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External Relations / September 9, 2020

Waiariki: Labour: Tamati Coffey

1.Kiwifruit is New Zealand’s largest horticultural export with New Zealand supply of kiwifruit forecast to increase from 148 million trays (2019) to nearly 190 million trays in 2027.  Do you think the government has a role in preparing for and supporting this growth, if not why?

If I can say anything to our horticultural and kiwifruit industries, it is that Labour has got your back. Any Government we lead absolutely has a role to play in supporting your continued growth. With international demand remaining strong, we are here to listen and build sustainable partnerships with our farmers and growers that protect our people, environment or infrastructure from the strains of demand, and ensure we get the benefits of that growth back into our regions, creating rewarding jobs.

That’s why we committed over $38 million in Budget 2020 to help our horticulture sector seize further opportunities, including access to safe plant breeding material and a focus on reaching new markets. On top of this, we’re investing $27 million in a collaborative project with industry, which aims to create new growing methods and crop protection measures, which reduce chemical use while boosting production. Growing the value we’re fetching whilst investing in innovation.

We’re also pursuing new opportunities for trade thanks to Labour’s 5 point plan for our COVID recovery focusing on jobs, investing in our people and positioning New Zealand globally. This includes backing our primary sector to generate an additional $44 billion in export earnings over the next decade, boosting NZTE’s service offering by an additional $216 million over four years, and with an enhanced cross-agency approach to assisting exporters, negotiating trade agreements with the EU and the UK.

Aotearoa’s export success also depends on our respect for the natural world. So to aid this, we’re backing the great work farmers and growers are already doing around kaitiakitanga, with nearly $100 million from our Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures Fund. This fund will help farmers and growers care for our land so it remains productive for future generations, and invest in projects that deliver all the economic and social benefits a thriving primary sector gives our ‘Kiwi’ way of life.


2.With labour shortages and the possible continuation of border closures next year how will you support the industry to ensure there is enough labour for harvest?

Labour is committed to an export-led economic recovery that puts people and jobs first. We know COVID-19 has had a big impact on our growers and exporters. That’s why we’ve taken quick action to back solutions which give employers access to workers, and help New Zealanders get into rewarding primary sector careers, including through investing $1.6 billion into making trades apprenticeships free for people of all ages.

During the lockdown, kiwifruit served as a lifeline for many workers who were displaced from industries like tourism, forestry and hospitality – especially here in the Waiariki.

We want to continue to quickly connect people with jobs in horticulture, powered by the $19.3 million this Government invested into helping recently unemployed workers access training and jobs in the primary sector. With the immediate aim to place at least 10,000 New Zealanders into primary sector jobs, the first project funded as part of this initiative was up to $200,000 for NZKGI to meet urgent demand in the kiwifruit sector.


3.Given that Māori kiwifruit growers provide jobs and economic stability to their communities, what initiatives or support do you think the government should provide for new kiwifruit development on Māori land?

I want to acknowledge that Māori have their own solutions. That’s why Labour is committed to helping Māori landowners realise their whenua aspirations. Whether that is supporting plans to build more warm, dry papakāinga or recognising the opportunities kiwifruit offers in enhancing the productivity of whenua, Labour is committed to creating living partnerships with Māori to achieve these goals and deliver for our regions.

In strengthening the connection between Māori, their whenua and sustainable land development, we’re investing over $56 million into the Whenua Māori Programme to increase the viability of underutilised land blocks.

Speaking of ‘blocks’, my Labour Māori Caucus colleague, Māori Development Minister Nanaia Mahuta, has introduced targeted Ture Whenua Act changes to address the unique challenges and barriers Māori landowners face in developing our land. These include simplifying complex regulations, tackling succession issues and introducing a new tikanga-based disputes process, which will all make a significant impact.

In addition, we’re actively supporting Māori-led kiwifruit projects. For instance, the Government gave $5 million to a Whenua Māori kiwifruit orchard development in Raukokore here in the Waiariki, along with funding for portable cabins for their kaimahi.


4.What investment should the government make to increase the participation and capability of Māori in all areas of the kiwifruit industry? 

In addition to the extensive initiatives outlined above, horticulture is at the heart of our move to bring back free trade apprenticeships to New Zealanders of all ages. This is a strong sign of Jacinda Ardern’s leadership, in terms of removing barriers to skills our people need to retrain for new industries, due to the impacts of COVID-19.

I am just as committed to ensuring the pandemic doesn’t crush the career potential of our rangatahi. Our $121 million investment into expanding the popular He Poutama Rangatahi training initiative, will ensure more young Māori at risk of long-term unemployment get the pastoral support they need to reconnect with their whenua and get sustainably re-engaged into learning and earning.

We’re also boosting Māori trades training by $50 million – supporting Māori employers to take on Māori apprentices. I’m proud of the level of support we are putting into iwi ventures and supporting Māori innovators in the kiwifruit industry, with a $33 million fund targeted to supporting Māori research and development opportunities that will create jobs and grow the role of the Māori economy within Aotearoa’s wider COVID-19 recovery.


5.Access to water is critical. Would you support government led initiatives for on orchard water storage facilities?

The short answer is, we already are. Water is crucial for our regional economies and wellbeing, however, we acknowledge that it has been under threat from floods and drought, alongside increased demands on water resources. In Government, we allocated significant investment from the Provincial Growth Fund for water storage initiatives  – amounting to $134 million over the last two years as of July. It is my commitment to keep connecting the horticultural industries of the Waiariki to this funding, so together we can invest in our people and create jobs that will keep our communities working.


6.What drives you to run as a candidate in the general election? What do you hope to achieve?

We have been a strong, stable Government for the last three years, and I have advocated hard to improve the wellbeing of our families in the Waiariki. That has led to some incredible wins. The majority of kura involved in our free, healthy lunches in schools programme are within my electorate and over $2 billion of investment into Waiariki-targeted initiatives, Māori partnerships, safer roads, houses, hospitals, kōhanga and schools has been announced.

However, in recovering from COVID-19,  there is much more to do and more potential, especially in addressing inequities faced by our Māori communities.

From Katikati to Kawerau, Te Puke to Tūrangi, now is not the time to change Government. Labour Leader Jacinda Ardern’s decisive leadership is putting people first and protecting the health of our families, setting up a strong economic recovery. With our five-point plan already in motion, I am committed to re-earning the mandate from whānau to keep on with the job and keep the Waiariki moving.