Enduring sustainability

14 Feb 2020 Enduring sustainability image

Zespri is currently running its Momentum conference on sustainability with the by-line: standing up, standing out.  Zespri’s focus is on the entire supply chain, from growing through to the arrival of kiwifruit in the retail outlet – the complete sustainability package. 

Zespri Chief Executive, Dan Mathieson explained that standing up will be demonstrated by addressing current challenges, reducing the use of plastics, making changes to packaging, looking after our waterways, and by ensuring the industry continues to look after people, communities and environment.

This is very much what HortNZ is focusing on for all of horticulture, with our emphasis being on growing sustainability as reflected in our vision: healthy food for all, forever. Last year, horticulture was part of the food and fibre sector’s climate change agreement with the Government, called He Waka Eka Noa.

The enduring commitments from that agreement include the combined primary sector’s agreement for:

-   Emissions reductions to limit global warming targets by 2050 in keeping with the Paris agreement, while maintaining food supply and supporting climate adaptation.

-   Working with the Government and others to support farmers and growers to progress changes to permanently reduce emissions, while being mindful of food production and social needs.

-   Acknowledging that discussion of the impacts and opportunities of a low-carbon economy must reflect tikanga and a deeper understanding of the Māori rights and interests, especially taking into consideration the catch-up required by Māori to achieve required land use performance.

For horticulture, our focus is on fertiliser use and nutrient control that will be climate change positive and progressively address water quality challenges.  The key to achieving these goals is an active partnership between the Government, regional councils and communities.  Climate change and water quality cannot be addressed in silos.  All of New Zealand – rural and urban – must work together to make the necessary changes.  Furthermore, as Zespri at the Momentum conference pointed out, change and adaption involves the entire operation, not just one part of it.  We need to work together to create a sustainable environment, be that in town or in the country, everywhere for everyone.

Previous models used to effect environmental change have been regulatory and have dictated to the landowner how they must make changes.  To achieve really effective and long lasting change, landowners have to lead the changes, with the goal of passing the land onto the many generations to come. 

This does not mean that Government and regional councils have no role.  Their role is to establish the outcomes and assist the landowners to achieve the outcomes.  How the landowners achieve the outcomes is dependent on their land, risks and challenges, and what they can do now.

Confidence that landowners are making the changes necessary for enduring sustainability is critical.  To achieve confidence, freely-available, independent auditing and reporting is needed.  In horticulture, we have independent auditing and in the coming months, we will develop the necessary reporting.  Through research, we also need to develop additional ways to meet the challenges and then, we need to work with growers so they can effectively use this research. 

This is our journey to achieve the enduring sustainability that fits with Zespri’s sustainability drive.  The wellbeing of our communities, particularly rural communities, and the continued production of healthy food cannot be left to one side.  Enduring sustainability includes food and people, not only the environment.  This means that a healthy balance has to be found that achieves all our sustainability goals.

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive