Election 2020 Part 1: Politicians are Predictable

Election 2020 Part 1: Politicians are Predictable

Posted in Food Systems, In the News on Sep 28, 2020

Part one of FoodTruths Election 2020 coverage. We are endeavouring to track down ministers, crack open manifestos and find out what our leaders intend to do to improve our food system. Stay tuned on FoodTruths.org.

Food is hardly a sexy election topic, it is no border management. The Minister of Food Safety is not a glamorous portfolio. The entire subject of food safety and policy wouldn’t match the limelight afforded to our politicians’ facial features. Yet food production, consumption and education directly affects our future and health statistics, so FoodTruths is taking a deeper look.
.

What has happened before now?

.
In the last term, not much happened, the government rearranged MPI into produce related departments, again, mostly so that the ministers felt as though they’ve made an impact rather than any need or reason for change. New Zealand phased out plastic bags in supermarkets and Gareth Hughes successfully passed the Country of Origin Labelling Bill, but that got delayed because of Covid-19. 

Not surprising that food policy isn’t hitting the tabloids when there is very little action.

More controversy and political debate was made over food when Mavis brought plant-based cream with the scones for our local retirement village's shared lunch.

But we think food is really important, we eat every day based on legally required labels and what is actually available to us. So, we have reached out to every political party to make a comment, and honestly, were ghosted by most of them. But we did a bit of research of the parties’ manifestos and had some good dialogue with the Greens and National, so I reckon we can stretch it into a blog:
.
.

Part 1: Politicians are predictable. 

.
.
As we traversed the spectrum the parties there were few surprises. The right is about cutting red tape, you know that same old rhetoric, ‘the smaller the State the larger the individual’. Whereas the left is looking to make ‘comprehensive plans’. 

We interviewed Barbara Kuriger, National MP for Taranaki and self proclaimed dairy farm buff. She would like to see the Minister for Food Safety ‘enable’ small scale producers rather than bog them down in compliance and regulation. A fair comment too; food safety rules and labelling requirements are a complex business, a headache for those navigating them. But not a surprising response, another National candidate claiming to be looking out for the ‘small kiwi businesses’. 

FoodTruths would have liked to see Barbara mention consumer issues here, the Minister’s role as noted by the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet includes “making regulations to provide safe and suitable food in New Zealand...” However, consumer concerns seem to have been forgotten, National is more worried about the producers at the moment. [Don’t forget that consumers are the victims when food isn’t safe or suitable, whereas producers feel the economic impact]
.
.


.
.
We then asked Gareth Hughes (the Greens) “should the Food Safety Minister promote concerns of the consumer? [such as food insecurity, plastic and food waste, and promoting healthy food standards]”. He responded with a real concern for the many complex issues concerning food. His response called for a ‘comprehensive response from the Ministers of: Health, Environment, Primary Industries, Social Development and Community sector’.

I found this unimaginative. Yes, there are some massively complex issues in fixing food systems but this seems more like an option to hide behind a collaboration, rather than to be offering a real solution, with no one person responsible for these complex consumer issues. Kudos for the concern, and yes, they are extremely complex but we see this as a response where the Minister for Food Safety is working in a producer centric food system, rather than shifting the focus to consumers.
.

So, what is the perfect solution?

.
At FoodTruths we pride ourselves in being an authority about food system issues, such as the ones already discussed. However, we hold no silver bullet, we don’t hold one easy answer to fix the food system, but we do know it will take hard-work, ingenuity and accountability to be an effective Minister for Food Safety. Both Ministers mentioned do have genuine concern for the food system which we applaud, we would like our food system to become consumer centric and we continue to work towards this.
.

Stay tuned for our next instalment, Part 2: COVID-19 hasn’t changed much.

.

Hamish Darling
Hamish Darling

Hamish has been immersed in the food world since he could say pavlova. He has managed fruit growing operations in Central Otago for 6 years, and won the Central Otago Young Fruit Grower of the Year competition in 2018. Outside of this, his work has ranged from butchery to tutoring law, to working for the New Zealand Defence Force; all of which he draws on, in his role at FoodTruths. His role is at the forefront of FoodTruths work, communicating their work with the rest of the world.




Read More

Election 2020: Part 4: Waste of Thyme

16th Oct, 2020

FoodTruths followed up our prospective politicians by asking what they will do about food waste.

Read More
Election 2020: Part 3: Politics, Policies and Healthy Eating

8th Oct, 2020

Compared to previous elections, this time around there has been very little rhetoric around encouraging healthy eating and improving the long-term health outcomes of New Zealanders. FoodTruths wanted to find out what policies, if any, are aimed at encouraging healthy eating and improving the quality of food consumed by New Zealanders.

Read More