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.

Monday, June 20, 2011

2011 Fieldays helps break barriers to productivity

As the 43rd New Zealand National Agricultural Fieldays drew to a close, it was obvious that the biggest event on our farming calendar had once again been a huge success.

The four-day rural showcase was a triumph for the organisers, with huge numbers going through the gates of Mystery Creek.

The theme of this year’s Fieldays was ‘Breaking Barriers to Productivity’. This is all about coming up with solutions to obstacles that stifle productivity in the primary sector.

This was evident on many of the stands with organisers reporting new products and smart ideas driving record sales for some. It will be interesting to see the final sales results when they come through.

The 2011 Fieldays has been a great opportunity to show how good our primary producers and manufacturers really are. Our farmers and growers are among the world’s most innovative and efficient, our commodity prices are at record levels, and our agribusinesses are on top of their game.

If you wanted to see the engine room of our economy running at full steam, a trip to Fieldays this year would have given you a first-hand look.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Budget 2011 - Building our future

Budget 2011 builds a stronger platform for growth, sets a credible path to Budget surplus and helps lift national savings. It boosts investment in health, education, and infrastructure including irrigation, while also helping to rebuild Christchurch.

It is a responsible and balanced budget for the times. It takes steps to ensure the Government returns to Budget surplus by 2014/15, so we can start repaying debt and contributing to higher national savings.

We have taken decisions to better target spending to those most in need. This will ensure that schemes like Working for Families, KiwiSaver and interest-free student loans remain affordable and sustainable into the future.

As already announced Budget 2011 invests in a fresh water policy package.

This includes an Irrigation Acceleration Fund of $35 million supporting development of irrigation infrastructure proposals.

The Government will also consider in a future Budget investing up to $400 million of equity in water infrastructure schemes.

The package features a Fresh Start for Fresh Water Clean Up Fund to help councils with historic pollution problems – including reprioritised funding of $15 million over two years, and a total clean-up programme commitment of $264.8 million.

You can find out more about Budget 2011 by visiting the Beehive website.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Helping to clean up Hawkes Bay

The saying ‘many hands make light work’ is being put into practice in Hawkes Bay. Around 48 people, many of whom are currently on benefits, will help to clean up parts of the flood damaged region.

Approximately 120 farms in the Wairoa, Hastings, and Central Hawkes Bay have been affected by the heavy rainfall and flooding and urgently need some extra hands to help with the clean up effort.

Having seen the slips and flooding damage first-hand, I understand the scale of the problem for many of these farmers.

I am pleased that we have been able to offer further assistance to those farmers most affected. Myself and Social Development Minister Paula Bennett have approved up to $500,000 which will fund up to 48 jobseekers for 12 weeks work. This is part of Enhanced Taskforce Green which has been activated in response to the severe flooding.

Work can begin within two weeks, much of which will focus on clearing debris from fences and making repairs, as well as removing silt from properties.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

A fresh start for fresh water

My colleague Nick Smith and I joined the Prime Minister yesterday in announcing the Government’s fresh water policy package which will help grow the economy while better caring for our rivers, lakes and aquifers.

The package is the result of at least two years of work by MAF and is designed to expand on the Government’s economic growth agenda.

It includes a $35 million Irrigation Acceleration Fund to support the development of irrigation infrastructure proposals to the ‘investment-ready’ prospectus stage. The Fund also supports the development of new water harvesting, storage and distribution infrastructure.

Government will later consider in a future budget, investing up to $400 million of equity in water infrastructure schemes.

I believe New Zealand’s greatest competitive advantage is its water. It’s our “liquid gold”. But to date we have not done a good enough job in using this wonderful resource.

Water quality is deteriorating in parts of New Zealand, especially in agricultural areas. And at peak times, we face water shortages.

National wants to turn this around. If we improve the way we manage our rivers, lakes, and aquifers, water will help us build the stronger economy we’re striving for.

Monday, May 9, 2011

Beefing up the sector

Great news with the red meat industry recently announcing its goal to grow the sector from $8 billion to $14 billion by 2025.

The Red Meat Sector Strategy, initiated by Beef + Lamb New Zealand and the Meat Industry Association, is a plan to lift the performance of the meat industry and give it clearer direction.

At the moment there is a real risk that current good returns could create farmer complacency about addressing the long-term issues facing the sector. As a farmer I can identify with the strategy’s clear message that we must all look at lifting our on-farm performance further.

I’d like to congratulate Beef + Lamb NZ and MIA on initiating this work. New Zealand red meat is a valuable product, prized by wealthy consumers in a range of markets. We need to continue to build on this base to restore sustainable profits to the sector.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Chatham Islands Visit

A two-day trip to the Chatham Islands gave me the chance to see firsthand the challenges facing our most isolated farmers.

And there are unique challenges - not least the need for a regular and reliable shipping service to overcome the uncertainty of getting livestock back to the mainland.

I was joined by Conservation Minister Kate Wilkinson and Rangitata MP Jo Goodhew on the trip and our hosts did a great job of ferrying us around several farms to meet with farmers.

There was some frank and open discussion - and some very welcome hospitality - and we came away from the Chathams with no doubt about the issues they're dealing with.

I am calling a meeting of several senior Ministers to work through the matters raised, and to report back.

It's important that people living in the Chathams know that they have a voice in Wellington.