Policy ranges from International regulations to family or individual norms. Taking on this perspective of policy helps us appreciate that action to improve policy can happen at a number of levels. This diagram identifies levels of policy in the New Zealand context.
Each of these levels are summarised below with examples.
The United Nations generates policy at the global level. There are four mechanisms for compliance, charters, treaties or conventions, mechanisms developed by UN agencies and rapporteurs (Advocates of Human Rights (2010). Arguably UN policy are ultimately not enforceable as nation-states remain sovereign. Much UN policy is therefore aspirational. Most, if not all of the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals relate to food systems. These aspirations are not universally supported and compliance mechanisms are largely absent.
An example of a UN initiative relevant to the sustainable food systems is the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. You can read more about the sustainable development goals here.
New Zealand’s response reflects three levels of response to UN policy. Some we ratify and comply, others we ratify but don’t follow through and there is some UN policy we don’t ratify.
Our political system works around a three year electoral cycle. Political parties float policy initiatives that they hope will attract voters. The major parties poll frequently and appear to be responding to changes in public perceptions. Thus, we get the government we deserve.
New bills go through processes of select committee review and public consultation. Some current or recent legislative initiatives relevant to the food system are summarised below.
- The Food Safety Law Reform Bill threatens to increase compliance costs for artisan cheese-makers, small scale vegetable growers and meat processors.
- The government wants to take control of decisions about GMOs, rather than allow local councils to veto their use.
- The Ministry of Health requires DHBs to comply with their National Healthy Food and Drink Policy.
Various Acts of Parliament, such as the Local Government Act (LGA) 2002 and the Resource Management Act 1991, provide the framework for the work of regional councils. As with central government, our regional councils are elected every three years. This graphic, from the Northland Regional Council website, headlines their activities.
The Northland Regional Council has been criticised for not protecting our waterways as well as they might. As with central government, our regional councils are elected every three years. The five new councillors elected in the 2016 elections appear to have strong environmental leanings.