The National Party has pledged to get back to the drawing board, stop punishing farmers and turn the mindset of farming and agriculture around.
In a packed Ashburton events centre, National Party leader Christopher Luxon told the gathering of around 500 people that National’s Getting Back to Farming policy is an indicator of the importance a National government would place on the primary sector.
“I am here to get things done, I am sick of inactions, and I make no apology for that,” Luxon said.
“Agriculture is the backbone of this country. We need to get the mindset of farming and agriculture turned around. I want New Zealanders to understand farmers are not villains and we want them to be deeply, deeply respected,” Luxon said.
He said National would invest in technology to enable better decision-making and deliver smarter rules.
“There are fantastic examples of technology making a difference to changing farming practices.
“There are great stories of innovation synthesising agriculture with economics and the environment.
“There is research and science of the environmental benefits from changes on farms. Farmers need credit for that and we will acknowledge that work farmers are doing.
“We will get Wellington out of farming and let farmers farm.
“We will go back to the drawing board as a priority to work with the farming sector. We believe in local solutions for local problems, we will replace one-size-fits-all with local decision-making.”
Cumbersome, ineffective and impractical regulation “will no longer be a thing”.
“We will still need regulation but badly drafted, poorly executed legislation driving perverse outcomes will go out the back door.
“We will stop, reset and pace regulation.
“We will invest in technology, not bankruptcy and destroying livelihoods.”
A National government would drive for incentives that craft good smart regulation, he said.
“No more of this vomiting up regulation from half-baked ideas, developing and passing policy and throwing it at farmers.
“We want incentives that craft new good smart rules, which means less regulation and where the two-for-one rule over the next three years will prioritise and prompt a culture change in developing smart regulation to stop unnecessary multiple regulation and cross purpose creating conflict.”
National is proposing a Rural Regulation Review Panel of people with agriculture experience and a background in understanding farming activity.
“Appointments to the panel and to reference and advisory groups will be based on skills and experience, not politics,” Luxon said.
The role of the review panel would include ensuring regulation fits local challenges with local catchment-level rules.
The review panel would consider every local and central government regulation affecting farmers and advise the central government on solutions.
“We are about delivering lesser but smarter rules to supercharge the rural economy for the future. We believe in local solutions – decision-making should be a partnership, not dictatorship.”
As for the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS), “pricing has to be in our agriculture policy, the world expects that, but we have to make sure what is measured is fair, that there is no leakage and that production doesn’t go offshore”.
“It’s a case of slower to go faster. We have more coming out [on the ETS]. It’s a watch this space.
“We have some work to do, we have to go to work and bring back trust in farmers so that Wellington is no longer trying to run farms from an office in the Beehive.
“This policy [Getting Back to Farming] is only a start. We will make further announcements in coming weeks on emissions pricing, agriculture R&D, our Water Done Well policy and a comprehensive primary industries policy.
“A government I lead will greet the world with purpose and confidence. We can compete and we need to be more active in pursuing the opportunities to do so,” Luxon said.
This includes reinstating the live export trade, albeit with “gold standard” conditions that incorporate purpose-built ships at $100 million apiece, and ensuring the countries that NZ sends animals to are licensed for the same standard of animal welfare as NZ.
National’s health policy will see more money spent on the frontline, he said.
“We understand the challenges, we are clear about health outcomes and targets, we will run a system focused on patient outcomes, including more rural specific needs.
“We will open up immigration and move to get the money out of central control being sucked up in Wellington, out to the frontline to invest in frontline services.”
Infrastructure was also top of mind, with Luxon announcing in Ashburton that construction would start on the town’s much needed new bridge in National’s first term at the helm.
“It is as an economic must that we keep the South Island reliably connected in our vision for taking NZ forward,” he said.