The Government is holding back regional New Zealand through its opposition to water storage projects which help grow jobs in the regions, boost exports and provide environmental sustainability National’s Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor’s description of funding for irrigation projects as ‘unnecessary’ will come as a huge shock to farmers - especially when he supports the construction of the Waimea Dam in his local area.
O’Connor’s stance that the Government will leave it to farmers and growers to 100% fund these schemes on their own is just as bad.
“The dry weather conditions and drought help prove that water storage is absolutely necessary. It reduces the need for ground water extraction and can enhance the environment by guaranteeing minimum river flows during dry summers
“Crown Irrigation Investments officials only this week told Select Committee MPs that stakeholders are ‘confused and anxious’ about the Government’s priorities for water storage and irrigation projects and this confusion is adding to declining business confidence overall.
“It’s no wonder people are confused - the Labour/NZ First coalition agreement says they will honour irrigation agreements, while the Labour/Greens one says they will be winding down Government support for irrigation. NZ First have also publicly stated they will support ‘localised’ projects.
“Right now, five specific - construction ready - irrigation projects (all considered ‘localised’ by officials) are on hold while funding allocated by the previous National Government is parked up. To make matters worse, many farmers and growers and Councils have themselves invested in developing these schemes and this 45,000 hectare investment is now at real risk.
The coalition Government has a moral and legal obligation to honour existing agreements and these five schemes have taken over a decade to be bulldozer ready in 2018.
“While the Government is in Waitangi trying to convince Northland iwi they want to work with them, they are in actually holding the region back. Water storage projects for Northland could irrigate up to 92,000 hectares, and provide over 3400 jobs.
“This Government is squabbling internally while the ground dries and opportunities burn.”
The Northland Regional Council’s irrigation study can be found here.
The five irrigation projects on hold are in:
- Waimea (Tasman District)
- Kurow/Duntroon (Central Otago)
- Hurunui (North Canterbury)
- Flaxbourne (Marlborough)
- Hunter Downs (South Canterbury)
The cynical timing of a review of the Primary Growth Partnership over the summer break illustrates the coalition Government’s priorities do not lie with growing the primary sector, National Party Spokesperson for Primary Industries Nathan Guy says.
“Stakeholders have been given an impossibly small window of opportunity to provide feedback on the Government’s mindless proposals – it looks like the January 14 deadline has been set to ensure as little feedback as possible.
“MPI officials have even acknowledged that “this is not the best time of the year for such an exercise”.
“This is a slap in the face from the Government that claimed it would operate with openness and transparency.
“It’s clear that the tight time frames over the summer break are because the Minister doesn’t want any critical feedback from those on the front line of innovation.
“To make matters worse, there will be no new funding allocated to programmes while the review analysis is underway - and that’s likely to take several months.
“This all comes on the back of raiding $17 million from the PGP to fund an unnecessary rebranding of MPI.
“Damien O’Connor talks up how more collaboration is needed in the Primary Sector, yet doesn’t seem to realise it’s staring him in the face.”
Mr Guys says projects funded by the PGP include the Red Meat Profit Partnership which has six different meat entities working together to add value in the meat sector, as well as the Lifestyle Wines programme which has 11 wineries collaborating to produce wine with lower calories and alcohol.
“This review is blatantly timed to slip under the radar and is a smokescreen for the Government to raid research and development funding from the Primary Sector.
“Stakeholders have every reason to be very nervous of this new Government’s attitude towards the Primary Sector.”
The Minister for Primary Industries needs to officially declare a drought and mobilise the support mechanisms in place for farmers before it’s too late, National’s Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“NIWA’s Drought Index shows that most of the North Island is already either in drought or headed towards severe drought without substantial rain soon, and Westpac has today announced a relief package for farmers who’re already feeling the pressure.
“The Drought Index is a new scientific tool to help the Minister confirm when areas are in need of Government support, but it is being ignored.
“Damien O’Connor appears more focussed on rebranding MPI than supporting farmers and growers, proving yet again he was serious when he said the new Government would be “no friend of the farmer”.
“Worryingly, Rural Support Trust chair Neil Baker has confirmed the support line is taking more calls than ever from stressed farmers.
“The pressures drought brings are enormous. Watching helplessly as pasture and waterways evaporate, and livestock begin to suffer, is soul-destroying.
“Farmers are not immune to depression, and their isolation doesn’t help matters.
