The NZ Food & Grocery Council backs the call from Horticulture NZ for a national food security policy focused on the threat to food production from urban sprawl.

Chief Executive Katherine Rich says concerns raised by Horticulture NZ at the effect urban development is having on prized horticulture land, particularly land that used to grow local vegetables, are well founded.

“Horticulture NZ says we have lost about 10,000 hectares of horticulture land to housing in just 15 years between 2001 and 2016. That’s a staggering amount, particularly if you consider the value of all the food not produced.

“Fresh fruits and vegetables must be part of a healthier diet for Kiwis. We need Kiwis to eat more of them, not fewer. The long-term impact of losing some of New Zealand’s best and most productive soils is worrying.

“With the new Government’s goal to build 10,000 new houses a year, the pressure is only going to increase, so it’s important to get an overall plan about land use. The pressure will no doubt be greatest around the Auckland and Hamilton regions, and also the Bay of Plenty, where a lot of our most fertile land is.

“Look at Pukekohe – it’s the major producer of vegetables for the people of Auckland, but the population there is expected to double in the next 30 years due to its proximity to Auckland. Where are the houses going to go? When you pave Pukekohe, you’ll lose a massive amount of food production for generations to come.

“There needs to be a serious conversation around a policy focused on preserving more of the land that feeds us, and that means about where we should build houses and where we shouldn’t.

“We need to find a balance, but we can’t afford to allow our most productive land to continue to disappear.

“The Food & Grocery Council supports the advocacy of Horticulture NZ, and we hope this is an issue the incoming Government considers as a matter of urgency.”