Farmer Frustration Is Boiling Over

Credit: Original article can be found here

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/

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