Celebrating champions and innovators of New Zealand’s biosecurity

Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor has announced this year’s New Zealand Biosecurity Awards winners, saying their skills, dedication and knowledge underpin Aotearoa’s world-leading biosecurity system – a fundamental aspect to New Zealand’s economic strength.

It’s the fifth year of celebrating those who go above and beyond to protect New Zealand from pests and diseases.

“These are people and organisations who help to ensure our unique way of life is protected and enhanced for future generations,” Damien O’Connor said.

Peter Wilkins receives the Minister’s Biosecurity Award, which recognises an individual, group or organisation that has at least 10 years of continuous outstanding contribution to biosecurity in New Zealand.

“Peter works for AsureQuality and has dedicated more than 45 years to protecting our taonga,” Damien O’Connor said.

During that time he has responded to more than 80 pest incursions. These span a huge array of pathogens and pests, ranging from termites through to the painted apple moth and fruit fly incursions. His calm leadership and commitment to strengthening our biosecurity system makes him a very worthy recipient.  Continue reading

Government invests in major horticulture project in northern Hawke’s Bay

An ambitious horticulture project is under way to lift the productivity of Māori-owned land in northern Hawke’s Bay, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said today.

The Government is investing $440,000 to help members of the Wairoa Horticultural Hub build on the potential of their land and to create jobs.

The hub is made up of representatives from more than 20 blocks of land covering 460 hectares, the majority of it Māori-owned.

“Our investment is enabling landowners to get on-the-ground support to identify suitable parcels of land to be sustainably developed into horticulture,” Mr O’Connor said.

“It’s part of a long-term vision to harness the full benefits of the Wairoa district’s soils, water and climate. It has the capacity to become a premier horticulture region.” Continue reading

Graduate vets receive MPI funding to work in rural areas

Thirty-four graduate vets are being placed in rural areas, from Kaitaia in the far North to Gore in Southland, through the Government’s Voluntary Bonding Scheme for Veterinarians (VBS), Agriculture and Rural Communities Minister Damien O’Connor has announced.

The successful recipients will each receive funding of $55,000 over five years, in a bid to help ease the shortage of veterinarians working with production animals in our regions.

“It’s well known that there’s a real need for vets, especially in rural areas,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Since it began 12 years ago, the Voluntary Bonding Scheme for Veterinarians has made a big difference in attracting and retaining graduate vets to rural communities that can be challenging to recruit staff to. Continue reading

Pugging and pragmatism – Feds welcome winter grazing proposals but SAFE blasts continuance of “mud farming”

A government announcement on intensive winter grazing regulations  was denounced by the SAFE animal rights group in a statement headed Mud farming continues in the South Island.

Greenpeace struck a similar condemnatory note with a statement headed Backdown on winter grazing rules ‘delaying the inevitable’.  

Greenpeace said winter grazing churns paddocks to deep mud because intensive numbers of stock are confined to small feeding areas for longer than the soil and water can sustain. This mud washes into drains, streams and rivers, posing a risk to human health and the environment.

The Government proposals would change regulations initially designed to give effect to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management. These changes include scrapping rules to prevent pugging damage from intensive winter grazing and instead recommending farmers take ‘reasonably practicable’ steps to reduce pugging.

Federated Farmers, on the other hand, headed their press statement Pragmatism finally prevails on winter grazing.

The Government’s press statement was much more in harmony with the feds’ statement than the two others.  It was headed Proposed intensive winter grazing regulations updates are more practical for farmers and began: Continue reading

Government consults ag/hort sector on freshwater farm plan

The Government is inviting farmers and growers to provide their practical ideas to help develop high-quality and workable freshwater farm plans, in line with its freshwater goals.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Environment Minister David Parker today released the consultation documents for freshwater farm plans and stock exclusion low slope maps.

Comment is being sought on a new, more accurate, mapping approach for stock exclusion that better reflects what farmers see on the ground.

These are part of the Government’s Essential Freshwater package. Public consultation with farmers, agricultural sector groups, iwi and Māori, councils, and environmental groups will run from 26 July – 12 September.

“I want to thank industry organisations for their input so far, which has improved on original proposals. There are many farmers and growers already committed to practices to improve water quality and it’s vital they have their say and contribute to this consultation,” Damien O’Connor said.

