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'Them and Us' approach is not going to work

5 September 2006

A 'Them and Us' approach is not going to get things done

Minister of Agriculture, Jim Anderton gave the opening address to the "Good for Growing" conference today at Napier where he said a "them or us" approach was not the way for New Zealand to get things done. He said that he couldn't stress often enough that strong collaboration and effective partnerships will be New Zealand's key to success.

"The success of the primary sectors is absolutely critical to the success, indeed the economic survival, of New Zealand. The value of the clean, green, 100% Pure brand is leveraged by New Zealand exporters to sell tens of millions of dollars of product every day and our competitive advantage in selling to the world, premium-quality, sustainably produced food is enormous," Jim Anderton said.

"More and more we are dining out on an image of New Zealand, typified by the exposure we have received from the likes of the Lord of the Rings. But lurking behind this tale of optimism and opportunity are some very real threats to our future prosperity that we cannot afford to ignore.

"We know of Europe's long history of agricultural protectionism. The issue of food miles, supposedly accounting for carbon used in transporting produce across the globe, is gaining ever-greater profile in Europe.

"Never mind the truth that our efficient pastoral systems are much less carbon intensive than those in Europe, and shipping is actually a very efficient form of transport. Urban myths about our exports are gaining traction with European policy-makers, if not consumers.

"Our customers in high value markets are, however, demanding evermore assurances that the products we supply are at least as sustainable as those produced by the local farmer down the road.

"As we all know, New Zealand agriculture and horticulture is not without its environmental impacts. However our productive systems are becoming a defining issue for the present generation of farmers and horticulturalists.

"There is plenty going on to celebrate and encourage. So I bring with me two messages today. The first is to those who are taking responsibility for their social and environmental impacts and working to get ahead of the game. You have the government’s full support and offer of partnership. I applaud and congratulate your longsighted view.

"The second message I want to deliver is to the producers who think that lifting the environmental game is irrelevant, too hard, or that somehow it’ll be all right on the night! To this minority, I say: it won’t be all right. If we don’t become proactive, overseas markets and policymakers will penalise New Zealand producers.

"But more than this, we need to secure the future for our children and their children. Not just in terms of green hills and clear waters. New Zealanders of tomorrow will rely upon our sound stewardship of the natural resource base of our country to earn a living in the future. We have an opportunity, and a responsibility, to act now and to get things right for the long-term, Jim Anderton said.

ENDS

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