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Science, agriculture and New Zealand's future

Hon Jim Anderton

Progressive Party leader

4 November 2008 Media Statement

Science, agriculture and New Zealand's future

Federated Farmers is to be congratulated for its contribution to the debate about the economy's future direction, Agriculture Minister and Progressive Leader Jim Anderton said today.

Jim Anderton said it is important for all New Zealanders to appreciate the productivity of our primary industries and how they benefited the entire country.

"Primary industry productivity has been three times higher as that of the general economy since the 1980s.

"That is a legacy of the past - investments made 30 years ago into research and development that paid off for our primary industries.

"Many of our primary industries are our most science-based, our most research and development-based, and our most innovative industries. There is as much science in landing a fresh gold kiwifruit or lamb chop in a foreign supermarket, as there is in a flat screen television set."

Jim Anderton said that New Zealand could not afford to coast on that legacy of investment any longer.

"It's time to fund innovation, research and development now - to have some aspirations to maintain our global leadership in food production.

"That's the vision behind the New Zealand Fast Forward initiative - a separate fund, set up with a $700 million Government contribution, to be matched by industry, and boosted by interest over the life of the fund - ultimately reaching $2 billion."

He said National's policy is to abolish New Zealand Fast Forward would be the biggest disaster ever visited by any political party on the primary industry sector of New Zealand.

"Coasting on previous generations' investment, relying on commodity exports, and allowing other countries to overtake us is not the way forward for New Zealand's primary industries."

Jim Anderton said National's policy would be a devastating blow to innovation, to business in general and to our primary industries in particular.

"Having investement in research and development as part of regular appropriations budgets means that it is at risk every time a government has cutbacks - and given that National is promising lots of new initiatives and spending but at the same time still having unrealistic tax cuts and no increased budgets, there will be cutbacks coming if they have a chance to implement their often-conflicting promises.

"By using only the first three years of anticipated Fast Forward funding and ignoring the current Government funding of the Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium, National is alleging it would spend more money on agricultural research.

"The reality is that this is simply not true. In later years, Fast Forward will be spending at least $200 million a year. At least $10 million a year is already going into the PGGRC - which is already the international centre of excellence in livestock emissions research. So this Government is already putting into the rural sector almost three times as much as National is promising, even if it meets all of its promises."

Jim Anderton said the New Zealand Fast Forward initiative presented a huge opportunity and a critical reason for researchers looking at a career in our primary industries to be excited about the opportunities ahead - and it was something to which this government is absolutely committed.


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