Let’s protect our valuable soils

The need to protect New Zealand’s best soils for growing healthy fresh fruit and vegetables is clear in the Our land 2018 report released today, says Horticulture New Zealand chief executive Mike Chapman.

“This report highlights the expansion in urban areas (a 10 percent increase between 1996 and 2012) and the accompanying loss of some of our most versatile land.

“We have been talking to Government about this issue in Pukekohe, near Auckland, as well as other prime growing areas for fruit and vegetables. Some of this soil is unique, particularly the volcanic soils around Pukekohe where vegetables can be grown all year in a frost free environment. This area feeds a lot of New Zealand.

“We believe the valuable growing soils – which are often termed elite soils – should be protected by central Government policy. We can’t afford to keep losing these soils if we want to continue feeding New Zealand their favourite fruits and vegetables.

“We couldn’t agree more with this statement in the report: Land is fundamental to human life, and central to the environmental system we depend on. The decisions we make and the actions we take affect not just the land, but also water, oceans, air and atmosphere, and the life they support.

“Many horticulture businesses are run by inter-generational families who are natural custodians of the land. They have a vested interest in ensuring they have a business to pass on to their children and grandchildren, just as it was handed on to them.

“We acknowledge that the report cites some instances where horticulture is outside the soil quality indicators they used, but would also like to point out a lot of work is underway to mitigate soil erosion and run off.

“Many growers spend large sums of money on long-term riparian planting plans to protect waterways on their properties and enhance the environment.

“There is also a Sustainable Farming Fund (SFF) project underway called Don’t Muddy the Water, focused on keeping soil on the land where it belongs and out of the waterways. Started three years ago, this project quantifies the relative effectiveness of the best management practices for reducing sediment and phosphorus loss.

“Results so far have shown the effectiveness of silt traps that capture sediment so it cannot run off the land. Preliminary results also show the cumulative discharge of sediment is lower on cultivated production land protected with silt traps compared to construction sites. The project is ongoing but it will continue to inform best practices.

“We congratulate the Ministry for the Environment and Statistics New Zealand for their work on this important reporting and look forward to working with the Government to ensure we don’t lose more valuable growing land and that we improve environmental outcomes within horticulture.

“Government has indicated they want to work with us on this so that we can all be proud of the best environmental outcomes that underpin New Zealand’s reputation as a producer of some of the best food in the world.”

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The report is available at: http://www.mfe.govt.nz/publications/environmental-reporting/our-land-2018

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