Hawke’s Bay has been in the midst of a significant Tuberculosis (TB) outbreak for some time and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor has been slow to act, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“Despite OSPRI confirming an outbreak in Hawke’s Bay in April last year, a disease management response wasn’t put in place until October.
“Since then there has been more positive tests and from the 1st of March this year one third of Hawke’s Bay will be under stock movement controls.
“Damien O’Connor still describes it as a ‘small outbreak’, but the Chief Executive of OSPRI has confirmed that the Stock Movement Control being put in place is the largest in Hawke's Bay history.
“TB is a devastating disease and it is important outbreak responses are timely and thorough. The Minister has not been across the details and this is concerning when considering the seriousness of the issue.
“New Zealand has been working towards eradicating TB for decades and the last National Government invested heavily in achieving this, with an extra $69.8 million of funding provided in 2016 and the Predator Free 2050 plan kicked off, which would prevent pests like possums and ferrets spreading the disease.
“Responses like this need to be fronted quickly for the sake of our valuable beef and dairy sector. The Minister needs to be across his portfolio and ensure these issues don’t sneak past him.”
A Members’ Bill that would ensure all sunscreens on the shelf meet our standards and actually provide the protection they claim has been lodged in the ballot, Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller says.
“New Zealand has one of the highest rates of skin cancer and melanoma in the world. Last year our non-melanoma skin cancer rates hit an all-time high.
“We have a joint sunscreen standard with Australia, which prescribes product tests and labelling requirements, but both countries take different approaches to applying this.
“The standard is mandatory in Australia but voluntary in New Zealand, meaning anyone can make a sunscreen and sell it here without having to test that it actually provides the protection claimed.
“New Zealanders need to have confidence in the SPF claims made by sunscreen manufacturers. Voluntary compliance with the standard is simply not good enough.
“The Government has promised to act but it hasn’t. Its consultation process ended in April and is only about a new regulatory regime. New Zealanders are heading into a long, hot summer – they can’t wait any longer.
“My Members’ Bill would require the Minister of Commerce and Consumer affairs to recommend the setting of mandatory regulation under Section 29 of the Fair Trading Act 1986, prescribing a product safety standard for sunscreen products.
“Skin cancer hits close to home for me. I’ve had a number of minor skin cancers removed from my face and body and others in my wider family have had melanoma.
“It is absolutely critical that my young family and our wider community have complete confidence in the sunscreens they are using.”
Te Papa’s Chair Hon. Dame Fran Wilde has disappointedly failed to apologise for the museum’s misleading water display, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“Farmers have been rightfully upset about the museum’s decision to use a bottle of dyed brown water to represent rural waterways, which farmers have put an enormous amount of work and money into cleaning up over recent years.
“Today in Select Committee the Chair admitted that the exhibit was illustrative only and that information had been added and labels changed in reaction to the fiery farmer response.
“While these changes are welcomed the display does not frame up the complex connections between farming and water in a science-based way. Putting brown dye in water to represent farm streams is wrong, and no amount of label changing will fix that.
“I am concerned that Te Papa exhibit designs are moving away from science and embracing a simplistic customer experience.
“I hope that the planned next step in the New Zealand natural environment exhibit will ensure that the farmers’ voice is heard and included. Farmers have posted hundreds of videos online of their streams so Te Papa has plenty of material to work with.
“Dame Fran signalled a commitment to work constructively with primary sector leaders in strengthening the farmer perspective within the museum and invited me to attend her meeting with them in the new year.
“I welcome this initiative and will take her up on this offer. The public debate must start tilting back towards the value our farmers bring to their communities and wider environment.”
Damian O’Conner has badly let down rural New Zealand by not requesting economic and social analysis on his Government’s freshwater proposals, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“Ministry for Primary Industries officials revealed today in Select Committee that they did not conduct any economic or social modelling prior to the release of the proposals, nor did the Agriculture Minister ask them to.
