CEO Update August 2020

As the second wave of Coronavirus (COVID-19) starts to ‘flatten’, hopefully we can approach Spring in the knowledge that we have the relationships, systems, protocols, practices and plans in place to anticipate and manage any further challenges that COVID-19 may throw at you, your business and the industry in general.

The Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA) Board and management have maintained a very close watching brief on all aspects of our advocacy and communication activities with respect to COVID-19 from a national perspective. We have also maintained close contact and engagement with the State Association Member Executives, to ensure the complete nursery network is aware of issues across borders, and to provide assistance and support as and when required.

I would again encourage you to ensure you follow a COVID-19 Safety Plan in the operation of your business for the health and safety of you, your staff, suppliers and customers. Also, continue to follow the basics around physical distancing, washing hands and ensuring your business is able to adapt to operate and trade, no matter how the operating environment continues to evolve.

Greenlife Industry Australia Board Meeting
The next GIA Board meeting is on Tuesday 15 September. The key item of business is for the Board to review and approve the first audited financial statements for GIA for the 2019/20 financial year. The audited accounts will be provided in the GIA inaugural Annual Report which will be circulated for the Annual General Meeting (AGM), now organised for Wednesday 2 December. Details on the AGM will be provided in due course.

The Board is also actively progressing with the establishment of Sub-Committees to provide insights, direction and advice with the implementation of the GIA strategy around the five imperatives of: 1. Advocacy; 2. Promotion; 3. Sustainability; 4. Careers; and 5. Funding. We have established the Careers Committee, a Special Purpose Promotion Committee, and expressions of interest for the Sustainability committee opened today.

The Board has a Nomination Committee to manage the director selection process and a Governance Committee for the Australian Plant Production Standard (APPS) programs. A number of working groups for specific areas, including industry insurance and a review of the Nursery Award 2020, are also being established. More details on the committees and working groups will be provided in due course.

Other activities and areas that are being progressed by GIA are:

Greening Australia – Project Phoenix:
GIA is involved with Greening Australia in Federal Government Funded Project Phoenix which has the aim: To increase native seed and plant supply in preparation for the restoration of bushfire affected areas and conservation of other valuable habitat.

There will be opportunities for businesses already working with native seed management and native plant production within Project Phoenix, through understanding the capacity and capability of the native seed and nursery industry, and how it can be used and contribute to the restoration of the bushfire areas.

APPS Commercial Review:
Under the national nursery industry biosecurity program, GIA commissioned a review of the commercial aspects of the APPS programs to determine how best to manage its operation in the short term and to ensure it continues to deliver value to participants.

The review identified a number of operational considerations including how audit inspections and certification activities will be conducted in light of COVID-19.

Polypropylene Plant Packaging Recycling:
GIA and the Australian Packaging Covenant Organisation (APCO) have submitted an application to the Federal Government for funding under the National Product Stewardship Investment Fund for the recycling of polypropylene (PP), the predominant plastic used in plant packaging. PP is highly recyclable, but a proportion is currently lost through household waste and other waste streams.

The proposed Polypropylene Plant Packaging Recycling Program will increase material circularity for PP used in Australian horticulture including pots, stakes, tags, and trays. Circularity will result from design and implementation of a national, industry-led Product Stewardship scheme supported by GIA and its members.

The aims of the program are to enable easy return of PP plant packaging, create a clean supply of PP for processing to new plant packaging, retain material at its highest value in the market, build end markets for recycled PP and divert PP from landfill or suboptimal uses.

Plant Health Australia – Owner Reimbursement Cost Workshop:
John McDonald and I attended a Plant Health Australia owner reimbursement cost (ORC) workshop last week. The aim of the workshop was to explore the level of understanding and capability peak industry bodies have, to effectively work with eligible business to understand and obtain ORCs whilst under the pressure of an incursion.

The session provided participants with reflections from several industry organisations who have had experience in managing the ORC process on behalf of growers during a response. John provided an overview with respect to his and the industry experience following the recent incursions of tomato potato psyllid and citrus canker. It is important for impacted businesses to understand their entitlement to ORCs if there is a plant pest incursion as it could mean the difference of staying in business or not.

Hort Innovation:
GIA has interactions and important relationships with Hort Innovation on a number of levels with respect to the nursery industry R&D and marketing levies. In particular we:

  • Have representation on the Strategic Investment Advisory Panel to provide advice on levy investments;
  • Manage and provide support to R&D projects including biosecurity, statistics, IPM, communications and career pathways;
Have oversight of the Greener Spaces Better Places marketing program and contribute intellectual property and provide advice to the Plant Life Balance campaign; and
  • Provide industry updates on levy funded projects and activities through Your Levy @ Work emails and other communication activities.

GIA is the Prescribed Industry Body for managing any changes to the levy amounts and their allocation across R&D, marketing and plant biosecurity. GIA is currently reviewing the recently released guidelines which outline how to establish or amend agricultural levies. We will keep you informed of any relevant information.

Hort Innovation Extraordinary General Meeting – Amendments to the Constitution:
As advised in my previous update, we are aware of and support an approach to amend the Hort Innovation Constitution with the proposed changes being:

  • That all new Board Members be voted on and elected to the board by levy payers; and
  • That the terms for all new Hort Innovation Board members be reduced and limited to two, three-year terms.

These changes are targeted, moderate and strike the middle ground by allowing levy payers to elect board members while maintaining a skills-based board through the existing board selection process. The new processes would apply through new vacancies on the Hort Innovation Board, providing the opportunity for renewal, while also maintaining a level of continuity through the continuation of Directors who are mid-term.

Hort Innovation have indicated that the likely timing of an Extraordinary General Meeting (EGM) is early October and that only levy paying Hort Innovation members registered for their 2019 AGM are able to vote at the meeting. If Hort Innovation calls the EGM and the resolutions secure 75% of the voting members, I understand the changes will apply to the Hort Innovation AGM in 2020.

Please contact me at ceo@greenlifeindustry.com.au if you would like to provide comments or have questions on the activities of Greenlife Industry Australia.