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Horticulture NZ wants the Government to develop a national food policy statement within the Resource Management Act to recognise the country's "elite" fruit and vegetable growing areas.
A Horticulture NZ-commissioned report released in Parliament yesterday said there could be a big economic hit to Auckland if the value of fruit and vegetable production in prime areas in and around Pukekohe is not recognised.
While the report focused on Pukekohe, Horticulture NZ chief executive Mike Chapman said many other good growing areas around the country were facing similar issues such as competition for land from urban sprawl.
"We have got to spread out where we grow — as insurance against adverse weather events — to allow other parts of the country to up the slack when bad weather hits part of the country," Chapman told the Herald.
Chapman said Pukekohe was a proxy for other parts of the country, which also ran the risk of being over-run by housing development as the population continues to increase.
"We need to protect and provide for New Zealand's future food supply," he told the Herald.
"If decision-makers don't have a clear view of the value of the Pukekohe food hub, we run the risk of an economic hit to Auckland of up to $1.1 billion in 25 years, with the loss of up to 4500 fulltime jobs, less fruit and vegetables available, and prices up to 58% higher," he said.
During that time Auckland will also be hungrier, with population set to rise to 2.3 million.
Good growing areas also face problems of "reverse sensitivity" where local residents have to deal with problems such as tractor noise and the use of agricultural sprays.
The deputy mayor of Auckland and Franklin ward representative Bill Cashmore said under Auckland's unitary plan the "elite" soils around Pukekohe are protected, aside from those properties with titles that allow them to develop.
"By and large the productive soils around Pukekohe on the Auckland Council side — are protected under the Unitary Plan but not so much on the North Waikato side — there needs to be some work done," he said.
"But a national food strategy would be a very good idea."
"I think we need to look at the resources of the nation and what we can do to produce food — to minimise the environmental effects, maximise production and to minimise reverse sensitivity," he said.