We Prefer Potato!

Toby Fitzsimmons
Insights Newsletter
23 August, 2019

“It is a mistake to think you can solve any major problems just with potatoes,” said Douglas Adams of the Silastic Armourfiends of Striterax in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy.

The aliens believed they could control their anger by punching potatoes. Alas, once they started doing that, it did not take long for them to get bored and shoot people instead. Our government on earth seems to be taking policy advice from the Armourfiends, pursuing a potato obsession without care for the consequences.

The National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land proposed last week gives local councils new powers to prevent building on our most fertile land – constituting 15% of New Zealand.

We cannot be too cautious. How can we continue to eat potatoes if we have built on all our farmland? Loyal Fans of the vegetable (or is it a tuber?) are concerned construction could pinch their chips.

Despite claiming the policy would not hurt housing, the Environment Minister fried critics with a crisp defence: “We actually prefer potatoes [to housing].” He also inadvertently sparked a tater war between those who love their mashed potatoes and those who ‘actually prefer’ to live in a house.

Newly hopeful home aspirants quickly rebuffed the policy: “Potatoes can be imported but not houses.”

Spudders wanting to safeguard one half of their vanishing meat-and-potato staple said New Zealand could not rely on potato imports, what with Trump’s trade wars. Have we not learned from the 19th century Irish Potato Famine?

Moreover, importing houses is easy. It is called moving to Australia.

An Irish saying goes: “Only two things in this world are too serious to be jested on – potatoes and matrimony.” Let me be sacrilegious – growing potatoes is not that serious an occupation here. Only 0.3% of New Zealand land is used to grow vegetables, let alone potatoes. 

Unlike the native industry of housing, which began with Kupe arriving on these shores a thousand years ago, potatoes were imported from South America in the 18th century. Is it so shocking for New Zealand to import potatoes again? Regardless, if the Incas could grow potatoes on mountainsides 4,000 metres above sea level, surely New Zealand can find somewhere in the 99% of land currently not used for growing spuds.

The policy on productive land ultimately will hurt housing affordability for a few chips.

Potatoes cannot solve all major problems, but they sure can cause some.

Darn, I need to punch some potatoes now.

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