Growers facing major change

By Mike Barrington

Last week was a big week for Northland citrus, avocado and kiwifruit growers with Horticulture New Zealand holding its national conference seeking industry growth on one side of Wellington while across town in the High Court it was battling decisions which could restrict the industry.

The conference, which ended on Wednesday, was attended by 400 delegates determined to double the value of horticulture to make it a $10 billion industry by 2020.

The High Court case, which was expected to end on Friday, was hearing an appeal against the Environment Court's decisions on the Horizons Regional Council's One Plan.

Kerikeri Fruitgrowers Association chairman Rick Curtis said that decisions written into law by the Environment Court tended to to be adopted by all councils so the outcome of the appeal was expected to eventually "affect everyone in the industry up here".

HortNZ uses 30 per cent of the levy funding it raises from all commercial fruit and vegetable growers to represent grower interests in regional and district council planning.

At the end of last year HortNZ was working on 43 different actions with councils. By the middle of this year that number had risen to about 50, at an estimated cost of $750,000 last year.

Officials in the Ministry for the Environment are also predicting a significant increase in plan changes between 2016 and 2020, giving more cause for concern.

HortNZ contends the One Plan, as it now stands, would impose harsh restrictions on horticulture and have a negative economic impact on the region's jobs, communities and the price of food production in New Zealand.

HortNZ president Andrew Fenton told the conference: "What has happened in Horizons is just the tip of an enormous iceberg of misunderstanding, misinformation and misguided old school thinking.

"The case is being run to try and prevent these mistakes repeating around the country through other councils, affecting growers and the commercial viability of their horticulture businesses."

Mr Fenton, who had led HortNZ since its inception in 2005, was succeeded as president by Nelson fruit and berry grower Julian Raine. He remains on the HortNZ board.

- Northern Advocate

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