The government is aware of the pressure farmers are under right now, but its regulatory programme must continue to ensure the primary sector is primed to thrive in the future, Prime Minister Chris Hipkins told the Primary Industries Summit.
Hipkins acknowledged the government hasn’t always got policy settings right, saying ongoing dialogue and partnership with farming leaders is critical to achieving the best outcomes for the industry.
“Slowing down and delaying some of the critical issues is not going to be in anyone’s best interests,” he said.
“Climate change is happening now and getting worse. We need tangible global progress. Consumers are aware of that as well and they’ll turn away from products that aren’t at the forefront of change.
“We need to be one of the cleanest, greenest and most sustainable in the world, otherwise our success isn’t assured.”
Hipkins’ recent trade mission to China reinforced his views.
“Their objective is to double middle-income earners over the next decade. There’s nothing quite like going into a supermarket in a place like China and seeing so many Kiwi products on display at the premium end of the market. It’s a buzz for me and it shows the value proposition we’re taking to the world. There’s no doubt our international reputation is critical to expanding export opportunities.”
The government can play a role in ensuring New Zealand’s products are globally visible and send a message that we’re innovative.
Hipkins noted that farmgate emissions are a big hurdle, but said they need to be addressed quickly. A long-term briefing paper from the Ministry for Primary Industries shows sustainability, ethics and food sovereignty will be non-negotiable.
“We need to grapple with that now.”
National’s leader, Christopher Luxon, told the summit a government he leads would take a much different approach.
“We’re in a cost of living crisis and you’re feeling it on farm as well with high interest rates. Now is not the time to load more red tape onto our primary sector.”
He said a National-led government would help NZ rediscover its ambition.
“We’re going to cut the red tape. We need agriculture to grow incredibly strongly, it’s our most important sector.
“You are not villains, you are deeply valued and critical to our success.”
Luxon said pricing farm emissions is necessary but it is important farmers have all the tools available.
National would introduce a price by 2030, five years later than the current plan.
“Doing nothing is not an option – we cannot give trading partners the excuse to protect their own producers. National wants a thriving primary sector and world-class producers deserve world-class policies.”