The simple way to restrict that license is for Government to implement one size fits all legislation. The wider community can see that the lawmakers have responded to their concerns and simple, understandable rules are good politics in a world dominated by unreliable news. However, the reality is that cookie cutter regulation damages good producers as well as poor ones, constrains investment and innovation and is, ultimately, unlikely to deliver the environmental improvements all New Zealanders want to see.
Recognition that the license to operate is no longer assured has focused the minds of industry leaders on how their organisations can proactively engage with the wider community on the long-term enhancement of the country's environmental and economic position.
Collaboration faces challenges; mainstream discussion reduces complex issues to "dirty dairying" or "un-swimmable rivers" reinforcing existing perceptions in a world where the majority of people lack the time to seek and understand facts. The wealth the sector contributes to New Zealand's economy is not well understood and, as a consequence, the dividend delivered to society from utilising our environment, water and oceans to grow food, fibre and timber are not connected to environmental impacts. Degradation has also become an "us and them" issue creating a chasm between producers and the remainder of the community that will take time to bridge.
While industry leaders recognised that there is much work to be done they were confident progress could be made as substantial common ground exists. The aspirational goal of protecting the unique characteristics and productive capacity of our natural assets for generations to come is as appealing to producers as it is to any other New Zealander. The challenges Auckland faced last summer with beaches being closed due to pollution highlighted that all New Zealanders have a role to play in addressing environment and water quality issues.
These are not the views of the vocal minority on Facebook or Twitter that have the ear of the media and whose views become the proxy of all New Zealanders. Developing a deep understanding requires the industry (producers, their staff, service providers and leaders - not market researchers) to get out of their comfort zone and head into homes, schools, shopping malls, offices and factories in large and small communities across the country and listen carefully. Continual engagement will in time reveal the true expectations of the community on a wide variety of issues if the right questions are asked and the answers are listened to.
While I would not like to pre-empt what the industry would learn from this, it is my expectation that mainstream aspirations for the country are unlikely to be too different from those held across the primary sector. These points of similarity provide opportunities to build connections that create platforms that enable collaborative responses to the biggest issues facing the country. Connections can be built by investing in projects that inspire people across the whole community and deliver outcomes that benefit all, a good example being the Predator Free 2050 initiative. Enabling events that connect communities can make a significant contribution; for instance, enabling the urban population to attend A&P, holding 'Farming in the City' events, New Zealand food celebrations and promotions or a national year of food producer, as Australia did when it celebrated the Year of the Farmer.