Thursday, 15 February 2024 09:25

New minister's hort focus

Written by  Peter Burke
Nicola Grigg says she was excited when she got a call from Christopher Luxon asking her to take on the portfolios of Horticulture and also Associate Trade. Nicola Grigg says she was excited when she got a call from Christopher Luxon asking her to take on the portfolios of Horticulture and also Associate Trade.

The new Minister of Horticulture, Nicola Grigg, says the reason that she came into Parliament was because of her interest in and commitment to agriculture.

She told Hort News that she felt that the voice of the rural sector wasn't strong enough in Parliament - especially the voice of women. Grigg says she was excited when she got a call from Prime Minister Christopher Luxon to ask her to take on the portfolios of Horticulture and also Associate Trade.

"I came into Parliament with Christopher Luxon in 2020, we were the class of five after the big red wave that swept the country," she explains. "He and I have developed a great friendship over the last three years in opposition.

"He obviously took up my hint about agriculture about a year or so ago when he assigned me about five rural portfolios. I thought that was my opportunity to dig in and start working really hard and to prove myself," she says.

Although Gregg' only been in the job for a few months, she's already been up to Hawke's Bay to view the recovery operation.

She's met with key growers and people in the hort sector and has been told of the challenges people are facing in that region. Grigg says these include access to capital, water and changes to the regulatory environment as well as issues around the RSE scheme.

"I wasn't so much surprised at the damage in Hawke's Bay, but I was very impressed with the way people are cleaning up the damage and getting their orchards back into production."

Grigg says, as soon as she's back from maternity leave, she wants to get up to Northland, which she says is particularly exposed to adverse weather events. She's been there in the past and visited orchards and packhouses but wants to see it now that she is the Minister of Horticulture.

The other portfolio that Griggs holds is that of Associate Minister for Trade - a portfolio she says goes hand in hand with her role as Minister of Horticulture.

"Once I am back from maternity leave and can travel again, I plan to work with MPI and MFAT identifying where there are blockages to trade in the market and how we can fix these and also to look at new market opportunities - especially around the Southeast Asia Pacific region."

Grigg says one of her concerns is the consenting process with regional councils, which she says is stymieing everyone. She's been 'banging on' about the issue for about three years and recently wrote to Chris Bishop, the Minister for the RMA and Infrastructure, to outline her concerns.

"About two years ago, the regional councils bandied together and wrote to the previous government and told them they needed $2 billion over the next 10 years to clean up the rivers," Grigg told Hort News. "That was declined, and I do understand that is a huge chunk of money to ask for, but the alternative is a global consent regime that allows landowners who are adjacent to waterways to manage the river to meet their needs at their own expense."

Grigg says this would give them a level of self-determination and allow them to protect their own assets and infrastrucuture, whereas in the past they haven't been able to do that.

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