Monday, June 18, 2012

Fieldays 2012: Another Success!

As the gates closed on the 44th New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays, it was obvious that the biggest event on our farming calendar was another success.

The largest agricultural showcase in the Southern Hemisphere saw over 128,000 visitors flock to Mystery Creek for the four-day event - a nine per cent increase in attendance on last year and a triumph for organisers and exhibitors.

I opened Fieldays on Wednesday and enjoyed a full day at the event before returning on Friday with the Prime Minister for another big day. What I noticed as we wandered around was the positive attitude of many farmers. They are confident about their future and they know they’re producing a superior product that’s in demand all around the world. This is great to see.

I spoke to a German visitor and asked him whether this was his first visit to Fieldays. He told me he’d been each year for the last 20 years which shows great commitment and demonstates that Fieldays are much more than a New Zealand event!

Fieldays are a great opportunity to show how good our primary producers and manufacturers really are. If you want to see the engine room of our economy running at full steam, I really encourage you to book a trip to Mystery Creek for Fieldays 2013.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

MAF to become Ministry for Primary Industries

MAF has changed its name and will now be called the Ministry for Primary Industries – better reflecting the importance of the whole primary sector to New Zealand’s economy.

The Ministry for Primary Industries will encompass all Government work including agricultural, horticultural, fisheries and aquaculture, forestry and food sectors, as well as biosecurity and animal welfare.

The name change is a logical move. It recognises the broad role the Ministry has of growing and protecting the primary sector, the powerhouse of New Zealand’s economy.

Importantly it provides the different parts of the organisation with a single unifying identity to champion the sector.

The new name will come into effect on 30 April 2012.

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Tracing scheme becomes law

The National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) scheme passed its final reading in Parliament last night. This is a great step to future-proofing New Zealand agriculture.

NAIT is primarily a data recording and collection system which will provide information on livestock, their location and movement history throughout their lifetime.

The scheme needs to be mandatory to effective. With the passing of the legislation cattle farmers now know they will be required to tag on 1 July this year, with deer farmers following on by 1 March next year.

Despite a tricky passage over the past eight years, NAIT really is a no-brainer. If we continue to ignore the fact that most of our trading partners already have animal ID systems in place and we fail to keep up, we will lose precious market share.

The majority of farmers I've spoken to agree that NAIT is an important move for New Zealand's agriculture sector, and I'm pleased that many industry organisations supported the Government's move.

New Zealand punches above its weight when it comes to accessing world markets and meeting demand of our increasingly discerning customers. NAIT is a logical step in protecting farmers in the international marketplace and strengthening New Zealand's biosecurity.

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Irrigation Fund’s first project great news for Hawke’s Bay

This week’s announcement of the first project as part of the Irrigation Acceleration Fund (IAF) is great news for the Hawke’s Bay region.

The go-ahead for the project delivers on the Government’s promise to lift economic growth through efficient use of water storage.

The Government and the Hawke’s Bay Regional Council will jointly fund a $3.3 million feasibility study of the Ruataniwha Water Storage Project.

This project, with its storage dam on the Makaroro River, has the potential to provide security of supply for Hawke’s Bay farmers, improve flows in summer and enhance recreational opportunities.

It stands to unlock enormous productive potential in the region, with the amount of irrigable land likely to increase from 6000ha to around 22,000ha.

I always say that one of our greatest competitive advantages is water. It’s our “liquid gold”. But we haven’t done a good enough job of storing, allocating and utilising this wonderful resource.

Smart irrigation infrastructure development is key to building an innovative competitive and sustainable rural sector.

This announcement is a big step in the right direction.

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Wrapping up 2011

2011 has been an eventful and challenging year. The Canterbury earthquakes and more recently the Nelson floods have highlighted a real sense of community pulling together to get through the hard times. As I’ve said before, in the worst times we see the best of New Zealanders – something we should all be proud of.

Farmers have also faced hard times but the sun god’s are shining at the moment. Excellent spring weather has meant a great start to the season for most sheep, beef and dairy farmers with plenty of feed about. This has helped put us on track for record primary exports this year, something all New Zealanders will benefit from.

When I became Agriculture Minister in 2008 my goal was to work with farmers to boost profitability. We’re well on the way with that, and I’m pleased to see renewed confidence across the primary sector.

November’s election result was a strong vote of confidence in a National-led Government. It showed that nearly every second voter backed the Government’s focus on less debt, more jobs and stable economic management.

The focus on building the country’s economy is behind the Government’s decision to bring the primary industries together in a primary sector ‘super Ministry’. The Ministry for Primary Industries – incorporating agriculture, biosecurity, forestry, fishing and aquaculture – makes sense.

I’m delighted to be appointed New Zealand’s first Minister for Primary Industries. I also welcome my colleague Nathan Guy as Associate Minister.

Looking ahead, my focus in 2012 will continue to be water and biosecurity.

Water is one of New Zealand’s greatest competitive advantages, but we are not making the most of it. Developing water storage and irrigation has huge potential to unlock economic growth.

I will also continue to work closely with industry to ensure our biosecurity system works more efficiently.

