Where’s the plan New Zealand?

27 Nov 2019 Where’s the plan New Zealand? image

The Ports of Auckland debate is a prime example of the lack of nationwide coordinated planning.  Being less than charitable, it would seem that the Ports of Auckland just happened to locate itself where ships routinely stopped.  Was this really planned?  Was there consideration of how to expand the port, and how to get the trucks carrying goods and containers to and from the port? 

Doubtless, some planning was undertaken, but it would seem that this planning did not account for the growth in trade, expansion of Auckland and roading congestion.  Similar questions can be asked about Auckland Airport.  Was there any thinking about how to get passengers to and from the airport, when the roads become congested?

In New Zealand, there are many planning organisations and think tanks, and they all do some amazing work.  But how is all their planning work joined up, rationalised and made sense of?  Where is the New Zealand master plan for the future that interlinks all these planners and plans cohesively together?

When we turn to the rural sector, a master plan is also lacking.  Market forces have been left to determine what land is used for, even if it is not the best use of that land or more importantly, environmentally sustainable use of that land.  With new laws and regulations about to come into force mandating climate change adaptation and water quality improvement, the need for a master plan is more needed than ever before. 

There will be some positive plans from the Government (through the Ministry for the Environment), the Climate Change Commission, and regional councils.  But will they link up into a rational and cohesive framework for the future? 

Let’s take one example: where can we grow vegetables to feed New Zealand?

Climate change, water quality and the need to increase production mean that New Zealand will need to identify new areas for growing vegetables.  Existing areas are also being lost to houses and lifestyle blocks, while there may have to be some relocation out of sensitive catchments or provisions made for continued vegetable growing, probably resulting in reduced and more expensive production. 

Competing requirements from the Ministry for the Environment, the Climate Change Commission and regional councils are likely, which could turn into an absolute nightmare for growers trying to grow healthy food to feed our country.

One plan is needed to ensure vegetable growing is both economically and environmentally sustainable, taking into account water quality and climate change adaptation, while enabling enough vegetables to be grown to feed New Zealand.  Such a plan would also need to recognise the increased prevalence of adverse climatic events and droughts, particularly on the East Coast.  Water capture and storage must be enabled, and vegetable growing spread around the country to mitigate the risk that a severe storm wipes out growing in one region.  New technologies will also be needed, and none of this will be without cost and research.

But then, the vegetable growing plan needs to be incorporated into a much broader, New Zealand wide plan.  This plan must balance the whole country’s needs, and account for the environment and climate change while ensuring financial sustainability so that both rural and urban businesses can continue to support New Zealand. 

The bottom line is that New Zealand will need to become more self-sufficient in the coming years.  So, where is the master plan New Zealand?

Mike Chapman, Chief Executive