A gathering of Northland farmers applauded the National Party’s agricultural policy after hearing from leader Christopher Luxon and agriculture and trade spokesperson Todd McClay.
An audience of around 100 farmers, sector leaders and party members gathered to hear Luxon and McClay set out the election policy on a Bay of Islands dairy farm owned by Terrance and Suzanne Brocx.
A proposed end to foreign-owned forestry for carbon credits drew the warmest applause among 19 policy initiatives released by McClay and environment spokesperson Scott Simpson.
A promise to repeal Three Waters was also loudly cheered.
Neighbour and Ayrshire breeder Malcolm Hutchings said the pledge to refocus the definition of Significant Natural Areas to make the rules workable for landowners is welcome. Acting under central government direction, the Far North District Council has identified large numbers of SNAs and potentially restricted the use of such areas for farming.
Suzanne Brocx pleaded with the National leaders to make high-speed connectivity a priority, suggesting it be number 20 on the policy list.
“We are only 20km from Kerikeri and we can’t get a reliable internet or mobile phone connection,” she said.
Federated Farmers national vice-president Wayne Langford welcomed the promise to cut red tape and leave farmers to make environmental improvements in response to market forces.
Livestock exports aren’t a farming issue but more a shipping matter and Federated Farmers will closely monitor the conditions on which the trade might resume, he said. Resuming live exports is another National pledge.
Langford said the unravelling of red tape around farming would happen quickly.
He called for consistency across government regulations, market requirements and processor programmes to avoid duplication.
Luxon said National has balanced the property rights of farmers and their options to sell farmland to the highest bidder with the planting of forests by foreign owners specifically for carbon credits.
“We are going to ban foreign companies buying our sheep and beef farms for carbon farming.
“Farmers tell us they are deeply concerned by the destruction of rural communities.
“School rolls reduce, ancillary businesses move away and we are going to regret that in 30 years’ time.”
Luxon expected legislation would be required and said the Overseas Investment Office would make the determinations.
The framework of National Policy Statements leading to local government regulations will be studied and reformed where necessary, he said.
“We have perverse outcomes now in the conflict between winter grazing and freshwater plans, farmers taking councils to court and thousands of them having to apply for resource consents.
“Some whole farms have been designated SNAs, and in many cases up to 25% of farms.
“We still want some regulation, but at present we have badly drafted, poorly executed legislation driving perverse outcomes.”
Groundswell co-founder Bryce McKenzie said National’s Getting Back to Farming policy reflects much of what protestors have been calling for.
“In particular, Groundswell supporters will be pleased to see National has heard our repeated calls for local approaches to agricultural regulations as one size just does not fit all.”
Host of the policy launch Terrance Brocx said regulations like stock exclusion and winter grazing have the right intent but are badly executed.
Northland Regional Council encouraged catchment groups to come up with workable plans but central government ignored that work and imposed nationwide rules, he said.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand chief executive Sam McIvor said he was encouraged by National’s plans to correct some of the existing unworkable rules.
“It’s pleasing to see National’s recognition of the importance of striking a balance between environmental and economic outcomes, which is essential for the long-term viability of the agricultural sector,” he said.