New Zealand's horticulture sector needs its own Minister as incoming Government urged to focus on five key priorities

18 October 2023

The incoming Prime Minister is being urged to appoint a Minister of Horticulture to Cabinet to help pave the way for ensuring the essential supply of nutritious fruit and vegetables for New Zealand and the world while creating jobs and export success. 

Horticulture New Zealand Chief Executive Nadine Tunley says the horticulture industry stands ready and willing to make a significant contribution to growing a prosperous and sustainable economy whilst ensuring horticultural food security for New Zealanders.

“Many New Zealanders are struggling with the cost of living which is putting pressure on food budgets. With the right policy and regulatory settings, growers can provide a reliable and resilient supply of fresh fruit and vegetables and contribute positively to New Zealand’s food security.

“We are also confident we can increase exports and double farmgate revenue by 2035. We need the Government to recognise and understand the importance of horticulture and create and maintain the conditions for our industry to thrive, and in doing so lift the overall health, wellbeing and economic recovery of New Zealand.

“That’s why we’re urging incoming Prime Minister Christopher Luxon to include a Minister of Horticulture in his Cabinet lineup.

“A Minister of Horticulture would turbo-charge the partnership with our industry, Māori and research providers to improve prosperity and protect our environment.”

Horticulture New Zealand has identified five priorities where Government action is vital:

  1. Water storage – we cannot grow without reliable access to water and need policy settings that support expansion of and investment in water storage.
  2. Ensuring the supply of healthy locally grown fruit and vegetables for New Zealanders – reducing regulatory costs and constraints on growers and keeping pressure on supermarkets and the grocery sector will make a difference to household budgets while assuring viable and sustainable horticultural businesses.
  3. Streamlined assurance processes – our current GAP (Good Agricultural Practice) certification framework proves our growers are meeting standards and should be comprehensively recognised across environmental programmes such as Freshwater Farm Plans, food safety and labour.
  4. Employment flexibility – our industry employs 40,000 people but faces a chronic labour shortage. Removing current legislative barriers to businesses employing and rewarding people, for example, Fair Pay Agreements, will give the industry more flexibility to attract and retain people.
  5. Certainty for Pacific workers and employers – to ensure the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme is sustainable for both the Pacific and horticulture industry, the implementation of the policy review conducted by the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) must be fast-tracked.

HortNZ Board Chair Barry O'Neil says there is also a huge work programme underway in partnership with the Government to increase resilience to climate change and adaptation that must continue to be one of the new Governments priorities. 

"As a country, we have spent a lot of time focused on mitigation but of course we also in parallel need to adapt or we will struggle to survive as Cyclone Gabrielle taught us.

"We will continue to rely on flood plains for horticulture production. Even as covered cropping and vertical farms gain importance in the future, the majority of our current and future growing will still take place on flood plains. While we endorse the adoption of a primary sector mitigation strategy, it is equally crucial to contemplate adaptation measures."