The level of funding for the new grocery regulatory regime is heartening and highly appropriate for the job the Government is asking the Commerce Commission to do, says Chief Executive Raewyn Bleakley.

The Budget announced $28.8 million over four years to further the reforms to flow from the Commission’s market study and the Government’s response.

Nick Russ, the General Manager, Market Regulation, at the Commission has told Kate McNamara at the New Zealand Herald the dedicated team of grocery regulators is already 13 and will reach 25 full-time positions by the time the legislation comes into force – the commission’s biggest dedicated team.

The team will be headed by a Grocery Commissioner.

He said the commission’s deep institutional knowledge of market regulation (telecommunications, dairy, fuel, retail payment systems and now grocery) is one reason he was “very optimistic” the Government’s stated aim of better competition and lower prices for grocery can be achieved.

Raewyn Bleakley, in welcoming the funding said it was too early to know how effective the changes will be.

A detailed Code, for example, has yet to be released for consultation (an early version was consulted on, but a second round is still pending). A final text will require Cabinet approval and that’s unlikely to come this side of the October election, meaning the code will come into effect very late this year at the earliest.

However, NZFGC remains concerned that the new wholesale regime could have unintended adverse consequences for its supplier members.

“The wholesale regime will be unique to New Zealand, yes, I think that comes with some heightened risk, but we also have to recognise that the grocery market in New Zealand is unique in its level of market concentration … and there are times when we just have to innovate here because our conditions are different.

“We will be watching for any perverse effects on suppliers, a matter NZFGC has addressed in submissions to the Commission.

“I hope officials will act swiftly with a remedy if any eventuate.”

Read Kate McNamara’s report here