Wednesday, February 21, 2024

Feds calls for policy rollback

Neal Wallace
Federated Farmers wants the next government to scrap multiple policies introduced by the last two administrations.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

Firing its opening salvo ahead of October’s election, the federation’s 12 policy priorities for the next government include a review of methane targets, forestry rules in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), the net carbon zero target, the scrapping of the ute tax, and replacing policies for freshwater and Significant Natural Areas.

Other measures sought include more support for technology and water storage, allowing young farmers to access their KiwiSaver, devolving more decision-making to local communities, improving the Resource Management Act, building farmer workforce and for the government to show greater fiscal discipline.

Most policy priorities are accompanied by the results of a public opinion poll.

Those polls show majority support for measures such as using genetically modified grass, and water storage for irrigation, opposition to a farm emissions levy and limits to forestry offsetting.

Acting Feds president Wayne Langford said despite creating hundreds of thousands of jobs and generating $41 billion in exports, production from the dairy and drystock sector is stagnating and farmland is being converted to pine trees.

Succession planning is getting harder as regulation and “obscure policy” create investment barriers.

“For the last five years Kiwi farmers have been living through a period of unprecedented regulatory change with a swathe of new requirements for improving water quality, biodiversity and the climate that have taken a real toll on the wellbeing of our rural communities.”

While the intent of these policies was admirable, he said, the execution and implementation have been “nothing short of disastrous for farmers”.

“The end result is a long list of highly prescriptive and unworkable rules that just slow us down, heap on costs and, for many, suck the joy out of farming.”

Langford said some regulation is needed, but it should set minimum standards, not be an ambition.

It should be left to individual farmers and the companies they supply to be led by the market and the expectations of their communities, he said.

Technology is considered key to addressing current and future challenges.

The lobby group seeks fast-tracking of new compounds that could reduce methane emissions, support increased investment in precision agriculture, and openness to new technologies such as gene editing.

It also wants the development of a national policy statement on water storage.

The group reiterates previous stances calling for methane targets to be reviewed and the ETS amended to limit the use of forestry offsetting.

Feds also wants utility vehicles exempted from the ute tax.

When combined with the clean car standard fee, the maximum price of a ute has actually increased $12,000, it said.

Communities should be trusted to make decision about local issues.

“The last 10 years has seen a significant shift in responsibility and accountability away from local communities towards unelected Wellington officials.

“We’ve seen it with everything from health reforms and education through to Three Waters and RMA [Resource Management Act] reforms,” the document states.

Included in a devolution of power would be allowing communities to determine local water quality rules with support through freshwater farm plans.

The next government is asked to repeal proposed changes and begin a fresh re-write of the RMA and replace the National Policy Statement for Indigenous Biodiversity.

A review of immigration settings is needed to recognise labour shortages and rules requiring the payment of the median wage need repealed.

Finally, it wants a Parliamentary Budget Office created to assess costs and benefits of all new laws and wants the Reserve Bank mandate be returned to inflation targets only.

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