Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor says Budget 2020 has made major investments in the primary sector that will support more than 10,000 people into jobs.

Yesterday the Government announced it was making a $232 million investment to boost jobs and opportunities in the primary sector and rural New Zealand.

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The spending is broken down into:
• $19.3 million to help attract and train recently unemployed New Zealanders and grow the primary sector workforce by 10,000 people.
• $128 million for wilding pine and wallaby control, providing hundreds of jobs.
• $45.3m over four years to help horticulture seize opportunities for future growth.
• $14.9 million to reduce food waste by redirecting food to people in need.
• $20.2 million to help rural and fishing communities recover from Covid-19.
• $5.4 million for critical resources to identify and manage animal welfare issues.

"This is a significant investment which will grow and transform the primary sector" said O'Connor.

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"Our farmers, growers and producers will play a critical role in New Zealand's economic recovery".

"Together, as a nation, we are rebuilding from an economic shock not seen since the Great Depression. But there is a clear path through and the Government is committed to getting New Zealand working again".

O'Connor said there were significant employment opportunities in the primary industries and that "we now need a skilled workforce to help us seize them"

As a result, the Government was investing $19.3 million in a range of initiatives that would "partner and support" more than 10,000 New Zealanders in primary sector jobs "by rapidly retraining and absorbing workers displaced from other sectors like hospitality, tourism and aviation", said O'Connor.

"It will be a big change for some, so we'll be creating familiarisation courses to help new workers settle into primary sector roles and lives."

O'Connor said $128 million committed to control wilding pines and wallabies would protect farmers from costly pests and provide hundreds of jobs for people most affected by Covid-19.

"The wilding pine funding will be a game changer in our fight against a pest that is a $4.6 billion threat to our economy, while providing up to 600 jobs. The programme will expand nationally, including areas hit hardest by Covid-19 such as Northland, Queenstown, Mackenzie, Kaikoura, and Marlborough".

Around $28 million was invested in wallaby control which would "focus our efforts against this destructive pest and provide dozens of jobs", said O'Connor.

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There was also a $433 million package to fund 4000 jobs over five years in regional environmental projects.

"The initiatives in this package will support the Government's objectives in its Action for Healthy Waterways. These initiatives show how environment-related actions can make a meaningful contribution to the post-Covid-19 economic recovery" said O'Connor.

Accelerating horticulture sector growth

Budget 2020 would set the primary sector up to seize opportunities for future growth, said O'Connor.

The Government was investing $38.5 million over four years to ensure the horticulture sector could grow and stay ahead of international competitors with access to safe plant breeding material and a focus on reaching new markets.

"On top of this, $6.8 million will provide secure greenhouse units for new imported plant varieties and breeding material".

O'Connor said the investment would help the high-performing sector to develop innovative high-value crops and cultivars, while protecting New Zealand from high impact pests.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor. Photo / Supplied
Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor. Photo / Supplied

Reducing food waste by redirecting food to those in need

"Covid-19 has hit vulnerable communities the hardest and some families are struggling to put food on the table. We've set aside $14.9 million over two years to redirect food from the primary sector that would otherwise be wasted, to those in need" said O'Connor.

The Government would be scaling up school and community programmes with an additional 100,000 fruit and vegetable boxes to children over 10 weeks.

"We're also investing in the development of digital platforms to enable other novel solutions to connect food with consumers" said O'Connor.

"Additionally, we're meeting the cost of processing and distributing surplus pork meat to families in need to help resolve an oversupply of New Zealand pork, while providing high-quality nutrition".

Listen to Jamie Mackay interview Damien O'Connor about Budget 2020 on The Country below:

Supporting rural communities to recover

O'Connor said the Government was committed to "supporting our people as we rebuild the economy".

"Rural communities have faced several recent challenges outside of Covid-19, including drought and its flow-on effects. It's important people know that they don't have to go it alone, and that help is available.

The Government was committing $20.2 million to help rural and fishing communities recover from Covid-19 and to boost access to rural support services and community hubs.

"Funding will increase access to support, advice and mental wellbeing services to help them recover from the impacts of Covid-19" said O'Connor.

The funding would target support to vulnerable groups, and enable community hubs and advisors to facilitate engagement, learning and access to services.

"It will also enable primary sector businesses to receive financial and continuity planning advice to support their recovery".

Protecting our animals

The Government is investing $5.4 million over four years to boost regional support for animal welfare around New Zealand, said O'Connor.

"This builds on our investment of $20.8m in Budget 2019. The combined effects of the Covid-19 response and the large-scale drought have placed significant pressure on farmers and rural communities".

"This pressure extends to their responsibilities around the welfare of animals in their care".

"This funding will ensure more resources are available to help farmers identify and manage animal welfare issues as they recover and to ensure there is help available for future adverse events," said O'Connor.