26 October 2021
New Zealanders continue to wait for more clarity from the Government about how Covid will be managed in the community, instead of eliminated. Aucklanders and those in Northland and the Waikato continue to bear the brunt of lockdowns, on the promise that once vaccination rates hit 90 percent, they will once again be given the freedoms that the rest of the country enjoyed at Labour Weekend.
Yes, in some parts of the country, it is like Covid did not exist and other facets of modern life – like getting away for a long weekend and getting stuck in traffic – are to the fore.
In terms of HortNZ, while obviously Covid is a concern and the chief topic of conversation with Government officials, last week we held the Young Grower of the Year finals in Lower Hutt albeit with a reduced number (100 seated at socially distanced tables of five) at the gala dinner.
It was important for us to hold the Young Grower of the Year finals to celebrate the successes of our future generation as well as a nod to life continuing and having to get used to new ways of doing things, in a Covid world.
Many people at the Young Grower event expressed how tired they were of Covid but that they were making fundamental changes to the way they run their businesses, so as to make them sustainable in the new operating environment. Everyone expressed the need for more direction from the Government and more acknowledgement of the importance of continued business operation to the New Zealand economy, short and long term.
In terms of life continuing in central government as well as local government circles, HortNZ’s Environment team remains busy with agricultural emissions and He Waka Eka Noa (‘know your number’), regional plan changes and mediations, and a raft of other proposals that could affect growers’ ability to grow sustainably. Read HortNZ environment manger, Michelle Sand’s latest environment update here.
For those growers that need labour from the Pacific under the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) scheme, I am pleased to be able to report that the quarantine free (QFT) flights are progressing to plan. Once again, growers are respecting the privilege the industry has been afforded with these flights, and are viewing the Government’s health and safety requirements as a minimum.
It was good to see 1 News do an item on the importance of the RSE scheme to the Pacific last week. At the moment, I feel it is easy to focus solely on New Zealand and forget about the impact of Covid on the economies of our Pacific neighbours.
Like me, I am sure you are hopeful that the Government will provide much needed clarity over the coming weeks, particularly in the lead up to Christmas and the start of our industry’s busiest time.
In the meantime, HortNZ – working with product groups and district associations – will continue its advocacy on behalf of growers so that our industry can continue to do what it does best – grow good tasting, nutritious fruit and vegetables for New Zealand and the rest of the world.