Tax has woken the sleeping giant

14 Sep 2017


Political talk of new taxes, particularly a water tax, has stirred the primary sector. Growers and farmers across New Zealand are uniting over concerns about proposed new taxes. Let’s be clear, irrigation is vital for the vast majority of our commercially grown fruit and vegetables. 

Taxes, by definition, take money away from those who are taxed. Groups of growers and farmers have written open letters to Labour Party leader Jacinda Ardern, such as this one, and at least one Mayor (Central Otago District Mayor Tim Cadogan) has written another.

There have even been videos, such as this one, asking only to be heard. In areas such as Central Otago, the message has been very clear - no irrigation equals no growing food. In other areas, such as South Auckland, a lack of irrigation will mean less food production and the quality of vegetables will suffer. 

Throughout New Zealand, the primary sector is already working diligently to improve water quality; we need encouragement, not taxation, to keep this good work going. The answer to tackling these problems is a three-way partnership with central government, regional government, and the growers and farmers. It is when all three work together that true progress is made.

New Zealand’s primary sector feeds New Zealand and accounts for a massive 60% of our exports. Anything that challenges the primary sector’s ability to feed New Zealanders and grow our economy through exports will have a dramatic and detrimental effect on the country’s financial viability. A water tax, plus a capital gains tax, plus a land tax, plus any other taxes will take away money that can be spent on research and development, increasing production, and improving our environmental sustainability. 

About 600,000 New Zealanders depend on our export trade for their livelihood; horticulture alone employs 60,000 people across the country and, along with the rest of the primary sector, is responsible for the survival on many of our regional towns. Urban New Zealand would also feel the effect of a regional downturn. 

I firmly believe that the way for New Zealand to maintain its prosperity and feed itself is through the primary sector. Regional and central government partnering through research and development to create innovative growing methods and ways to further increase our environmental sustainability is the way forward; working together, we will continue to achieve a great deal.


- Mike Chapman, CEO