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.”
The Government’s Tax Working Group has today suggested a capital gains tax on the sale of farms, National’s Agriculture Spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“Sir Michael Cullen spent years as a Labour Party Minister of Finance unsuccessfully trying to introduce a Capital Gains Tax on the family farm.
“Today’s report confirms that Sir Michael has not given up his crusade against New Zealand farmers. And this Government is going to let him.
“Farmers and growers will also be concerned that Labour’s water tax is back on the agenda and is being actively considered by the Tax Working Group.
“Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has confirmed 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 previously signalled that a climate tax for farmers was coming, he has slashed the Primary Growth Partnership fund and the Government is refusing to fund any new water storage projects.
“The Minister has already stated being the ‘friend of the farmer’ isn’t necessarily his Government’s objective. Today’s Tax Working Group confirm that this is indeed the case.
“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 Capital Gains Tax will be imposed on future farms sales.”
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has finally accepted that the Primary Growth Partnership (PGP) is a valuable initiative for the primary sector, National‘s Agriculture spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“Despite previously labelling it a ‘slush fund for National’s mates,’ Mr O’Connor has finally discovered the value of the PGP after spending $100,000 to have it reviewed.
“He was hoping the review he kicked off last summer would give him his much wanted justification to destroy it, but instead the review revealed how essential it was.
“Industry and producers knew all along that PGP was the right approach as it was turbocharging much-needed R&D in the primary sector.
“Mr O’Connor clearly knows he got it wrong, telling the recent Red Meat conference he was going to ‘swallow a small mouse’ in reference to the positive appraisal provided by his reviewer.
“This Government has established 150-odd working groups and reviews. When one reports back saying a programme is working well and delivering for New Zealand, the Minister tries to hide it.
“Mr O’Connor has already raided $17 million from the PGP to rebrand MPI, and now he’s at it again - rebranding PGP as ‘Sustainable Food & Fibre Futures programme.’
“What he’s forgotten to tell farmers, growers and processors is that he’s slashed the funding by nearly half.
“National was investing $78 million a year for PGP and the Sustainable Farming Fund. This is now reduced to just $40 million a year and makes a mockery of adding value to what we produce in partnership, by using science, research and innovation.
“Mr O’Connor needs to explain why he has halved the funding and what message this sends to our most important export sector.”
While some changes to the National Animal Identification and Tracking Act (NAIT) are needed, Parliament has been denied the opportunity to properly scrutinise Government amendments which may not be in the best interests of farmers, National’s Agriculture Spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has had months to introduce this Bill into Parliament, but instead he expanded wide-ranging search powers under urgency.
“Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) will be able to turn up to farmers’ properties without getting a warrant and seize anything they want, unannounced and without cause.
“National asked Mr O’Connor to send the Bill to select committee during the two-week recess to allow public input and ensure there are no unintended consequences for farmers, but the Minister refused.
“National proposed amendments during the debate that an officer needs reasonable cause to suspect non-compliance with NAIT before entering the property.
“We also proposed that these wide-ranging warrantless powers being curtailed, so a NAIT officer can't seize property without obtaining a warrant.
“Unfortunately, both of these safeguard amendments were voted down by the Government.
“However, National did successfully move an amendment that requires the Minister to report to Parliament next year on how these expanded powers are being used. We will await this review with a great deal of interest.
“National reluctantly supported the legislation to improve NAIT’s performance but remain gravely concerned about the process and invasion of farmer’s privacy.”