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Food Security v Healthy Rivers


In late 2016 the Waikato Regional Council (WRC) introduced their proposed Plan Change (PC1) under the Healthy Rivers Strategy.

This plan change will have some drastic perverse effects on the security of our food supply in the Auckland/Waikato region.

We need three basic commodities to survive as a species, air, water and food. By the simple act of using each of these commodities to survive we all have an effect on the environment in which we live and the scale of this effect is controlled by how we use these commodities.
We all have direct access to the air which we breathe and we have access to water either direct from nature or from a supply provided by others.

The same situation applies in respect to food. Many people cannot/do not produce their own food and so rely on commercial producers to supply them with good nutritious food items for their survival.

With the use of air, water and food we humans produce a negative effect on the environment and this is controlled by legislative requirements to maintain an acceptable standard in relation to these effects on the environment.

PC1 is about the WRC setting standards in place for these effects and strategies around how these standards will be met, in accordance with their legislative requirements under local government and other legislation.

Whilst there is a legal requirement for the WRC to manage the environment there are rules that they must follow and these rules require the WRC to take a balanced approach to management of the environment with one example being the requirements under section 5 paragraph 2, of the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA).

5 Purpose
(1) The purpose of this Act is to promote the sustainable management of natural and physical resources.
(2) In this Act, sustainable management means managing the use, development, and protection of natural and physical resources in a way, or at a rate, which enables people and communities to provide for their social, economic, and cultural well-being and for their health and safety while—
(a) sustaining the potential of natural and physical resources (excluding minerals) to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations; and
(b) safeguarding the life-supporting capacity of air, water, soil, and ecosystems; and
(c) avoiding, remedying, or mitigating any adverse effects of activities on the environment.

With the restrictions on the use of land for horticultural purposes, which came into effect when the plan change was advertised in October 2016, I believe that this section of the RMA is actually not being complied with.

The restrictions mean that there is no ability for anyone to start a new horticulture operation anywhere within the WRC region as this has now been declared a non-complying activity. This declaration will over time have the effect of reducing the production of fruit and vegetables within the region as under the land use restrictions when a horticulture operation ceases then it cannot be restarted at any time in the future without gaining a non-complying resource consent, and this is very unlikely to be achieved.

The end result is that we will have to import food from other sources and this then removes any security of supply.

Scientists are warning that with populations growing so fast it will curtail countries' ability to feed their own people.

Horticulture in NZ is an industry that is growing fast and has an approximate value of $5.6 billion (outside of wine production).
New Zealand exports 60 per cent of what it grows, approximately $3.4b in value.
Those exports increased by 40 per cent from June 2014 to 2016. The 5500 commercial fruit and vegetable growers employ about 60,000 people.
Experts rate land on a scale from one to eight. The "elite" soils are class one. At the other end of the scale is class eight - sand dune material.

The further down the soil quality scale, the greater the need for fertiliser. More fertiliser means greater nitrate runoff, which then raises water quality issues, so carrying out horticultural operations in lesser soil types carries greater economic and environmental costs.

Contrary to popular belief, New Zealand does not have an abundance of rich soils. Most of it is class six - suitable for pasture or forestry, but not much else.

Since 2001, we've lost about 10,000ha of growing land - 6000ha for vegetables and 4000ha for fruit. That's an area just under the size of Hamilton and shows that we are losing valuable horticulture land to houses and lifestyle blocks." (Statistical information taken from NZ Herald article on Urban Sprawl 30th December 2017)

There has been much written recently about the need to change from intensive cattle farming and replacing this protein source with plant based protein but how can this happen when you have land use legislation that prevents any increase in cropping.

By enacting the restrictions on land use for horticulture as the WRC have done with PC1, security of food supply in the greater Auckland/Waikato regions has been severely constrained.

We think that it's very important that the region is able to grow and supply its own fruit and vegetables and not have to rely on importing food, and pay the resulting increase in transport costs.

Andy Loader
Co-Chairman P.L.U.G.
(Primary Land Users Group)

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