“Overarching all of this is the lack of clarity around irrigation projects. The Government is rapidly backing its way out of obligations to fund water storage and irrigation projects, and there has been talk of Shane Jones’ $1 billion regional development fund being used to help ‘localised’ water storage projects - but there has been no clarification as to what ‘localised’ actually means.
“Farmers, growers and rural communities deserve certainty about what is happening with these projects, instead of being made to anxiously wait while officials report back to Ministers by the end of summer.
“In the meantime, I urge Damien O’Connor to declare a medium scale adverse drought event, and at least enable some short term relief for farmers,” Mr Guy says.
To access the NIWA Drought Index go to the NIWA websitehttps://www.niwa.co.nz/climate/information-and-resources/drought-monitor
The Minister of Agriculture has announced millions of dollars will be spent on a wasteful and ill-conceived rebrand of the Ministry for Primary Industries, National’s Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“Damien O’Connor has announced that almost $20 million will be spent on splitting up a well-functioning Ministry all to appease the demands of Labour’s coalition.
“It’s nothing more than a pointless rebranding exercise. We put these three agencies together in 2011 and it’s a complete waste of money to pull them apart again.
“The worst part of it is though, that the money is essentially being fleeced from the Primary Growth Partnership Fund – used for essential research and development - to pay for bureaucracy.
“It’s just a waste of taxpayers’ money which would have been better invested in growing our primary industries,” Mr Guy says.
The Minister of Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, is under pressure on many fronts and his recent quote to the media that his Government “isn’t going to be a friend of the farmer” is already playing out, National’s spokesperson for Primary Industries Nathan Guy says.
The Primary Production Select Committee yesterday heard from NIWA and the Met Service that many parts of New Zealand are quickly approaching drought conditions. The Committee also heard from the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and Crown Irrigation Investments Limited (CIIL) that all irrigation projects currently receiving Government support are under review, due to the coalition agreement that states no new projects will be funded.
“Parts of New Zealand are in drought-like conditions already and this underpins why water storage is crucial. The new Government has a legal and moral duty to carry on supporting schemes in good faith, not backslide out of its obligations.
“Shane Jones $1 billion regional development fund may cover localised projects, but there’s no clarification as to what is considered a ‘localised’ project. Farmers and rural communities need certainty about the progress of these schemes now - not wait for officials to report back to Ministers at the end of Summer.
“There is further uncertainty for farmers, growers and taxpayers over the cost of smashing apart MPI, not to mention the thousands of employees suddenly facing unclear futures.
“In Parliament yesterday the Minister confirmed he has received a detailed briefing paper on the costs of creating the three new MPI entities (Forestry and Fisheries, as well as Food Safety and Biosecurity), but he stated there’s “no public interest” in releasing that information.
“Damien O’Connor is using an excuse normally used for information that is commercially sensitive, private or involving national security.
“It’s likely the briefing will detail tens of millions of dollars of spending on new office space, four new chief executive salaries, new IT systems, legal advice – and so much more disruption.
“I understand there is significant push back from MPI and the State Services Commission (SSC) who oppose the plans. The advice given by them will probably show how they are suggesting a work around to avoid tipping MPI on its head.
They are likely to propose things like changing uniforms and stickers on doors to avoid the Ministers sledgehammer and help him save face when the costs and uncertainty just don’t stack up.
“Just as this new Government is talking up its capacity for transparency, Mr O’Connor is being shifty.
“It’s hard to have faith in the coalition Government when he isn’t being upfront with farmers and exporters and this sort of secrecy keeps occurring,” Mr Guy says.
The evidence this new Government will be no friend to farmers continues to stack up, National’s Primary Industry spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“During Question Time yesterday, I asked Regional Development Minister Shane Jones whether his $1 billion fund will support regional water storage and irrigation projects that can grow jobs and exports, and enhance the environment.
“Alarmingly, all he could say was that the final criteria for this fund is yet to be determined.
“The new Minister has $1 billion to throw around – and yet he won’t commit to a project in his own backyard. I’ve seen a recent report showing a water storage project in Northland alone could irrigate 92,000 hectares and create 3,400 jobs.
“Signs of an early drought in parts of the country are a real concern to farmers and growers with NIWA recently predicting a ‘big dry’. That this Government appears to be refusing to back any new regional water storage is a real kick in the guts to provincial New Zealand,” Mr Guy says.
