Covid recovery is a partnership

15 Jun 2020 Covid recovery is a partnership image

New Zealand is getting back to the business of making money with Covid Alert Level One seeing the re-opening of what was closed or restricted during Covid Alert Levels 4 and 3.

What we are missing is the huge part that tourism contributes to our economy. This means that those who are now operating have a lot to do to fill this enormous gap. The biggest problem we are facing is a lack of certainty. For growers and farmers, particularly vegetable growers, there is enormous uncertainty around new Government and Regional Council requirements for freshwater quality and climate change adaptation. There is also uncertainty for the thousands of newly unemployed New Zealanders about what they are going to do for a job.

Uncertainty is the cancer that will kill New Zealand’s economic recovery from Covid. Decisions need to be made to remove as much uncertainty as possible. These decisions cover the full spectrum of New Zealand’s economy, starting with creating more flexibility for the thousands of offshore workers stranded in New Zealand. Decisions are also required around how out of work New Zealanders are redeployed and what assistance and training they need. Plus, as noted already, Government and Regional Council decisions are required around freshwater quality and climate change adaption.

What we need in all of this is a new age of partnership between industry and Government to achieve the economic and social outcomes we so urgently need, as we recover from Covid. During the first phase of Covid recovery, the Government rightly took a directive approach, so that as a country we could get through. Now I believe that a different approach is required. This is because it is not the Government but business that will drive the next, financial phase of the Covid recovery. The Government has a vital role to undertake in enabling this recovery, but in essence, it must be industry led.

Last week the Organic Products Bill was being considered by a Parliamentary Select Committee. In preparation for this Bill, the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) conducted extensive consultation over several years, but when it came time to draft the Bill, the consultation stopped. As a result, the Bill that has been introduced into Parliament is not supported by a majority if not all submitters, because unnecessary and costly bureaucracy has been introduced by MPI. What is required here is a collaboration and partnership between the organics sector and MPI to achieve the laudable outcomes the Bill is designed to achieve. If the Bill proceeds as it is currently drafted, growth in organics will be stifled and the opposite outcome achieved.

That said, the omens are good for industry and Government to work together in partnership to drive our economic recovery. As with all partnerships, it requires give and take on both sides as well as good communication and timely and effective consultation.

Nothing drives uncertainty faster than decisions being announced without first there being extensive consultation across the broad range of industry. The most important point about consultation, however, is that those who are consulted are listened to. This does not mean that what they want becomes the announcement, but if indeed their views are to be rejected, then there is an explanation for this. This transparency helps to keep the unity that is vital for New Zealand’s economic recovery.

As a country, we now need to look forward to an era of close partnership and co-operation between Government, Councils and industry, based on mutual respect and all parties being fully involved in the decisions being taken. If this does not happen, I am sure that our country’s economic and social recovery will not be fast or successful.

Put purely and simply; it’s time for a true and meaningful partnership.

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive