Let the soil do the talking

22 Nov 2017

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In the Auckland City environs, there is a lot of land south of the city classified as class 1. The rich volcanic soils of Pukekohe, Tuakau, and Pukekawa are not seen elsewhere in New Zealand, and are ideally suited to growing vegetables.

There are eight classes of soil in New Zealand, and the first three are good for horticulture. Flat class 1 land is best; it is not only productive, but can also support vegetable growing with less inputs, such as fertiliser.  This means that the most sustainable way to grow vegetables, with the smallest environmental footprint, is on flat class 1 land. 

Only 1% of Auckland’s land is considered ‘elite’ soil, and another 3% is good for vegetable growing. That leaves 96% of Auckland for planting houses. Isn’t that enough?

The option of simply picking up sticks and moving vegetable growing from the Pukekohe area is not feasible; the growing conditions simply aren’t replicated elsewhere.  Pukekohe, Tuakau, and Pukekawa are relatively frost free, and so are able provide a lot of New Zealand’s spring vegetables when other regions cannot. Not only that, they have pest-free advantages that are not enjoyed by growing further north. 

The soil and climate combine to make these ideal places to grow vegetables to feed New Zealand. Going further south into the Waikato is also not possible at present, due to the Waikato Regional Council’s Plan Change One, which makes it effectively impossible to change land use from pastoral to vegetable growing. 

So here we are; land-locked in Pukekohe, Tuakau, and Pukekawa, with unsuitable soil to the north, the Waikato Regional Council currently preventing vegetable growing going further south, and Auckland Council trying to build another 30,000 houses in this area.

Horticulture New Zealand is asking the Government to acknowledge and consider this issue. KPMG has produced a report about it – read it here. We are asking Government to recognise the importance of the Pukekohe, Tuakau, and Pukekawa growing areas, and develop a national food security policy that protects the unique land where we can grow our vegetables to feed New Zealand, so that we do not have to rely on imports for our fresh vegetables. Because different parts of New Zealand feed the country at different times of the year, the Pukekohe area plays a vital role, especially in spring. A national food security policy could, by enabling the spread of vegetable growing around the country, ensure that as climate change strikes and adverse weather causes supply shortages, there is always a guaranteed supply of fresh, healthy, New Zealand grown vegetables. 

We need to balance where we build our houses against being able to feed our country.  We’ve got enough land to do both; let the soil do the talking. 

 

- Mike Chapman, CEO