Plant variety rights law to be overhauled

The Government is beginning public consultation on New Zealand’s plant variety rights law, which regulates intellectual property protection over new plant varieties.

The Plant Variety Rights Act 1987 is now more than 30 years old and has only received minor amendments since it was first passed – but the Government says the plant breeding industry has changed significantly during this time and a review is necessary to ensure the regime is fit-for-purpose today.

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Kris Faafoi launched the public consultation on the Plant Variety Rights Act’s Issues Paper at the Nga Taonga Tuku Iho conference on Maori cultural and intellectual property rights in Nelson last month

“The Issues Paper asks for feedback on the key issues we’ve identified with the effectiveness of the current plant variety rights regime,” says Kris.

“A robust plant variety rights regime gives plant breeders intellectual property rights over new plant varieties they have developed.

“The certainty of those rights encourages the development and dissemination of new plant varieties, which is both good for plant breeders, users of plants and seeds, and provides consumers with a wider choice of products.”

Kris says at the same time he wants to ensure NZ’s plant variety rights regime strikes the right balance between the interests of rights holders, Maori, farmers and growers, consumers and the wider economy “so the country gains maximum benefit from the regime while meeting our international and Treaty of Waitangi obligations”.

Kris says NZ also has obligations under the Comprehensive and Progressive Agreement for Trans-Pacific Partnership to modernise its regime to meet international standards for plant variety rights protection, and must do that within three years of the agreement coming into force for NZ.

“New Zealand also negotiated a specific exception in the CPTPP to be able to adopt any policy it considers necessary to give effect to our Treaty of Waitangi obligations.

“Ensuring the plant variety rights regime includes adequate protection and recognition of Maori interests in the regime will be an important outcome of this review.”

Horticulture NZ says it has engaged with the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment on the PVR Act Issues Paper, and will make a formal submission in consultation with product groups.

Meetings with industry are planned for October 30 in Tauranga and October 23 in Christchurch, and HortNZ is also requesting a third meeting be held in the Hawke’s Bay.

Government officials will hold a number of regional hui for Maori and public meetings from October onwards.

“If you can’t make it to the hui, there are other ways to have your say and you can also provide written submissions,” says Kris.

“I want to ensure we are hearing from as widely across the sector and the community as possible, so I would urge anyone with interest in this work to review the material and have their say.”

Consultation will be open for 13 weeks, and closes December 21, 2018. Consultation documents and more information are at:


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