Welcome address to Horticulture NZ Conference

Speech – New Zealand Government

We know to deliver greater prosperity, security and opportunity for all New Zealanders, we need to increase productivity and exports.
Hon David Carter
Minister of Agriculture
Minister for Biosecurity

4 August 2010 Speech
Welcome address to Horticulture New Zealand Conference, Auckland

The most important culture of all

Good morning ladies and gentlemen.

Thank you Andrew Fenton for your introduction.

It’s a pleasure to be here today to open Horticulture New Zealand’s annual conference.

You have created a new word to sum up horticulture and attitude – Hortitude.

Well, I want to talk to you today about another word vitally important to New Zealand’s future. That word is – culture.

The culture I’m talking about is not the Haka, or a Film Festival, or the New Zealand Symphony Orchestra.

The culture I’m talking about is what New Zealand’s future really depends on – agri-culture, viti-culture, aqua-culture, and importantly, horti-culture.

A year ago you launched your strategy to become a $10 billion industry within the decade.

I’m pleased that the meat industry has followed Horticulture New Zealand’s lead in appointing exactly the same guy to develop its strategy as you did.

You are to be congratulated for leading this charge and doing the work.

And you seem to be on track, over the past year, the kiwifruit and wine industries have each achieved in their own right, the $1 billion export mark.

Like your strategy for growth, this Government is also seriously committed to that goal.

We know to deliver greater prosperity, security and opportunity for all New Zealanders, we need to increase productivity and exports.

In the early 1950s, we were the second wealthiest nation in the world.

When we stack ourselves up against other developed nations now, New Zealand has steadily declined in relative wealth over the past 60 years.

To achieve our goal and to catch up with our trading partners, we need a step change in our overall economic performance.

The primary sector is crucial to getting us over the line.

What most people don’t realise is the export sector went into recession in 2004 – a full five years before the global financial crisis.

The reason we didn’t see it was because of two factors.

The first one was our nation’s continued obsession with property.

The second was the huge increase in government expenditure under Labour.

Our first year in parliamentary office was about rebalancing this skew.

We are now out of recession and our firm focus has turned to accelerating economic growth.

Every sector has a responsibility to lift its game.

There are no exceptions – horticulture has a big role in turning our economy around

You make a huge contribution to the New Zealand economy – our fourth largest exporter earner.

But to grow further, we all need to do even better.

The Government is doing its bit to help. Our rolling maul of initiatives to kick start growth includes a revamped tax system, encouraging innovation reforming regulations; and boosting infrastructure.

I want to go through this list in more detail.

First, the tax system.

The aim behind our tax reform is to create incentives for people to work hard, improve their skills and get ahead.

Our reformed tax system sees three quarters of all New Zealanders now paying a top tax rate of just 17.5 cents in the dollar.

There is, of course, a downside to this figure. The threshold of $48,000 is a real indication that we are not the high income society we like to think we are.

Secondly, to kick start growth we are boosting innovation.

This Government knows we can’t continue to rely on research and development of previous decades. That’s why we committed to match primary industries dollar-for-dollar as part of the Primary Growth Partnership innovation fund.

There’s $2 million set aside to benefit the horticulture sector for each of the first two years.

We’re approaching the end of the first year of the partnership and while there has been interest from your sector, there have been no formal applications.

I challenge you to put your heads together during this conference to come up with ideas suitable for a bid that will contribute to the growth goal for your industry.

Thirdly, to lift our game further, we are reforming regulations.

Draconian regulations have been strangling economic growth. That is why one of the first things we did on coming into office was to streamline the Resource Management Act. And there is still more work to do.

Another area that directly impacts on your profitability, and is a crucial element to the success of your business, is the people you employ.

We are making significant changes to employment law.

One important part of our employment law package is the extension of the 90-day trial period for new employees.

Changes to the Holidays Act are aimed at reducing direct costs and compliance costs so businesses can invest their time and money in growing their business and creating more jobs. We have also targeted employees who ‘pull sickies’ on a regular basis.

Lastly, this Government is boosting infrastructure to encourage economic growth.

Infrastructure and, in particular, our water resource is critical to accomplishing our goal.

I don’t need to tell horticulturalists that you need water to grow things.

Within the primary sector, water is probably our biggest economic opportunity.

It is New Zealand’s liquid gold.

We have plenty of it, but not always in the right place and at the right time.

Demand is outstripping supply. There are real concerns about water quality and economic opportunities are being constrained.

Our first job has been to clear regulatory road blocks. One of these led to passing the Environment Canterbury legislation. This was the first step to improving Canterbury’s water management.

It was a big call to replace elected councillors with appointed commissioners, but this circuit breaker was needed to ensure Canterbury water is better managed.

So, that’s some of the things Government is doing. Now, I want to talk a bit about industry positioning and its future.

New Zealand’s future lies in supplying customers willing to pay premium prices for top quality produce. New Zealand is no longer a low cost producer – your strategy recognises this.

Our international customers are discerning.

They want to know products are safe, and have been produced ethically and sustainably.

We trade on our clean, green image. And that is why, of all my portfolios, biosecurity is the most critical.

I know that in the regular meetings I have with your board, biosecurity is one of your industry’s greatest concerns too.

We walk a tightrope every day getting the right balance between protecting New Zealand from harmful pests and diseases, while also encouraging and facilitating travel and trade that is essential to our economy.

Dwell on this statistic: every day 175,000 items come across our borders.

We therefore need to be constantly reviewing the way we do things at the border.

We will get better results at the border if we work closely with the industries that know the risks. That way we can prioritise what we must tackle if and when it arrives.

Government/industry agreements are something that we are now looking at with industry.

I want to congratulate Horticulture New Zealand because you have brought a practical and commonsense approach to this work and I’m pleased we’ve now signed a memorandum of understanding.

As we develop this new approach, I want to assure you this won’t lead to less government spending on biosecurity. Instead it’s about getting better results at the border.

My final comment is around the huge amount of work Government is doing with trade and the development of free trade agreements.

When you look at your export markets on a map, you guys touch every corner of the globe – a remarkable complement to your industry.

Talking about free trade agreements there wouldn’t be a New Zealand business that hasn’t seen some benefit from the China FTA.

We are now working hard to develop one with Korea which will deliver significant value to your industry.

We’re also working on agreements with Russia, the Gulf States, India, and the Trans-Pacific Partnership, which includes the United States.

To conclude I’m now 20 months into my job as your Minister.

I deal with many industry groups and I want to thank Horticulture New Zealand for bringing commonsense and co-operation to the issues we collectively face.

Thank you for inviting me to speak to you and I look forward to continuing our excellent working relationship into the future.


ENDS

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