NZ’s sustainable environment

23 October 2020

Freshwater quality and climate change mitigation are inexplicably linked to the whole country creating a sustainable environment. This job is for both urban and rural New Zealand to tackle together. What is often missed is how creating a sustainable environment is linked to businesses being profitable. This is because it is costly to achieve the outcomes that are needed and, where these outcomes reduce productivity and restrict the ability to grow or farm, the required funding becomes very scarce.

This is the conundrum facing the nation and not just rural New Zealand: how are we as a country – as we recover from Covid – going to finance the next steps to environmental sustainability?

It may well be a surprise to urban New Zealand that environmental sustainability is something growers and farmers have been committed to, intergenerationally, for decades. As a result, the rural sector has a significant head start on urban New Zealand.

Overriding these concerns is the need to feed New Zealand as well as keeping businesses profitable, to enable activities that support environmental sustainability. So, there is a balance to be reached: maintaining businesses profitability, feeding the country and making environmental enhancements.

There is, in this, a fundamental decision for the Government to make here. That is, whether the drive for environmental sustainability is achieved by regulation and rules, or whether it is achieved by Government empowering landowners to make the changes that will lead to greater environmental sustainability. The case horticulture is putting forward is that the best long-term change will come from the landowners themselves. In rural New Zealand, this fits in well with intergenerational landholding and passing on the land in better condition to the next generation.

So, there is a myriad of competing factors to be balanced. If environmental sustainability becomes the sole goal, then the result will be that New Zealand will run short of food and the actions needed to be taken to improve environmental sustainability will not be able to be funded. Growers and farmers may just walk off the land.

What we need to do is ensure that what is required for environmental sustainability does not take away the ability for New Zealand to feed itself, and does not take away business profitability and the ability to fund what is required environmentally.

The key to this is to reduce red tape and not to impose regulations and rules on growers and farmers. What I think is needed is to reach a balance between food supply, profitability and achieving environmental standards. The way to do all this is to empower and support the landowners.

That’s what we are advocating for.

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive