Whangarei electorate candidates

Here are the responses from the candidates for the Whangarei electorate in alphabetical order.

  • Robin Grieve, Act
  • Ash Howell, Green Party
  • Shane Jones, New Zealand First
  • Chris Leitch, Democrats
  • Shane Reti, National
  • Tony Savage, Labour

Robin Grieve, Act

1: What do you think your role as an MP or potential MP is in our region’s food system? 

As I am only seeking party votes in the election I do not seek to be the MP for Whangarei. However I would hope that our MP did their best to represent the region to allow food production and process to flourish. Northland has so many opportunities and as a horticulturalist myself I am excited by the potential. Significant changes need to occur to land use regulations to remove overly restrictive regulations. Most food production businesses are small employers so I support reducing overly burdensome compliance requirements in employment law and business operation requirements in general. Reductions in tax rates will also be an important boost to these businesses and create growth opportunities for our region. I am a supporter of improving access to markets with more efficient transport options such as the motorway extension north of Auckland. Access to willing and able workers is also a problem in our region and is limiting opportunities, I would advocate for the liberalisation of employment law and immigration to ease this. I also see welfare reform as an important step to allow more of our own youth to participate better in the Regions’ workforce.

2: Should NZ be protecting prime agricultural/horticultural land from urban sprawl? What’s your position on how best to do this?

I believe land use is best determined by market forces. Land should be used for the activity which generates the highest economic return. History shows that any other mechanism leads to huge problems, as is the case with Auckland where high housing costs are contributing immensely to inequality. Land use will change over generations and allowing market mechanisms to dictate this ensures it is always used optimally.

3: The World Health Organisation recommends implementing a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as a measure of reducing childhood obesity. NZ has the third highest rate of childhood obesity in the OECD.  Are you in favour of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages?

I am not in favour of this as I do not believe it will work and in fact could make matters worse. Raising the price of a product does not mean that people will consume less of it as it is just as likely that they will consume the same amount and therefore have less money to spend on other things. Raising the price of these products will increase economic inequality and could well increase obesity if the 20 cent increase in a price of a drink results in one less apple in the supermarket trolley.

4: Do you support Local Councils having the power through the Resource Management Act to declare Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)/Genetic Engineering (GE) free growing zones in their regions? 

As stated in my first answer I would hope that our MP advocated for less land use regulation, not more. If it is possible to have GE free regional zones, with no contamination across regional borders, then I presume it is possible to achieve the ideal outcome where personal choice on land use is the predominant factor. Ideally whether crops are grown GE free or not and products people choose to consume are GE free or not should be the decisions of the land owner and the consumer. ACT supports these personal choices.

5: How will you ensure that food system policy, such as the Food Act is scale-appropriate for small and medium scale farmers, growers and producers (e.g. on farm meat processing). 

 Reducing excessive regulation is a primary focus of the ACT Party. I believe food safety regulations should be driven by the need to protect consumers, not the ability of a producer to withstand the burden. This means I only support regulations that are required for food safety. Reducing the regulatory impost on all processors should ensure that the safe operation of small operations like on farm meat processing can flourish. Large operations will naturally be more able and motivated to develop advanced food safety measures above those required by regulation because they have more to lose and more to gain in the area of food safety. So I expect reducing regulation requirements across the board will achieve a scale appropriate food safety regime. That is the advantage of allowing market forces to play out.


Ash Howell, Green

No response received.


Shane Jones, New Zealand First

1: What do you think your role as an MP or potential MP is in our region’s food system? 

I was born and bred on a farm. I’m an advocate for our region and it’s capacity to generate food.  I have regularly called upon to support food produces who are frustrated by excessive red tape. Too much petty regulation stifles innovation, initiative and imagination.

2: Should NZ be protecting prime agricultural/horticultural land from urban sprawl? What’s your position on how best to do this?

I have always been a supporter of the notion of our cities going up as well as out. The Resource Management Act is in need of a massive overhaul, it has become too litigious and a superannuation fund for the legal profession. The loss of valuable growing land can be laid at the feet of the planners and ineffectual local government representatives. Soils of national significance as a part of statutory resource management  is an option which I intend to  promote.

3: The World Health Organisation recommends implementing a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as a measure of reducing childhood obesity. NZ has the third highest rate of childhood obesity in the OECD.  Are you in favour of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages?

No.

4: Do you support Local Councils having the power through the Resource Management Act to declare Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)/Genetic Engineering (GE) free growing zones in their regions? 

No.  I support the option of requiring the EPA to deal with such matters.

5: How will you ensure that food system policy, such as the Food Act is scale-appropriate for small and medium scale farmers, growers and producers (e.g. on farm meat processing). 

The Food Act needs to be substantially rewritten. It is an example of the bureaucracy pursuing solutions made in Wellington which leaves the burden with regional  small and medium enterprises.  It was and is a total over reaction.


Chris Leitch, Democrats

1: What do you think your role as an MP or potential MP is in our region’s food system? 

Our party has a policy of favouring and supporting small business and cooperatives (which by their very nature, are localised) rather than corporates.  Diversification of food production is vital especially when major events disrupt transportation systems. The “supermarket model” of food acceptability (size, shape, colour restrictions) results in waste and lower returns for growers and often reliance on only varieties that will best produce that supermarket requirement, regardless of nutritional value.

My role, were I MP, would be to support existing local market operations, and groups like the Northland Food Collective, and look for opportunities to develop and extend them. I would campaign strongly against restrictions being placed on smaller, particularly organic, whole food producers. I would push for better transport corridors (including rail) so that producers have more efficient ways of distributing their goods both within and outside our region.

2: Should NZ be protecting prime agricultural/horticultural land from urban sprawl? What’s your position on how best to do this?

