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Vision to unite the primary sector

Friday 13 December 2019

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern took a break from the Whakaari/White Island tragedy yesterday to launch a new vision for New Zealand’s primary sector.

Called Fit For a Better World, it draws on the Maori concept of taioa (tie/ow) – putting the health of the climate, land, water and living systems first.

Ardern told a gathering of industry leaders at Lincoln University the New Zealand brand was built on the quality of our products, the trust consumers have in those products and the environment that created them.

A commitment to kaitiakitanga, to guardianship, was inextricably linked with what the government did in respect to concerns around issues including animal welfare, water quality and climate change.

“I feel a duty of care,” Ardern said. “Unless we underpin those values, we make your job so much harder.”

She praised Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor, who co-launched the vision, for his “down to earth wisdom”.

O’Connor said massive disruption from geopolitical and environmental factors was coming our way and we needed to be ready for it.

He established the Primary Sector Council to provide fresh thinking and help navigate those challenges.

Central to that was “a shift from best in the world to best for the world”.

“The council’s engagement with kiwi farmers, growers, fishers, makers and crafters has resulted in a vision which the sector can rally around.”

So where does seafood fit in this vision?

The industry is recognised in videos shown yesterday, with longlining, deep sea trawling and Precision Seafood Harvesting all featuring.

And a series of brief interviews includes fisherman Nate Smith.

Neither viticulture or the seafood sector was represented on the council but an assurance has been given they will be added.

Independent council chair Lain Jager said a good example of supporting growth was the launch of the aquaculture strategy with enhanced export targets of $3 billion annually by 2035.

The overall food and fibres sector delivers $46 billion in annual exports, comprises 20 percent of GDP and provides one in 10 jobs.

“Our economic challenge – and opportunity – is to position ourselves to meet the demand for high value food and fibres by discerning global consumers,” he said.

Fellow council member Miriana Stephens, a Wakatu Incorporation director, said the first principle of Te Mauri o Taiao is that our land, our water, our air, our people and all living things must be able to thrive without overuse.

“This is not a branding or PR exercise. This is us.

“If the environment is healthy, then so, too, are the people.”

Dairy farmer John Rodwell, from Kintore near Ashburton, saw the taioa vision as a means of shifting “from our often reactive and defensive position on environmental issues to one where we can take the lead on them and drive our future, driven by principles and enduring value, not by legislation”.

The event was MC-ed by celebrity chef and author Annabel Langbein, who also oversaw preparation of a lavish lunch featuring some of the country’s best food and wine, including Sanford tuna and Ora king salmon.

The vision and the branding and the bonhomie and the inspirational videos, as enjoyable as they are, are all very well.

Now it’s a case of show us the beef. Or the fish.

The council will deliver its final report recommendations in March next year.

O’Connor said the next step was taking the vision and turning it into a realistic and workable plan.

A new partnership, Food and Fibres Aotearoa New Zealand, would be established, involving government, industry and Maori.

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