NZ Plant Producers Incorporated

July 2017

A new organisation for New Zealand’s plant producers.

New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated (NZPPI) is a new organisation set up to represent all plant producers and give a strong and united voice across the sector. It is hoped that a greater diversity of businesses with common interests can work together on biosecurity, research and development, and networking.

Andrew Harrison is the independent chairman of the new NZPPI board. He is a governance and biosecurity specialist, and works as a consultant in these areas, including managing biosecurity programmes for the kiwifruit industry. He also owns a kiwifruit orchard in Te Puna.

Andrew has a background in advocacy and has previously managed biosecurity operations and policy functions within government, including the Ministry of Primary Industries. Early in his career he owned a small landscape design and construction business, including a small nursery growing plants for that business, and he’s always had a love of plants.

Andrew says that NZPPI is a new model for an industry body that represents all plant producers. It has been developed by plant producers, for plant producers. It unites plant producers across all sectors – those growing for horticulture, viticulture, forestry, retail, amenity, landscape and revegetation sectors. “It’s a big shift.”

“We have shifted from a retail-centric organisation to a body that is now more representative of all plant producers.

“The former Nursery and Garden Industry (NGINZ) has a rich 112 year history as one of the oldest industry bodies in NZ, and this change returns us to our roots as a body with nursery men and women at its core.

“Our aim is to have 200 plant producer members after three years, which we think represents at least 90% of the industry by value.

“At start-up we are more than halfway there, with a strong core of membership and the majority of the industry by value already on board. Importantly, we’ve attracted some of New Zealand’s most successful and innovative plant producers – some returning, some continuing and some joining for the first time – who are committed to making the new body a success.”

Although plant producers are the core of the organisation, the new model also provides a category of membership for industry partners, which can be suppliers, research organisations, retailers or any organisation with an interest in plant production in New Zealand.

The new board was elected in November 2016 and consists of independent chairman Andrew Harrison, along with sector board members; Vince Wylaars (Food Production), Patrick Murray (Forestry), Grant Hayman (Landscape, Amenity and Revegetation), Geoff Thorpe (Orchard and Vine, and Vice Chairman), Greg Kitson (Retail), and Mike Simpson (producer board member at large).

Mike Simpson’s role on the board is about balancing good governance with the varying requirements of members, and making sure the NZPPI delivers great value to members.

Mike says that plant production makes a significant contribution to the New Zealand economy and the environment. It’s estimated that it directly contributes around $0.5 billion a year to the NZ economy. But this is only a small indication of the industry’s wider contribution. As “the genesis of all things green”, plant producers play a key role in the success of our major plant export industries – horticulture, viticulture and forestry – collectively worth more than $10 billion to the New Zealand economy.

“They provide solutions to some of New Zealand’s challenging issues such as conservation and biodiversity, improving water quality and carbon neutrality. They contribute to making our cities and homes liveable, to health and wellness, and to the quality of the visitor experience that underpins New Zealand’s $10.6 billion tourism industry. And last but not least they create thousands of jobs for New Zealanders, often in rural communities.”

Providing a strong and united voice on the big issues that affect plant producers is the number one priority for NZPPI. These range from the RMA, building codes and development contribution issues through to biosecurity and plant imports and exports.

“Making sure we are well connected into science and innovation opportunities is another key opportunity for plant producers and an area the sector has been distant from for several decades.”

A national “Plant Producers Science and Innovation Summit” will be held in May this year at Scion in Rotorua, to initiate growth and greater investment in this area. This, along with an annual conference and regional gatherings, are also examples of the kinds of opportunities that will be created for plant producers to network, learn from others and share resources.

Biosecurity issues are another a major focus for the organisation, including a strong focus on safe imports and exports of plant material. Planning to prevent pathogens from overseas entering New Zealand and making sure we’re ready as an industry for any biosecurity events is also important.

Examples are the Sudden Oak Death disease (a form of phytopthora) which would affect a wide range of plants, and myrtle rust which would affect manuka, rata, pohutukawa and other related species. “If they get here, it would have serious impacts on the plant based industries and our ability to produce and move healthy plants around the country. It would also impact on New Zealand’s native flora and fauna. Part of our role is to make sure we are prepared for and doing everything we can to reduce these business risks.”

Ensuring we attract talent and grow a skilled workforce for tomorrow is another important area NZPPI will work in. It’s a challenging, important issue and common across all plant producers.

Mike Simpson is managing director for Waimea Nurseries which now covers 200ha of owned and leased land on the Waimea Plains near Nelson. As well as fruit trees, it also grows nuts, berries and ornamental trees, as well as hops. The company employs up to 140 people during the year, and produces 750,000 trees a year. Mike has been in the family business for 37 years. Waimea Nurseries has relationships with breeding programmes around the world enabling it to bring new varieties into NZ through its onsite quarantine facility.

Among its programmes is work on rootstock development with Cornell University in the US, East Malling Research in the UK, and Plant & Food Research in NZ.

Up to 15 new selections of pipfruit are introduced each year from world-leading breeding programmes and the new material is tested, evaluated and multiplied before being offered to the wider nursery industry. As well, up to 10 new varieties of stonefruit are imported each year from France and Italy.  Mike says, “We are very actively looking at overseas trends and have put a lot of investment in travel and importing new material.”

“Growers want up-to-date rootstocks with resistance to disease, and that is driven by demand in the fruit markets for less spray on the fruit, so sourcing rootstock is crucial to the business and industry.”

“While biosecurity at the borders protects the industry, it can also lead to potential restrictions on plant material – and that is a role for NZPPI. We’re facing increased scrutiny over biosecurity issues and it’s important that a sensible voice heard by government is from all plant producers. We need access, and movement of plant material up and down the country has to be sensible.”

On the biosecurity front, a good example is dealing with Psa requirements for the kiwifruit industry, or importing new cultivars, a process which is constantly under review. “It’s a fine line between having a biosecurity risk for the industry and not being able to access new plant material. This issue is a critical one for many of us in the industry. There’s no point in having really tight border control if you can’t bring in new varieties. This would make our industries less competitive.”

Our new industry body is a lot more representative of all plant producers, and a lot more inclusive. It replaces the NGINZ, the Nursery and Garden Industry New Zealand, which was largely a retail-centric body. We have common interests around biosecurity, lobbying government and labour and employment issues. “There’s a whole raft of stuff we need representation on at a government level.”

We now have a united voice to lobby government for plant producers who are often over-looked in the rush and support of export businesses. Previously the industry has been very fragmented, so we hope we can get greater leverage with science and research.

Having a healthy plant industry is the nub of our really successful industries such as pipfruit, kiwifruit, hops, forestry. As well, we don’t want to overlook the amenity and revegetation sectors which are also a big part of the industry. “These producers provide green solutions to manage water quality and mitigate climate change.”