Regional Winner | Sustainability category
Linda Peacock is an adviser at Kiwifruit Vine Health Inc and a 2020 Growth Awards Regional Winner in the Sustainability category. Read on to learn more about Linda.
What’s the one thing you have done in your career you are most proud of?
About 10 years ago, there was a new to New Zealand incursion of a bacterial disease, Psa, which hit the kiwifruit industry hard. At the time I was working in the post-harvest sector of the industry and was asked to take a role as a technical adviser and grower liaison, to work in biosecurity. It was completely out of my comfort zone but there was a desire to assist in what was a massive crisis for the industry.
I was also starting to think about moving into something different and taking on a new challenge because I’d been mentoring younger people who were in roles like mine so I knew the industry had good succession plans in place.
I saw an opportunity to take a step forward and provide help to the industry at a time when everyone was pulling together to face the unknown. Being brave enough to do that and become involved in a crisis situation where you don’t know all the answers but you know everyone is involved because they want to do the right thing is something I am proud of.
How will you share what you learn with others in the industry?
There is a comprehensive extension network I am a part of on many levels. A big part of that is KiwiNet - designed to foster and share knowledge about biosecurity. It involves everyone from researchers to local government officials and offers a platform to share information. We have regional roadshows and visits we carry out, as well as our Kiwifruit Vine Health fortnightly bulletin for all kiwifruit growers and our monthly Snapshot magazine which is distributed more broadly to others across kiwifruit and horticultural industries. We also do podcasts and produce articles that go into industry journals and newsletters. There is a lot of opportunity to share information. I see every conversation as an opportunity to tell our story.
What do you see as your biggest opportunity in the next 12 months?
I am keen to push the acceptance of the new Pathway Management Plan for the kiwifruit industry, which we are currently developing and consulting on. As an industry, we were caught unprepared by the Psa incursion and our biosecurity practises were not strong. A decade after that incursion, the regulatory Plan we have at the moment - which is only for Psa - is reaching the end of its lifespan and we need something to replace it that will make sure we are covered for not just one particular threat but the entire range of biosecurity risks we could face.
As the industry continues to expand and moves into areas growing other crops, producing and growing kiwifruit plants is going to bring with it a different set of challenges and we need to watch what that means for us.
The value of helping people understand their plants, vines and orchards and become more aware of what’s normal for their property, will increase the chance we will detect any new incursion or disease early, and then by having good biosecurity and hygiene practices in place on a daily basis, we could limit the spread and have a good chance at eradication.
What is the biggest barrier to achieving success in the next 12 months?
People are a bit overwhelmed at the moment and busier than ever - some could see the proposed Pathway Management Plan as another piece of legislation and ‘one more rule for the sake of it’ so it’s really important that we put people at ease and assure them that actually, a lot of what we’re proposing is already happening, we’re just lifting the bar as an industry and developing new tools and resources so that it’s even easier for them to protect their investments.
There are a lot more sustainability related requirements for people on the land and health and safety is still a big thing too.
The other barrier we are coming up against is complacency. We had an incursion; the industry is now on its feet again and perhaps people think we are ‘foolproof’ now. But COVID-19 has highlighted the importance of always defending your own border so that things don’t sneak up on you. I tell growers that if they think about their orchard, it is just the same thing. The best way for a grower to protect their livelihood is their own borders because, even if there are incursions in the country, if they do what they need to in their own orchard, then that is what will minimise risk.
What is the biggest challenge New Zealand Ag has to overcome in the next 10 years?
Some of the things I think about are how we maintain and grow our space. There is a world population out there that needs to be fed and there is an economy that is reliant on primary produce, so agriculture and horticulture needs to be successful.
With population growth calling for more housing, we have to be more successful in stopping urban sprawl encroaching on our best growing land. We need our share of water resources to successfully grow agricultural and horticultural crops, we need access to labour and strong science funding, and most of all, we need to keep our social license to operate.
We must be seen as a positive and integral part of sustainability in New Zealand. Over the past eight to 10 years, it has become quite difficult for agriculture and horticulture in New Zealand with primary industry seen as needing to lift the bar in terms of environmental impacts. Management of this space, and also recognising the value of embedding good biosecurity will help sustain primary industry for future generations.
With COVID-19, there has been a strong recognition of what agriculture and horticulture brings to the economy, as an employer and a place to apply a wide-range of skills from people who may have been displaced from their own industries. Maintaining and growing our space is really important, and part of this relies on keeping unwanted bugs and diseases out so that we can get stronger and stronger going forward.