“Taking a farm planning approach is a flexible alternative. It also provides farmers a visible way of showing their sustainability credentials to the markets we sell in to, which will help boost value growth.”

David Parker said improving freshwater quality was important to all Kiwis.

“High-quality freshwater farm plans will provide a practical way for famers to meet the freshwater standards the Government introduced last year, while helping councils play their part.

“Everybody’s feedback will be carefully considered, and we expect the outcome to be released later this year.”

“Working together and getting good ideas from this consultation is important, and that’s why I encourage people to have their say. We believe a significant improvement in freshwater quality is achievable in five years – and we can have healthy waterways within a generation,” David Parker said.

Damien O’Connor said feedback was being sought on the content of freshwater farm plans, what outcomes could be achieved, and how plans could be certified, audited and amended.

“We will also be asking about the balance between using the low slope map and freshwater farm plans for identifying areas for stock exclusion.

“The Government is listening to, and helping farmers and growers as shown already by our work with the sector on He Waka Eke Noa, integrated farm planning and ensuring farmers are using the best practices for intensive winter grazing. This approach and these initiatives are fundamental to our Fit For A Better World roadmap,’’ Damien O’Connor said. 

David Parker said the Government would soon release a review of whether the nutrient management tool, Overseer, will be a useful long term tool. An earlier report by the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment called for a re-evaluation of Overseer.

“We’re committed to ensuring we have the right settings and tools in place to lift freshwater quality and help people achieve that goal,” David Parker said.

The discussion document is now available on the Ministry for the Environment and the Ministry for Primary Industries websites.

The online submission forms will be available when the consultation opens on the week of 26 July on the Ministry for the Environment’s website in the have your say section.

Stock exclusion regulations – proposed changes


Freshwater farm plan regulations discussion document


Freshwater farm plan regulations supporting document


Source:  Minister of Agriculture

Government backs more initiatives to boost food and fibre workforce

The Government is backing more initiatives to boost New Zealand’s food and fibre sector workforce, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced today.

It has been working with the food and fibres sector to fill critical workforce needs and has committed to getting 10,000 more Kiwis into the sector over the next four years.

New workforce initiatives being backed by the Government include:

  • Up to $240,000 to fund an on-the-job mentoring programme aimed at building experience for Kiwis new to agricultural contracting.
  • Funding for two horticulture career development managers in Pukekohe and Canterbury to direct seasonal effort and resource where required.
  • Establishing a Food and Fibre Youth Network and Council with NZ Young Farmers to provide input into workforce and other issues.
  • Running Innovation Activator workshops with Rural Women NZ to fast track their entrepreneurial ideas.

“These initiatives follow work we’ve already done over the past eight months through the Opportunity Grows Here campaign and training initiatives that’s resulted in 3,694 more people working in the food and fibre sector,” said Damien O’Connor.

“The agricultural contracting programme is a good example of how we’re partnering with industry. It will be delivered by agricultural work specialists, HanzonJobs and targets job seekers affected by COVID-19, Ministry of Social Development clients, and 18-24 year olds who aren’t in education, employment or training.

“The Food and Fibre Youth Network and Council will provide a formal pan-sector youth voice to raise matters such as workforce issues and provide input into critical decisions to guide the future of the sector.

“There’s no shortage of talented people in our rural communities,” said Damien O’Connor.  “The Activator sessions provide the opportunity for rural women to have intensive, mentor-led sessions with experts to help bring their entrepreneurial ideas to life.

“By harnessing these ideas and helping to get them off the ground, we will be building capability within the sector, and future employment opportunities.

“These investments in people move us along our Fit for a Better World Roadmap, which aims to accelerate our primary sector’s economic potential.”

Source:  Minister of Agriculture

Primary industry export prospects are looking bright after a tough year

Economic prospects for the primary sector are bright despite the significant challenges from COVID-19,  Agriculture, Trade and Export Growth Minister Damien O’Connor said when commenting on the latest Situation and Outlook for Primary Industries report.

Food and fibre export revenue of more than $47.5 billion is forecast for the year ending June 2021 and a record $49.2 billion the following year.

Mr O’Connor said this strong performance is testament to the sector’s ability to adapt to keep businesses operating and workers in jobs.

