Dairy and red meat farmer lobbies want Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern to back their climate change initiative rather than impose a farmer levy.
She spoke last week to Federated Farmers’ annual conference, ranging widely over protecting waterways, reducing agricultural emissions, enhancing sustainability, ensuring a workforce to deal with future change, biosecurity, protecting elite food producing soils and securing more free trade agreements (FTA’s).
“It’s a lot, and you are out in front tackling these issues,” she told the conference.
“I want you to know and feel and experience that [politicians] too are focused on these issues and equally on supporting you as we navigate them.
“This transition is not easy but it will be less jarring if we start early,” she said.
Ardern said NZ has traditionally reaped the reward of being a world leader in the primary sector, and we must tackle some of these issues early to ensure NZ stays at the front of the pack. But the changes must be managed well, not done in a way that leaves behind a legacy of hurt.
The Prime Minister says high quality trade agreements are a top priority for her Government and for NZ as an export nation.
The Government wants quality, modern, enduring and progressive FTAs that adhere to the rules based systems of the WTO and open doors into the best premium markets for food and fibre.
“We should settle for no less,” Ardern said, also urging development of new markets, notably the Middle East and China where on her recent visit she found Premier Li Keqiang enthusiastic and knowledgeable about Maori culture.
“Our food and fibre are renowned in China as safe, nutritious and clean, but he sees the story and values of indigenous NZers as really setting us apart.
“These are the values held by Maori, including the principle of kaitiakitanga -- the idea that we have a guardianship role on behalf of our environment and natural resources.
“Unless we protect these we won’t only lose one of our greatest assets, we will also diminish our narrative,” Ardern said.
The Prime Minister several times urged that NZers protect the country’s unique elite food producing soils from urban sprawl or any upsurge in tree planting.