Bay of Plenty Times
Plea to Govt: Take farmers with you
Huge opportunities ahead but greening of agriculture must be more carrot than stick
Farming eh? As the old saying goes, if it waseasy everyone would be doing it. As it turns out, there are anumberof people in Wellington at themoment telling farmershowto do it. Thus, in the process, making farming anything but easy!
Farmers certainly face plenty of headwinds in David Parker’s environmental space. But the upside is the future opportunities presented by sustainably feeding the discerning top end of a burgeoning 9-10 billion population are almost limitless.
Fromthat perspective, our little island nation is uniquely situated, providingwedon’t shoot ourselves in the foot in a fit of pious and zealous environmentalism at any cost. A goose, a golden egg and a senseless execution spring to mind. As do goose-stepping politicians.
I say this without fear or favour, because I’m an environmentalist too. I suspect I’ve spentmoreofmyown moneyprotecting wetlands and planting trees thanmanyof the Green Mpsin Parliament. Andmy contribution is minimal compared to that ofsome farmerswhohave spent hundreds of thousands of dollars— whether by retiring wetlands, planting native trees or the riparian fencing of waterways— to improve the environment. In somecases, it’s millions, by retiring land or putting it into AQEII Covenant to protect it in perpetuity. There was no finer example of that generosity this week, than the gifting of an iconic Queenstown landscape at the foot of the Remarkables Range to thequeen Elizabeth II National Trust (QEII). Dick and Jillian Jardine, owners of Remarkables Station, have gifted ownership of900ha to QEII, ensuring the significant landscape and biodiversity on the property is protected forever on behalf of allnew Zealanders.
As a former farmer and the host of a rural radio show, I knowfarming and I get farmers. Bytheir very job description they’re environmentalists, guardians of land manyof them will never sell. But like any subset of the population there are bad oneswholet the team down. I put that numberat about 5 per cent. Mind you, if I look at our House of Representatives, I think I could easily find six out of 120Mpsto getmy5 per cent quota of thosewhoare also dragging the chain. However, whether you like or loathe his politics,
Parker is one of the smarter ones in the Beehive. Mymessage, or rather plea, because he’s holding all the cards, is forhimto take farmers with him. Use a carrot. Don’t beat them with a big stick.
Ultimately, weall want thesame result. It’showweget there, and the timeframe involved, weneed to get ameaningful consensus on. Parker is right. Wegot past peak dairy inmany regions of the country in the past couple of decades. Someof the wintering practices, especially the further south you go (where they can’t grow grass through June, July and August), were not acceptable.
I am, though, buoyed by the Prime Minister’s soothing tones earlier in the weekwhenaddressing the Primary Industriesnzsummit. Andthatwas because shenowfaces an intriguing political play at play here!
In her wildest dreams Jacinda would never have contemplated a rural red tsunami party-voting Labour. Farmers arenowher constituency by right. She has amoral and financial obligation to look after the goose that lays the golden egg. Evenmoresowhenyou consider tourism has been completely laid (euphemism for a stronger word) low by Covid. Her eggs arenowin the farming basket.
I interviewed her onmyradio show, The Country, thisweekand put it to her that, if Shane Joneswasthe self-anointed Prince of the Provinces, then she surelynowtakes over the mantle of thepmof Provinces?
I’m a born and bred Southlander whonowresides in Dunedin. Never inmylifetime did I ever think trueblue Southland (formerly CluthaSouthland) would party vote anything other than National.
Legend has it that in the 1969 election, whenkiwi Keith Holyoake stormed to a fourth term in office, therewasan almost-inquisition in the little farming community of Riversdale that I grewupin. Apparently, whenthe numbers were published from the local school polling booth, someone had dared to vote Labour in our village. The culprit wasnever found! Andin a quirk of fate, myclassmate from the saidsame Riversdale Primary School, Penny Simmonds, isnowthenewnational Mpfor Invercargill.
Whether Penny will see out her political days as a toothless backbench Oppositionmpultimately depends on Jacinda, rather than Judith. If thepmcan blunt Parker’s teeth, and take the farmers of the nation with her, she could be here for sometime to come.
Whether you like or loathe his politics, Parker is one of the smarter ones in the Beehive. My message, or rather plea, because he’s holding all the cards, is for him to take farmers with him.
Jamie Mackay host of New Zealand's flagship rural radio show The Country, starts a monthly New Zealand Herald column from today. Tune into The Country on GOLD AM, Newstalk ZB, Hokonui & online via iheartradio for more rural news.