We absolutely should be protecting prime agricultural and horticultural land from urban sprawl. Our party has a policy which would institute a system of land use classification. The classification would have series of descending steps starting at “locked up and fully protected” (similar to Marine Reserves) down to development zones. Prime agricultural and horticultural land category would not be allowed to be developed for industry or urban development.

3: The World Health Organisation recommends implementing a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as a measure of reducing childhood obesity. NZ has the third highest rate of childhood obesity in the OECD.  Are you in favour of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages?

We absolutely should reduce sugar intake, and a tax on sugar should be implemented – not just on sugar sweetened drinks, but on many other processed foods that include sugar. A tax on sugar at source (the refining companies or importers) would assist, with the proceeds going into education programmes about healthy eating, making water a “cool” drink.

4: Do you support Local Councils having the power through the Resource Management Act to declare Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)/Genetic Engineering (GE) free growing zones in their regions? 

Absolutely Yes. I have supported GE Free Northland in their fight to achieve this, with submissions to councils and government.

5: How will you ensure that food system policy, such as the Food Act is scale-appropriate for small and medium scale farmers, growers and producers (e.g. on farm meat processing). 

I am opposed to the “big is best” road we seem to be pursuing. It is vital that we have an environment that encourages “cottage” producers. While health standards are important, I would speak out against making it too hard or too expensive for small scale producers to operate and innovate, and vote against any such legislation.


Shane Reti, National

1: What do you think your role as an MP or potential MP is in our region’s food system? 

Advocating for our primary sector and ensuring we strike the right balance between growth and protecting our region’s food system.

2: Should NZ be protecting prime agricultural/horticultural land from urban sprawl? What’s your position on how best to do this?

This is more of an issue for local councils, as they have a better gauge of what land serves which purpose and how best to maintain their local economy and strike the right balance with development.

3: The World Health Organisation recommends implementing a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as a measure of reducing childhood obesity. NZ has the third highest rate of childhood obesity in the OECD.  Are you in favour of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages?

Our position on a sugar tax hasn’t changed – it’s not something we’re actively considering.

We’ll continue to keep a watching brief on the emerging evidence. We await the results of research from the University of Waikato and University of North Carolina.

There’s no single solution that will fix obesity. That’s why we’ve implemented a Childhood Obesity Plan with a range of interventions across Government, the private sector, communities, schools and families. We’re now one of the few OECD countries to have a target and comprehensive plan on childhood obesity.

4: Do you support Local Councils having the power through the Resource Management Act to declare Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)/Genetic Engineering (GE) free growing zones in their regions? 

The RLAB was never intended as a reform of New Zealand’s system of managing GMOs. These are covered under the Hazardous Substances and New Organisms Act and this law is not being amended in this reform.

There has been concern that the Section 360D powers could theoretically be used to override councils’ district plan rules on GMOs. The Government has agreed to amend the 360D provisions to exclude them being used around GM crops.

New Zealand’s GMO regime is very cautious and the EPA has only approved two GM products in 20 years, one for liver cancer treatment and the other for an equine flu vaccine.

The definition of what is and is not a GMO is difficult because humans have been changing the genetic content of organisms for over a century. These changes are not controversial and simply ensure the workability of the existing regulatory system.

5: How will you ensure that food system policy, such as the Food Act is scale-appropriate for small and medium scale farmers, growers and producers (e.g. on farm meat processing). 

New Zealand’s Food Safety policy – the Food Act 2014 – was put into place by the Government to ensure regulations were fit for purpose and provided greater flexibility than its predecessor, and takes into account level of risk for the consumer.


Tony Savage, Labour

1: What do you think your role as an MP or potential MP is in our region’s food system? 

My role as an electorate MP would be to ensure the best for the community. This is a core Labour value.

Choice for supplier and consumer is part of a healthy successful community. Whilst the big supermarkets have a roll and are very convenient, there should be vibrant local alternatives. I would encourage local produce as a healthy alternative and I think adding value to our communities and the environment

More formally as a legislator, an MP’s role in our region’s food system is to oversee legislation that ensures all food sold is safe and free from any likely disease-forming bacteria.

The legislation required for such a massive undertaking needs to be clearly written with delegated authority to specific bodies (such as local government, the health department, hospitals, abattoirs, fisheries) on how this is to be undertaken.

2: Should NZ be protecting prime agricultural/horticultural land from urban sprawl? What’s your position on how best to do this?

This would seem to be an obvious thing to do.

In sprawling urban areas such as Auckland, prime horticultural land has already been taken up with domestic housing and industrial complexes.

It seems to me that safeguards and/or guidelines (whichever is stronger) need to be put into the Resource Management Act and its amendments which would halt this practice.

3: The World Health Organisation recommends implementing a 20% tax on sugar-sweetened beverages as a measure of reducing childhood obesity. NZ has the third highest rate of childhood obesity in the OECD.  Are you in favour of a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages?

Yes I am. This is something we should do.  It does seem ridiculous that a bottle of milk costs more than a bottle of Pepsi or Coca-Cola .

4: Do you support Local Councils having the power through the Resource Management Act to declare Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO)/Genetic Engineering (GE) free growing zones in their regions? 

Yes.    Whangarei and Far North District Council both have these as policies in their district plans, as does the Northland Regional Council.

5: How will you ensure that food system policy, such as the Food Act is scale-appropriate for small and medium scale farmers, growers and producers (e.g. on farm meat processing). 

The main legislative requirement is that all sold food is safe to eat. I would advocate that risk assessment for small local fresh food suppliers is appropriate ( low) and the food plans where required are not administratively onerous and appropriate to the likely risk and resources of the supplier.

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