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Ministry of food and drinking water

By Professor Emeritus Elaine Rush, Auckland University of Technology

We have been placed into a situation where the importance of food, cooking and the food supply is paramount.  Drought already was causing problems with the food supply and also the water supply in Auckland.  We are a country that can produce more than enough food to feed our population but the best is exported – to bring more money into New Zealand and we import very poor quality food including sugar and grains, mainly processed.  We import enough grain to feed 9 million people the recommended 6 servings a day!  We also import and cannot produce in any reasonable quantities bananas, rice and coffee. A lot of seed is also imported.

Before COVID19 we knew that at least 40% of adults and 20% of children live in a household with severe to moderate food insecurity – this is escalating sharply and will not go away for the foreseeable future. The problem is access to food at an affordable price. There is more need, than ever, for liveable wages and support for families.  

Food and water are human rights. What we need is a Minister for Food.  We need to understand better and improve the food fluxes and have a priority of feeding all New Zealanders according to the dietary guidelines first. At present activity around food is divided and piecemeal. The Ministry of Health monitors food security and promulgates dietary guidelines but has no jurisdiction about how they should happen. The Ministries and Ministers of Fisheries, Agriculture, MPI, MBIE, Food Safety , Child Poverty Reduction, Environment, Social Development, and I am sure that there are more, all have their own agendas which include food. The response to COVID19 rightly put people first and this must continue.

The overarching principles of all policy and actions of a Ministry of Food should be with recognition of the principles of the Treaty of Waitangi:

People first: Feed all New Zealanders well and ensure access to quality drinking water everyday.

Then: the economy, livelihoods and sustainability in our amazing productive land and sea

All with a fair and equitable approach.

Many of the things we need can wait but people and our land cannot.  All life must be nurtured for our children’s children.

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