Farming taxes delayed, not forgotten
Most farmers will feel they have dodged a bullet with the pending result in the general election.
While all eyes have turned to New Zealand First and Winston Peters to see which direction he takes, it is fairly certain that Labour and the Green’s much maligned water tax is most likely shelved for now. Here’s why: If the National Party and New Zealand First form a government, the tax won’t be on the agenda. If Labour, the Green Party and New Zealand First form a government, either in coalition or in confidence and supply, shelving the tax may well be a bottom line for New Zealand First.
Most of New Zealand First’s 162,988 party votes have come from provincial New Zealand. These are people from small towns such as Te Awamutu and
Morrinsville and it is a fair bet that a good portion would be farmers or people associated with the primary industry.
It is also no coincidence that New Zealand First had a large presence at the recent protest in Morrinsville and it has made a big push for the rural vote over the past 18 months.
Accepting a governing arrangement with Labour and the Greens and not fighting those taxes would be a betrayal of those people who voted those nine New Zealand First MP’s into Parliament.
Peters is also on record with his opposition to Labour’s water tax, although he does support their plans for a levy on bottled water.
But even if the policy is shelved, it will be merely delayed, not forgotten. If Labour and the Greens’ farming and water policies aren’t introduced this year, it’s highly likely it will happen in 2020.
It’s always hard to speculate these things, but it would be tough to see a fifth term National led government given that Labour seems to have finally got its house in order and the popularity of its new leader. Whatever format of government is chosen, the summit on rivers Labour proposed during the campaign must happen, regardless of whoever governs.
Like it or not, the one thing this election did show was that urban people’s patience around water quality was running out. A frank discussion free of election campaign spin around what these potential taxes could cost farmers and its potential value proposition in the market for meat and milk is badly needed.
It would help Labour send a much-needed olive branch to farmers and help repair relationships with farmers if it is to govern New Zealand this election or the next. It was not so much the tax itself that infuriated farmers, it was its lack of detail and how Labour framed it. Take the dairy industry for example. This is a sector where businesses borrowed hundreds of thousands of dollars during the lean years to help them stay viable.
In return, the banks that loaned them that money want to see it not just paid back, but budgets showing how they plan to pay it back. Top dairy farmers prepare these budgets monthly, quarterly and seasonally.
Having to factor in the possible costs into their forward budgets in the middle of calving, while many were knee deep in mud working 12 hour days made for some understandably grumpy farmers. It is why many attended the protest at Morrinsville. Many of them had simply had enough of the negativity, but like it or not whether it is in this election cycle or the next one, these taxes are coming, because 41 per cent of the country who voted are demanding it.
-Gerald Piddock is a farming editor.
Labour’s water levy will most likely be delayed until the next election.