Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor has unveiled big changes to New Zealand’s biosecurity system, including new law changes to strengthen animal tracing and details of a Biosecurity Act overhaul.
That means working in partnership with our primary producers to ensure a resilient and profitable primary sector.
In short, we are moving from volume to value.
The strength and importance of our primary sectors to the NZ economy was highlighted in the latest gross domestic product figures.
The economy grew 1% in the June quarter, driven by the primary sector – up 4.2%. Good prices for dairy products and horticultural produce, such as kiwifruit, are behind that growth.
The primary sector sometimes misses out on the accolades it deserves for its massive contribution to our economic and social wellbeing. I want to thank you for the hard work you put in. Your families, communities, regions and the country see the benefit of it.
Horticulture exports recently reached $5.4 billion, making up 16% of our agri exports. There have been reports of conversion from pastoral land use to high-value crops such as avocados.
Smaller players cherries and blueberries are also punching above their weight. Wine, apples, pears and vegetables are growing too, highlighting opportunities in a range of climates and land types.
All this is achieved on about 110,000 hectares of precious soil that the coalition Government has taken steps to protect. I’ve seen first-hand the encroachment of urban sprawl on the high-quality soils in Pukekohe, south of Auckland. Officials are working to develop a national policy statement high-classlass soils. We must look at soil health and protection comprehensively.
On biosecurity we are not ostriches; we are strengthening the system because our flora and fauna and unique way of life depend upon it.
In our first Budget we put $9.3 million into strengthening our offshore facilities. Stronger import controls were imposed on used car and machinery imports to protect us against the brown marmorated stink bug, and the Environmental Protection Authority approved of using the samurai wasp in the event of a stink buy incursion.
Meanwhile we hope the Biosecurity 2025 movement ‘Ko Tatou’ (‘This is us’) will build a team of all 4.7 million New Zealanders.
As Darwin said, those who collaborate and innovate prevail. To underline this ambition, I recently launched the Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures investment scheme with an annual $40 million budget to help farmers add value to their products and retain the benefits here in NZ.
We’re progressing a national organics standard because most countries have one and we’re disadvantaged by having several uncoordinated methods of proof.
Against a global backdrop of rising protectionism we are championing free trade with our Trade For All agenda to support sustainable and inclusive economic development. New market access to China for our avocados was a huge milestone in January. We are one of only four countries with access to that market.
Thank you to a sector that helps grow the prosperity of all NZers. We will continue to push for greater market access for your top-quality products, protect your soils, and work with you to help grow a productive and sustainable horticulture sector.
• Damien O’Connor is Minister of Agriculture