An environmental report released last week further substantiates Horticulture New Zealand’s concerns about ongoing urban and lifestyle block expansion into prime growing land, and shows that urgent action is required to slow this down.
The Environment Aotearoa 2019 report, released by the Ministry for the Environment and Stats NZ, shows that the growth of urban centres threatens the limited versatile land surrounding regional centres such as Auckland, Waikato, and Canterbury. The report also names lifestyle blocks as a threat to versatile land near urban centres, with an average of 5,800 new blocks a year since 1998, many of which encroach upon prime growing soils. This loss of versatile land can force growers onto less naturally productive land, or out of production entirely.
Horticulture New Zealand Natural Resources and Environment Manager Michelle Sands welcomes the report, and says that we can’t afford to keep losing high-quality soils.
"Some of this soil is unique, for example the volcanic soils around Pukekohe, where vegetables can be grown year-round," says Sands. "All land is not created equal, and this is not replicable elsewhere. The horticulture industry has maintained for some time that this land is truly irreplaceable, and we welcome the acknowledgement of this in the report.
"Urban creep is already taking the prime soils needed to grow domestic vegetables, land which will be increasingly important if New Zealand is to diversify its agriculture and transition to a low emissions economy. We support the acknowledgment of this issue in the Environment Aotearoa report, and look forward to working with the Government to ensure we don’t lose more valuable growing land, as well as improve environmental outcomes within horticulture.
"New Zealand has a growing population, and they need healthy fruit and vegetables; we cannot feed more people with less land."
A summary of the Environment Aotearoa 2019 report can be found here.