Wednesday, 28 February 2024 07:55

Farmers aren't villains - PM

Written by  Mark Daniel
Prime Minister Christopher Luxon was popular among farmers at the Southern Field Days this month. Prime Minister Christopher Luxon was popular among farmers at the Southern Field Days this month.

Returning to the field days circuit after a break of four years due to Covid, the Southern Field Days at Waimumu, near Gore, was all about positivity – following six months of negative sentiment in New Zealand agriculture.

With visitor numbers hitting an all-time high of 45,500 over the three days, bringing the overflow carpark into play, 780 sites offered plenty of interest for the folk who experienced sunburn on day one, followed by a hefty dose of rain on day two.

While the mood was good, it was a case of mixed reports from stallholders, with the purveyors of smaller items such as silage grabs or bale feeders doing business, whereas larger capital goods were on the back burner, with companies reporting it was a little quiet, especially after 2pm – probably an indication of the move towards dairying in the region.

Indeed, chatting to a few farming families at the hotel – those either dragged out for Valentines or grabbing a post-event feed on the way home – many said chequebooks were locked away until their fortunes improved.

Day one saw the arrival of Prime Minister Christopher Luxon, alongside a number of rural MPs. He said farmers had been treated like villains for the past six years, but his Government was working hard to remove red tape and regulations that had stalled the rural economy.

“We want farmers to know they are not villains, but deeply valued individual or corporate businesses that this Government will back,” he said.

Spending time to talk to farmers, contractors, council officials and farming advocacy groups, his presence was in sharp contrast to the last visit paid by a Prime Minister; Jacinda Ardern spent an hour at Fieldays in 2020 and was roundly heckled by the crowd.

By contrast, Luxon was greeted by a huge round of applause when he noted, “NZ agriculture has been persecuted with 23 different rules or regulations over the last six years that have buried farmers in endless red tape.

Our job is to remove those regulatory barriers and, if need be, replace them with smart or considered alternatives, but only after proper discussions with the affected communities”.

Asked what he would do to stimulate the rural economy, he responded by suggesting, “over the next decade, if we can grow agriculture by 2% per annum, we will end up creating $35 of billion growth in the NZ economy”.

Southern Field Days chairman, Steve Henderson, said although spending was likely to be down at this year’s event because of low commodity prices and higher interest rates, Luxon’s visit had been positive, “showing the new Government was taking agriculture seriously, although it might take a while until things start to come right”.

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