By Geoff Vause
Start with the family shopping list and work back from there.
Covid19 could be a blessing in disguise.
The pressure on the world’s various economies has brought a sharp focus on who produces what for who, and who gets paid.
New Zealand need no longer be enslaved by dominant economies nor poked into a small collection of export pigeon holes.
Starting at home, every regional town and capital is surrounded by soils and water and enjoys a climate capable of producing almost everything needed to fill the fridge. Almost nothing needs to be imported.
Start with a family shopping list and work back from there. Consider how each item is grown and processed. Consider the land use surrounding each town and centre. Exhort and otherwise encourage the corporations and landowners to commit their land to that purpose.
Wairarapa is home to the first community supported agriculture farm in the country. Since 1996, the Wairarapa Eco Farm has been building its relationship with the people consuming its food.
Relatively tiny though it may be, the farm’s land use and local experiences are part of an array of achievements across the country that can be measured, and tapped for use on a large scale.
Our export potential can be reinvigorated with clever thinking. Michael Joseph Savage worked in the flax industry. He recognised the value flax had as an export.
Again at Wairarapa, and almost anywhere else in the country, flax can have its fibre qualities enhanced by flax seed oil potential and the totally untapped market for its linoleic acid vital in human nutrition.
If we looked hard at traditional Maori medicines and homeopathic remedies generally we would find massive potential for home use and export.
In the Far North studies by the Northland Regional Council have identified almost 10,000 hectares at Kaipara and Kaikohe suited to high-value horticulture. That could double if Hokianga and Kaitaia regions were included.
Much of that land, and Hokianga in particular, is covered in scrub. Much of it does not even yield a rate return as it is in inalienable Maori Land tenure and is unproductive. There is one 50-acre organic orchard in the area, and some smaller holdings.
Kaikohe has an airstrip built by the Americans during the Second World War to take the gigantic Flying Fortress bombers. With some investment it could be used to fly organic produce directly to the markets of the world.
Northland Regional Council chair Penny Smart said recently the world market for horticulture was increasing, but large land transformation was costly.
Technology and innovation were crucial, Cnr Smart said, with a willingness to adopt emerging sustainable land use technologies.
The demand for advanced light manufacturing and clever technology supporting intensive, sustainable horticulture presents many more research, training and employment opportunities. It also underlines the skills deficit in many regions.
Most regional development strategies say rising living costs, particularly in housing, are forcing young people to skip re-entry training and go straight from school to work.
The opportunities and challenges presented by intensive, sustainable horticulture need a large shove for local manufacturing, technology and design innovation directly related to the desired land use change, with the export potential, education and jobs in these industries and innovations also being realised.
Regional development strategies across the country identify the need for long-term funding for youth education, training and employment, with schools and training establishments collaborating with businesses and the horticultural sector so education and training plays a relevant and measurable role in rebuilding the regions and ensuring employment.
Most strategies note training options can be combined with employment and treated as part of the employee’s general development. All of this can be done where the potential workforce lives, and is schooled. They don’t need to leave the region.
Skills can be transferred across industries, and environments, and around the world as New Zealand’s workforce becomes in demand by nations elsewhere who see the skills and societal base we are building.
If Maori are asked to participate, they will. If farming landowners and corporations are asked to participate, they will, because they will be able to see the potential for their children, and their children’s children.