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.

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