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A better future for all of us

10 August 2021

Mike Chapman receiving the Bledisloe Cup at the Horticulture Conference gala dinner.

Thanks to the growers, sponsors and others from the horticulture industry who made the Horticulture Conference such a success last week. 

More than 700 people attended the two days, which offered multiple perspectives on the theme of resilience and recovery.  The Plant & Food Research gala dinner was also a fantastic way in which to celebrate our industry’s success and applaud several key people, especially Bledisloe Cup winner, Mike Chapman. 

For me, the conference was an opportunity to meet and connect with as many of you as possible.  Sorry I didn’t manage to get to all of you but I will over the coming months. 

I am optimistic about our industry, despite the level of uncertainty and pace of change, particularly in the environment space.  Close to home, Covid has seen us pull together with the result that early last week, the Government announced quarantine-free travel for Recognised Seasonal Employers (RSE) scheme workers from key Pacific Island countries. 

The Government also agrees with us on the need to protect highly productive land or soils for New Zealand’s future growing capability.  I believe this indicates that we have an ongoing opportunity to engage with the Government, for the betterment of our industry as a whole. 

Just prior to the conference, the Commerce Commission released its draft report on New Zealand supermarkets.  It will be interesting to see how the two major supermarkets respond to this report and then in turn, what the Government might do.  Key here for growers is fairness and a functioning commercial market and for consumers, it’s transparency so they know what they are paying for. 

Looking further afield, we heard that the world is on our side but that the world is also watching us closely.  I always find science-based discussions about climate change enlightening.  While globally, New Zealand is a small emitter because of our small size, on a per capita basis, our emissions are high.  As a result, if New Zealand is to continue to trade successfully in the future, we need to reduce our emissions like the rest of the world, or we risk being shut out of lucrative world markets. 

In keeping with resilience and recovery, there were a number of presentations and practical workshops on wellbeing and mental fitness.  This is an area that as a society and industry, we need to pay more attention to.  That is why I was pleased by the way in which these sessions were received.  Worth noting that there are two upcoming mental health workshops with Sir John Kirwan in Tasman and Central Otago.

Lastly, looking to the future, it was great to see the 85 or so young leaders at the conference, for I know it is a cliché, but these people are our industry’s future and they have different frames of reference to those of us who have been in the industry for longer. 

In my address to the HortNZ AGM held early last Friday morning, I talked about a better future for all of us.  I cannot stress for all us more.  Somehow, as an industry, we need to work together and with central and local government, to ensure the success of our industry in the widest possible sense.  Success in the eyes of today’s growers and consumers, in the eyes of the next generation of growers and consumers, and in the eyes of the world, now and tomorrow. 

As an industry and country, we have so many fundamental factors that support our success.  Let’s all work together like we do on the sports field to bring that prize home. 

Hei konā mai