Friday, December 8, 2023

ALTERNATIVE VIEW: Let’s start a provincial party

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Next year is election year. We’ll all be inundated with the usual messages, basically that one tribe is better than the other, that if we want economic salvation there’s only one tribe that can achieve it. Then, when we get closer to the election, if we don’t vote for a particular tribe our bollocks are going to collectively drop off. 
Farmers Weekly reader Geoff Prickett believes NZ farmers should put the industry’s future ahead of the past and accept that change is necessary.
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Such will be the rhetoric.

As I’ve written several times farmers have no friends in Parliament. I’d now broaden that to suggest the provinces don’t have friends there either.

First there was the opportunistic and cynical manipulation of the Christchurch tragedy in the form of gun laws. The provinces were ignored by all political parties. That the gun laws are a shower from a gung-ho and gullible minister in the form of Stuart Nash is one thing. That all parties slavishly went along with the rhetoric proves without any shadow of doubt the trendy Auckland voter has far more pull with all parties than the provinces do.

That was followed by the zero carbon legislation. Despite promises to the contrary National and New Zealand First went meekly along with it. Again, they obviously consider the Auckland liberal vote more important than the provinces.

The problem with zero carbon and a lot of other legislation is the massive financial obligation put on the provinces, compounded by the one-size-fits-all philosophy of every political party.

My issue with the zero carbon legislation is it is pure feel-good and won’t actually achieve anything. It’s a bit like having a wee in a wetsuit.

It’s even worse than that. We had National bombastically telling us how they weren’t going to vote for the legislation unless changes were made and when the crunch came they meekly turned their little toes up.

So, neither Labour nor National have demonstrated any real support for farming and the provinces and NZ First successfully shot itself in the foot with Shane Jones’ arrogant redneck comment which he just couldn’t leave alone.

Redneck is an offensive term meaning, according to my dictionary, uneducated white farm workers.

It will cost NZ First dearly in the provinces.

In NZ politics the centre rules. It certainly appears the centre is anti-farmer. 

So what’s the answer?

I’ve heard a lot of murmurings lately about starting a farmers’ political party with the sole aim of representing farmers’ interests. No-one does that now.

It has been tried in the past and been a dismal failure but conditions have changed. In addition, the thought of having someone, anyone in Parliament putting the farmers’ views has massive appeal.

The problem is there aren’t enough farmers to either take an electorate seat or get to the 5%.

It needs to be a provincial party with a narrow range of well-thought-out policies relevant to the provinces.

National and Labour are courting the Auckland vote with indecent alacrity. Having policies countering that would have wide appeal.

It isn’t going to be easy. For a start you need strong, popular leadership and feet on the ground. We do have leaders in the provinces. Fifty Shades of Green started in Masterton and developed a national profile in an extremely short time. The leadership qualities in that group are impressive and I’m talking just Masterton.

Look at the great leaders we have at the top of Federated Farmers. 

In addition to leadership you need money and resources and lots of both.

I believe the crisis in the provinces has become so great that getting the right amount of both is achievable.

Also, if I was running it, and I have no intention of doing so, I’d talk to National.

After all, they’ve no friends or possible coalition partners other than Act, which has shown itself over several elections as a waste of rations.

If National was strategic, and I remain unconvinced it is, it would be in its interest to give a safe National provincial seat to the Provincial Party.

You could also appeal to townies other than the Auckland liberal elite. As recent research has shown the majority of urban Kiwis support farmers.

It would mean National could concentrate on the mainstream city support knowing they would have a counter voice in government. They would also have a potential coalition partner. If they were strategic, that is.

The challenge would be to have an independent provincial party and not a National elite.

I’ve been told the new batch of legislation will have a greater fiscal effect on farming than the draconian reforms of the 1980s.

It will mean farming in some areas will become uneconomic.

The only way to counter that will be to have a provincial voice in Parliament.

Our future depends on it and to use a political quote from last election – Let’s do this.

As this is my last column for the year, all the best for the festive season and thanks for your support. I appreciate your emails whether you agree with me or not. 2020 looks to be a rocky ride for farming – collectively let’s keep on top.

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