“It is Damien O’Connor’s responsibility to look out for rural communities and make sure the facts are laid out before hammering them with the most significant policy proposal farmers have faced in years.
“His ministry printed in its 2019 Annual Review that ‘prosperity’ is its number one value, yet officials don’t appear to have thought of the prosperity of rural communities in this instance.
“Organisations such as Dairy NZ, Local Government New Zealand, AgFirst and others have been forced to pick up the slack and provide their own analysis, which paints a picture of huge costs and enormous land use change.
“Tens of thousands of farmers have provided detailed submissions to the Government because they’re concerned about the impact these proposals will have on their businesses.
“The Minister has failed them by not asking for detailed analysis from his ministry and making the data available for consideration. No wonder farmers’ confidence is at all-time lows.”
NZQA needs to front up to concern that has been created by questions in their exams painting a one-sided picture of New Zealand’s farmers, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“Students who sat their NCEA level three English exam were tasked with a question that described waterways as being ravaged by farmers and spoke of a ‘town vs country’ divide.
“There needs to be some balance in how our education system portrays farmers. We have the most sustainable farmers in the world but this rarely gets mentioned.
“Coupled with our national museum Te Papa advising our children they should be giving up meat and dairy for the sake of the environment, there is a concern our kids are being convinced that farming drives environmental degradation.
“Farmers’ confidence is at all-time lows, and this just adds to the pressure that is being heaped onto them by Government policy. They feel that anti-farming sentiment is becoming insidious in this country.
“We should be encouraging young Kiwis to be New Zealand’s next sustainable food producers, rather than pushing them away from the industry.
“New Zealand farmers have made massive gains over recent decades and continue to stay ahead of the pack in terms of efficiency and sustainability. Over the last five years dairy farmers have fenced off over 98 per cent of waterways and spent over $1 billion in environmental investment.
“NZQA need to ensure they’re teaching this side of the story as well.”
National MPs have joined hundreds of farmers who arrived at Parliament today to express how disillusioned they are with this Government’s anti-farming policies, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“Farmers used to say there are three things they needed to worry about; interest rates, commodity prices and the weather. It now appears the list has four things on it, with the Coalition Government’s policies belonging at the top.
“The Coalition Government’s disdain for farmers was made apparent when Minister of Forestry Shane Jones labelled those attending ‘rednecks’. While the Minister for Agriculture Damien O’Connor inferred that their points were ‘fiction’ and didn’t even stay to hear what they had to say.
“This is a remarkable show of disrespect to hundreds of farmers who travelled a long way to have their say, and Minister Jones should apologise.
“One of the major concerns voiced by those attending was the many hectares of pastoral farmland being converted to pine trees. Amazingly the Minister of Agriculture has no idea how much has been converted, and continues to tell farmers that they’re wrong and spreading ‘misinformation’.
“This is despite there being 12,000 hectares sold for forestry in the Wairarapa in the past 12 months alone.
“Farmers’ confidence is at all-time lows, and as well as grappling with the effect of land-use changes they’ve put up with a plethora of Government policies and proposals that have only added to uncertainty around the future of their businesses.
“There has been the Tax Working Group report and the subsequent uncertainty of a Capital Gains Tax campaign, a proposed water tax, a proposal for agriculture entering the Emissions Trading Scheme and now the Freshwater proposals and cynical consultation process surrounding them.
“Farmers are rightfully sick of this Government and good on them for speaking up today. It’s just a shame the Government continues refusing to listen.”
Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller’s Members’ Bill giving clarity around dividend rules has passed its final reading in Parliament with unanimous support.
“My Members’ Bill, the Companies (Clarification of Dividend Rules in Companies) Amendment Bill, will amend the Companies Act 1993 to provide legal certainty around dividend rules,” Mr Muller says.
“I’m delighted this simple amendment, which received cross-party support as well as the support of Cooperative Business New Zealand and Zespri, has passed.
