Farm­ers wel­come tax change

South Waikato News - - Farming - GER­ARD HUTCHING

New Prime Min­is­ter Jacinda Ardern ap­pears to have wa­tered down the con­tro­ver­sial ir­ri­ga­tion tax, al­though farm­ers are still con­cerned about the over­all di­rec­tion of the new govern­ment.

Speak­ing on Ra­dio New Zealand, Ardern said Labour was ‘‘ab­so­lutely com­mit­ted to clean­ing up rivers, but [Win­ston] Peters took a strong view on the mech­a­nism we were choos­ing to use.’’

Be­fore the elec­tion, Labour pro­posed a roy­alty on farm­ers of one to two cents per 1000 litres on ir­ri­ga­tion wa­ter.

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers pres­i­dent Katie Milne said it was hard to say how farm­ing would be af­fected un­til spe­cific poli­cies were seen.

‘‘It’s good to see the wa­ter tax is off the ta­ble, we ac­cept farm­ers have got to do their part in ad­dress­ing pol­lu­tion but so do cities.’’

If the wa­ter tax was to be dropped, the in­com­ing govern­ment might tar­get the Crown Ir­ri­ga­tion In­vest­ments fund, which pro­vides seed­ing money to kick­start ir­ri­ga­tion schemes.

Na­tional com­mit­ted to pro­vide up to $400 mil­lion over the life of the scheme, of which $131m has so far been spent. Labour has in­di­cated it might not con­tinue the sub­sidy.

‘‘That’s a key and the ar­gu­ment that if you put on ir­ri­ga­tion you will milk more cows is not true, you could be talk­ing about plant pro­teins, if we haven’t got the in­fra­struc­ture to pro­vide that we will be be­hind the eight ball,’’ Milne said.

En­vi­ron­men­tal­ist Dr Ali­son Dewes said she was con­fi­dent the govern­ment would work on clean­ing up rivers but would use dif­fer­ent mech­a­nisms such as ecosys­tem health tar­gets.

Milne said farm­ers would also be con­cerned if they could not get im­mi­grant work­ers.

‘‘Im­mi­gra­tion is a hard one, be­cause we strug­gle with get­ting skilled Kiwi work­ers, and it’s the same for tourism and con­struc­tion.

‘‘Re­gions need to be sup­ported and work­ers are des­per­ately re­quired which is why we started that dairy ap­pren­tice­ship scheme,’’ Milne said.

She was com­forted to a de­gree by both Labour and NZ First’s em­pha­sis on want­ing to as­sist re­gions.

How­ever, she warned against changes to labour laws.

Fed­er­ated Farm­ers pres­i­dent Katie Milne says farm­ers have con­cerns but are wait­ing to see spe­cific poli­cies.

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