Stuart Nash is keen to win Napier because the way the polls are at the moment, he's right on the bubble in terms of list placings. You'd think he'd be picking his fights carefully, but apparently not; Hawkes Bay Today reports:
A Labour Party proposal to remove GST from fresh fruit and vegetables has come under fire from food processing giant Heinz Wattie's, and Hawke's Bay MPs.
Heinz Wattie's chief operating officer Michael Gibson said the policy sent a strong message that only fresh fruit and vegetables were healthy foods.
"Canned and frozen fruit and vegetables are recognised as nutritionally comparable to fresh equivalents and provide convenient and affordable forms of such important foods," he said.
Mr Gibson said there were times during the year when canned and frozen products were also cheaper and more convenient than their fresh counterparts.
The policy would also discriminate against local producers, as imported fresh fruit and vegetables would be exempt from GST, but locally-grown frozen and canned products would have tax added.
"As we have already advised Labour MPs, this exclusive GST exemption would have a significant impact on Heinz Wattie's' business, which is one of the largest producers of frozen and canned vegetables in Australasia," Mr Gibson said.
Now anyone with a reasonable memory should know that Hawkes Bay and Watties are joined at the hip. The late Sir James Wattie is one of the Bay's most revered sons. Te Ara, the Encyclopaedia of New Zealand tells his story. Sir James died in 1974, but his company and his legacy lived on, even after Watties was sold to Heinz in 1992.
So; there's the context for this story; Stuart Nash is treading a very dangerous path. The two local MP's have been far wiser and more circumspect - read on:
National MPs have also criticised the policy, saying it would unfairly hurt the Hawke's Bay food processing industry, a major employer in the region.Not so Stuart Nash. In supporting Phil Goff's plan to take the GST off fresh fruit and vegetables (and as Labour's revenue spokesman, he may have even helped to develop the policy). In a full-frontal attack, he's dissing the quality of the brands grown, processed and packed in his own backyard by people who he will solicit votes from; check this out:
Napier MP Chris Tremain and Tukituki MP Craig Foss said removing GST from fresh fruit and vegetables would "screw the tax scrum against the food processing industry in the province".
"From the smallest packhouse to Heinz Wattie's and McCain, Hawke's Bay workers will be wondering why Phil Goff thinks GST should be used to discourage investment in food processing and the creation of jobs."
Napier-based Labour list MP Stuart Nash said the policy would help make healthy choices more affordable.
"It's dreadful that Tremain and Foss have come out and criticised a policy that will increase the health and wellbeing of many families in Hawke's Bay," he said.
Mr Nash said lowering the cost of fresh food would not affect sales of frozen and canned produce, but increase overall fruit and vegetable consumption.
"One of the consequences of this is that people will begin to change their diet and understand that healthy options is the way forward, and that includes frozen vegetables."
Stuart Nash has made a huge error here in our ever-humble opinion. There's absolutely nothing wrong with frozen or canned fruit and vegetables. Right now we have packets of Watties peas and beans in our freezer, and the SteamFresh packs are great to toss in the microwave, heat and serve. The brocolli, cauliflower, carrots and corn are crunchy, tasty and nutritious, and we don't even mind having to pay the GST on them! Fresh vegetables are great, but we live a busy life, and reckon that frozen vegies are way better than no vegies at all.
Heinz-Watties employs around 1900 Hawkes Bay people. If Stuart Nash really wants a long career as an electorate MP, he should be making his constituents his highest priority. In the meantime the good folk or Napier, Hastings, Havelock North and the surrounding areas will reflect on their good fortune in having strong local representation from the local MP's.