Federated Farmers Column

Pictured: Corbridge Estate, Wanaka. Photo: Nikki Heath / Wanaka Sun

A monthly column by Kim Reilly, Federated Farmers South Island regional policy manager, on issues affecting the Upper Clutha’s rural community...

By Kim Reilly, Federated Farmers South Island Regional Policy Manager

While this week is all about Team New Zealand’s incredible victory over Oracle in the America’s Cup, last week was a big one for Federated Farmers.

We held our three-day National Conference in Wellington, formally released our 2017 General Election Manifesto and elected in a new Board.

Of particular note, Katie Milne, a West Coast dairy farmer, was voted in as our new President, becoming the first woman in the Federation’s 118-year history to hold that role.  Katie is highly regarded and was named as both Dairy Woman of the Year and a Rural Woman of Influence in 2015.  

Katie is joined at the Board’s helm by new Vice President, Manawatu dairy farmer Andrew Hoggard.  South Canterbury farmer Miles Anderson takes over as Meat and Fibre chair, while Waikato farmer Chris Lewis takes over as Dairy Industry Chair. Arable chair Guy Wigley remains on the Board pending this week’s arable sector AGM.

Lynda Murchison, a North Canterbury’s farmer, planner and lecturer, has been elected as one of two Board members at large, alongside Chris Allen, a Mid Canterbury farmer, who has been reappointed into his previous role.

As it is election year, another key aspect of our conference was hearing from the leaders of the Labour, National, NZ First and Green parties.  

Surprisingly, the political speech receiving the most media attention and one that is most topical to Central Otago interests, was that of Andrew Little.  

In response to a question from Chris Allen on whether Labour had abandoned its resource rental (charging for water use) policy, given it wasn’t mentioned in their recently released freshwater policy positions, Mr Little replied "If you're talking about the old water policy, yeah that's not our policy. And we're not standing on that and you shouldn't expect to see that."

After receiving criticism in the media, Mr Little released a statement that Federated Farmers had misreported his comments.  This statement is of concern to those in attendance at the conference given Little’s clear and unequivocal response on the day.

All that aside, as is made clear within Federated Farmers’ manifesto, we remain opposed to resource rentals, which are now being proposed by both the Labour and Greens parties.  Such policies tend to sound okay in a short bullet point on an election placard, but seldom work in practice.  

Really all such proposals would achieve is effecting a tax on Canterbury and Otago’s regional incomes, given 80 per cent of irrigated water is used in these regions.  It is also incredibly difficult to settle on a price for water in this context. It’s not as simple as dealing with foreign owned water bottling plants.  

More crucially, it is becoming abundantly clear as Otago Regional Council plan change processes relating to water quality, water allocation and minimum flow processes progress across Central Otago, that we need all the tools in the tool box to ensure we can achieve the expected good science-based environmental outcomes, and often irrigation will be an integral part of catchment-based solutions.

One thing’s for sure, as we’ve seen from US and UK elections, things won’t be dull over the next few months!

Pictured: Corbridge Estate, Wanaka. Photo: Nikki Heath / Wanaka Sun

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