National is promising to cut agriculture regulations and improve access to overseas workers to ensure the sector remains New Zealand’s largest export earner.
The plans, unveiled on Wednesday, are part of National’s 19-point agriculture package, Getting Back to Farming. National’s agriculture spokesperson Todd McClay and environment spokesperson Scott Simpson said the sweeping changes to farm regulations will improve access to workers, restore local decision-making, and protect food production.
As part of the proposal, farming regulations would be reduced through a 2:1 rule, which required two regulations to be removed for every one that is added. National also plans to double the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) worker cap over five years to 38,000 per year and would consider admitting other countries to the scheme.
A permanent Rural Regulation Review Panel would be established to consider each local and central government regulation affecting farmers.
A ban would be placed on foreign investment for the purpose of converting farms to forestry to collect carbon credits.
The live export of cattle would be re-established with “gold standard rules” to protect animal welfare and safety.
National said it will make an announcement regarding emissions pricing at a later stage.
Simpson said Labour has imposed more than 20 new or updated laws and regulations on farmers since 2017.
McClay said the proposed changes will help farmers get on with earning the income on which their livelihoods, New Zealand’s economy, and New Zealanders’ standard of living, depend.
“New Zealand farmers are the world’s best and among the most carbon efficient,” McClay said.
“They also help New Zealand pay its way in the world with dairy, meat, wool and horticulture being New Zealand’s largest export earners. Last year, agricultural exports totalled $41 billion, or 63% of New Zealand’s goods exports.”
Simpson said the policy is about using targeted rules with clear environmental limits so farmers can work with confidence.
“National is committed to this country’s climate change goals. We know shutting down some of the world’s most carbon efficient farmers only sends production to less efficient farms overseas and could raise global emissions.
“We can protect the environment and allow farmers to get on with business by reining in the bureaucracy and using clear, well-targeted rules instead. ”
Nationals “Getting Back to Farming” policies are:
Deliver smarter rules for the future
Introduce a 2-for-1 rule for the next three years: for every new regulation that central or local government wants to introduce on the rural sector they must take away two.
Require local and central government to assess the costs of all new rules on the rural sector and publish the findings.
Establish a permanent Rural Regulation Review Panel to consider every local and central government regulation affecting farmers and advise the central government on solutions.
Introduce a no duplication rule – the government cannot ask farmers for the same information twice. It is up to officials to share supplied information where appropriate within the system.
Make appointments to reference and advisory groups based on skills and experience, not politics.
Commit to real consultation – officials must consult in a genuine, open and transparent basis and respect differing views.
Supercharge the rural economy
Double the Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) worker cap over five years to 38,000 per year and explore other countries entering the RSE scheme.
Change accredited employer work visas for agriculture to create a path to residency and eliminate the median wage requirement to allow wages in line with local workers.
Ban foreign direct investment for the purpose of converting farms to forestry to collect carbon credits.
Focus the definition of Significant Natural Areas on areas that are significant by making the rules workable and clear for landowners and councils.
Change the National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land to allow a broader range of productive rural activities such as on-farm storage ponds and sheds and off-farm dairy factories and vegetable processing.
Scrap the ute tax.
Get Wellington out of farming
Change rules for culverts and how wetlands are defined in legislation to only cover actual wetlands, rather than areas with limited environmental value.
Make stock exclusion rules more practical to protect critical source areas while avoiding unintended consequences like unnecessarily large exclusion zones for small water bodies.
Amend the proposed National Environmental Standard for drinking water to avoid excessive compliance requirements for small providers of 30 connections or fewer and return autonomy to small rural communities.
Defer central government rules requiring resource consents for winter grazing until freshwater farm plans are in place, with freshwater plans to become risk- and outcomes-based.
Replace the winter grazing low slope map and low slope rules for stock exclusion with more effective catchment-level rules to accommodate regional differences.
Restart the live exports of cattle with gold standard rules set in regulation to protect animal welfare and safety. National will require purpose-built ships and introduce a certification regime for the importers of destination countries to ensure animals live in conditions at the same standards required in NZ.
Repeal Labour’s rebranded Three Waters and replace it with Local Water Done Well – National’s plan to restore council ownership and control of water assets while ensuring water services are financially sustainable.