Voting recommendation for Hort Innovation EGM and intention to establish a Levy Payer Register

Voting recommendation for Hort Innovation EGM and intention to establish a Levy Payer Register

Greenlife Industry Australia (GIA) has a very active and keen oversight of the investment of the nursery industry R&D and marketing levies to ensure the investment projects are run effectively, efficiently, and deliver practical and profitable outputs for industry. As the prescribed peak industry body listed in the legislation, we have a responsibility to hold Hort Innovation, as the investment manager for the levies, accountable for the decisions made in relation to the nursery fund.

There are a number of areas of engagement between GIA and Hort Innovation including the biosecurity, statistics, communications, and careers R&D programs; the Greener Spaces Better Places and Plant Life Balance campaigns; and engagement through the Strategic Investment Advisory Panel.

GIA management has watched developments to amend the Hort Innovation Constitution closely, with the call for an EGM, and were involved in a PIB Forum facilitated by Hort Innovation on 24 September.

Extraordinary General Meeting

Voting members of Hort Innovation have been invited to attend the Company’s EGM on Friday 9 October, which will be held online. A request for the EGM was made by Hort Innovation member Perfection Fresh, for voting members to consider potential changes to the Hort Innovation Constitution.

These changes relate to the process of electing and appointing Directors to the Hort Innovation Board, and to the total service period of Directors.

A replacement Constitution will be put before voting members. If passed at the EGM, the changes would mean that:

  • All new Directors (excluding appointment to fill casual vacancies for one year or less) would be elected to the Board by voting members of the company. Currently, Directors are appointed to the Board either by an election of members or an appointed by sitting Directors.
  • Newly elected Directors would have a maximum service period of two consecutive terms of three years. Currently, Directors can serve three consecutive terms of three years.

Greenlife Industry Australia recommends members vote in favour of both amendments to the Hort Innovation Constitution.

The Hort Innovation Annual General Meeting (AGM) will be held on Friday, 27 November 2020. Due to the continuing COVID-19 pandemic, a decision has been made to hold the event virtually, with members able to take part via web link or, if required, by phone. Full details will be shared with members in the official 2020 Notice of Meeting, to be distributed in October.

Peak Industry Body (PIB) Forum

Hort Innovation conducted PIB forums on 23 and 24 September to provide updates on the current changes and activities underway at Hort Innovation. The forums provided the opportunity to engage with and hear from PIBs on their respective industries, and to ask questions and discuss Hort Innovation’s strategy implementation and operation, and around the horticulture industry sectors in general.

The forums included an update from representatives of the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) with respect to the Agriculture Minister’s innovation agenda, the new Deed of Agreement signed by Hort Innovation with DAWE, amended levy principles and guidelines and the proposal to establish a levy payer register (LPR) for Hort Innovation.

Deed of Agreement

Under the new Deed, Rural Research and Development Corporations (RDCs) such as Hort Innovation, are required to target activities and measure performance against a principles-based approach to accountability. The Deed suggests monitoring and reporting options.

RDCs are funded primarily by R&D levies (or charges) on various commodities, with matched funding from the Commonwealth. The main function of a funding agreement between the Commonwealth and RDCs (which is required under legislation) is to specify the terms and conditions on which money paid to the RDC by the Commonwealth will be spent.

In 2019, the RDC funding agreements were revised to streamline arrangements, reduce the compliance burden, minimise duplication between the funding agreement and relevant legislation, and introduce a principles-based approach to performance. The principles-based approach realigns the accountability of RDC Boards to be responsible for their 1. Governance, 2. Stakeholder Engagement, 3. R&D activities, 4. Priority Setting and 5. Monitoring and evaluation. It is the Board’s responsibility to have in place appropriate documentation for governance, performance and good business management such as annual operating plans, an evaluation plan, intellectual property plan and risk management plan.

The five performance principles require RDCs to improve their governance, monitoring and evaluation, stakeholder engagement, collaboration and R&D priorities. The principles are interlinked, therefore may be achieved through common activities. It is left to each RDC’s discretion to determine how best to address and deliver against each principle.

GIA has strong relationships within the Department and will continue to provide feedback directly to them, of the industry’s expectations under the Deed.

Levy Payer Register

Hort Innovation have signalled their intention to establish a levy payer register in accordance with the Primary Industries Levies and Charges Collection Act 1991, s27. A levy payer register is a database of the details of individuals and organisations that pay levies and charges to DAWE that, in the case of horticulture, are passed on to Hort Innovation.

This levy payer register will enable Hort Innovation to identify and communicate directly with horticulture levy payers. Since the legislation allowing for the establishment of levy payers came into effect, the grains, sugar, wine and wool industries have all successfully implemented registers.

The details of all levy payers will be included in the LPR and Hort Innovation will use it to improve consultation and communication with levy payers through establishing their own LPR. Consultants working for Hort Innovation are in the process, in collaboration with DAWE and PIBs, to assess the viability and use of a levy payer register (LPR).

Please contact Peter Vaughan directly on if you have any comments or concerns on Hort Innovation’s intention to establish a LPR.

Two important uses of a LPR for the nursery industry are; 1. For GIA, as the Prescribed Body for the nursery levy, to have a very good register available to consult on changes to the amount of levy collected, and 2. To help establish a grower register for plant health, biosecurity and traceability activities.

Hort Innovation Strategy and Operations

Hort Innovation management provided updates and overviews on the following areas:

  • Hort Innovation Strategy
  • Update on the review and refinement of Strategy Investment Plan (the nursery SIP finishes in 2021 and the new one will run from 2021 to 2026.
  • Annual Investment Plan Process – this will replace “the funnel”
  • Update on R&D staff and investment approach
  • Update on Marketing staff and investment approach

An important message from Matt Brand (Hort Innovation CEO) was that “we want to get things done for industry” and Matt and his executive team reiterated their intention to work closely, collaboratively and cooperatively with PIBs and emphasised the importance of ‘teamwork’ between Hort Innovation and PIBs.