The Federated Farmers January Mid-Season Farm Confidence Survey shows the worst farmer confidence since 2009 when the Global Financial Crisis was biting hard, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“While there are international issues like Brexit and potential trade wars causing concern, most of the pessimism is resulting from Government policies.
“Since becoming Minister, Damien O’Connor has killed Government funding for water storage projects, signed-off a costly rebranding exercise of MPI, slashed research and development programmes and didn’t support funding calls for rural mental health support.
“Other potential headwinds adding to the unrest are proposed restrictions on hill country cropping, winter grazing restrictions, increased union access and the likely recommendation of the Tax Working Group to add a Capital Gains Tax to the family farm alongside a new suite of water and environmental taxes.
“Mr O’Connor has confirmed that when it comes to soaring costs and taxes on farmers that there are more coming. The Minister arrogantly told Rural News last year that farmers need to ‘get used to it’.
“This is on top of a skills shortage due to immigration policy, coupled with the Government sitting on its hands while letting Taratahi go into liquidation. The Government’s industrial relations reforms are set to increase costs even further, starting with a hike in the minimum wage on April 1.
“It seems the Primary sector – which is New Zealand’s biggest export earner – turns out to be the biggest loser under this Government. The Primary Sector is being punished by this Government’s policies, and farmers have every right to be in fear.
“It will take more than Shane Jones cynically dishing out cash to the regions to turn farmers confidence around.”
The Government’s refusal to rule out a red meat tax will come as a shock to the sector and shows just how little is safe from this Government’s plans to add more and more new taxes, National’s Agriculture Spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“Associate Health Minister Julie Anne Genter has refused to rule out a red meat tax following yet another report yesterday recommending yet more taxes, this time from the same people pushing for a sugar tax.
“Saying it’s not under active consideration ‘at this stage’ is sneaky. The Government needs to be upfront with Kiwi families and farmers if they have secret plans to add a tax to red meat or any other New Zealand industry.
“This announcement from a Green Party Minister which shows that this Government is continuing its attack on farmers proves how far this Government will go with any new taxes and adding to the cost of living.
“The red meat sector is worth around $9 billion of exports. Over 25,000 New Zealanders are employed and will be horrified the Government is not ruling out taxing the red meat industry.
“Where will this tax and spend agenda stop?
“The Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has already said that when it comes to soaring costs and taxes on farmers that there are more coming. The Minister arrogantly told farmers that they needed to ‘get used to it!’
“Mr O’Connor has signalled that a climate tax for farmers is coming, he has slashed the Primary Growth Partnership fund and the Government is refusing to fund any new water storage projects – despite a massive heat wave hitting us now.
“Meanwhile the Tax Working Group is about to propose a Capital Gains Tax on the family farm alongside a new suite of water and environmental taxes.
“Food producers are the backbone of the New Zealand’s economy. They expect better from the Government. I challenge Winston Peters and Jacinda Ardern to confirm whether a tax will be added to our red meat as proposed by the Green Party in Government.”
National’s Food Safety spokesperson Nathan Guy is backing calls from the food and grocery sector for tougher penalties for those who intentionally contaminate our food or threaten to do so.
“My Member’s Bill seeks to achieve what Damien O’Connor appears unwilling to do – protect New Zealanders from those that would threaten our food safety, be they reckless pranksters or people intent on nothing less than economic sabotage.
“Recent events here in New Zealand and across the Tasman, such as the strawberry needle scares, have identified the need for greater sanctions to prevent these sorts of idiotic behaviours. The food and grocery sector has been ignored in its calls for tougher laws.
“Australia has already acted, passing stricter laws that seek to deter these criminals who contaminate food and water sources. New Zealand now lags behind our near neighbour, meaning offenders have less to fear if they are caught.
“Food tampering is not only economic sabotage on farmers and growers but also poses significant risks for consumers and New Zealand’s reputation as a producer of high quality and safe food.
“Parliament should send a strong message to anyone who considers food tampering. New Zealand should not be seen as a soft touch, and it is unacceptable that the Government has ignored calls from industry for stiffer penalties.
“New Zealand’s current penalties for these crimes are aligned with those for offences relating to dishonesty and conspiracy. We would argue that this is much more serious.
“The Crimes (Contamination Offences) Amendment Bill would help deter this offending by creating three new offences in the Crimes Act and will increase those penalties to align them with the more serious offences of corruption, espionage, treason and piracy.
“The Bill would:
- Criminalise the contamination of food to cause public alarm, national economic loss or harm to public health with a penalty level of 14 years imprisonment.
- Criminalise making threats to contaminate food for those purposes with a penalty level of 10 years.
- Criminalise hoax statements that cause public alarm, national economic loss or harm to public health to 10 years.
