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Water issues need to be solved for horticulture

A SPECIAL adviser on natural resources from Horticulture NZ has told the tribunal hearing submissions on the Gisborne District Council’s freshwater plan that horticulture will not be able to develop in Gisborne unless water issues are solved.

Chris Keenan, special adviser on natural resources was giving evidence as part of Horticulture NZ’s submissions on the regional policy statement sector of the proposed plan.

Gisborne was an important part of the national food supply chain both domestically and from an export perspective, and there were some with some very significant businesses located here, he said.

There were some particular advantages with the high sunlight hours and abundant deep soil. The district also had an early market advantage because of those high sunlight hours.

There was a real mix of cropping, both permanent crops like citrus, kiwifruit and apples. This was one of the few regions in the country where there was a significant development opportunity.

Across the country about five percent of land was suitable for horticultural crops. There was a real bundle of constraints emerging in many other regions around access to land.

“We are starting to see Pukekohe quite significantly impacted by increases in urban housing," he said.

Horticultural land sold for housingOne tenth to one sixth percent of land available for horticultural expansion had gone under the hammer for residential development in the past 10 weeks.

“This is a critical region for the growth of the horticulture sector,” he said.

Mr Keenan said the Gisborne region gained an additional $182 million in output, $59.8 million in value added, 1268 full time equivalent jobs and $28 million in household income as a result of activity created by the horticultural sector.

It was not possible to have high versatile value cropping without water and that was one of the reasons why Horticulture NZ had been so closely involved in the development of the freshwater plan through the Freshwater Advisory Group.

Horticulture NZ knew the Makauri and Matokitoki aquifers were under pressure and were extremely concerned about that. There had to be some sort of fix within the next 50 years.

“We are not just concerned about growth at any cost we are concerned about sustainable growth.”

They were pleased to see some of the lowest nitrate leaching outputs for vegetable production and permanent cropping in the country here.

The levels for nitrogen and phosphorus in waterways were at the top of the A band under the national objectives framework.

”We also note that without solving the water issues there is not going to be any economic improvement and there is probably going to be economic degradation,” he said.

Mr Keenan was one of four submitters for Horticulture NZ. Counsel Helen Atkins said that Horticulture NZ supported the approach taken in the council’s section 42A report that while the plan might not be able to rely on an unders and overs approach for water quality it would be prudent to maintain the ability to accommodate that in the future.

File picture by Liam Clayton