Candidate abused by ‘own people’
Rural community champion, Waikato regional councillor and NZ First candidate Stu Husband seriously considered selling his dairy farm and quitting Federated Farmers after being mocked about the loss of his herd to TB at a Morrinsville farmers election rally.
The shaken Tauhei farmer and out-going Morrinsville Feds chairman says he was personally abused at the farmer-organised event, the most hurtful barb being shouted by a local farmer, ‘‘You’re a loser - you lost your herd to TB.’’
Four years ago Husband, a former firefighter and prison officer, lost 200 cows to the disease on a Te Aroha farm he leased at the time.
‘‘For four years and longer, I’ve scrapped for farmers day-in and day-out. I’ve been ridiculed in the regional council for standing up for farmers. Then my own people treated me like that. It was horrible.’’
He says the Morrinsville rally was ‘‘the biggest own-goal by farming. It was embarrassing and pathetic’’.
Husband claims it was a National Party event dressed up as a farmer rally given the big turnout of party heavyweights, including government ministers. The blue shirt show was confirmed by Waikato Federated Farmers president and rally coorganiser Andrew McGiven, who says it surprised him.
McGiven, who unsuccessfully offered himself to the National Party as an election candidate, says he and co-organiser, former Waikato feds dairy leader Lloyd Downing, wanted ‘‘to keep the rally apolitical’’.
It was called in response to environmental ‘‘vitriol’’ against farmers on social media and to express concern about new taxes being proposed in the election campaign.
Husband says he was so shattered by the personal abuse – the only sour note in his unsuccessful public campaign to be elected to Parliament – that he went home determined to quit farming. He also considered resigning completely from the farmer advocacy group.
‘‘I thought I don’t want to be a farmer anymore. I don’t want to be part of that. I wasn’t angry. I was extremely disappointed. What’s become apparent to me is that Federated Farmers has become a voice-piece for the National Party. It made me want to resign but there are good people in it like Andrew McGiven and Chris Lewis (dairy section chairman) who do their best for farmers and work hard at trying to rebuild it.’’
McGiven said the rally was also to celebrate farmers’ environmental achievements. He and Downing had determined no politician would speak.
‘‘I don’t owe the National Party any favours.’’ McGiven was disappointed to learn Husband was abused.
Agreeing the Waikato seat is ‘‘pretty blue’’, he says the tone of a rally changed at its conclusion when New Zealand First leader Winston Peters took the stage to electioneer and wouldn’t answer farmer questions about which party he would support if he held the balance of power. McGiven rejects the claim Federated Farmers is in National’s pocket. As an advocate for all farmers, the organisation must work with whatever political party is in government, he said.
Husband said he was responsible for Peters attending having ‘‘begged’’ the leader’s election team to get him there.
‘‘He had zero intention of going to the rally. He was busy in his own electorate. But he was the only one talking about supporting primary producers and everyone owning the water, I thought they’d love him. They booed him, they spat at him, because it was a National Party event. Imagine how upset and embarrassed I was.’’
Husband, too far down the NZ First list to make it into Parliament, is determined to stand for the party again in three years.
‘‘I’ve been very farmer focussed. But I learned going around Ngaruawahia and Huntly that maybe farming isn’t the beall of everything. There are other issues here. Homelessness, poverty, not having the internet - having to run a business from Auckland because they can’t do it from their rural community.’’
A farmer decks out his tractor with signs at the Morrinsville protest rally.
Rural community advocate Stu Husband says the Morrinsville farmers election rally was an historic own-goal.