Horowhenua Chronicle

We need to talk about over-regulation

Farmers are under-appreciate­d and face too many rules, writes

- Todd Muller. Todd Muller is the National Party’s spokesman for agricultur­e.

The kitchen table has a special place in all Kiwi farming homes. Regardless of what sector we come from, they’re all remarkably similar. They aren’t just a place to share meals, memories, and laughter — they’re the heart of rural family life, where bills are paid, budgets are balanced, and conversati­ons had.

Over the past two decades, I have spent many hours sitting around kitchen tables across the country listening to the unique stories of the Kiwis who produce food and fibre for the New Zealand market, for other Kiwi businesses and, importantl­y, for export.

Those farming families haven’t just shared their stories with me but also their hopes, dreams, fears, and challenges — an experience that has been simultaneo­usly heart-warming and heart-breaking.

These farmers and growers have an absolute love of the land and the lifestyle, but can slowly see their ability to do what they have done for generation­s being eroded by waves of regulation and added costs.

As summer turns to autumn, the conversati­ons happening around those kitchen tables are underscore­d by a relentless feeling of stress and financial pressure that’s sucking the joy out of farming.

In my view, farmers are overregula­ted and under-appreciate­d. About 25,000 farming families produce enough to feed 50 million people and generate $52 billion in exports that underpin our economy and, therefore, the lifestyles of us all.

New Zealand’s food and fibre producers are among the highest quality and lowest carbon in the world, yet we don’t often hear that celebrated. Instead, farmers are told by sometimes faceless Wellington bureaucrat­s or local authority officials — often with no practical farming knowledge — how they can and must improve the way they farm.

Thirty years ago, New Zealand’s farmers were too lightly regulated. That was clearly wrong, but now things have swung too far in the opposite direction. Farmers are being told what they can farm, in which paddock, and how to go about it, with constantly changing rules about water quality, biodiversi­ty, climate change, fertiliser­s and everything else you can imagine. While each of these expectatio­ns might sound reasonable to the urban ear, the cumulative effect of more rules, reporting, paperwork, costs, and criticism, with little regard for fairness, pragmatism or common sense, make it all the harder to get out of bed at 4am for milking. At the same time, competitor­s in Europe and America are celebrated and financiall­y supported to improve.

Some farmers are at the end of their tether.

National backs New Zealand’s farming sector. All human land use has an impact and National’s approach is to work with the primary sector to encourage ongoing improvemen­t in minimising environmen­tal harm and to build on what New Zealand is already good at — not to grind a sector down so it folds in on itself. Let’s refine our regulation­s to make them more workable, improve immigratio­n settings to get in people who can help on the farm, and really shake the tree of innovation so science helps farmers in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

National is also committed to addressing the cost of living for all New Zealanders. We’re the party of lower tax: Labour is the party of higher tax. National says people should keep more of what they earn. We want to lift incomes so all Kiwis can get ahead.

National is the party of law and order, and we’ve announced policies to tackle gangs and combat youth offending. National also thinks vital infrastruc­ture has been neglected and just last week we announced our Local Water Done Well policy — which will restore the ownership and management of drinking water, stormwater and wastewater to local councils, instead of Labour’s Three Waters proposal with four megaentiti­es with co-governance forced on them. In addition to water standards, we’ll set rules so that councils have to ring-fence investment in water infrastruc­ture – not use that money for other things.

This year, New Zealanders get a choice about the direction of the country. I’m committed to National having the best policies to help rural families and rural communitie­s. Many are struggling, recent weather events have caused incalculab­le losses for some, and sector and political leaders need to not be afraid to admit where mistakes have been made. I’m not afraid of those conversati­ons, and National won’t be either.

 ?? Photo / NZME ?? The tranche of regulation­s is taking the joy out of farming, says Todd Muller.
Photo / NZME The tranche of regulation­s is taking the joy out of farming, says Todd Muller.
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