He said the star performers this year include the horticulture sector.

“Its export revenue is forecast to hit nearly $7.1 billion, an increase of 8.9 percent from the previous year. It’s driven by successful harvests in early 2020 and continued strong demand for our fresh fruit and wine.

“Further increases in export revenue of 5.3 percent are expected for the arable sector for the year ending June 2021, on the back of a bumper 23 percent increase the previous year.”

Forestry Minister Stuart Nash says forestry exports show good signs of recovery.  Strong demand for logs from China and for sawn timber from the United States is driving this recovery. Continue reading

New Zealand and Uruguay unite on reducing livestock production emissions

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Uruguayan Minister of Livestock, Agriculture and Fisheries Carlos María Uriarte have welcomed the launch of a three-year project that will underpin sustainable livestock production in Uruguay, Argentina, and Costa Rica.

The project called ‘Innovation for pasture management’ is led by Uruguay’s National Institute of Agricultural Research (INIA).  It aims to boost production and utilisation of pastures by at least 30 percent on farms in the Southern Cone and Central America.

It will use drones and simulation models to measure and monitor pasture growth and implement a cloud-based service to provide information to more than 4,000 producers to help them optimise pasture management and increase forage production. Continue reading

Govt funds initiatives to connect Kiwis to affordable, healthy food

Funding for innovative projects to connect Kiwis with affordable, safe and wholesome food, reduce food waste, and help the country’s food producers recover from COVID-19 was announced today by Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

COVID-19 has resulted in an increasing number of families facing unprecedented financial pressure, Mr O’Connor said.

Foodbanks and community food service providers were reporting two or three times their usual demand.

But food supply chains had been disrupted,  making it difficult for some New Zealander’s to access to affordable and healthy food and risking significant food waste. Continue reading

Boost to agri-education with reopening of Taratahi

The Government’s commitment to increase primary sector jobs and opportunities has been further boosted today with the re-opening of the Taratahi Agriculture Centre, says Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor.

The Wairarapa-based training centre is reopening its doors after two years to deliver industry taster and familiarisation courses, to help workers displaced from other sectors into primary sector roles and lives.

The Government is injecting $1.2 million into the programme to train 1,000 people, including providing wrap around job placement support.

“Taratahi’s liquidation left a large gap in agricultural education in this country. A lot of hours have been put in by a lot of people to get us to where we are today. I’m absolutely thrilled,” Damien O’Connor said.

“There are significant employment opportunities in our primary industries and we are committed to helping to train people to have the skills they need for the opportunities in front of us. Our agricultural training institutions have never had a more important role to play.

“Some sectors have been heavily affected by the closure of our borders, and because of this, we’re working to transition Kiwis without work into primary sector jobs. This also helps farmers and growers cope with the reduction in migrant workers and helps ensure the sector continues to play a vital role in rebuilding our economy,” he said.

These training opportunities are part of the Government’s programme aimed at placing 10,000 New Zealanders in primary sector jobs by rapidly retraining and absorbing displaced workers in sectors impacted by Covid.  Another aspect is the website and marketing campaign – Opportunity Grows Here – that was launched this week to raise awareness of the career opportunities available in the food and fibre sector.

Damien O’Connor said Telford Farm in Balclutha had shown the way, co-designing courses with industry that got a big uptake.

“The courses at Taratahi are modelled on those already being successfully delivered at Telford, which has received nearly $950,000 to fund 620 training spots. Their rural contractors’ course is almost completely full through to the end of the year and their taster courses have seen similar levels of interest.

“It’s great that we have been able to tap into the potential of Taratahi, get the doors back open and provide opportunities for those looking for fresh starts.”

Taratahi went into voluntary liquidation in December 2018, with a permanent liquidator appointed in February 2019. Since that time, the Ministry for Primary Industries and Tertiary Education Commission have been working closely with the High Court-appointed liquidators to find a long-term future for Taratahi.

The funding for re-establishment follows the approval of a lease between the New Zealand Institute of Skills and Technology (NZIST), through its subsidiaries, Eastern Institute of Technology (EIT) and Universal College of Learning (UCOL), and Taratahi’s liquidators.

Source:  Minister of Agriculture