quality, availability, and price. Across the board, from shoppers to government, there seems to be a lack of understanding about what goes into getting, for example, a lettuce from the field to the shop. Horticulture New Zealand has been advocating for New Zealand to have a food security policy, to balance the needs of rapidly growing urban areas with the food bowls on their outskirts.

Horticulture growing land tends to be close to urban areas, for ease of getting fresh food to consumers both in New Zealand and around the world. There are pockets of land rare in the world, including Pukekohe and surrounding areas, where soil and climate allow year-round vegetable growing; we need to protect this land for affordable, year-round food production, and we need sensible access to water, without which no food grows.

Some people seem to think it is alarmist to ask for a food security policy in such an abundant land, but there are a host of challenges to our food supply; these include from urban encroachment on unique growing land, emotional battles over water, changing weather patterns, access to enough people to grow and harvest our food, and increasing border traffic meaning more potential biosecurity risks.

Before the Labour party introduces a selective water tax that would hit horticulture hard, it would be good if they understood the full food supply picture. Pushing up the costs of healthy food grown locally could put it out of the reach of Kiwis, as Liam Dann says.

“I guess we’d all have to eat cheaper lower quality imported food. In fact, at the poorer end of the social spectrum this is already happening – with costly health impacts,” Dann says.

We are also concerned that decisions made by local government about land and water use in one area can, in fact, impact food supply for the whole country, as well as valuable exports that contribute so much to our economy. As part of a food security policy, we believe there is a need for central Government to be able to consider national good, via a National Environmental Standard, to protect access to land and water for primary producers.

Given the concerns that have been raised pre-election about water tax, and the complete lack of understanding of water use those discussions have shown, it is time to have a broader conversation about our domestic food supply, and the chain from paddock to plate.


- Mike Chapman, CEO