Tens of thousands of hectares best suited for food and crop production have been lost to residential housing in the last two decades, and councils are being called on to do more to effectively protect our food supply.
Getting the balance right, is the focus of a new policy that'll require councils to identify, map and manage highly productive land, only allowing subdivision in special circumstances.
Hastings Mayor Sandra Hazlehurst welcomed the new changes.
“Our horticulture sector contributes a billion dollars to our region’s GDP and we must protect our fertile plains, we call our fertile soils our golden goose,” Hazlehurst said.
The change applies to high-yield food-producing areas nationwide, with a focus on Auckland, Waikato, Hawke's Bay, Horowhenua and Canterbury.
Yummy Fruit Owner Paul Paynter said he had been waiting for this announcement his whole life.
“It’s been years in the making and for decades before that, we’ve been crying out for this kind of protection for the fertile soils.”
“It really is going to provide an export future for food and fibre from New Zealand and that's critical to our economy,” Paynter said.
In the last decade, New Zealand’s population has grown by more than three-quarters of a million people, the challenge for the Government is managing growth while providing enough food and housing.
Trade Minister Damien O’Connor said in the past 20 years 35,000 hectares of highly productive land have been carved up for urban or rural residential development, while 170,000 hectares of the land have been converted into lifestyle blocks.
“Once land is built on, it can no longer be used to grow food and fibre."
O’Connor said this lost productive land provides food for Kiwis and has significant economic and employment benefits.
“That’s why we are moving to protect our most fertile and versatile land. Our Fit for a Better World roadmap that we developed with the sector will add $44 billion over 10 years to our primary sector exports.
Environment Minister David Parker the new policy will provide security for both Aotearoa’s domestic food supply and primary exports.
“We need to house our people and to feed them too. Our cities and towns need to grow but not at the expense of the land that’s best suited to grow our food.”