Business Growth Agenda – Building Natural Resources Launch

  • David Carter
Primary Industries

Good morning everyone. It’s great to be here as part of the launch of the 5th Business Growth Agenda Progress Report – Building Natural Resources.

As we conclude the parliamentary year, I certainly hope we have firmly established in most minds that this Government has a very clear focus on our economic growth agenda.

Part of that has to be the better use of New Zealand’s natural resources.

My particular interest, from a portfolio perspective, is fresh water.

And in this regard, despite the comments from a couple of academics over recent weeks, New Zealand has an international reputation as a clean, green, sustainable country.

We must continue to build on this reputation. Brand New Zealand is everything to our exporters.

As the Government continues to work on how to better utilise and manage our fresh water resources, it will not be about ‘irrigation at all costs and to hell with the consequences’.

This debate must balance economic and environmental outcomes.

The years of work by the Land and Water Forum have been invaluable in helping us to understand the complexities of this issue.

LAWF has also helped in shaping the debate which we must now have with the wider New Zealand constituency.

Fresh water is New Zealand’s liquid gold. It is without a doubt one of our greatest competitive advantages.

So if, as a nation, we are going to lift exports from 30 percent of GDP to 40 percent of GDP, then reform of water management is critical.

Business New Zealand’s own NZIER Report rightly concludes that the heavy lifting, if we are going to achieve that target, will have to come from the primary sector.

We have to find ways to store water, to increase the amount of land that can be irrigated, and to improve the reliability of land that is currently under irrigation.

Hence the rationale for the $35 million Irrigation Acceleration Fund, established last year, to assist promoters to develop schemes in a more professional manner than may have happened in the past.

So that once the feasibility studies are completed, the step to investor participation is much more manageable.

As LAWF’s report concluded, we can make significant strides by up-skilling our farmers to adopt the best possible on-farm management practices. If all farmers were at the top level now, we’d be making significant environmental progress.

But we don’t have all the answers today and it’s where science is a key.

New science will deliver new solutions. That’s why this Government is so committed to the Primary Growth Partnership which, as of today, has committed $665 million to the primary sector.

Many of these projects are looking at ways that we can environmentally manage agricultural intensification.

To conclude, New Zealand is renowned around the world for its agricultural prowess. But we don’t have all the answers on how to drive more production and, at the same time, protect our pristine environment.

However, if we remain focussed, we can find the answers and we owe it to the next generation to do so.

Thank you.