Farm­ing props up coun­try’s econ­omy

Kapi-Mana News - - OPINION/NEWS - With Dr Ian Schraa

Where would we be with­out farm­ing in New Zealand? We’d pos­si­bly be a Third World na­tion.

Farm­ing has been, and still is, the most im­por­tant in­dus­try in New Zealand.

Our stan­dard of liv­ing and our im­me­di­ate fu­ture is still heav­ily de­pen­dent on it.

We are di­rectly de­pen­dent on ex­port earn­ings and em­ploy­ment on farms and in­di­rectly on the in­dus­tries as­so­ci­ated with farm­ing, such as fer­tiliser and farm ma­chin­ery, or the in­dus­tries that process farmed goods.

New Zealand re­lies on the pri­mary in­dus­tries of dairy farm­ing, sheep and beef farm­ing, forestry, fish­eries, hor­ti­cul­ture, viti­cul­ture and oth­ers.

They drive our econ­omy. And although the good folks of Auck­land and Wellington may think the cen­tre of New Zealand re­volves around Queen Street or the Bee­hive, they might be mis­taken. It ar­guably re­volves around the main streets of places like Dan­nevirke, Gore, Mata­mata and In­gle­wood.

Even though when you drive through the towns them­selves they may look like they are strug­gling, the farm­land around them is where it is re­ally hap­pen­ing.

I first worked as a vet in Patea, south Taranaki, not many years after the Patea freez­ing works closed.

The town never re­ally re­cov­ered, but the dairy farms of south Taranaki con­tin­ued to thrive and are still some of the most pro­duc­tive in New Zealand.

De­spite all the de­bate about farm own­er­ship in this coun­try, the vast majority of farms are owned and run by hard-work­ing fam­i­lies and iwi.

I learnt as much about the ru­ral com­mu­nity as I did about ru­ral vet­eri­nary prac­tice dur­ing my time in Patea. As a re­sult, I have a huge re­spect for the peo­ple liv- ing and work­ing in ru­ral New Zealand.

I ap­pre­ci­ate the frus­tra­tions of ru­ral New Zealand, es­pe­cially around elec­tion time, when many ‘‘town­ies’’ seem to for­get the rel­e­vance and im­por­tance of ru­ral New Zealand.

If the drop in dairy prices re­mains as ex­pected, Fon­terra pre­dicts its 10,500 dairy farm­ers will re­ceive $4.3 bil­lion less in 2015.

This drop would trans­late to a $2.6 bil­lion loss to the New Zea- land econ­omy, mean­ing the gov­ern­ment tax take would be re­duced, and those elec­tion bribes might be harder to pay for.

The drop in the dairy pay­out could also cause the New Zealand dol­lar to fall, re­sult­ing in higher prices for im­ported goods.

What hap­pens in farm­ing af­fects ev­ery­one.

The re-build of Christchurch and the cur­rent net im­mi­gra­tion, pre­dom­i­nantly into Auck­land, is cre­at­ing a con­struc­tion boom.

This is usu­ally fol­lowed by a time of bust, when things slow down, whereas the ru­ral econ­omy is a slow, steady pro­ducer.

Peo­ple in­volved in farm­ing are in it for the long haul.

Farm­ing does not have a high re­turn on in­vest­ment, but many in farm­ing do it for life­style and be­cause they are fam­ily busi­nesses.

There are cor­po­ra­tions in­volved, es­pe­cially in forestry and fish­eries, but most agri­cul­tural, wine and hor­ti­cul­tural en­ter­prises are still owned by in­di­vid­u­als.

I al­ways love the drive be­tween Wellington and Auck­land. There are the vol­ca­noes of Ton­gariro Na­tional Park and, of course, Lake Taupo.

Then there are the thou­sands of farms filling in all the rest, qui­etly go­ing about their business of mak­ing New Zealand what it is.

Photo: FAIR­FAX

Vi­tal in­dus­try: Farm­ing has propped up the New Zealand econ­omy for well over a cen­tury.

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