Sunday, December 3, 2023

BLOG: The human cost can’t be ignored

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This week we begin a series of stories about all the pressures farmers are under. We are devoting a lot of resources and space to this subject because it is the most important thing happening in the rural sector.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 There are lots of issue but they are all converging on farmers, leaving them feeling picked on, pressured, lost, bewildered and wondering if they will cope.

The clear message from farmers is that it has now gone too far, too fast.

The final straw is the Government’s water policy with a short consultation period at an extremely busy time of year on farms. There are just a few farmer consultation meetings but the level of farmer interest is high, evidence by the overflow at the Ashburton meeting and the high farmer turnout at the urban Palmerston North meeting where few city folk were interested enough to show up.

This Government is staking its reputation on looking after people. It even produced a Well Being Budget. It said it has a policy of rural-proofing all its policies. That’s one side of the coin and farmers appreciate it has environmental aspirations for the country and want to support them. They are already doing much to improve their environmental performance.

But they also need to make a living. And it’s not an exaggeration to say many now despair about how they will keep doing that with increasingly tighter rules that in many cases will limit them to do what they are doing now, albeit less profitably. People expect farmers to change, farmers want to change so the Government must create the conditions in which they can change successfully rather than being forced out of business.

That pace of regulatory and technological change is a pressure in its so the scale and speed have to be carefully managed. The Government is responsible for the well being of all citizens including farmers so must look after them.

Environmental idealist including those in Parliament must step back and measure the human cost of what they are doing remembering that if they stuff up the rural sector they cripple the economy.

Stephen Bell

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