It’s been no secret in Wairarapa that, since the current Government came to power, they have run roughshod over farms and rural communities.  This week’s concession for the sector, a few years breathing space and some participation into the practicalities of on-farm emission measurement, is a result of a huge backlash from the industry.

Industry-wide concerns continue to mount. I have heard from many constituents concerned about the speed of change, unintended policy consequences and the lack of sector knowledge by decision makers. Last week’s Emissions Trading Scheme ‘partnership’ to bring agriculture into the scheme within five years seems like a public relations exercise to some.

In the context of the pressure this Government has exerted on the industry I can clearly see why many Wairarapa farmers are angry, frustrated – and even broken.

This Government has brought uncertainty over Capital Gains Tax, proposals for a water tax, nitrogen tax and fertiliser tax, they have incentivised conversion of good pastoral farm land to forestry, and put onerous methane targets into the Zero Carbon Bill.  Wairarapa water storage was an early casualty of the removal of Crown Irrigation Funding.

Freshwater proposals and Resource Management Act reform are imminent.  No economic analysis, no social analysis, just anti farming ideology framing alternative opinion as environmental vandalism. Less land to farm, less farmers, less farmer income will impact the local and national economies.  Where is the mitigation plan?

Farmers remain cynical about the consultation process surrounding these further changes.  A few weeks for input at the busiest time of the farming calendar?  That says a lot about this Government’s intent towards genuine discussion and real solutions.

The five year ETS extension deal is heralded by its creators as a ‘world first’ – I would say a back-track on another campaign promise.  I would like to see the Government’s action plan mitigating the impact of these policies on our farmer’s ability to compete in on the international markets before I applaud. In my experience the global market doesn’t care too much about pr spin and a wide smile. 

The more taxes and limitations that are placed on farmers, the less there is for farmers to spend on-farm towards new technologies and environmental enhancements. One phrase I have heard this week really sums it up: ‘you have to be in the black to be green’. 

I have seen how far Wairarapa farms have come with a programme of investment in sustained change.  I support farmers farming their way to better environmental outcomes.  Stop the pr spend and fund science-based options before agriculture goes into the ETS.  Give farmers the tools they need to do the job you want them to. 

Rural communities will converge on Parliament in a couple of weeks. It takes a huge amount of mobilisation to get them into the city during spring.  It demonstrates to me how much anger and concern this government has created.  Let’s hope the message stays focused. Rural NZ does not deny climate change, intend to degrade water or deny forestry’s export value to NZinc.

Will the Government’s platitudes and promises be enough to send them back to their farms feeling heard? Feeling their stewardship of the land is acknowledged? Is this Government confident enough to have a genuine conversation about how NZ can lead the world in sustainable food production? We’ll see.

READ National's Primary Sector policy: https://www.national.org.nz/primary_sector


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