The election campaign is supposed to be a time when a battle of ideas takes place.
Candidates formulate their plan to build their version of New Zealand at its best, and ask voters to buy into it.
Farming leaders have called this election the most significant for the food and fibre sector in decades. Many want a break from what they see as an endless spool of red tape that’s wrapping itself around farm businesses, constricting growth.
Others want clear signals that NZ has a plan to retain its place near the top of the table when it comes to producing sustainable, efficient food.
What we’re getting on the campaign trail is not so much a strategy, but rather a lot of bullet points.
It’s been less a battle of ideas and more a battle of ego and identity.
We know more about what these political hopefuls stand against than what they stand for.
Any mention of tax is communism. Any talk of cutting red tape is Thatcherism. Any policy to protect minorities is woke.
The recent Rural Issues Debate cut through a fair bit of this bluster and rural voters got a pretty good sense of the world each party envisages us living in.
This week, we’ve asked each major party four questions on issues that we think are important to the farming family.
These are the issues at the core of flourishing rural communities.
What will it take to restore the confidence of the those working in the food and fibre sector and give them the belief they can make a life for their families?
How will we improve and protect the infrastructure that gets people from the home to the school, and products from the farm to the market?
What’s the plan to improve rural health, including mental health services?
And what is the best way to reduce agricultural greenhouse emissions?
There’s been a lot of name-calling and partisan pigeonholing in both national and farming politics in the past year or two.
National believes it is the better manager of the economy and that smoothing the regulatory path will give businesses the confidence to do what they do best.
Labour believes it is setting up NZ, and its farmers, to thrive in a world that’s changing quickly in terms of what it wants to buy and what it expects from those who make it.
At least, those appear to be the messages.
Too often this time around the policy has been obscured by the personal.
We’re told who not to vote for, rather than who we should believe in.
But identifying your enemies and building a strategy around that is not the path to lasting success.
Let’s support those with ideas that grow the good things we hold dear.