Time to take stock

5 July 2023

I travelled to Hawke’s Bay and Tairāwhiti/Gisborne late last week, to be part of the announcement of further Government support for growers, farmers and businesses affected by this year’s adverse weather events in the North Island.

The nature of this support is different to support from the Government to date. This support sees the Government partnering with the finance sector to provide growers with access to money at interest rates lower and other terms better than they would have been able to get from the finance sector, had the Government not provided backing. In addition, if a grower gets no traction with their bank, despite the Government’s guarantee, they can talk directly to the Government – through Kānoa, a part of the Ministry for Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) – for direct financial support from the Government.

Unfortunately, but perhaps to be expected, what’s on offer is complex and in the grower meeting in Hawke’s Bay last Thursday afternoon, how this latest round of Government support would work was not explained well enough. That said, no Government has endless reserves of taxpayer money to spend; and future Governments may be in a similar position to the current one, due to increases in the frequency and severity of adverse weather events. 

Growers and affiliated businesses affected by the North Island’s adverse weather events must talk to their banks and financial advisers in the first instance. Applications for what was announced by the Government last week do not open until 31 July. This gives growers time to assess and reflect on their individual situation, as well as take advice.

This delay also gives the Government time to finalise details and ensure that the application process will run as smoothly as possible. 

What’s on offer will not work for all growers. While there’s no doubt that horticulture businesses are vital for regional economies as well as the national one, some businesses will not survive as they are no longer in a position to be successful, long-term, due Cyclone Gabrielle’s catastrophic impact. 

We hope that as many growers as possible can find a way to stay in the industry and thrive again. Where a grower has a history of being financially viable, they must not hesitate in having a discussion with their bank and financial adviser, so they can start to make definitive decisions about the future, as hard as that may be in some cases.

While this is not the exact outcome that some growers were after, the Government has provided a level of support that indicates the type of recovery package that may be offered after other, future adverse events.