[11 February/Stuff]

New Zealand plant producers are concerned that there business is being damaged by taxpayer funded prison and community nurseries that are able to undercut commercial operators. Many nurseries have gone bust while those that remain are competing for tenders in an environment where undercutting is common and delivering to timelines requires “magic”. This comes at a time when the government’s One Billion Trees Programme is earmarked for native tree planting. Landscape architect Di Lucas described the issue as a crisis and noted that while she’s thrilled there’s a concerted effort to plant more native trees being made by government agencies there are serious concerns about how procurement is being managed. New Zealand Plant Producers Incorporated (NZPPI) CEO Matt Dolan says there needs to be better processes for managing projects and purchasing native trees, adding their are numerous pipeline issues such as poor lead in times for tendering for contracts, prices expected are too low to be economically viable and eco-sourcing demanded but the effort and care required not understood by large purchasers.  Growers say price is a deciding factor in who wins the tender and they’re a race to the bottom for the industry with prices sometimes dropping to between $1 and $2 per plant and there are few conditions in contracts to protect growers, meaning any margin on plants can be quickly eroded if a project runs over by a few months.  One grower noted that the social good of prison and community nurseries in teaching people to grow plants cannot be allowed to impact on the commercial growers otherwise the training investment that has been made in the industry over many decades will be lost.