“It clears up long-standing doubt around the ability of a company’s constitution to provide for ‘dry shares’, which do not carry a right to receive dividends in certain circumstances and are typically used in cooperatives.
“Most of my professional career has been spent in New Zealand’s agricultural sector, where cooperatives flourish, and I know first-hand the issues that have arisen as a result of the confusion previously inherent in the Companies Act 1993.
“Previously, conflicting interpretations of sections 36 and 53 of the Act called the provision of dry shares into question, creating challenges for a number of businesses.
“Now, companies can confidently provide a class of shares that does not confer the right to receive dividends in circumstances specified by their constitution.
“This law will give much-needed clarity to companies and shareholders and builds on the work the previous National Government did to make doing business easier.”
Dairy NZ’s economic modelling of the Government’s freshwater package shows the enormous cost the proposed regulations will have on the farming sector, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“The Government failed to provide any economic analysis in their discussion document, which has meant organisations such as Dairy NZ have been forced to do their work for them.
“Dairy NZ’s analysis shows a potential annual $6 billion hit to our GDP by 2050, due to an estimated 24 per cent drop in milk production and 5.2 per cent drop in national exports. As well as 15 – 20 per cent fewer jobs in the dairy industry.
“Farmers’ confidence has been plummeting recently as a result of this Government’s policies, and the scale of these economic projections will only cause it to drop even further.
“The Government should have provided national level analysis showing what the proposals will do to New Zealand’s economy and regional level analysis that considers what they will mean for rural communities.
“Organisations such as Dairy NZ, Local Government New Zealand, AgFirst and others have conducted good work into the proposals and provided key economic analysis where the Government has failed to.
“Farmers who will be affected by these proposals deserve to have the facts in front of them and the Government should have been providing them from the start.”
Rabobank’s latest survey shows farmers' confidence is continuing to drop and they remain concerned about the future of their industry, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“Rabobank’s data released this morning shows that farmers are becoming increasingly concerned about the primary sector, with the Government’s policies highlighted as the key concern.
“The survey shows that 68 per cent of farmers holding a negative outlook cite the Government as the main reason.
“It’s not surprising considering the continued onslaught of uncertainty and costs that farmers have seen since this Government came to power, whether it be the Tax Working Group report and subsequent Capital Gains Tax campaign, a proposed water tax, a proposal for agriculture entering the Emissions Trading Scheme, onerous methane targets in the Zero Carbon Bill and now the Freshwater proposals and cynical consultation process surrounding them.
“New Zealand’s farmers produce enough food to feed 40 million people globally and account for 60 per cent of our goods exports, all while being the most carbon efficient food producer in the world, this appears to be lost on the Government.
“Farmers used to say there were three things they needed to worry about; interest rates, commodity prices and the weather. Interest rates are at record lows, most commodity prices are above historical averages, and the weather has been pretty good. The Government is now the biggest headache for farmers and they must recognise this and finally start supporting our primary sector.”
When the Prime Minister told the United Nations (UN) she was determined for New Zealand to be the most sustainable food producer in the world, she should have realised that we already are, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“The Prime Minister told the UN Climate Summit that ‘We are determined to show that New Zealand can and will be the most sustainable food producer in the world.’ When really she should have been promoting the fact that our primary sector is already the most sustainable food producer by some margin.
“New Zealand farmers have made massive gains over recent decades and continue to stay ahead of the pack in terms of efficiency and sustainability. In the last 30 years we’ve managed to produce more sheep meat from 32 per cent fewer sheep due to improvements with enhanced breeding mixes and enhanced lambing percentages.
“Our dairy products are so much more sustainable that a litre of New Zealand milk shipped to Ireland, the next most efficient producer, would still have a lower emissions profile than Irish milk produced locally.
“If the Prime Minister supported lowering emissions she would be promoting our primary sector on the world stage, and encouraging people to eat New Zealand produced food.”