Speech to Horticulture New Zealand Conference Award Dinner

  • Nathan Guy
Primary Industries

Good evening. Thank you Julian Raine, Horticulture New Zealand President, for that introduction. It is a pleasure to join you this evening in recognising excellence and future leaders of the horticulture industry.

I would particularly like to acknowledge outgoing Chief Executive Peter Silcock for all his contribution to the industry over the past 30 years.

Tonight I want to talk to you briefly about the long-term value that can be created by recognising talent and growing leaders.

A growing industry

Horticulture is a top performing primary industry. In the year to June 2015, export revenue reached $3.897 billion. This is up $602 million from 2012, a total of over 18 percent growth over four years.

Just a couple of days ago it was announced by Stats NZ that fruit exports have hit an all-time high of $2 billion in the year to June 2015.

The outlook looks good as well. By 2019 the export revenue for horticulture is expected to grow to $4.536 billion, which works out to 16 percent growth over four years.

Crops with a rich history in New Zealand, like pipfruit, continue to garner the rewards of innovation with improved productivity and new cultivations to meet the demands of consumers in new markets.

Newer crops to New Zealand also continue to suceed, like avocadoes, which are aiming to triple their productivity, and quadruple their returns from $70 million to $280 million by 2023, thanks to the Primary Growth Partnership they are involved in with the Government.

Trade moves

As a Government we have an ambitious goal of doubling the value of our primary sector exports by 2025. This fits in well with the industry’s goal of reaching $10 billion in value by 2020.

A big part of that will be improved trade access through new and existing free trade agreements. According to Hort NZ, export growers pay an average of around $38,000 each year in tariffs to other countries.

A good recent success story is the FTA with Korea which reduces tariffs that New Zealand growers and exporters face in this highly competitive horticulture market, especially for kiwifruit, buttercup squash, apple juice and cherries. Kiwifruit and buttercup squash exports to Korea alone account for around $55 million.

Growing the next generation of leaders

All this success doesn’t just happen overnight. It’s the result of skilled leaders creating and seizing opportunities for new investment, and skilled workers applying science to the land.

If New Zealand is to continue in the Bledisloe cup tradition of achieving excellence, we must focus on creating the next generation of leaders and skilled workers.

The horticulture industry, like other primary industries, will be challenged over the next 10 years to attract, maintain, and develop the talent it requires to meet growing demand.

We know that by 2025 you will need another 26,300 trained workers, and many of these will need tertiary qualifications and skills.

Increasingly skilled labour is going to be required across the whole value chain—from production, to processing, and to marketing. Special skills will be required in areas like food safety, biosecurity, environmental management, and plant science.

Both Government and industry are acutely aware of this challenge. We know that we need a reliable supply of both seasonal and skilled labour from which the next generation of leaders can be developed.

This is why, amongst other projects, MPI is working with the industry and schools to raise the profile of the primary industries amongst young New Zealanders.

We are working to ensure there are strong curriculum and career resources for schools.

We are supporting the EPIC High School Challenge to increase awareness of the primary sector and influence subject choices for Year 10 students;

MPI started a new Ambassadors programme late last year which gets industry leaders into schools talking to young people about their careers and the possibilities out there.

I know the horticulture industry is already active in this space, and that the work being led by MPI will enable you to reach more young people.

This challenge is a shared responsibility. The Government can’t tackle it alone, and nor can we. I would encourage all of you to find out more about these projects and get involved.

I want to recognise the Hort NZ for the contribution you make through the Young Grower of the Year competition, the 20 scholarships awarded annually, and the Leadership Programme.

One sensible solution to assist growers is the Recognised Seasonal Employer work policy, which has been a real success. As a former Minister of Immigration I think this has been a win-win policy, and last year we increased the cap from 8000 to 9000.

Over the weekend the Government also announced changes to immigration policy settings, giving more priority to skilled migrants with jobs outside Auckland. This will further encourage the supply of labour to the regions.

Social license

The term “social license” is becoming increasingly important to our primary industries, which refers to the community’s acceptance of our activities.

Consumers and the wider public want to know that industries are operating in an environmentally sustainable way, and looking after their staff.

On that note it is worth mentioning Hort NZ’s Nutrient Management Code of Practice, which is a good example of leadership in this area.

Another good example was a trip to Horowhenua last year by media, government officials, banks and growers for a familiarisation day that included environmental sustainability issues.


Before I finish, I’ll just say a quick few words on biosecurity which is my number one priority as Minister and a critical issue for your industry as well.

We are never going to double our exports and grow the regions if we don’t protect our industries from unwanted diseases and pests.

In Budget 2015 I was proud to announce $27m in new funding for biosecurity, which will fund more dogs, x-ray machines and border staff.

Our biosecurity system is facing ever-increasing pressures due to factors such as growing international trade, greater mobility of people and increasingly complex global supply chains. To give just one example – air passengers have increased by 18% since 2009, and this growth is expected to continue.

That’s why the Government has decided to bring in a committed border levy as a fairer way to fund these services. This will ensure that as future passenger volumes grow by 3-4 % per year, funding continues to increase to match this. It also means that foreign travellers who make up around 55% of passenger numbers will be directly contributing.

I want to acknowledge Horticulture New Zealand for your supportive public comments on this issue.

We have already beefed up the border over last two years with 130 new staff, new x-rays, and increased the number of detector dog teams to 40. We’ve also brought in Government Industry Agreements (GIAs) which will involve shared preparation and response to biosecurity threats.

As you know, we have 100% screening of all passengers by biosecurity officers. Since the Queensland Fruit Fly incursion earlier this year in Auckland, we now have 100% screening of all incoming international passengers by detector dogs at peak times, which are the most effective tool at finding any host material.

Earlier this year I announced Biosecurity 2025, a major review project to update and replace the founding document of New Zealand’s biosecurity system, the 2003 Biosecurity Strategy.

The review will provide a clear direction for the biosecurity system and identify any changes or improvements needed over the next ten years. It will be lead by MPI and overseen by an independent panel of three peer reviewers. You can register your interest by emailing Biosecurity2025@mpi.govt.nz.

To finish - Thank you again for inviting me to open this awards dinner. I hope the next few days of your conference are productive and enjoyable.