New Zealand Horticultural Export Authority Amendment Bill - First reading

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

STUART SMITH: I almost heard a Freudian slip, I think, come from the other side of the House: I almost heard “Primary Growth Partnership” spoken about quite positively.

Dr David Clark: No, not that slush fund.

STUART SMITH: Well, I think we will let you away with it. It is early in the night, though.

It is a pleasure to speak on the New Zealand Horticultural Export Authority Amendment Bill, which, as has been alluded to earlier, amends the Act of the same name that was passed in 1987.

There are, in fact, 11 fruits that are able to come under the Act, but boysenberry exporters and nashi pear exporters have elected not to take up their right to operate under the Act at this moment.

It is important that we get the flexibility that exporters need to be able to operate to their fullest advantage, and this bill will allow that to happen.

The premiums for our fruit are very real and demonstrated, I think, by the exports, which grew from $50 million in 1998 to $300 million in 2015.

That shows the effectiveness of the Act—that is a 500 percent increase, and for those who might think that CPI would have played a part somewhere: it did, but it was only an 84 percent increase. So that is a magnificent increase in value for fruit exporters.

Avocado exports earned an almost fourfold increase from $28.9 million in 2005 to $115 million, and I think summer fruit—which most people do not think a lot about—was alluded to by colleague Ian McKelvie earlier. There was a very good summer fruit orchard in Marlborough, in fact, that did a great job but, unfortunately, that is now in grapes.

I think one of the things I would like to focus on this evening is the voting mechanism that is called into play in order for this to be taken up by an industry. I think the meat industry has been mentioned twice across the other side of the House, saying it should be brought to bear in that industry, but you still have to get 60 percent of the producers to actually agree before you can get an order.

The Minister cannot proceed an order in council without that and without 60 percent of the production votes also going in favour of it.

That is quite a significant task, and I know from going through that myself several times with a commodity levy order—twice in fact—that it is quite a task to get people across the line. I think there would be a significant challenge in trying to get the meat industry across the line to do that. But anyway, that is by the by.

I think what they are after is a single-desk seller, and that is, really, another kettle of fish altogether. I think there is far more to be gained by niche marketing, and that can be effected quite adequately as it is now in that particular industry.

But nimble industries do need flexible legislation, and this amendment bill will give us that. It is right that we need 60 percent of the production as well as 60 percent of the producers to vote in favour of this, because it is very important that the scale operators also have a say in what goes on, not just the small operators.

It is also taken over a 2-year average and I think that is really important because there is an agricultural risk in growing fruit, as with most agricultural crops—that is why it is called an agricultural risk.

There could be a number of operators that could miss out through a frost or some other significant weather event and not be able to partake in the vote in a particular year. That would not be fair on anyone’s books, I do not believe.

The bill also allows exit provisions for product groups, and it sets out mandatory considerations that the Minister must take into account before he signs an order in council. Again, I think it is just tidying up around the edges.

It was a good Act, but it was not quite fit for purpose. After this bill has gone through the process, it will actually make it a much better environment for exporters to operate in. With that, I would like to commend this bill to the House. Thank you.