Thursday, November 30, 2023

HortNZ hits back at minister over cyclone reports

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Growers’ body denies O’Connor claim about not providing detail.
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Horticulture New Zealand  has hit back at claims from Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor that it hasn’t provided enough detail about Cyclone Gabrielle’s impact on growers, labelling the comments “disingenuous”.

Earlier this week O’Connor told The Country radio show he had yet to see a cyclone  recovery plan or proposal from HortNZ president Barry O’Neil showing what needed to be done for growers in Hawke’s Bay and Gisborne.

The government has committed millions of dollars to the recovery, and O’Connor rejected suggestions it was “dragging the chain”.

O’Connor said many growers were in different circumstances. Some might not be able to return to the land, while others could return but in different situations. 

“Government doesn’t know the answers because most are in the hands of the landowners or HortNZ members, so we’ve got to work with them.

“We’ll do our best to try and be fair to all of them but HortNZ has to put forward a plan  as to what it thinks we should collectively do to help those growers.”

O’Connor’s comments angered  O’Neil, who said the organisation has already provided the government with numerous reports.

“We started working with the government immediately after the cyclone struck. We strongly advocated for the government’s initial relief package,” O’Neil said.

The government has access to all of the data HortNZ has collected and has had for several weeks. He said HortNZ staff attended numerous meetings with ministers and Ministry for Primary Industries staff.

“The agriculture minister has repeatedly said he is waiting for reports. We can only assume those are government reports, and not reports and plans from the horticulture sector.

“For the agriculture minister to say HortNZ has not provided the government with answers and information is disingenuous,” O’Neil said.

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