Friday, 07 September 2018 11:07

Farmers deserve better — Editorial

Written by 
Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor. Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor.

Farmer groups, DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ are in damage control.

Two weeks after the Government passed changes to the National Animal Identification and Traceability (NAIT) system in Parliament under urgency, anger is still bubbling among farmers. 

Farmers have been blindsided by amendments that empower MPI officers to walk onto a farm without cause and seize equipment. Adding salt to the wounds, the changes had the blessings of industry groups DairyNZ and Beef + Lamb NZ.

Now there’s talk that DairyNZ and BLNZ knew nothing of the search and surveillance provisions added at the last minute to the bill.

The Government on August 16 passed the NAIT Amendment Bill which makes changes to the act in allowing for warrantless inspections of farms, clarifying animal movement requirements and making it an offence not to record animal movements.

DairyNZ and BLNZ were quick to welcome changes. DairyNZ issued a statement headed ‘NAIT overhaul expected and necessary’; BLNZ’s statement was headed ‘BLNZ welcomes NAIT act amendments’.

Only Federated Farmers and the National Party opposed the changes, claiming they went too far.

Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor’s decision to bypass a select committee and pass the bill under urgency prevented Federated Farmers and its members from having any say.

Opposition agriculture spokesman Nathan Guy acknowledges some changes to NAIT are needed, but rightly points out that Parliament had been denied the opportunity to properly scrutinise government amendments – which may not be in the best interests of farmers. One wonders why O’Connor didn’t use a two week parliamentary recess to send the bill to a select committee.

Farmers took to social media, venting their frustration at DairyNZ and BLNZ. 

BLNZ on August 23 issued another statement headed ‘Clarifying NAIT changes’, explaining why it backed the changes. However, the statement also admitted that “the process through which the amendments were made in Parliament, however, could have been better”.

DairyNZ’s original statement on NAIT changes has disappeared from its website.

Farmers are rightly feeling hard done by; at a time when they are fully behind the collaborative approach to eradicate the cattle disease, M. bovis, they have been let down by the Government and Minister O’Connor.

 

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