- See the maximum term of imprisonment for intentionally contaminating food increase from 10 to 14 years.
“This Bill recognises the serious physical, psychological and economic effects of such actions. New Zealanders need to know their food is safe and manufacturers should be protected from economic loss such offenders can cause.
“I call on all parties in Parliament to support what is a common sense response to threats to our food safety. New Zealand shouldn’t be held to ransom by a reckless and foolish few.
National is disappointed by the news that the Taratahi Institute of Agriculture is going into interim liquidation, National MPs Paula Bennett and Nathan Guy say.
“The Government is bribing students into tertiary education through its fees free programme and yet is now allowing one of our biggest agricultural tertiary education providers to fold,” National’s Tertiary Education, Skills and Employment spokesperson Mrs Bennett says.
“This will have a huge impact on the around 900 students and 250 staff who were due to start and facilitate courses at Taratahi this summer.
“We believe Taratahi approached Ministers for cash flow of $4 million to keep it afloat but this Government has failed to support it. Taratahi needed just a fraction of the $2.8 billion fees free bribe or the $3 billion Provincial Growth Fund and yet Ministers couldn’t find the money to keep Taratahi training students while it worked through its issues.
“This Government has badly let down rural communities, students and staff. It talks up its support of the regions but has once again turned its back on them when it matters.”
“Wairarapa-based Taratahi and Southland’s Telford have a long-standing and valued place in primary sector education,” National’s Agriculture spokesperson Mr Guy says.
“This is a sad day for New Zealand agriculture. The performance of the primary sector is critical to our economy, and that depends on having well qualified, motivated and high-quality workers.
“We hope that Taratahi can be salvaged. The agricultural sector is dependent on farming graduates to serve the industry. Taratahi plays an important role in providing those graduates.
“The primary sector is growing and New Zealand needs 1,100 new workers each year. The much needed industry skills pipeline is now in jeopardy with around 900 fewer graduates.”
National is alarmed to learn today that the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) have found 26 live Brown Marmorated Stink Bugs (BMSB) in a box of imported shoes in Oamaru, National’s Biosecurity spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“The shoes were purchased from eBay and easily slipped through the border. Fortunately, the purchaser did the right thing, contained them, and alerted MPI’s hotline.
“MPI only have two sniffer dogs trained for stink bugs and this mail pathway is now creaking with Christmas shopping. The risk of a significant BMSB incursion is now an everyday risk.
“Labour and NZ First talked tough about biosecurity in the election campaign, but they’ve failed to deliver.
“Under Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor’s watch, MPI haven’t got enough personnel to get all of the dogs out of their kennels because of an alleged toxic culture within the detector dog management team in Auckland.
“Over 7600 passengers have walked through the Auckland International Airport green lane without being screened by detector dogs.
“I worry how many stink bugs are already driving around New Zealand in imported cars waiting to multiply and devastate our fruit crops.
“The cost of a stink bug outbreak could reach $4 billion and would be catastrophic for our horticulture industry.”
Landcorp's submission to Sir Michael Cullen's Tax Working Group (TWG) is a kick in the guts to rural communities, National’s Nathan Guy and David Carter say.
“Landcorp’s sneaky submission to the TWG proposing a water tax, nitrogen fertiliser tax and not opposing a capital gains tax proves how out of touch the state-owned company is with farmers on the ground,” Mr Guy says.
“With 6700 other submissions, why was Landcorp pressured to put in a submission that was more than a month late? The reality seems to be that the TWG are hell-bent on introducing environmental taxes and a capital gains tax, so they leaned on Landcorp to submit supporting more taxes and levies.
“To make matters worse, Landcorp’s submission wasn’t publicly listed on the TWG website until it became public through the Official Information Act last week. Why was this submission hidden?
“Farmers and growers nationwide have been working incredibly hard to improve their farming practices to reduce environmental impacts without government intervention and more taxes.
“Landcorp has taxpayers' money, the best tractors, the best laneways, the best of everything and it is out there saying it is holier than thou. Landcorp should be very careful about welcoming new taxes on hard-working farmers and growers when these taxes will not affect them.
“Primary sector bodies collectively submitted against new taxes and they feel deceived by Landcorp,” Mr Carter says.
“It’s clear that Shane Jones is not on top of his responsibilities and has been too busy doling out his provincial slush fund and not reining in Landcorp.
“More taxes will continue to drive up the cost of food and therefore the cost of living which will make us less competitive in international markets.
“Technology that helps inform practical farming decisions is the way forward for the agriculture industry, not more taxes.
“This is typical of this Government’s tax and spend attitude.”
NZTA’s decision to re-evaluate the Horowhenua Expressway from Otaki to north of Levin is not only siphoning investment out of the region but is also soul-destroying for the Horowhenua community, Local Otaki MP Nathan Guy.
