Saving Auckland’s shrinking food bowl

by | Sep 15, 2022 | News

The government is expected to announce any day new standards to help safeguard some of the country’s most productive land from urban sprawl. Is it a case of too little too late? 

South Auckland’s horticulture industry is centred on the Pukekohe Hub, 4359 hectares of some of New Zealand’s most fertile and productive land.

Cabinet signed off the National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS-HPL) on Monday, with details yet to be released. Market gardeners in Pukekohe say while it has been a long time coming, it is an important step to help save the food bowl of the city, RNZ reported this week.

For anyone disturbed by the sight of squat single-level housing steadily spreading out over Auckland’s prime growing soil, progress seems excruciatingly slow.  Stuff reports that Environment Minister David Parker first announced the NPS-HPL in 2019 saying back then it would prevent the loss of prime horticultural land and protect it from inappropriate subdivision and development.

Growers in rural south Auckland say the growing loss of land in the area to developers is impacting on where they can grow crops, as urban sprawl continues to eat up the city’s most productive land. And they say it will inevitably hit consumers in the pocket when they buy their vegetables.

Meanwhile Auckland Council is anticipating significant growth and development in this area over the next 30 years.  Approximately 1700 hectares of land has been identified around Pukekohe for future urban development, including around 790 hectares in Paerata. ​This has the potential to accommodate approximately 14,000 dwellings.

According to Auckland Council’s Climate Action Framework, released in 2019, the area’s volcanic soils generate $327 million a year in produce, which is the equivalent of 26 percent of New Zealand’s total vegetable production, RNZ reports.

The problem of soil loss dates back to the 1950s, when market-gardening land around Auckland was rezoned for lifestyle blocks and residential development. Now those fields are long gone and climate change the supply chain and food security concerns are adding further complications and urgency to the problem.


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