On Wednesday 19 April, I took Nicola Grigg MP and Sam Uffindell MP to Otaua where we held a morning tea with over 30 people from the area, all of them farmers.
We chose Otaua because it was one of the areas badly affected by the flooding. It is predominantly a region of dairy farming, and some of the farmers there have lost many hectares of good grazing land. It will take them months to recover.
Nicola is National’s associate spokesperson for agriculture, biosecurity, animal welfare, rural communities and women – portfolios that resonated with a good deal of the farmers who came for morning tea. She comes from a farming family and still returns to the family farm when not carrying out her Parliamentary duties.
She was pleased to be able to outline National’s Getting Back to Farming package, announced just that morning, which will cut the mountain of red tape to help farmers get on with earning the income on which their livelihoods, New Zealand’s economy, and New Zealanders’ standard of living, depend.
Farming is the backbone of New Zealand’s economy. Last year, our agriculture exports totalled $41 billion – that’s almost two-thirds of our total goods exported. Our farmers are the best in the world, highly innovative, keen to use technology for better productivity, and genuinely concerned about their livestock and the environment.
However, they are currently buried under a mountain of regulations and bureaucracy imposed by the Labour Government. Since coming into power, Labour has introduced or changed more than 20 new or amended regulations that directly affect the ability of businesses in the farming sector to operate.
For example, wetlands are so poorly defined that farmers are having to go to court to determine whether land is a paddock that can be farmed, or a protected wetland that can’t.
One farmer told us at our meeting that she spends up to a third of her day on paperwork, grappling with these new rules. She’s not alone. Farmers now spend more of their time and money on admin and less time investing in their farms.
The Government’s one-size-fits-all rules, run out of Wellington, have imposed massive compliance costs on farmers, with limited or no environmental gain.
National’s Getting Back to Farming policy will ensure farming regulations are fit for purpose. We will support practical environmentalism through a carefully balanced approach that integrates both environmental and economic goals.
We know that the vast majority of farmers care deeply about the environment. They don’t want to be responsible for dirty creeks and waterways. Many of them already regularly monitor waterways on their properties and have already fenced off thousands of kilometres to protect them from wandering stock.
National is committed to New Zealand meeting its climate change goals, but shutting down a fifth of New Zealand’s sheep and beef farms, as Labour has proposed, is not the answer. This would simply send production to less efficient farms overseas and could raise global emissions.
New Zealand is an agricultural nation and National is proud to back our world-leading farmers. Full details of our plan can be found at www.national.org.nz/getting_back_to_farming
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