Five former Federated Farmers leaders have been elected to Parliament this term of Government. What are their priorities for restoring rural confidence, and how has their time in Federated Farmers set them up for the job in politics?
MP for Waitaki (National), Former Federated Farmers Meat & Wool Chair
“There’s been a tidal wave of regulation over the last few years. That’s why farmers are feeling overwhelmed and undervalued.
“I’m focused on articulating the issues farmers have with regulations and legislation. I think that’s been missing for the last six years. Outcomes of legislation haven’t always been understood by those making the rules. If those of us from a farming background can articulate those issues well enough, hopefully that’ll have some influence.
“Federated Farmers is a grassroots organisation, and the Board is elected by a National Council, so it’s very democratic. I want to be the same way, very focused on listening to what my electorate has to say, making sure those concerns, issues and suggestions are taken on board.
“My time at Federated Farmers – you couldn’t put a price on the value it gave me as far as dealing with a variety of issues. I was the Meat & Wool Chair, but on the Board, you have a whole heap of other portfolios you’re dealing with, and you get pretty good at crisis management too.”
MP for Wairarapa (National), Former Federated Farmers Wairarapa Meat & Wool Chair
“With Feds, the message from the bottom feeds through to the people at the top, and that’s the way I want to work, because that’s what I see as the biggest problem. We have this disconnect. We’ve had that effectively in reverse, haven’t we?
“The important thing is about getting advice, but even more important than that is deciding who to ask for advice, and that’s people at the coal face. That’s my approach and that’s very much the way Federated Farmers operates.
“I think the rural community should be excited that we’ve got so many rural MPs from that coal face. We haven’t had that for some time. I think it’s fantastic – you’ve got people with dirt under their fingernails.”
List MP (ACT), Former Federated Farmers President
“I hope my presence in Parliament as an active farmer, someone who has shed blood, sweat and tears over the years on the farm, will give the average farmer confidence that they have another person in Wellington who gets it, knows what’s practical, and wants to champion NZ agriculture.
“My time in Feds has been hugely beneficial to me in getting to this point. It helped with media experience, a huge degree of policy experience and understanding around getting policy right, name recognition, and it has enabled me to get connections and networks not just here in New Zealand but internationally as well, which has helped with understanding many of the complex issues facing us.
“I would add that having been outside of Feds now for several months has given me a huge appreciation for the excellent policy work done by the Feds team. It’s all well and good to jump up and down and say something sucks, but you need alternatives, and that’s what the Feds policy team brings.”
MP for Northland (National), Former Federated Farmers Northland Vice President
“I’ve been a member of Federated Farmers for as long as I can remember – for my entire farming career pretty much – and it’s given me a great understanding of the issues facing farming. I’ve watched with interest how Feds have dealt with issues and represented farmers.
“My own involvement was only for a relatively short time on the Northland executive and that allowed me to be out connecting with farmers. It really helped me to build that network in the farming community.
“By staying connected with that network, I’ve had the opportunity to understand the local issues, and the wider issues. It’s shown me the two are usually interrelated.
“I’ve already been contacted by the Northland President, Colin Hannah, and I look forward to working with him and his team. Being a farmer myself, I understand the problems the sector is facing. I’m keen to work with the local team, and national Feds, to give the farming sector a leg up and help address the challenges.”
List MP (New Zealand First), Former Federated Farmers Otago President
“The top priority has got to be working through a lot of the regulation that’s come in, trying to simplify it and make it more practical. That’s the stuff that’s really got farmers’ backs up – and for good reason.
“We’re very keen to roll back the Te Mana o te Wai provisions in the Freshwater National Policy Statement. We think that’s stripping communities of their ability to fairly input.
“Being in Federated Farmers has been hugely valuable. They do a fantastic job in terms of policy work, and while it’s not always perfectly aligned with where NZ First might be, it’s helped shape our policy platform. Having access to those networks, and that advice and information, has been critical.
“I wasn’t necessarily aiming at getting back into Parliament, but it was when the He Waka Eke Noa stuff dropped and the Government was prepared to sacrifice 20-odd percent of the sheep and beef sector, it was that point I decided to have another crack. I think being involved in Feds and being aware of what was going on with those negotiations certainly helped.”
Federated Farmers, New Zealand’s leading independent rural advocacy organisation, has established a news and insights partnership with AgriHQ, the country’s leading rural publisher, to give the farmers of New Zealand a more informed, united and stronger voice. Feds news and commentary appears each week in its own section of the Farmers Weekly print edition and online.