ODT - Time to cast aside divisions, say farmers

Federated Farmers is ready to engage with the new coalition government and that it's time to “cast aside” the divisions that arose during the election campaign, president Katie Milne says.

New Zealand First chose to go into partnership with Labour and the Greens to form a government instead of the outgoing National Party, with which the farmers’ lobby and support group has strong traditional and historical links.

“We congratulate new Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and the coalition partners on finding a consensus to lead the country,” Ms Milne said in a statement.

“Federated Farmers is looking forward to getting around the table and talking about the issues which affect our members and farmers.

"The primary sector is the backbone of the New Zealand economy so we anticipate the new government will be mindful of that when formulating policy."

Ms Milne said it was time to “cast aside the division which fuelled the election campaign and remember that the country’s future prosperity and economic health depended on all New Zealanders sharing a common ground”.

“Whether you’re a townie or cockie when it comes down to it, we all have the same hopes and aspirations for our families and communities.

“Let’s give the new government a chance and let’s hope they can make decisions based on unity and mutual trust."

The federation was willing to share its industry influence, expertise and insight with the new government and is encouraging members and farmers to look ahead with a positive outlook, Ms Milne said.

“There’s undoubtedly challenges ahead for those tasked with governing the country. One thing the new government can be sure of is: Federated Farmers is ready to play its part as a primary sector leader and voice of New Zealand farming."

A key part of the Greens’ election platform was improving the water quality of New Zealand’s rivers and lakes, while both Labour and New Zealand First campaigned on curtailing immigration - both hot topics for farmers.

According to the farmer-funded DairyNZ, the $12 billion a year dairy sector provides 35,000 on-farm jobs, including contractors and staff, and 3774 of these jobs are currently filled by foreigners.

In press release titled “The Good, the Bad and the Ugly Policy on Offer,” issued last month, Federated Farmers said immigration had become a “hot potato” issue.

“None of the parties have policies which take immigration seriously enough,” Ms Milne said at the time.

“This issue is a political hot potato, and because of that, we are not dealing with our industry’s desperate need for good staff,” she said.

Outside farming issues, NZ First has been a strident critic of the of Reserve Bank Act, which focuses the central bank’s mandate on keeping annual inflation within a 1 to 3% range.

Inflation targeting has been a cornerstone of the New Zealand financial market since its introduction in 1989 but in speech made in July, Mr Peters said the act, with its focus on inflation, was handicapping the economy.