2012 is going to be another busy year. I wish you all the very best for the festive season.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Irrigation infrastructure investment steps up the pace

The future for New Zealand’s irrigation infrastructure has strengthened with the Irrigation Acceleration Fund now open for business.

Announced as part of Budget 2011, the Irrigation Acceleration Fund provides $35 million over five years to support the development of proposals to the ‘investment ready’ prospectus ready stage.

The development of smart irrigation infrastructure will boost economic development and also contribute to the sustainable growth of our primary sectors.

NZIER research shows the fund could support 340,000ha of new irrigation which could boost exports by $1.4 billion a year by 2018, rising to $4 billion a year by 2026. But this is not about irrigation at all costs.

One of our greatest competitive advantages is water. It’s our “liquid gold”. But to date we have not done a good enough job of storing, allocating and utilising this wonderful resource.

The Irrigation Acceleration Fund provides an opportunity to develop new water infrastructure proposals that promote efficient water use and good environmental management.

Irrigation good practice is essential if we are to protect our vital water resource for tomorrow.

Monday, September 12, 2011

Canterbury Earthquake: One year on...

One year on from the Canterbury earthquakes and few of us can forget the shattering images and the enormous grief suffered by so many people over that time.

As a Christchurch MP, this has been particularly close to home.

In the face of the two major earthquakes and thousands of aftershocks, the province has come a long way since 4 September 2010. There is a lot to do before life is back to normal for many Cantabrians, but real progress is being made.

I was in Auckland when the September quake struck but I got back to Canterbury within hours.  In our rural areas of Selwyn and Banks Peninsula, it was shocking to see historic homes destroyed, grain silos tipped over and milking platforms severely damaged.

But there was more to come in February when so many lives were shattered by the severe quake that struck Christchurch City.

The Government remains totally committed to rebuilding Christchurch and its surrounds.  A year ago I said that the quake showed us that in the worst of times, you see the best of New Zealanders.  The generosity of people pitching in to help has been amazing.

This has been the toughest year for many people, but good progress is being made.

I want to assure you that the Government will continue to support the Christchurch rebuild in every way possible.

A draft Recovery Strategy just released for public consultation sets out a proposed direction and priorities for the recovery of greater Christchurch. I encourage you to have your say on the future of our region by commenting on the Strategy at

Monday, July 11, 2011

Sustainability an investment, not a cost

The rising global appetite for sustainable business practices is presenting New Zealand with opportunities that we could only have dreamed of a few years ago.

A recent visit to Italy and the UK showed me that our efforts to capitalise on this are certainly being rewarded.

A key reason for my visit to Italy was to lead the New Zealand delegation to the inaugural Ministerial Meeting of the Global Research Alliance in Rome. 36 member countries have now joined this New Zealand-led initiative to produce more food while reducing global gas emissions.

The Alliance is another example of New Zealand’s reputation for smart thinking and decisive action leading the way.

While in Rome I also led the New Zealand delegation to the 37th meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO).

A visit to Milan gave me the opportunity to visit some modern highly-mechanised fashion mills that are turning out absolute world quality products utilising New Zealand merino.

These visits reinforced that New Zealand exporters have to be at the high-value, top-quality end of production if we are to continue to sell to some of the best in the world.

Before heading home I spent some time in Wales where I met with Prince Charles. We discussed New Zealand’s commitment to the campaign for wool, the Global Research Alliance and sustainability.

All of these meetings reaffirmed for me that New Zealand’s sustainable credentials are continuing to open doors for us.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Global sign-off on GHG research efforts

I have just had the privilege of representing New Zealand at the first Global Research Alliance Ministerial Summit in Rome. My colleague, International Climate Change Negotiations Minister, Tim Groser chaired the inaugural meeting.

More than 30 countries have now officially signed up to the Alliance which is a global effort, initiated by New Zealand, to research ways of producing more food while reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

It's exciting that the work of the Alliance’s Research Groups has already led to a better understanding of agricultural mitigation research efforts in member countries, and to an increase in international co-operation.

During the Ministerial Summit I announced the establishment of a $25 million competitive international fund by the New Zealand Government, to support research on mitigating greenhouse gas emissions from pastoral farming.

We know there is no silver bullet for reducing emissions from livestock. Only by partnering with others around the world can we make the scientific breakthroughs that we need.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Travel to Italy and the UK

I have spent a lot of time in airports over the past two days.

The journey from Christchurch to Rome is a long one but representing New Zealand at the inaugural Global Research Alliance Ministerial Summit is a real privilege.

While in Rome I will also lead the New Zealand delegation to the 37th meeting of the Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) where I will deliver New Zealand’s Ministerial Statement and participate in the election of the new Director-General of the FAO.

These are both significant agricultural ministerial meetings, particularly with New Zealand’s leadership role in the Global Research Alliance, and they enable our views on food security and climate change to be heard at an international level.

I will also travel to Milan and London for a range of trade promotion and economic development events focused on green growth, health tech and primary sector exports.

Before heading home I will visit Wales to meet with HRH The Prince of Wales and undertake a number of rural engagements.

This trip provides an opportunity to reinforce our long-standing relationship with Europe, and particularly the UK while promoting the New Zealand brand. I will be sure to update you with any progress and developments made as a result of my trip.