Tuesday, 05 December 2023 08:25

How hort fared in 2023

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Horticulture NZ chair Barry O'Neil. Horticulture NZ chair Barry O'Neil.

For the country's horticultural sector, it's been a year that started off with the worst weather imaginable. It also had plenty of drama and intrigue and ended up with us getting a new tri-party government that has collectively promised to fix everything! Peter Burke reports.

Horticulture NZ's Dr Barry O'Neil describes the past year as being "huge".

He says growers had to deal with too much significant policy change that was being pushed by the outgoing government.

O'Neil says the most contentious issues were Labour's reforms, with totally unnecessary costs being imposed on employers.

"In addition, there were the environmental freshwater reforms that significantly restricted what could be grown and where, and pricing for emissions being imposed before technology is available to mitigate."

O'Neil says if that wasn't enough, then there was Cyclone Gabrielle, the impact of which will be with NZ for years to come - especially in Hawke's Bay and Tairawhiti.

He says it's heartbreaking to still see the destruction that Gabrielle caused. However, he adds it is also wonderful what a difference spring can make and seeing apples in flower in lovely warm Hawke's Bay weather.

"This is a wonderful sight and I am very proud of the work that the industry and HortNZ did in supporting growers in the immediate aftermath," he told Hort News, "as well as the ongoing work in securing governent support to assist growers in getting back on their feet."

O'Neil says for him a really positive highlight of the year is the success of a programme of work called 'A Lighter Touch'. This, he says, is about changing the hort sector's approaches to crop production, with a transition from agrichemical pest management to agroecological crop protection.

O'Neil adds that there is some really exciting work happening across multiple product groups in finding ways of growing that require fewer agrichemicals. As the year wraps up, O'Neil believes it's a good time to be thinking of what 2024 will deliver. Hopeful for a better growing season, O'Neil is also keen for the new government to have a greater focus on horticulture.

"In any country there is only so much taxpayer funding that can go around, and there will always be tensions with what is the highest priority," he explains.

"Health care, law and order, education and welfare support are all very important but they also are big users of the taxpayer dollar. But getting out economy working for NZ has to be the number one priority for the new government, so we can continue to afford and deliver what our country needs."

Read 610 times Last modified on Thursday, 30 November 2023 14:58