Government has lofty aims for New Zealand farming - to double agricultural exports by 2025.

That was a key message from Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy, when he talked to about 80 agribusiness people in Hawera earlier this month.

Mr Guy has been MPI minister since June, an MP since 2005 and the MP for Otaki since 2008. He's also a former Horowhenua District councillor and manages the family dairy farm near Levin.

He said agriculture accounted for 72 per cent of New Zealand export returns, currently $32 billion a year. Government wants that doubled by 2025.


To get there, change will be needed. A business-as-usual approach would only increase the returns to $38 billion, he said.

His half-hour PowerPoint presentation was a big picture look at New Zealand agribusiness.

There were now 38,000 jobs in dairy farming, 30,000 jobs in sheep and beef farming and 17,000 jobs in forestry, he said. As well as a strong dairy sector, the country had a huge diversity in "land" use - from berry growing to salmon farming.

New Zealand has a population of 4.5 million people and produces enough to feed 40 million, exporting agricultural product to more than 200 countries. This year China became the number one destination for New Zealand agricultural exports, jumping ahead of Australia.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership trade agreement could add $2 billion a year to export returns, Mr Guy said.

The value of agricultural product would be increased if it was further processed in New Zealand.

Irrigation of an extra 400,000ha would also boost what could be produced. Added to new markets and advances in aquaculture, better use of water could raise exports by $13 billion a year.

"The water storage projects are good for the environment as well. They maintain summer river levels, which is good for aquatic life."


Government has budgeted $800 million to progress irrigation this year, and Mr Guy said the forthcoming freshwater management reforms would encourage people to get involved in water planning processes.

Changes to the Resource Management Act would also help, by pruning bureaucracy. The new Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) would take just nine months to consider consent for projects of national significance.

The other big area for export growth was getting more productivity from multiply-owned Maori land.

There are 1,500,000ha of Maori multiply-owned freehold land. Only 300,000ha are in full production, Mr Guy said, and 600,000ha are in partial production. Getting the other 600,000ha into production had huge potential - 3600 jobs and $8 billion in exports.

A local example of how Government is trying to help is the Ngati Rangi and Atihau-Whanganui Incorporation Land Feasibility Study. It covers 240,000ha, was initiated earlier this year by Ngati Rangi and aims to help owners find the best use of their land and increase productivity.

Atihau-Whanganui chief executive Chris Scanlon said the incorporation had already assessed potential land use and taken action. "We have already done all that. We're streets ahead.

"It's a nice academic little number but there's nothing they can offer us. It might have relevance to Ngati Rangi."

During question time, Mr Guy was asked about the effect of Government policy on the provinces. One man in the audience said Hawera women "couldn't even buy a bloody bra" in their own town - they had to go to New Plymouth. He said Taranaki's oil royalties were not being spent on getting more people into the region.

Mr Guy said Taranaki was blessed as a region compared to Northland, Gisborne and East Cape. Economic Development Minister Steven Joyce had produced a document about the regions' situation a few months ago.

Mr Guy's dairy farm is within the Horizons Region. He said that council's One Plan was a big undertaking because it combined all planning in one document. He understood the council had a pragmatic approach to implementing the plan.

This year is the first since 2008 when more land has had forest felled than has been planted in trees. Government ended its Afforestation Grants Scheme in the May budget, and its emissions trading scheme policy has devalued the carbon credits earned by forestry.

Mr Guy said there were still some Government incentives for forestry. One was the Hill Country Erosion Fund, which has been part-funding Horizons Regional Council's Sustainable Land Use Initiative (SLUI) with about $1.5 million a year.

Government was also working to improve forestry returns by looking for ways to turn forest waste into biofuel and by promoting the use of engineered timber in commercial buildings.