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Fishers, farmers and growers - how the primary sector will save New Zealand's bacon

Friday 10 July 2020

On Tuesday this week, the Prime Minister announced a multi-agency, multi-million-dollar plan to dig New Zealand out of a very deep, post-COVID economic hole.

And over soy lattes country-wide, urban liberals had to face the uncomfortable fact that it was the much-reviled farmers, fishers and growers that were the answer to the question, how?

Fit for a Better World is a mammoth piece of work, the foundation of which is that the primary sector is New Zealand’s lifeline for export-led growth to counter, what would otherwise be, the country’s economic collapse.

Of course, the primary sector has always been the backbone of New Zealand’s economy, but we have received little acknowledgement of that.

While the fishing industry feels particularly aggrieved by the often false and misleading claims of its opponents, it is not alone. Attend any beef and lamb, dairying or horticulture conference and the stories are interchangeable.

The primary sector shone through the lockdown. They endured uncomfortable conditions and changing workplaces to bring New Zealand food. And the public at large thanked us for that. A new appreciation emerged of the importance of food security and a recognition that New Zealand, through its primary producers, was in a privileged global position—we produce good food and lots of it.

Fit for a Better World sees central government acknowledging that, with other large export sectors like education and tourism stuck at the border, our primary sector exports are their economic ‘get out of jail free’ card.

It’s about time.

Because, we’re a bit angry out here in rural land. Angry at being demonised for producing good, quality food. Angry that our aggressive measures to lessen our environmental footprint are lost in the clamour of calls to shut us down. Angry at headlines on dirty dairying, environmental disregard, deliberately flouting the law, corrupt practises and just being all-out bad bastards.

New Zealand primary produce is feted around the world. It fetches a premium price because it is valued so highly. Our international reputation as a quality food producer is first class. Domestically not so much.

We sincerely hope that Fit for a Better World is the springboard to a better public understanding and appreciation of the men and women working their butts off in often difficult circumstances to put food on your table and lead New Zealand’s economic recovery.

We also sincerely hope that the impediments constantly put in the way of doing business in the primary sector are addressed at the same time. That our ongoing efforts to ensure scientifically based environmental best practise are rewarded, not railroaded by ideology.

But we thank you for the acknowledgement that primary produce matters.

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