With spring in the air and soils starting to warm up over the next few weeks, farmers will be preparing to fertilise their paddocks.
It does, however, attract people with huge egos or myopic crusades, and a few with genuine altruistic intent.
Keith Holmes, candidate for Waikato Regional Council (WRC), believes he fits the latter description.
Holmes’ history in governance includes involvement with the Waikato Regional Council’s Lower-Waikato Zone Committee, the Integrated Catchment Committee and the Tauhei Flood Protection Scheme.
He has been a dairy farmer for 40 years and is eager to discuss issues affecting the rural community.
“There’s no doubt that the farming community and related businesses are being slathered at the moment,” he said.
“Farmers are feeling like the ‘lepers’ of our society. There’s a lot of regulation coming through, a lot of compliance and a lot of public distaste towards them.”
Holmes reckons it is getting harder to do business in Waikato and that failure is scaring a whole generation of youngsters away from farming, as it’s not attractive to be a hands-on farmer anymore.
“When you have a region such as ours getting screwed, it’s very serious because we don’t have any viable economic alternative at the moment.”
Holmes’s solution to these issues, and his vision for council, is what he terms “exceptional governance”.
“Governance is a very unsexy subject,” he said. “In simple terms, in a household you have the parents, they look after the budget, ensure the fridge is full, the children are fed and watered.”
He says if the parents are fighting everyone suffers as they are not providing leadership and good examples for the household.
“That’s what we have at regional council. The councillors, who are the ‘parents’, are responsible for employing the chief executive, setting strategy and policy and driving accountability. It is the chief executive’s right to be empowered and carry out that strategy set by council.”
He believes that councillors, despite being good people, do not understand their role.
“Our regional council has had a lot of criticism, because the chief executive has not been given good guidance and the blame lies fairly at the feet of the councillors.”
Holmes says councillors should not be involved in the day to day operations of the council but should be well informed and hold the chief executive to account.
“A huge number of diverse things need to be addressed in the way the council operates,” he said. “Unless we get stronger, more effective governance those problems and complexity are going to perpetuate themselves.”
Holmes believes that with exceptional governance, WRC can achieve the correct balance of the Resource Management Act, ensuring that economic, environmental and societal needs are met symbiotically, to support each other.
“Guardianship of our region demands we have the vision and strength to balance these needs, in order to generate wealth for all our communities and families.”