NZ Farmer - Deafening silence over water tax disappointing - Opinion

As a small time dairy farmer in the far flung Far North I would possibly not be directly affected by the Labour Party's proposed water tax. However since the idea was mooted, I feel physically and mentally badly affected by it.

It's very strange indeed, I am actually finding this difficult to write as my feelings against the suggested policy and the potential ramifications of it are so abhorrent to me.

The deafening silence in the wake of Jacinda Adern's proposal is also scaring me. There should be an outpouring of national outrage against the ideology of charging food producers taxes on natural inputs – whether the charges are called royalties, taxes or fees.

Putting legislation in place to control water leaving our shores in plastic bottles is a separate issue.

Even the suggestion of charging food producers for water – for charging any New Zealander for water should have the country up in arms. But it hasn't and that is so bad.

The proposed water tax is setting such a bad precedent and there is no way it should be entertained at all.

Perhaps it should be no surprise after all this is the same party – Labour - that called farming a 'sunset' industry back in the 1980s. In 1988 the late David Lange said: "Farming is a sunset industry and manufacturing and tourism will take its place."

Manufacturing and tourism would also be changing the environment – yet farmers, who have been sustaining this country right from 1882 when the first successful refrigerated meat shipment left this country for Britain, seem to bear the brunt of environmental criticism. This is despite having a proven track record for recognising issues and implementing practical solutions.

New Zealanders must have short memories. Farmers have literally carved this country's economy out of the ground since the early pioneers first arrived.

They grow food for you so you don't have to.

Sure, attitudes and perceptions have changed particularly regarding the degradation of the environment, but surely no one is more aware of this than the farmers themselves who live and work in the natural environment every day.

Cultures and attitudes change, not overnight, but they do change and in my opinion the New Zealand farming community is a great example of people who are willing and capable of change.

But what gets me ropeable is the trite announcement that irrigators must pay a water tax. I could just imagine how hard it would have been to do any type of farming In Canterbury for example where the rainfall is unreliable.

A whole lifetime's work could be wiped out by a drought. And when there is hungry mouths to feed in this world, little wonder governments, local bodies and farmers have invested in irrigation to make the land productive and reliable. It hasn't come for free.

But now it seems like Labour and their cronies are looking over the fence and somehow seeing success and wanting to put the boot in. Why do they think the irrigated farmers have millions of dollars just lying around to give away? It's grossly unfair.

And if any voter thinks the fallout from taxing food producers for water isn't going to affect them, they have not thought it through.

Food producers in New Zealand should not be being slammed by irresponsible government policy. They do an admirable job in a very difficult field, but it seems to me New Zealanders have taken it all for granted.

Food producers in New Zealand are unsubsidised unlike most modern country's where the government sees its way fit to give farmers financial security using taxpayers' money – because they can obviously see the big picture.

Do New Zealanders need to go hungry before they realise Jacinda Adern et al are biting the hand that feeds us?

Lyn Webster is a Northland dairy farmer.