Mayor wants hemp backed by council
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.
Horowhenua mayor Michael Feyen wants the Horowhenua District Council to back hemp farming.