Christopher Luxon says a National government would not only ensure farming is profitable but also restore confidence to farmers, who have been battered by market downturns and regulations.
Visiting the AgriHQ office this week, Luxon said farmers have been villainised in recent years and that needs to change.
“I want them to know there’s nothing more important to New Zealand than agriculture.
“Because when we look at where we sit in a recession, now, the only country in the Asia-Pacific region doing so, there’s only one pathway and it’s growth. There’s nothing that gives us a bigger growth opportunity than expanding and growing agriculture.
“So I want farmers to know, the mindset needs to shift across the country to a positive one, backing farmers, because they are deeply valued.”
National has released a 19-point action plan that Luxon said will ease the regulatory burden.
“I remember meeting with some young farmers and they showed me all the farm plans on a trestle table. It was a huge duplication of money of information they need to provide Ministry for the Environment, councils and other government agencies. And when you ask, well, how much of your week is spent doing this, they said it used to be 5% and now it’s 30% of my week is spent just doing compliance stuff. None of it is adding any value whatsoever.”
Luxon said National’s plan will get Wellington out of farming and free up farmers to do what they do best.
He said emissions pricing is necessary, however, to ensure other trading nations don’t use climate change as a trade barrier.
“In order to protect their own farmers, countries will actually start to apply environmental practice as a trade barrier, essentially. That’s why I want us to get ahead of the curve by embracing technology, giving credit to farmers for the work they’ve done and only then introduce pricing that will work in a way that doesn’t drive leakage.”
National would also look at the rules around genetic modification.
“We’ve got legislation that was written for technology that didn’t even exist then,” he said.
“So it’s a bit like your mobile phone from 1996 – it’s a bit different from one you’ve got today in 2023. So we need to update all that. We will have a biotech regulator, exactly as the Australians have set up. But it means that we can now join other advanced economies in the world and actually not have our farmers try and do their job with one hand behind their back.”
On trade, Luxon sees India as a big opportunity, saying Australia, the European Union, the United Kingdom and Canada are making progress, but NZ had yet to start the race.
“New Zealand hasn’t even picked up the phone with India and it’s the most populous country on earth. So we have to do business there ultimately as well.”