by Toby Williams (Gisborne-Wairoa Federated Farmers President)
IN just one sleep, when the jolly red fellow pays us a visit, we will sit back and reflect on the year that has been.
For many of us, the past 12 months have been pretty rough.
It started well, with almost record high prices reached for red meat, then our little buddy Covid-19 came out to play and spoiled the party.
Meat prices tumbled and Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern locked us down and the world as we knew it changed.
For large parts of our region and in the Hawke’s Bay, a dry summer turned into a very dry autumn and drought was declared.
This was compounded by Covid, with processing space at a premium and plenty of people stressed with few options left.
Through it all, farmers around the country pulled their boots on and did what they do best — looked after each other and their livestock — to ensure we came through the pandemic ready to feed the nation and people all over the world.
All our primary producers deserve a pat on the back and a big thanks.
It is due to our resilience and hard work that our economy is in as good a shape as it is.
The Government too deserves a pat on the back for making the decisions that they did when they did. Glancing at what is happening in the Northern Hemisphere shows us how lucky we are.
That brings me around to the year that was at Federated Farmers.
It was a shock to many rural people and organisations when the Government released the new freshwater and environmental legislation.
Not only was it far more stringent than initially proposed, many parts were impractical and inaccurate.
Feds are currently working with the Ministry for the Environment to help solve some of the issues that have arisen.
Hopefully, in the New Year we will see changes to the most contentious parts.
At the National Council meeting in Wellington we took two remits.
Firstly we wanted the National Council to lobby for increased fire breaks and water storage in plantation forests.
Secondly we wanted the National Council to lobby for changes to enable police to confiscate vehicles and equipment used in stock theft.
Both of these were passed and will be on the agenda for staff in the New Year when they are talking with the relevant ministries.
At a provincial level, the last two months have been jam-packed.
We have had three major submissions to the Gisborne and Wairoa District Councils:
‘ the GDC long-term plan
‘ three waters funding proposal
‘ Maori wards.
We also spent time in Wairoa dealing with proposed rate changes that were set to significantly impact rural ratepayers.
For each of these, I attended hearings with the respective councils to ensure our member’s voices were heard.
In early November, Malcolm and Caroline Rau held their postponed field day after winning the Farm of the Year competition.
It was very well attended and the general consensus was that the Rau’s had an amazing farm and were deserving winners
All of this was right in the middle of my weaning and shearing so I am looking forward to a break over Christmas to recharge my batteries and hit 2021 running.
Coming up next year we have the East Coast Farming Expo in Wairoa, where we are hoping to have Andrew Hoggard attend and speak before coming to Gisborne for a meet and greet with Federated members.
We will look to have something confirmed in the New Year.
We are also going to host a NAIT (national animal identification and tracing) training day and are looking to have a members’ information day giving prospective and current members an opportunity to meet our local executive to see what we are all about.
With all that to look forward to next year, the Gisborne/Wairoa executive would like to thank all members for their support over the past year.
I would like to encourage everyone to take a moment this festive season to think of one thing they are grateful for in this crazy year.
Aside from friends and family, I am grateful for the spring rains that we had.
The jolly red fellow has certainly given me an early Christmas present and I will enjoy the break knowing my stock will be well fed. Merry Christmas to all from the Gisborne/Wairoa Federated Farmers.