Mayor wants hemp backed by coun­cil

Kapiti Observer - - FRONT PAGE - MIRI SCHROETER

Horowhenua’s mayor wants the coun­cil to back hemp farm­ing in a bid to in­crease the dis­trict’s em­ploy­ment rate.

It’s far from ‘‘wacky backy’’ and would help keep young peo­ple in the dis­trict, mayor Michael Feyen says.

Hemp had a stigma for its as­so­ci­a­tion with mar­i­juana, but hemp has much lower lev­els of tetrahy­dro­cannabi­nol, or THC – the psy­choac­tive in­gre­di­ent in mar­i­juana – and it is le­gal to sell hemp prod­ucts in New Zealand.

With it’s ver­sa­tile uses and en­vi­ron­men­tal ben­e­fits, Feyen hoped the Horowhenua Dis­trict Coun­cil and res­i­dents will sup­port the idea.

‘‘It’s not like we are grow­ing wacky backy. We are grow­ing hemp.’’

The em­ploy­ment op­por­tu­ni­ties it would give young peo­ple in Horowhenua was the most im­por­tant as­pect, Feyen said.

The unem­ploy­ment rate in the dis­trict is about 6.7 per cent, which is higher than the na­tional av­er­age of 5 per cent, for the year end­ing June 2017.

How­ever, data from an Au­gust In­fo­met­rics Quar­terly Eco­nomic up­date shows the unem­ploy­ment rate has dropped from the 8 per cent recorded in 2016.

Deputy mayor Wayne Bishop said the up­date showed there were job op­por­tu­ni­ties in the dis­trict, in­clud­ing in agri­cul­ture, man­u­fac­tur­ing and re­tail.

Bishop did not think hemp pro­duc­tion was a busi­ness the coun­cil needed to be in­volved in.

Farm­ers where left to grow as­para­gus and other veg­eta­bles with­out the coun­cil and the same should go for any pro­duc­tion, Bishop said. ‘‘I think it’s mad. ‘‘It’s just some­thing he’s want­ing to push.’’

If it was such a vi­able op­tion there would al­ready be hemp pro­duc­tion in the dis­trict, Bishop said.

He said he wasn’t rul­ing out the idea, but would need to see a busi­ness case for it.

Feyen said although it was in its early stages, the idea had been well re­ceived, in­clud­ing by iwi mem­bers.

Feyen would not say who he ap­proached, but he said there was an over­whelm­ingly pos­i­tive re­sponse.

‘‘We have mas­sive farms with one or two peo­ple work­ing on them. We need dif­fer­ent chan­nels of em­ploy­ment for young peo­ple.’’

Hemp could be used to make clothes and food, for medic­i­nal pur­poses, and it could also re­place plas­tic bags, Feyen said.

He wanted the coun­cil to be in­volved on a co-op­er­a­tive ba­sis, he said.

‘‘I want to cre­ate some­thing that as a re­gion we can be proud of.’’

Feyen has al­ready se­cured the names Hemp Horowhenua and Horowhenua Hemp in the hopes it would go ahead.

The idea would now go to a com­mu­nity fo­rum and Feyen plans to ap­proach Hori­zons Re­gional Coun­cil for use of land.

Hori­zons strat­egy and pol­icy group man­ager Dr Nic Peet said he couldn’t re­call Hori­zons re­ceiv­ing any ap­pli­ca­tions in its re­gions for hemp in the past.

Hori­zons cov­ers Ruapehu, Manawatu¯, Ran­gitı¯kei, Whanganui, Tararua, Horowhenua, and parts of Taupo¯, Wait­omo and Strat­ford.

Ap­pli­ca­tions for hemp pro­duc­tion would be treated the same as any other farm­ing ac­tiv­ity with the same guide­lines as set out in the One Plan, Peet said.

‘‘This may in­clude the need to ap­ply for a re­source con­sent should the op­er­a­tion re­quire cul­ti­va­tion near wa­ter­ways, crop ir­ri­ga­tion or sim­i­lar ac­tiv­ity.’’

The coun­cil did not have spe­cific rules around hemp as a crop, Peet said.

MUR­RAY WIL­SON/STUFF

Horowhenua mayor Michael Feyen wants the Horowhenua Dis­trict Coun­cil to back hemp farm­ing.

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