Future 1: Business as usual

'Future 1: Business as usual' uses past performance and recent trends in investment, productivity and technology to forecast what the sectors could be like in 2032.

It takes a conservative approach to environmentally driven change, using levels from the past 20 years. It projects sectors will approach environmental regulations with compliance in mind – meeting regulation but not using it to develop market niches or high-value products.

There will be some productivity growth and technological change, but there will be no big leaps, structural shifts nor market impacts. The future also sees no big overseas consumer behaviour or market access changes.

Whole sector future

Land area: Varied

  • Expansion in forestry and wood processing, aquaculture and arable farming. Horticulture and wine will also expand, probably using former dryland pasture.
  • Reduction in sheep and beef farming.
  • Little change in dairy.
  • Some reduction in farmed land from city growth.

Productivity: Continued increase

  • For core production, steady increases in production for each hectare and animal, as in past decades.
  • Some sectors will see a step-change, like in horticulture with the shift to 2D orchards.
  • For core processing, slow, steady increase in productivity.
  • Uncertain gains from digital technologies in supply chains and traceability, as it's unclear how the technologies will develop.
  • All sectors will target increased value through digital technology, high-value consumer segments and new products.
  • Land use changes and higher productivity will mean all sectors produce at least as much as they do now. With rising value per unit, every sector will grow.

Environmental: Uncertain

  • Expanded and intensified production will mean greater impacts on water, climate and biodiversity unless the sectors take steps to reduce them.
  • Economic conditions will influence the rate of reductions and technology and management techniques.
  • Legislation now requires 'Farm environment plans' (FEPs) but impacts on farm practices will take time.
  • More floods, droughts and changes in temperatures will mean volatility in production. Responses to these changes will need capital investment, taking funding from other investments in the sectors, like technology and product development.

Social and cultural: Change

Several factors will make investment in great workplaces, like upskilling and career progression, more important:

  • Some sectors, like red meat, have an ageing workforce.
  • Urban drift will continue.
  • Competition for labour and skills will grow.
  • Greater mechanisation, and training and experience expectations, will mean workers expect better pay and conditions.


Environmental and social impacts will influence perception of the sectors more than the sectors' economic contribution.

Perception will improve if environmental impacts reduce and working conditions improve.

Perception will suffer if tensions in New Zealand worsen because of climate change and inequality, and the sectors are seen as ‘part of the problem’.


Māori individuals and organisations will influence the sectors more through owning assets and being a larger part of the workforce. More Māori will be in management and leadership.

Iwi organisations will give more direction to the sectors, entering higher-value industries and developing new supply chains and relationships.

Overall workforce

The workforce overall will be more productive, but seasonal and full- and part-time work patterns will be much like today.

Some work will become less physical and tasks automated. If the sectors use more advanced technology, some work will become more complex and need more education and training. Advisor and contractor roles will also get more specialised.

We base these workforce futures on sector documents and discussions with nominated representatives.


  • The sector will grow and become more mechanised, while production and processing workforces will be stable.
  • There may be gains from more use of precision agriculture and sensors.
  • The dairy sector may want more feed from the arable sector.
  • Globalisation may help the sector reach international value chains, and access trends and technology. Other global shifts, like disruption to global grain supplies after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, may mean many countries seek to become less reliant on imported grain.


  • Market and political factors will influence how dairy develops, for example reducing climate impact and pursuing more overseas market access through trade discussions.
  • The number of workers will stay about the same. Despite mechanisation, physical jobs in production will remain. Management jobs will become more complex and a new level of management will emerge.
  • Optimal farm size will increase. Processing will make steady productivity gains but products will stay roughly the same.

Forestry and wood

  • The workforce will shrink somewhat but be more highly trained.
  • Greater forest productivity will increase harvests, but this growth may be offset by mechanisation.
  • Processing will stay the same unless joint government-industry plans increase capacity.


  • Greater production and land area will increase demand for workers, while system changes and automation will reduce demand.
  • Management roles will need more education and training because of increased technology and environmental regulation.
  • Sector exports may increase because of its ability to grow high-value products from a small land base.
  • Climate change legislation and loss of high-quality land to housing will also affect the sector.

Kiwifruit subsector

  • New cultivars will mean benefits, but planting areas may be intentionally limited.
  • Packhouse volumes may increase because of new cultivars and improved management.
  • The review of plant growth regulator Hi-Cane means uncertainty, as its use may be restricted or stopped.
  • The subsector is working to improve employment conditions.

Pipfruit subsector

  • More growth of high-value markets and cultivars, with increased technology in packhouses and perhaps orchards.
  • The subsector is working to increase overseas market access and diversify markets to reduce risk.
  • It is also addressing working conditions.

Viticulture and wine subsector

  • Vineyard area will grow about one percent per year for the next few years, then may slow.
  • There will be small technology changes on vineyards and in winemaking.

Pork, poultry, bees and other

Industries in this group all expect low growth.

  • Pork has a domestic focus and competes with low-cost imports. It will maintain its market share but won't out-compete overseas producers.
  • Poultry technology and markets will change little.
  • Mānuka honey production technology and markets look stable. Production scale could increase but the industry structure, with many small producers, makes this unlikely.

Red meat and wool

  • The workforce will shrink in line with production.
  • Farms will stay mostly owner-operated, but more consulting and extension may emerge.
  • Processing will get more automated, driving workforce reduction.
  • Wool clip value may change, with a current low price but potential innovation on the horizon.
  • The sector is working on climate issues.


  • These sectors will have little change, with some productivity improvements.
  • Fishing quotas mean catch can't increase so the sector will be static or move toward more processing and value-add.
  • Aquaculture's future depends on policy decisions and climate change impacts.
  • The sector wants more production space and locations, but has consented space not currently used and could use some existing farms more intensively.