Time to Re-Focus

05 Mar 2020 Time to Re-Focus image

Coronavirus or Covid 19 has impacted the world. Things that we have all taken for granted are under threat: unrestricted air travel, goods being rapidly shipped around the world and New Zealand being highly connected to the whole world despite being a long way from major population centres.

For a trading nation such as New Zealand, a significant reduction in tourists, imported goods not arriving and our fresh produce not being able to be exported to market is a major financial catastrophe. If this continues, it will become a social catastrophe with jobs disappearing because we cannot import or export goods. We are already starting to see the effects of this in the forestry industry.

An example of how globally dependant we have become is seen in the wine industry. As the grape harvest commences, skilled wine makers come from Europe and elsewhere for our wine marking season. When the season is over, they return to their home countries in time for their grape harvest and wine making season. Seasonal labour is also necessary for pruning the grape vines in winter and assisting with the harvest of our fruit and vegetables.

We are not only dependent on tourists, imported goods and produce being exported out of New Zealand, but we are also reliant on skilled and semi-skilled labour coming to New Zealand each year.

For New Zealanders who no longer have a job due to coronavirus, there are opportunities available picking up these semi-skilled jobs in the wine and horticulture industries, but for the skilled jobs, we do not have enough people here in New Zealand. Anyone wanting work should contact their local growers or HortNZ because we have jobs that are available now.

As the world’s population rapidly grows, and the effects of climate change continue, it is easy to predict that what we are currently experiencing may become more frequent. The drought that we are facing in many parts of the country is one symptom of this and a situation that will most likely become more common place.

Simply put, we need to take notice of what is and has happened this year and make some real long-term plans for the future. Be it a pandemic, worldwide drought and food shortages or some other traumatic event, we as a country need to become more self-resilient and self-sufficient.

Our reliance on imports, including the amount of food we import – about one third of the food we eat is imported – and seasonal labour needs to have an active contingency, resilience and self-sufficiency plan. This is not just a role for Government; it is everyone’s responsibility to be part of the country’s much needed resilience planning.

We must work the lessons we are learning now into a comprehensive New Zealand wide plan to meet the country’s future challenges.

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive