The passing of the Farm Debt Mediation and NAIT laws last night shows the Government’s commitment to work alongside and help farmers, says Ag Minister Damien O’Connor.
Social media has been abuzz with angry farmers demanding a ‘please explain’ from DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ on why they are publicly backing the changes.
One Northland dairy and beef farmer tweeted “please explain why [you] supported the draconian changes to the NAIT Act which treat farmers like terrorists. Why should I pay my levy/sub if u can’t stand up for us?”
The same farmer had an interesting exchange with DairyNZ chief executive Tim Mackle on Twitter.
In his tweet Mackle hinted they were blindsided by the extra changes put through by the Government.
“None of us had anything to do with the S&S (Search and Surveillance) Act provisions put into NAIT changes. As Katie [Milne, Feds president] wrote, ‘we all supported 38 recommendations from the NAIT review, but nothing on S&S which was done under urgency without consultation & communications -- not good’.”
The Government has labelled the changes “a package of technical law changes to support the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme”. The changes go no further than powers that already exist under other acts, which allow officers to lawfully obtain information where non-compliance is an issue.
But farmers disagree. They fear MPI will be able to turn up at farmers’ properties without getting a warrant and seize anything they want, unannounced and without cause. They want this wide-ranging power curtailed to prevent a NAIT officer seizing property if he/she has no warrant.
Federated Farmers leaders acknowledge the feedback on social media has been huge; farmers have been emailing them to express frustration.
Milne says she felt the process was rushed by using the urgency provisions. She says legislation is always better when more time is taken to find fishhooks.
Which prompts the question, how much did the industry leaders know about the changes? If the Government rushed through extra changes under urgency, they may fairly be accused of misleading industry leaders.
There is no doubt that changes to NAIT were necessary.
As the industry grapples with the fallout of M.bovis it has become clear that some farmers haven’t been taking the requirements to record animal movements through NAIT as seriously as they should have been. Their behaviour has caused vast problems since M.bovis was first discovered.
These issues needed to be fixed, but that was no excuse for the Government to hoodwink the industry by ramming through extra changes without consultation.