Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Election 2023: Farmer confidence and economic performance

Neal Wallace
Farmers Weekly asks New Zealand’s six biggest parties to spell out their policies for the primary sector.
The sector and the government have not held discussions on the issue since National Fieldays. Photo: Wikimedia Commons
Reading Time: 4 minutes

At a recent rural political debate a candidate referred to the primary sector as “where the money is made”.

That has never been more true since covid decimated tourism and overseas education. No other industry currently comes close to replacing the income generated by the primary sector, so what are the various political parties offering the productive sector and rural communities?

Farmers Weekly asked the six parties currently represented in Parliament four questions. Five replied. Te Pati Māori did not respond. 

Today’s question: How will your party restore farmer confidence and encourage the primary sector’s economic performance?

•  Labour acknowledges that times are tough out there, but we are asking people to stop and look at the evidence. Treasury has reported that economy is growing and expected to be 2.6 per cent, inflation is forecast to return to the 1-3 per cent band at the end of next year, and cost-pressures on farm are receding.

•  Food and fibre export values have grown by 50% to a record $57.4 billion since Labour entered government in 2017 and we’ve invested in farmers significantly across consecutive budgets. That includes Budget 2022’s $1bn across four years, which also covers over $300 million to the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions. We will continue our Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures programme, which to date has co-invested over $560m with business across over 260 projects to transform our primary export sector.

•  Labour governments are prepared to make the tough decisions, not just do what wins votes. Our agriculture and trade policies dovetail to position us for changing markets – where customers have increasing expectations on sustainability credentials. Export growth lies in targeting high-value customers.

•  We’ve opened up more trading opportunities for our exporters than any other government – four free trade agreements signed and three upgraded. That will see nearly 75% of our trade covered by a legally enforceable agreement – up from 50% in 2017. Our next priority will be a prime ministerial delegation to India within the first 100 days of a new government.

•  Our ambition is to grow the agritech sector to $8bn by 2030. To achieve that goal Labour will inject $100m into the Venture Capital Fund to support this objective. This fund will invest in agritech businesses, including through their joint investment fund with Finistere Ventures developed through the Agritech ITP.

The Labour-Green Government has buried farmers in red tape This has raised compliance costs and kept farmers in front of their computer instead of out on the farm. 

To cut red tape, National will:

 • Establish a “no-duplication” rule, meaning farmers can only be asked for the same information once by officials, eliminating redundant information requests and streamlining processes. 

• Introduce a two-for-one rule – for every rule or regulation imposed, two must be removed.

•  Create a permanent Rural Regulation Review Panel, tasked with evaluating every local and central government regulation affecting farmers, growers and forest owners for cost and practicality, with results published. 

•  Streamline consents for wood processing and horticulture.

•  Bolster our health workforce with more GPs for rural areas.

It’s important we provide our farmers with the support they need to be the drivers behind our economy and get New Zealand back on track.

ACT has led the way by standing up for farmers in Parliament. We were the only party willing to oppose He Waka Eke Noa from the beginning and to vote against the Zero Carbon Act. We alone stood up for licensed firearms owners. We’ve consistently opposed the government’s freshwater rules, significant natural areas, fertiliser tax, live animal export ban, ute tax, and more.

We will support farmers by getting the government out of their way, letting them get on with what they do best. ACT’s property rights-based replacement for the Resource Management Act will cut through restrictive planning rules and give farmers more freedom to make best use of their property. 

The level of compliance and red tape farmers are forced to comply with is getting in the way of their businesses. Bureaucrats in Wellington don’t realise it, but time spent and costs accrued by filling out paperwork and following regulations is time and money that would otherwise be spent on practical on-farm improvements. 

ACT has already outlined many regulations it will get rid of immediately, and we expect to find more. 

We can have a thriving, sustainable farming sector that tackles the climate crisis, prioritises food production, helps rural communities flourish, cleans up our rivers, and makes sure we all have fresh and healthy food to eat.

The Green Party will take action to improve farm resilience against extreme weather events and ensure farmers can make a decent living off the land, while keeping our environment healthy. Our plan for the farming sector recognises that climate change is one of the biggest threats because severe weather events and a changing climate make farming that much more difficult.

To support the sector through a changing climate and an economy, we plan to develop dual cap-and-trade schemes for both methane and nitrous oxide, with a fair allocation method. All revenue generated would go back into the farming sector.

We’ll also increase support for farmers to transition to more sustainable forms of agricultural production through finance mechanisms such as low-interest loans and grants. 

We’ll work with the sector to develop a National Food Strategy to ensure food production is resilient to a changing climate, and work with Māori to ensure their food sovereignty aspirations are included.

For wool farmers, we will prioritise the purchasing of wool carpets over synthetic carpets by government departments. Wool carpet offers numerous environmental advantages that make it a more sustainable choice, and our choices must reflect our values: the decision between synthetic and wool carpeting is not just about cost or performance, it is a statement about a commitment to a sustainable future.

New Zealand First
The first priority is to settle things down and take stock. There has been a deluge of reform, and Regional Councils are being asked to upend carefully drafted plans and update them at breakneck speed. 

A key element will be to repeal the vague Te Mana O te Wai provisions with the freshwater national policy statement and restore the four wellbeing’s to allow for proper community consultation and input. 

A more localised and less “one size fits all” approach to environmental regulation. 

Beyond that we need to have a solid plan to seize on opportunities to grow the value of the primary sector. 

Tax incentives for exporters, support for Brand New Zealand initiatives and government investment to enable the likes of water storage and irrigation. 

Diversifying our market options by seeking a free trade deal with the Commonwealth, which will be the mechanism to open up the Indian market.

Tomorrow we ask: What will your party do to improve rural infrastructure? 

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