Monday, April 22, 2024

ALTERNATIVE VIEW: Rural’s voice was heard

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The Groundswell movement is to be congratulated. Their low-key, apolitical, factual and dignified campaign has left the country in no doubt about the current issues facing farmers. The Groundswell protests around the country were impeccably organised and transmitted the farmers’ concerns to what has been a sympathetic audience. Both the local and national media have been supportive.
Groundswell and FARM are supporting a boycott that was initially to force a change in the metrics used to measure greenhouse gases. File photo
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Singularly, Groundswell has delivered farmers’ messages simply, clearly and without fuss. The country will be in little doubt of the problems facing the productive sector.

The Groundswell mantra of unworkable regulations and unjustified costs has certainly resonated.

Their strong message of being an apolitical organisation running an apolitical protest gave them considerable publicity and generated strong support.

That the “protest was organised in the spirit of cooperation, non-confrontation with no intentional disruption” was a credit to the organisation. The directive to “engage with people in a positive way” was effective.

Talking to one of the Groundswell organisers Bryce McKenzie was interesting. Asked about his reaction to the protest, he was “absolutely blown away by it all”. He added that the event “gave rural people a voice that was heard”.

As to where from here? He says they have some things in the pipeline but they’ll wait for the Government’s response.

Groundswell is a movement to be reckoned with.

Their messages have been inspirational. They make the strong point that Groundswell is not opposed to improving freshwater quality and sustainable land-use, but they want regional councils and catchment groups to work together to achieve it.

That local focus makes a lot of sense.

And the reaction from politicians has been, well, interesting.

Government Minister David Parker told me on The AM Show that farmers shouldn’t expect the Government to back down from its commitments.

What arrogance.

Parker needs to come out from behind his lectern and stop listening to the MfE army of sycophantic eco-warriors who have little, if any, practical experience.

He could also stop surrounding himself with ‘advisory committees’ of, again, sycophantic yes-people, with pure opinions and little hands-on experience.

If no one has suggested to Parker that removing animals from agriculture will see the country bankrupt, then they possibly should.

Parker should face reality that his policy on freshwater is a dog. He should also accept that if farmers won’t do it and regional council’s won’t enforce it he is effectively up the creek without a paddle.

Finally, one could respectfully suggest it was the provinces that gave the current government its mandate.

Why Parker is so intent on single national policies defies gravity. Farming in Southland, Canterbury, Wairarapa, Taranaki and Waikato are vastly different, as any school kid knows.

The other government statement that farming groups were supporting the Government’s decisions surprised me. Federated Farmers certainly didn’t and I can’t see either the Dairy Companies Association or the Meat Industry Association agreeing.

If farmer groups did indeed support the Government’s decisions, then I’d suggest the Government should tell me who they are. It would be good to have them named, so they could be shamed.

The additional political discussion was interesting. Past minister Eugenie Sage burst from the Green corner, suggesting that we needed solutions not complaints.

What arrogance.

As a minister she was partially responsible for the colossal shambles that was and is the Government’s freshwater policies. She didn’t ‘discuss’, she ‘told’.

Forest & Bird urged farmers to stay for the conversation. I’d suggest if they did the same, life would be quite different.

We then had National leader Judith Collins doing her best to politicise the apolitical by offering “support for farmers”. That support certainly wasn’t obvious when either the zero carbon or the firearms legislation was going through Parliament.

Collins also made much of National’s television advertisement opposing the ute tax. No one is more opposed to that peace of sanctimonious, anti-farmer tax grab than me. Having said that, I found the National advertisement deeply offensive depicting farmers and tradies as clowns.

I also didn’t appreciate the advertisements sexual innuendo, which Collins thought was funny.

The only political party to come out of the shambles with any credibility in my view was Act. Instead of grandstanding, they made the point that they were “pleased to stand alongside the horticultural and agricultural industries who kept New Zealanders fed and the economy going throughout covid”.

Interestingly, Act’s primary industry spokesperson and dairy farmer Mark Cameron has a private members bill before the House giving “environmental regulations to regional councils and not Wellington bureaucrats”. 

It’s little wonder to me that David Seymour is rating above Collins as preferred prime minister.

If Groundswell has done nothing else, it has factually and unemotionally presented farmers’ concerns to the general public. Even more importantly, it has generated considerable public sympathy for the plight of farmers.

All politicians should be listening. Their electoral future could well depend on it.

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