HIA Ltd Update

The process of implementing Horticulture Innovation Australia (HIA) is well and truly underway and remains on schedule to be completed by the end of December 2015.

The transition from Horticulture Australia (HAL) to the grower-owned HIA, which is governed by a substantially different statutory funding agreement (to that of HAL) is complex and involves developing and implementing a substantial number of new systems and processes. We will keep our stakeholders updated on this transition process as it progresses and particularly as new policies and processes are implemented, when consultation papers or other documents are released for comments and as any investment or other opportunities arise.

Consultation Paper on Strategic Investment Priorities

As you may know, HIA released its consultation paper seeking input on the strategic investment priorities for its strategic investment program on 27 February.

I would like to thank all those who have provided comment so far and all those PIBs who have passed the consultation paper onto their grower members. The wider the paper is distributed and the more comments we get, the better the process will work.

Just to recap, the consultation paper is seeking wide stakeholder input to determine the priorities for the HIA strategic investment fund. It details information on:

  • the strategic co-investment funds and how they will operate
  • the broad challenges that will impact the horticulture sector over the next five to 20 years
  • potential criteria as a basis to screen research programs and encourage innovative approaches
  • a road map to develop the strategic co-investment funds and process to prioritise funds.

In addition to discussing the strategic investment fund, the consultation paper also provides a good overview of the overall investment structure being implemented by HIA and how it will work.

The consultation paper is available online and comments close at the end of March, 2015. You can also view a video that outlines detail of the paper and consultation process by clicking here.

HIA Transition Investment Arrangements

HIA has now implemented a series of interim investment arrangements that will apply during the transition phase pending the full implementation of the HIA model. These policies are designed to transition the current investment portfolio from the previous SFA (under HAL) to ensure they are compliant with the new SFA (under HIA). Those policies can be found on the HIA website.

To briefly recap, they include that:

  • as a general principle, currently contracted projects will be reviewed for their compliance to the SFA with variations or re-contracting of these project to achieve this compliance, where needed, to be done by 31 December 2015
  • new levy based investments will be contracted provided they are consistent with the current industry strategic investment plans and are embedded in the 2014/15 industry annual investment plans and generally align with the SFA
  • VC Projects – subject to compliance with the SFA, all current VCs will run for the life of the project. Variations or re-contracting of these projects to achieve compliance with the SFA, where required, must be undertaken and completed prior to 31 December 2015
  • matching levies above the industry GVP Cap – subject to compliance with the SFA, industry levies that have been and continue to be collected and remitted above the relevant industry GVP cap to fund existing projects will continue to be matched up to 30 June 2017.

Again, I would like to emphasise that levy investments raised from grower levies from a particular industry along with the governmentco-contribution for those levies, will fundamentally stay inside that industry for the benefit of that industry.

Interim Advisory Arrangements for Levy Investments

HIA has had a number of enquiries on how it will be seeking advice on individual industry levy investment programs under its new model. In recognition of the significant level of industry consultation that went into preparing industry strategic and annual investment plans, the current versions of these have been adopted by HIA and will remain in operation during the transition process (until 31 December 2015).

In addition to adopting industry strategic and annual investment plans, HIA has implemented a series of interim advisory arrangements that will operate during the transition period.The inclusion of growers and relevant IRBs are fundamental to these interim arrangements as is the flexibility to tailor them to any particular industry as and when they are needed.

In broad terms, these interim arrangements are:

  1. minimum of three persons of which one will be a PIB representativeand the other two will be growers appointed by HIA
  2. in the event that a larger group is required, the size of the group and its composition will be determined by HIA in consultation with industry and should be commensurate with the type and length of time that the advice is required
  3. notwithstanding this, the maximum full representation on any advisory group by an IRB will be two people. It should be noted that IRB members are not considered ex-officio but are full members of the advisory group for which they have been appointed
  4. HIA will make all appointments including the chairs of all advisory groups
  5. secretarial services will always be undertaken by HIA
  6. all participants in providing advice under this mechanism will be remunerated for the provision of their advice.

The development of longer term advisory mechanisms will take into account any lessons learned from implementing the above interim approach as well as feedback from growers as part of the planned regional meetings that will occur over the next 12 months.

Regional Grower Meetings

Engaging with growers is a high priority for HIA and a key element of its engagement program will be a program of ongoing regional grower meetings, the first of which are scheduled to start at the end of March 2015 in Tasmania.

Meetings are scheduled for Huon Valley and La Trobe on 24 and 25 March respectively. Meetings in Queensland are being organised (Mareeba, Bundaberg and Lockyer Valley) for Aprilwith other states and territories to follow thereafter. A full schedule of meetings will be published on the HIA website once finalised.

If you would like further information on the HIA regional grower meetings, please contact Len Joynson on 02 8295 2319.

HIA at Industry Conferences

In addition to its ongoing regional grower meetings, HIA will have booths a number of industry conferences over the next few months, providing information about the company and its activities. The current schedule is:

  • 16March 2015 Citrus Technical Conference in Mildura, VIC
  • 20 April 2015 ANIC Conference in Sydney, NSW
  • 12 May 2015 PMA Fresh Connections in Melbourne, VIC
  • 25 June 2015 AUSVEG/APAL Conference on the Gold Coast, QLD

John Lloyd