The retirement of three of Federated Farmers’ seven national board members at next month’s annual meeting will leave significant gaps in the portfolio areas of resource management and water.
Vice president Karen Williams and board members Chris Allen and Chris Lewis are all stepping down while national president Andrew Hoggard has one more year to run.
Those retiring say while their tenure is up, they are also fatigued from an exceptionally heavy workload caused by Government policy, much if it they termed as poorly thought through and requiring substantial change.
Hoggard says he spends about 30 hours a week on federation business.
Prior to covid-19, Allen says he was spending two days a week while Chris Lewis estimates he spends three days a week.
Allen and Lewis have a year to run but are finishing early to avoid an even great loss with the terms for the three sector chairs also ending next year.
“In some ways this breaks up a potentially bigger problem next year,” Hoggard says.
“We still have three board members remaining unless there is a challenge to replace them.”
Wayne Langford has expressed an interest in taking on the vice president’s role and, depending in his farming circumstances, Hoggard says he could invoke a clause in the constitution that enables him to stay longer to help with the transition.
Hoggard says the past few years have been demanding, accentuated by what he called rushed and poorly thought through Government legislation such as essential freshwater.
It was a point he made in a letter to Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor earlier this year, urging them to slow down and deliberate more before releasing new policy.
Three years after the freshwater reforms were introduced, changes are still being discussed and introduced to make them practical, such as changes to intensive winter grazing rules.
Still needed are amendments to stock exclusion rules and input into councils having to rewrite National Policy Statements for freshwater.
Hoggard says the Government deals with the extra workload by employing more staff, but groups like Federated Farmers do not have that luxury.
“I estimate 70% of my role is dealing with policy. It’s a huge amount of work.”Chris Allen
He did not think criticism from some farmers and groups like Groundswell that sector representation groups are too accommodating to the Government is a factor in retirements or dissuading people from taking leadership roles.
Recognising the barrier created by their workload, an independent report to reform of the federation’s structure is due soon and Hoggard says one option could be separating governance and policy roles.
Chris Allen says the role of board members is governance but also requires them to work alongside staff preparing then fronting submissions and responses to policy decisions.
“I estimate 70% of my role is dealing with policy. It’s a huge amount of work.”
Allen defined that role as “restraining over-ambitious politicians and noisy members of the public with some reality”.
He has thoroughly enjoyed his eight years on the board, describing it as honour to represent farmers, but when floods hit his Mid Canterbury farm a year ago, he decided it was time to retire.
Chris Lewis says his portfolios, which included immigration and labour, have been demanding and complex due to closed boarders, immigration changes and labour shortages.
Being unable to meet Government officials in person added to that complexity, he says.