The Aotearoa Circle – National Food Strategy, Phase One

AGMARDT has funded the first phase of the Aotearoa Circle’s programme to develop a National Food Strategy.

The idea for the programme was an outcome of the 2020 Fenwick Forum. This was initiated by The Aotearoa Circle during the first national lockdown, to ensure a balanced recovery post COVID, that considered our national capital.

The Aotearoa Circle is a unique partnership of private and public sector leaders, unified and committed to the pursuit of sustainable prosperity and reversing the decline of New Zealand’s natural resources

The forum ultimately comprised three fora, focused on youth, sustainability Directors and finally Leaders – with 74 CEOs taking part, including those dealing with food, energy and transport. They looked at what our priorities should be with investment, to help us build back better.

This process identified the lack of a national food strategy, and the need for one to support development of a resilient, inclusive, sustainable, and prosperous food system for New Zealand.

Aotearoa Circle CEO, Vicki Watson says AGMARDT funding has been critical to being able to undertake the groundwork essential to achieving the programme’s goals.

“Phase one has been about planning the strategy process, namely, who our Leadership Group would be, who we should engage with and what the process should be to set in place the actions and commitments needed to achieve the vision.

“We need to fully understand how business, government and communities view food, in terms of its purpose and value, and take into account the special view Māori have of kai. For us, this opportunity to plan has been as important as the strategy itself. It has made sure we have undertaken the best planning around who should be involved and what the timeline will be.”

The Chair, Deputy Chair and leadership group members are now established, together with a list of advisory group members who will participate during Phase Two. The terms of reference and a very comprehensive fact-pack have been completed, enabling the leadership group and advisory group members to be fully aware of all potential issues, opportunities and international perspectives, with examples of how other nations have achieved their national food strategies. It includes the domestic context, including major risks and challenges to, and opportunities for, New Zealand’s food system. It covers potential boundaries for a New Zealand National Food Map and insights and lessons from global experience and methodological approaches and options to develop the food map.

The governance group is chaired by Rangimarie Hunua, with deputy chair Matthew Pritchard. Leadership group members for Phase I and II include Prof Boyd Swinburn, Angela Clifford, Martin Workman, Grant Bryden, Rob Hewitt, Whaimutu Dewes, Paul Harvey, and Tric Malcolm.

“AGMARDT has enabled us to have that essential planning time to get the chair and leadership group in place and undertake a process of key thinking that is critical to the success of the programme,” says Vicki.

“That has been a real gift. You don’t always have that opportunity to work out the best approach, because of pressure to produce the final output. AGMARDT provided us with that invaluable planning time to prepare for Phase Two which will be development of a National Food Roadmap.”

Phase One also identified more than 25 communities we need to engage with and phase two will now see dialogues with those various communities.

“A lot of the issues our country has around food existed before the pandemic, but COVID has highlighted them,” says Vicki. “For instance, we have a food system where, at one end, people are very vulnerable and cannot easily access or afford food, while at the other we have producers and major food exporters.

“New Zealand does not fare well either in international statistics for diabetes, and we have food security issues as well as producers having experienced supply chain interruptions. The roadmap needs to address feeding the five million, alongside ensuring opportunities for our producers and exporters in a post-COVID world.

“The Aotearoa Circle’s vision is about sustainable prosperity – it has an economic goal but one which ensures our natural resources are not exploited at the expense of short-term returns. It’s about having a prosperous nation in 50 years’ time.

“The National Food Roadmap will look at how issues and barriers and opportunities across social, economic and national capital considerations can be addressed by NGOs, industry and government to achieve a resilient, inclusive, sustainable and thriving food system.”