Are you listening?

06 Aug 2020 Are you listening? image

The different world we now live in requires us all to learn new skills. It requires us to interpret what is happening in new and different ways. It requires us to listen to signals about the future in a way we have never done before. This is because what worked pre-Covid will not work post-Covid. Those that can adapt and change will survive in the new world while those that are fixed in their pre-Covid ways will not.

New Zealand is in an “Indian Summer” phase at the moment. The first blast of Covid has gone but the next is coming. Whether that be a resurgence of Covid illness or not, the real blast that is coming is the new world for our economy and lives. We are in many respects in a surreal existence at present, which will likely continue until after the election. It is after the election that the country will come out of the eye of the storm, and the going will get really tough.

So what we need to do while we are in the surreal “Indian Summer” phase of Covid is prepare for the next blast. We need to listen to signals of the future. Healthy locally grown food will become even more important than it was before. Planning for food security is a vital priority. New Zealand needs to plan so that it is self-sufficient with food supply, particularly with healthy food supply.

We need to have our immune systems at an optimum level. So, it was very pleasing and great news for the country on 5 August when the Government recognised the vegetable growing areas around Pukekohe and Levin in its freshwater reform decisions.

These areas are two of our key vegetable growing areas, which are thankfully spread around the country. The Government has recognised that we need fresh locally grown vegetables and, if we lost Pukekohe and Levin as growing areas, that New Zealand would not be self-sufficient in feeding the country healthy food.

But at the same time, the Government will continue in both Pukekohe and Levin to requite water quality improvements. It is very much a case of we can “have our cake and eat it too”. The balance will not be easy between vegetable growing and improving water quality, but we can do it.

The other key feature of this decision by the Government is recognition that the outcomes of healthy food and improving water quality are in fact, a partnership between central and regional Government, and growers. This decision listens to the winds of the future and understands that the only way real environmental gains can be achieved is by working with those on the land.

This new approach is very much a change from the heavy-handed regulatory approaches of pre-Covid days. Through audited Farm Environment Plans, our growers’ and farmers’ multi-generational stewardship of the land will be further enabled, and environmental improvements will continue. Going forward, we need to continue moving to fewer regulations and more outcome-based programmes, which give ownership to those who can make the real differences: those on the land.

There is, however, one other area where the Government needs to be listening. That is, the changing workforce in which tourism and international education will no longer be key economic drivers. The winds of the future will require flexible immigration and working visa arrangements that enable New Zealand to feed itself and earn valuable overseas funds.

While we are in the lead up to the general election, this work will need to be undertaken, or we will not be ready for the next Covid blast. The Government has listened to the winds of the future with water quality and healthy locally grown food. It now needs to listen to the winds of the future with our workforce. All of us need to prepare ourselves for the new world – are you listening to the future?

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive