A New Zealand Herald columnist, who questioned the retirement of former Fonterra chairman John Wilson in July last year, is…
So says the chairman of NZ’s new Primary Sector Council.
Lain Jager, the former chief executive of Zespri, chairs the 15-person council set up to advise the Government.
The Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, wants from the council fresh thinking and a vision for the primary sector “not bogged down with the realities of day-to-day enterprise”.
“We must look further ahead and we will get that from a council of visionary leaders,” he says.
Jager says with large NZ industries under financial pressure from sustainability, now is a good time for constructive dialogue.
“The objective is to find a way to farm in a modern and productive way,” he told Rural News. “That is exciting and well accepted.
“And primary sectors leaders would probably say ‘great’ and then approach that dialogue with the sophistication necessary to move us forward sensibly and with the least amount of collateral damage to the industry.”
A recent statement by the Environment Minister, David Parker, about needing to cut cow numbers in some catchments to meet new environmental rules, includes his no-compensation comment regarding farmers whose herds must be cut.
Jager says it’s important to uncouple the issue of reducing cow numbers from the issue of nitrate levels.
“This debate’s focus is sharply on nitrate leaching -- a sensible of view. But that dialogue can only happen at catchment level and so it’s not necessarily one-size-fits-all. A whole dialogue needs to happen on that and I don’t want to pre-empt it.
“We must all be open-minded to explore the most effective way to deal with sustainability issues.”
Jager points out that the previous government had aimed to double the value of primary exports, and while the present government hasn’t said no to such a focus it is emphasising more high-value exports, greater use of technology and a move to more sustainable farming systems.
He says the council aims first to set an agenda based on the wishes of the Minister of Agriculture.
Jager plans to meet all industry sector leaders to discover where each is ‘up to’, to hear what exciting things are happening and see what constraints are there.
He understands some high-performing NZ companies are doing very well and that the various industry-good organisations are serving their industries well.