Federated Farmers President Andrew Hoggard says he’s not surprised frustration and anger about the deluge of new regulations and costs from central government is spilling over into protest meetings.
On Friday farmers in a number of districts around New Zealand are rounding up dog teams and firing up utes and tractors to head into their nearest town for peaceful protest rallies.
In his speech to the Federated Farmers National Council in Christchurch last week, Andrew referred to a “winter of discontent” in rural communities, with the so-called ute tax a straw that broke the camel’s back for many farming families.
The new “fee” on the farm vehicle work-horse to fund electric vehicle grants, when suitable EVs are not yet a realistic option for farmers, “has just highlighted in farmers’ minds that the Wellington Beltway thinkers just don’t get regional New Zealand”.
Farmers – and district council ratepayers – were already facing huge uncertainty and cost with the impact of bungled and impractical Essential Freshwaters regulations. District Plan freshwater improvement initiatives that in some cases have taken years of community consultation and shaping to reach agreement now have to be re-written before they’ve even had a chance to prove themselves.
And now the government has thrown in phase one of the Resource Management Act reform, with the same flawed “one size fits all approach”, and new terms and definitions that lawyers are rubbing their hands in glee over. Andrew told the Feds delegates in Christchurch that together with the Three Waters reform upheaval, the future of democratically-elected local councils was also under threat. A review of local government has been signalled.
“What on earth is going to be left of local government to actually review? Again, it feels like everything is being done in the wrong order,” Andrew said.
“Overall, my message to the government is we need to organise the workplan better. We have a siloed haphazard approach right now, that is causing stress and anxiety for many. Not just for farmers and growers, but other sectors and quite frankly probably the government’s own officials.”
As well as other upheaval around the National Policy Statement Indigenous Biodiversity and Significant Natural Areas, and the push for a climate change pricing mechanism for livestock emissions, many farms faced significant workforce gaps. The widespread vacancies on dairy farms on the eve of the calving season raise extremely serious questions around stress and mental wellbeing (and animal welfare) as depleted teams work longer and longer hours.
The government can only do so much in the face of the global pandemic, Andrew said. But it could review use of MIQ facilities and dedicate any unused capacity for skilled migrant staff. And it could also grant residency for the several thousand highly skilled migrant dairy staff already here, and plan a pathway to allow their spouses and children in, so the workers no longer felt forced to take jobs in Australia, Canada and other countries just so they can be reunited as a family.
A full copy of Andrew Hoggard’s speech to the Federated Farmers National Council is available here – https://www.fedsnews.co.nz/siloed-haphazard-and-rushed-approach-to-policy-is-causing-undue-stress/