While Horticulture New Zealand, holds its national conference to celebrate industry growth on one side of Wellington, across town in the High Court it is battling against decisions which could stop the industry in its tracks.
HortNZ uses 30% of the levy funding it raises from all commercial fruit and vegetable growers to represent grower interests in regional and district council planning across the country.
At the end of 2012 HortNZ was working on 43 different actions with councils. By the middle of this year that number had risen to around 50, at an estimated cost of $750,000 last year alone.
What a waste of energy, money and time.
This is an indictment on the planning system and a strong argument for continuing reform of local government and the Resource Management Act.
Officials in the Ministry for the Environment are also predicting a significant increase in plan changes between 2016 and 2020, giving even more cause for concern.
The High Court case this week is to hear an appeal against the Environment Court’s decisions on the Horizons Regional Council’s ‘One Plan’.
“What has happened in Horizons is just the tip of an enormous iceberg of misunderstanding, misinformation and misguided old school thinking,” HortNZ president Andrew Fenton said in his speech to the conference this morning.
“The case is being run to try and prevent these mistakes repeating around the country through other councils, affecting growers and the commercial viability of their horticulture businesses.
“Setting a precedent through the courts has become an accepted method of managing rights and interests, and this is unacceptably dangerous for growers and business certainty.
“This means you can’t just say ‘hey, that’s not my region, it doesn’t matter’ because eventually, it will matter, for all of us.”
The One Plan, as it now stands, will impose excessively harsh restrictions on horticulture and have a negative economic impact on the region’s jobs, communities and the price of food production in New Zealand.
Producers and consumers all over the country should be grateful that HortNZ is fighting this battle.
The outcome of their case will have implications for all other councils that will determine how and where agriculture and horticulture businesses operate.