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