New Zealand is an exporting nation and people forget that at their peril, NZ First leader Winston Peters told farmers at Waikato Federated Farmers’ annual meeting just south of Hamilton.
In a speech coming one day after the Budget, Peters observed that those who had looked to farmers during the covid-19 lockdown to keep the economy going have now forgotten them and the policies they need.
“Some of us do know how to milk cows,” he said.
It will be a tough financial year for many because of inflationary pressures, and the wave of regulatory reforms being imposed on farmers in the past three years are impossible for the average farmer to keep on top of.
“New Zealand as a country has lost much of its ‘can do’ mojo. We were once at the top of the world’s economies and our agriculture took us there. Not only in production but with efficiency.
“Today the very industries which sustained us through the covid economic crisis are under constant attack, as though stopping production here will see production stop overseas. It’s long since time for a reality check and respect for the significant progress you’re all making to respond to global climate change.”
He called the country’s account deficit in real terms one of the worst among developed countries, saying there was nothing in the budget for the country to earn its way out of this economic dilemma. “And one more external shock, with our deficit trade balance with the world, will simply see us hit the debt ceiling. And ominously yesterday, the government introduced a higher tax rate in the form of a trustee tax rise to 39%. That is just a portent of things to come.
Peters defended his party’s decision to go into a coalition government with Labour in 2017, when asked by a farmer if he regretted the decision.
He responded by saying it was the National-led government under John Key that signed the Paris Agreement in 2015.
Peters said he tried to make sure farmers’ voices were heard through to 2020.
“You didn’t vote for me so that boat has been destroyed.”
Another farmer told him: “Reputations are about what you’ve done, not what you’re going to do …You started this thing going and the real worry is that when you talk about trust and integrity, how can we trust Winston Peters and NZF going forward when what we face today probably cost us $100 million as a nation, indebted our grandchildren and started in 2017.”
Peters responded by saying that 465,000 National Party voters switched to Labour in 2020.
“That’s when it all went wrong. If you can get past that, then you can blame me.”