Time to Bridge Divide

Meat Industry Association (MIA) chair John Loughlin says he is concerned about the “expedient politicking” that went on during the recent election campaign.

Loughlin told Rural News his impression of the election campaign was of some parties trying to advance their constituency of urban voters essentially by taking a very hard line on rural issues.

This had the effect of driving a wedge between the two sectors, he says.

“In some respects it went to extremes during the course of the election and that is unhelpful to what New Zealand needs. Essentially NZ is a highly urbanised society in terms of its population, but we have massive economic reliance on the rural sector so both sectors have to co-exist intelligently.”

Loughlin believes the rural sector has a lot of work to do to correct people’s incorrect perceptions. But he also acknowledges there are issues the rural sector must work on.

“NZ has become the only major OECD country where the population has become highly urbanised but still relies very heavily on the rural sector for its export earnings,” he said.

“Over time, people from the urban sector have lost understanding about the realities of farming and the realities of rural life. Also, in farming areas and urban areas there has been degradation of rivers. People in the cities expect to come to the country and find pristine rivers and in some cases they are not up to what they should be.”

Loughlin says the rural sector must embark on a big communication exercise, but also change position on some subjects.