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Restructuring Industry Good for the Future​

Phil Wier Nuffield - Restructuring Industry Good for the Future

Executive summary

With a climate crisis, increasingly diversified  agri-businesses, interest in regenerative agriculture  and increasing membership of catchment  groups, coupled with generational change  and economic reform, now is the right time for  structural change to New Zealand Agriculture.  In the same way that farmers are being asked  to consider systemic changes to their farms,  businesses and landscapes, the leaders of Team  Agriculture should be brave enough to review  the structures which underpin the ‘industry good’  system and make the difficult but necessary  changes to improve.

The Fit for a Better World vision states that we in  the primary industries are committed to meeting  the greatest challenge humanity faces: rapidly  moving to a low carbon emissions society,  restoring the health of our water, reversing the  decline in biodiversity and at the same time,  feeding our people.

In the coming years, additional capital will  be cycled through agriculture, either via an  amended Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) or a  farmer-led He Waka Eke Noa pricing scheme,  to reduce GHG emissions so our products can  be both the best in the world and the best for  the world.

This is a big job. We need high performance. We  could continue to operate as we are, celebrating  improved collaboration and striving to tell our  story better without addressing the inherently  fragmented system in which we operate. But  if systems determine culture, and culture is a  pre-requisite for high performance, then we  require intervention at a systems level to enable  our industry to transition from good to great and  achieve our vision.

The Commodity Levies Act and the organisations  it enables are served by robust governance  and democratic process. Structurally, free  riding is removed, and discretion provided as to  investment area. For pastoral levy bodies (DairyNZ  and Beef + Lamb New Zealand), advocacy and  lobbying have become increasingly important in  response to social licence to operate challenges  and environmental regulatory reform.  However internationally, membership  organisations perform the advocacy function.  It is my view, based on interviews, that the  mixing of lobbying/advocacy with knowledge  exchange and research & development, creates  confusion for farmers and stakeholders (including  shareholders, but also government, R&D  community etc.) as to the role or purpose of the  levy bodies and membership organisations.  As this confusion permeates, the work in the  public good space can become tainted as  organisations crave attribution for their activity in  a fragmented system.

An alternative must be underpinned by strong  principles and systems that support Aotearoa’s  whenua/land managers to create the best food,  fibre and ecosystem services on earth. The current  industry good arrangement provides farmers with  significant representation, but a system change may  need to sacrifice some farmer representation for the  sake of improved operational efficiency.

This report proposes that a new organisation,  ‘Ahuwhenua New Zealand’ be created. This peak  body would be structurally similar to both the New  Zealand Council of Trade Unions and the Agricultural  and Horticultural Development Board in the UK.  Ahuwhenua NZ would see several functions  consolidated into a single organisation. The current  levy bodies would remain, but their scope limited to  industry-specific insight and foresight. Levies would  continue to be directed to public good activities.  Membership organisations such as Federated  Farmers, removed of forced riding, would focus  on advocating and lobbying strongly for their  farming membership.

As a peak body, Ahuwhenua NZ would be a  future-focused centralised organisation tasked  with leading activities for which the outcomes  are agnostic of commodity production type (i.e.,  improved water quality, research and development,  stronger rural communities). With a focus better  connected to the land rather than production type,  whenua/land managers will be empowered to use  their resources in a manner that is best for our land,  families, communities, and planet. 

Download and read the full report here