Providing a reliable and resilient supply of fresh fruit and vegetables

8 May 2024

With Autumn well and truly with us, I’ve been reflecting on the outcomes of our meetings with growers over the past few months.

I’m pleased the feedback from these meetings across the country has confirmed we are broadly on the right track.

Growers clearly have the same top priorities as HortNZ - water, climate change and adaptation, and food security and supply.

Across the globe, the notion of food security has become increasingly important and in New Zealand a key aspect of that is access to fresh fruit and vegetables. We also know that fresh fruit and vegetables are fundamental to human health and wellbeing.

The horticulture sector plays a vital role in New Zealand’s food security. Approximately 80,000 hectares of land is used for producing fruit and vegetables, providing over 40,000 jobs. Over 80 per cent of vegetables grown are for the domestic market, with many varieties of fruit also serving the New Zealand market.

For years, New Zealand has taken food security for granted. However, the Covid-19 pandemic and ongoing adverse weather events, such as Cyclone Gabrielle, have shown us that it is possible to suddenly have supermarket shelves empty of fresh produce.

Increasing growers’ ability to grow and expand by improving access to land and water will improve food security and help increase supply and therefore, the availability of fresh vegetables across New Zealand.

HortNZ is advocating for policy and regulatory settings that enable growers to provide a reliable and resilient supply of fresh fruit and vegetables and contribute positively to New Zealand’s food security.

That’s why we recently called on the Government to ensure changes to the Resource Management Act (RMA) do not put vital domestic fruit and vegetable production at risk.

We are seeking a range of amendments to proposed reforms, including recognition of the national importance of protecting highly productive land (HPL) for primary production and enabling the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.

We accept that people need houses to live in, but they also need to eat fresh fruit and vegetables. If the government makes building houses easier, then it also needs to make changes to the RMA to enable the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables.

If the amendments do not recognise the importance of domestic food supply, it will increase the risks to New Zealand’s food security and exacerbate the cost-of-living crisis.

The New Zealand population grew by 138,000 last year but council rules are currently preventing vegetable growers from growing more produce.

While housing has gobbled up highly productive land over the past 10 years, the area for growing vegetables has not expanded at all. This is because the RMA is preventing vegetable growers from expanding in many regions.

It is vital for our country’s food security that fresh fruit and vegetables can be grown and supplied through a network of growing areas all-around the country.

Providing for the supply of fresh fruit and vegetables will help growers produce more healthy food to feed New Zealanders at a reasonable cost while incorporating best practices to boost our precious soils. 

New Zealand’s existing food production systems are coming under increased pressure from population growth, climate change, and the need to improve environmental outcomes.

The importance of food security should be explicitly recognised to ensure that a reliable supply of fresh and healthy food for New Zealanders is achieved.