Can­di­date abused by ‘own peo­ple’

Piako Post - - OUT & ABOUT - ANDREA FOX

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.’’

KA­T­RINA TANIRAU/STUFF

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.

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