Sobering experience

6 July 2021

I attended the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) conference last week.  I was floored by the number of wellbeing issues our industry is currently facing.  It also highlighted that the Government does not understand the depth of our industry’s problems.

We see and hear on the news all the time that mental health is of deep concern to New Zealanders at the moment.  The horticulture industry is no exception; however, my concern is the Government’s lack of any real understanding about what is involved in growing and providing food for domestic consumption and export, in a post-Covid world.

I have been hearing for months that horticulture will be New Zealand’s saviour in terms of economic recovery as well as in terms of significantly assisting with climate change mitigation for our protein-based colleagues.

At a very basic level, horticulture and its success are determined by a well-balanced supply and demand requirement, solid central and local government policies, significant levels of capital investment, and good supply chain facilities, from field to fork.

Unfortunately, horticulture is a labour-intensive product to produce, far more so than our protein producing counterparts.  Technology and automation are still very limited in most areas of horticulture but I can assure you that if it was more advanced and a genuine solution, our growers would be using it without question.

The irony is that we are being asked to provide employment for New Zealanders.  The areas of our industry where this is most possible are the areas we will automate first because current policy is forcing us to do this.  Once those jobs are automated, they will never come back.

Horticulturalists work incredibly hard, often under very trying conditions.  At the moment, there are just too many things being asked of them.  My plea is that we take a breath and industry and the Government work together on how we keep all of our businesses contributing to New Zealand’s social and economic recovery.

Hei konā mai