Farmers’ Rally a celebration of environmental work and a protest against negative perceptions

Guest Post:

By Andrew McGiven

17th September 2017


Well in case that you hadn’t heard fellow farmer Lloyd Downing and I have organised a farmer rally to celebrate all the great environmental work that we all as farmers have undertaken, and to protest the negative perceptions that we as a rural community have had to endure leading up to this election.

It’s funny how these things quickly morph out of our control with people telling me how we are going to have a protest march, reporters automatically associating this with Waikato Federated Farmers (due to my position as President), and the flood of emails both supporting and decrying this action.  However, this isn’t a “sanctioned” Federated Farmers event, although the organisation has conducted various protests before. Federated Farmers needs to be able to work with whoever is in government next week so it has no involvement with this action that Lloyd and I have initiated.

I am amazed how this event has “grown legs” over the past week with farmers coming from Northland, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, and I have even had expressions of interest from some farmers in Leeson, Canterbury.  But it has spread even further than just farmers with many wage and salary earners from Morrinsville, Te Aroha, Matamata and Hamilton even indicating that they will also turn up.

And this to me is a real voice trying to say that imposing 4 or 5 punitive taxes that appear to be solely aimed at the rural sector is blatantly unfair and will not address the issues around the environment that they are trying to target.

The two anomalies that really annoy me is the proposal to tax all commercial water users, yet the likes of Coca-Cola and other users on a municipal supply would be exempt.  It seems like madness to tax irrigators who are simply recycling most of the water back through the ground whilst producing necessary food products.  It must be mentioned that not all farmers who irrigate are dairy farmers, yet when asked for what it would cost the average farmer the Labour Party could only quote in cents per kilogram of milk-solids.

The other policy that really annoys me is the Green Party water/nitrate tax that would take money from farmers so that 1.2 billion trees could be planted and then whatever is left over would be redistributed to every New Zealander over the age of 18 to the tune of $250/week.  This is not an environmental policy, it’s a simple wealth redistribution tax.

This type of policy has been based on various people and entities “cherry-picking” the science to suit their political agendas.  Professor Mike Joy continually refers to nitrogen levels in all our rivers, and while there are areas with high nitrates, the Waikato River is not one of them.  Examining the data supplied by Waikato Regional Council shows that approximately 70% of the river catchments already meet the 80 years target as specified by Healthy Rivers Plan Change One, and is in the “A” band according to the National Objectives Framework.  We need to address the issues at the source and not be distracted with sweeping, misleading statements.

It’s these types of damaging statements that are fuelling some of the vitriol being directed at farmers and is the last thing that we on the farm need after having to endure perhaps one of the wettest winter/springs that I can remember just after coming out of a 2-year low dairy pay-out. Farmers’ morale is very low now.

However, farmers would like to reach out to our urban counterparts to show them what we do, how we do it and most importantly why we do it.  Many of us have hosted school and organisation visits and group delegations as well to show the city based whanau what life on a farm is like.  New Zealand is too small for a perceived rural-urban divide.

The best way to help farmers address environment and water issues is to get them engaged at a sub-catchment level.  With grants and assistance available to help farmers purchase monitoring equipment and software, each farmer could be incentivised and motivated to actively improve their own little piece of dirt with the Good Management Practises also making improvements both environmentally and profitably.  We also need more money invested into research and development.  Most OECD countries invest around 3-4% of GDP into R & D where New Zealand is lucky to be at 1%.  If we are to stay ahead of the innovation curve we need to invest in this future technology and science.

Waikato Federated Farmers President Andrew McGiven



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