“When I look at the results of last week’s annual River Awards, I can’t help but think this Government is not taking an evidence-based approach to its heavy-handed proposals to restrict water usage, and is coming down unnecessarily hard on irrigators,” he says.
“The awarding of the Supreme River to the Pahau River in North Canterbury proves it’s possible to expand irrigation while, at the same time, improve water quality.
“The irrigated area in the Pahau catchment has grown from 18,000ha to 28,000ha over the last decade but Ecoli levels have been reduced by 16% per year over the same period.
NIWA and the Cawthron Institute judged that this was the greatest improvement of any river in New Zealand.
“The Government’s rigid opposition to any new water storage schemes simplistically assumes more irrigation means more pollution – but they cannot and should not ignore such an endorsement from these scientific institutes.
“National’s policy is to support water storage schemes that improve water quality, as well as create jobs in rural communities. But for all their rhetoric, Mr Jones and New Zealand First are passing up a golden opportunity to enhance regional economic development all because they’re hog-tied to the ideologies of Labour and the Greens,” Mr Guy says.
A re-elected National Government will strengthen biosecurity rules, toughen penalties for stock rustling and help exporters add value, National Party Primary Industries Spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“These policies will help grow and protect the primary sector sustainably, and support our goal of doubling the value of our exports to $64 billion by 2025,” Mr Guy says.
“We are proud to support the primary sector which is the powerhouse of New Zealand’s economy, helping us earn a living and pay for social services.
“National will review and strengthen our Import Health Standards to make sure we are preventing unwanted pests and diseases from reaching our shores as much as practically possible.
“We will also review and update the Biosecurity Act to modernise it in line with our Biosecurity 2025 strategy.
“Biosecurity has always been my number one priority as Minister and funding is now at a record level of nearly a quarter of a billion dollars. It’s important that legislation and regulations are supporting this investment.
“National will also adopt MP Ian McKelvie’s Stock Rustling Bill and put it higher on the legislative agenda. This will toughen the penalties and send a stronger message to stock rustlers that if they’re caught, there will be serious consequences.
“We will also investigate how Government assurances could be used to authenticate higher standards of production by New Zealand producers. This could help send a strong message to overseas markets and help our products attract a premium.
“National’s approach is in strong contrast to that of opposition parties who want to hammer farmers and growers with new taxes and more regulation while opposing free trade and sensible immigration.”
A National Government will help young families into their first farms by allowing young farmers to buy state owned farms after they’ve worked the land for five to ten years.
“The Government owns a large number of commercial farms through Landcorp, but there is no clear public good coming from Crown ownership and little financial return to taxpayers,” Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“We think that some of these farms are better off in the hands of hard working young farming families who are committed to modern farming and environmental best practice.
“National will direct Landcorp to lease these farms to young farmers, and give them the opportunity to buy them at market rates when they have built up enough capital.
“Many farming families got their start through the old Land and Survey ballot process and we want to give that opportunity to more New Zealanders.
“This is a win-win policy that will help more young Kiwis into farming, and put taxpayer money from the sales towards things they care about,” Mr Guy says.
The farms will be awarded on a lease-to-buy arrangement, with leases awarded by a panel and ballot, and prioritised towards young farmers who have experience at running a farming operation, and have not already had sole ownership of one before.
The leasee will be required to work the farm continuously themselves for at least five years before being able to purchase it, or longer if they need more time to build up capital.
“National is committed to working with our farmers to tackle environmental challenges and to encourage sustainable farming practices to mitigate the impacts of farming on the environment,” Mr Guy says.
“We are making real progress, much of that driven by a new generation of young farmers. To build on that farmers wanting to buy these Landcorp farmers will have to demonstrate a commitment to sustainable farming methods, and outline their plans to continue to do so.”
Mr Guy says he expects around 100 young farming families to benefit from the programme.
“Not all of Landcorp’s 150 farms will be sold. Many are subject to Treaty claims and others have a right-of-first-refusal for Iwi – and these rights will of course be respected. Some of Landcorp’s larger farms will be divided into smaller units more appropriate for first-time owners.
“We expect it will take over a decade to complete the sale and settlement process for the farms that are included in this programme. Any revenue generated by the sales will be reinvested in public services.
