Viewpoint – Stand up for farmers

Readers may be interested to know that I recently joined farmers and other supporters of rural New Zealand in the Groundswell protest movement. A large gathering assembled in Orewa – tractors and all – comprising a couple of convoys from Wellsford and Helensville.

It wasn’t an occasion for political parties, and I write this column for Mahurangi Matters not with a particular view to red or blue, but more as a local MP who happens to be National.

While no MPs were invited to speak, it was a highly political occasion, in that it was designed to make a point clearly to the authorities. The message heard loud and clear across the country was that farmers are crucial to our shared fate. We simply cannot survive without them.

This is true if you’re thinking in terms of the most basic human level – that we need food to be produced in order to sustain ourselves day-to-day. It’s also true at a national level, when you consider that for New Zealand to continue making its way in the world, we’re so reliant on the export dollar that comes from our primary producers.

Part of the reason that Kiwi beef, lamb and dairy are so well received overseas is that it’s simply the best. And it’s not just the best on the market when we’re talking about quality, but also in environmental terms. A farmer in this country produces food and fibre in a more efficient and ecological manner than his or her counterpart anywhere else in the world. So whereas self-styled Greenies in New Zealand would have our farmers reduce their dairy herds, actually if we consider global warming as a global issue (as the name implies), then the planet benefits from our farmers doing more, not less.

We must avoid the unintended consequences. We must not allow the Government to repeat its recent error of energy production: importing more dirty coal from Indonesia, right after banning exploration for relatively clean natural gas.

These nuanced arguments are hard to fit on to a single placard or slogan, but instinctively I think most Kiwis understand. So the Groundswell movement is crucial. For many taking part the other day, it was the first protest type of event they’d ever attended. That’s a pretty clear measure of how upset they’re feeling about the Beehive not listening to the voice of the Rodney district.

Without getting into the detail of the particular policies, we need the Government to impose fewer extra taxes and regulations that reduce land use for no good environmental gain. In other words, Wellington must not bite the hand that literally feeds us all.

That was the key message that I heard loud and clear at the recent Groundswell protest. If things don’t change for our farming friends soon, I’ll see you at the next one, too.

Viewpoint - MP for Kaipara ki Mahurangi