Māori CEO calls out NZs food wastage problem

By Raniera Harrison

"We're wasting food that can be utilised by some of our whānau"  says Whangārei community trust CEO, Martin Kaipo, who is challenging the government to tackle New Zealand's food wastage problem. 

Christmas bells are already ringing in Ōtangarei and some are calling for legislation to combat New Zealand's food wastage problem.

"[It's] totally unrealistic when the government say we need to meet the needs of whānau in poverty and yet we're wasting stock that could be utilised by our whānau," says Kaipo, who is CEO of  Te Hau Āwhiowhio o Ōtangarei.

The trust will deliver 1,000 'Blessings in a Box' to some of Northland's neediest families tomorrow.

However, Minister of Regional Economic Development Shane Jones says legislation against retail chains might be some time away just yet.

"I'm not sure if legislating is the correct method of procedure but we do need to find ways to provide for our elderly and children that may not have much at this time," says Jones.

Latest statistics show that 14,000 tonnes of food waste is sent to New Zealand landfills annually.  That equates to 3kgs per person annually, a statistic Kaipo says can easily help those most in need.

"One of the supermarkets, they were throwing out dozens of eggs and they had to break them and we say 'why don't you save it?  We can give it away'. They say they can't, they're not allowed," says Kaipo, who has been working in the community development sector for over 20 years.

A 2015 study showed that $900mil of food is wasted by New Zealanders annually.

"You're talking about a social accord and meeting the needs of our whānau.  I think we should be challenging wastage," he says.

400 hampers will be given out to families in Kaikohe, with another 400 reserved for those in Whangārei, a further 200 will be taken to those most in need in the Far North.

Te Hau Āwhiowhio o Ōtangarei Resource Manager Janine Kaipo says, "You can always make an extra bit of fried bread, it's not that hard.  It's about thinking about others, even though they may be doing it hard themselves."

Next Christmas, Te Hau Āwhiowhio o Ōtangarei are looking to ramp it up to 4,000 hampers for the North.