“National will ensure we help more young families into farms. We are committed to working with our rural communities to ensure New Zealand continues to lead the world on sustainable farming,” Mr Guy says.
National today released its plan for regional New Zealand and committed to working with regional communities to grow jobs and incomes and tackle challenges, rather than imposing new taxes which will stall the economy and punish hardworking New Zealanders, Simon Bridges and Nathan Guy say.
“New Zealanders now have a very clear choice between two very different visions for New Zealand this election,” Economic Development spokesperson Simon Bridges says.
“National has a plan to keep New Zealand moving forward - a confident plan for a confident and growing country.
“Labour doesn’t have a plan. They want to risk our success through unclear policies and higher taxes, and that’s not good enough.
“New Zealanders have worked too hard. We are a nation of growing opportunities – together we’re creating more jobs, growing family incomes, building new infrastructure and delivering better public services.
“We have been able to do all of that together because of the hard work and enterprise of New Zealanders, backed by National’s clear economic plan.”
National’s six-point plan for regional New Zealand is:
- Raising family incomes and delivering more jobs
- Building the infrastructure to support growth in our regions
- Helping regional businesses to grow
- Getting government finances in order
- Investing even more in world-class public services for regional New Zealand
- And we won’t impose new taxes which will take New Zealand backwards
“Labour wants to hit our regions with new taxes that would slow New Zealand down – a capital gains tax, a water tax, a land tax, a regional fuel tax and an inheritance tax as well as adding farmers to the Emissions Trading Scheme,” Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“National wants hard-working New Zealanders to keep more of what they earn. Under National someone on the average wage will receive a tax cut of $1000 per year on 1 April –tax cuts Labour has promised to cancel.
“The primary sector is the backbone of our economy and National backs the hard-work and commitment of our farmers and growers.
“We believe in the ability of our rural communities to tackle the tough issues and to get ahead, backed by a Government that supports them. Our primary sector has been doing it for decades and that’s why they are among the most efficient in the world.
“The products of their hard work are sold and savoured around the world and National is committed to ensuring they have even more opportunities to sell their produce to more markets through growing our international trade connections. That’s how you grow regional economies.
“National will work with regional New Zealand and with farmers and growers and we will back them to succeed.”
A National Government will partner with farmers and growers to develop new farming technology and practices that lift productivity and further reduce farming’s environmental footprint.
“National will turbo-charge the Sustainable Farming Fund, which will be renamed the Future of Farming Fund, by boosting its funding from $7 million to $20 million per year for investment in agricultural science and innovation,” Primary Industries spokesperson Nathan Guy says.
“We know we have some great emerging technologies and techniques like precision farming. We also increasingly have the latest communications networks as a result of our Rural Broadband Initiative. This fund will take that technology and roll it out around our farming sector.
“A cross-sector Future of Farming Panel will oversee the Fund’s direction and drive the innovation and investment. The panel will include representatives from industry, science and environmental groups and other stakeholders.
“Food production is hugely important to this country. We are the world’s largest dairy exporter and we account for three quarters of the world’s trade in sheep meat. We produce high quality food more efficiently than anyone else and our farmers strive to do that with as little environmental impact as possible.
“This Fund will take us to the next level of sophistication in world-leading farming practices.”
Mr Guy says working together is a much better way to achieve change than being at loggerheads with the farming sector and regional New Zealand.
“As we are showing already, we can achieve far greater things in new farming practices by working with farmers and not against them. We can improve our environmental footprint while at the same time growing the value of our exports, growing jobs and growing the strength of regional New Zealand,” Mr Guy says.
“Our opponents might think punitively taxing farmers is the right approach, but you won’t get better environmental outcomes by making farmers and regional New Zealand poorer.
“To help focus the Future of Farming Panel and industry, we will set a target of doubling the value of our agritech industry to $6 billion by 2025,” Mr Guy says.
“We want the latest soil sensors, farm management software and diagnostic tools all developed and used here, and exported to the world.
“Through the Future of Farming Fund we can achieve more productivity and sustainability, and create more jobs by exporting our agricultural technologies and expertise around the world.
“There is a clear divide in this election between those that want to work with the farming sector and those that want to punish it, with four new taxes at last count.
“National understands regional New Zealand and will work with our primary industries to improve our environmental footprint and stay at the cutting edge of farm technologies worldwide.”
The new funding of $13 million per annum will come from Budget 2018’s operating allowance.