“The future of the Horowhenua Expressway has been up in the air since June, and 400 affected land owners are likely to stay in limbo until Christmas Eve before they are told what the preferred route is.
“NZTA has continued to push out the deadline for deciding on which of the three potential routes will be used, but it is frustrating residents who are waiting in limbo.
“The Horowhenua Expressway will have a massive economic boost to the Horowhenua district and the wider region. Investment in the stretch of road would be worth hundreds of millions of dollars and a major boost to local businesses.
“The previous National Government recognised the importance of the route and developed plans for the road, but the Labour-led Government has since indicated they will be down-scaling the project and now have three options on the table.
“Rather than building the four lane expressway to future proof for continue economic growth in Horowhenua and the wider region, the Government is instead only going to build two lanes. With congestion in Levin already at a diabolical state, this is a short-sighted decision by the Government.
“It should be a priority to build this road out to four lanes given the focus on road safety in the Government Policy Statement on Transport, especially as this section of road has been described as ‘death highway’.
“National committed to major investment across New Zealand’s regions to fund much needed highway projects that would have dramatically reduced road harm, boosted growth, created jobs and provided economic opportunities.
“Unfortunately Transport Minister Phil Twyford has stripped back this investment in order to fund a tram set in Auckland.
“Residents want a fast decision so they can get on with life, but the Government is making them wait while the Minister prioritises central Auckland trams. It’s not good enough.”
The opening of the final stage of the Central Plains Water Scheme yesterday is an excellent success for water storage and forward thinking in New Zealand, National Agriculture Spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“The scheme was started by Canterbury farmers concerned about prolonged droughts in the 1990s and has gone from strength to strength on the back of strong support from National through the Irrigation Acceleration Fund and Crown Irrigation while in Government.
“The project is generating $1 billion per year of increased productivity to the region and created 700 jobs.
“There are also many environmental benefits with groundwater takes being replaced with surplus river water. This leaves one to two Lake Taupo’s of water in the local aquifer each year, which is positive for Lake Ellesmere.
“Individual farms also have to meet strict environmental regulations and have very detailed farm management plans.
“Next year, pipework will help replenish the Selwyn River during winter months which will help feed the lowland streams during summer months and make a difference for aquatic life and recreation users.
“The big disappointment going forward is the Coalition Government’s support for water storage projects has dried up.
“It is short-sighted not to realise that water storage will protect us against a warming climate and enhance food security.”
Biosecurity Minister Damien O'Connor confirmed in Parliament yesterday that there have been no detector dogs working at Auckland International Airport between 2-5am for nine months, National Biosecurity Spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“This is shocking and making matters worse over 7560 passengers have wandered through the green lane without being adequately checked. On average every passenger carries two bags, so over 15,000 items bearing potential biosecurity risk have gone through without screening.
“With the height of fruit fly and stink bug season approaching this is embarrassing for Mr O’Connor as his Government talked tough on biosecurity but have left farmers and growers livelihoods at risk.
“The irony is that today the Government has launched a social media campaign about the importance of biosecurity for 4.7 million New Zealanders – yet they can’t even staff Auckland International Airport properly with detector dogs to stop pests arriving in the first place.
“The dog detector unit is a small, close-knit team who typically take their role of protecting New Zealand’s borders very seriously. However, they have been undermined by a toxic work culture and poor management.
“These issues have led to a huge amount of resignations, and now the dogs are left to snooze while pests flood into New Zealand in the early hours of the morning which has created a ticking time bomb.”
Revelations that detector dogs have been snoozing while thousands of passengers stroll through Auckland International Airport unchecked by biosecurity sniffer dogs is very concerning, National’s Biosecurity spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“I’m shocked to hear of workforce issues and allegations of bullying and a toxic culture within management overseeing the team.
“It beggars belief that MPI intentionally have no dogs working on the green lane at Auckland Airport, between 2-5am - so dog handlers can sleep in.
“This lax approach is a real concern especially as spring and summer are the highest risk period for stink bugs and fruit flies. These incursions would hammer the horticulture industry and have broader implications for New Zealanders.
“It has become clear that Biosecurity Minister Damien O’Connor is not across the detail on his biosecurity portfolio. He admitted in Parliament yesterday that he didn’t even know that this was an issue until that morning. This is unbelievable.
“Despite Mr O’Connor talking tough on biosecurity during the election campaign, the Minister has confirmed that no new money has been invested into airport biosecurity since he has been Minister.
“National funded an extra 20 dogs, taking the number to 60 - but Mr O’Connor has left them in the kennel. He will have to take responsibility for the next big incursion via the passenger pathway which is just around the corner.”