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Speech: Meat And Fibre Producers' Conference

Federated Farmers Speech

Ian Corney, Chairman New Zealand Meat And Fibre Producers

Address To The New Zealand Meat And Fibre Producers' Conference/Agm Hotel Grand Chancellor, Christchurch 10.30am 14 March 2005

What does it mean to be Chairman of NZ Meat and Fibre Producers? What does it mean to stand up here year after year and recite a list of achievements, challenges and issues facing our industry?

It means that I am proud to be part of what this organisation does! It means that I am proud to be part of our world leading meat and wool industry. It also means representing our industry to all sorts of organisations, some of which understand our business and others who don’t, or don't want to.

Most of all it's about people. It's about engaging people, understanding, trusting and investing in people and occasionally dealing with angry people. If people are angry, it is usually because they care about their industry – the same reason each and every one of you is sitting here today - because you care about your industry and you feel you can make a difference. Being actively involved with Federated Farmers is a way we can do this.

There's a lot of ground I could cover in setting the scene today. I could talk to you again about issues such as the climbing dollar, interest rates, ACC and local government rates and about the impact of all of this on our business. I could speak about this Government's constant urge to tell us that they know your farm better than you do and make decisions that cost you money. This is of course with no thought of how you will pay for it or whether there is even a problem.

I could talk about the overwhelming threats to the safety of our families and the security of our properties through the proposed access legislation.

I could go on and on about how we have fought continuously for an industry-good organisation that is responsive, accountable and is committed to really making a difference for your business with your money.

I could also stress all the miles of driving and flying and the time spent sitting around tables, at computers, in staff rooms, and conference rooms that Federated Farmers' representatives have chalked up in order to ensure that the farmers' voice is heard on domestic and international issues.

Over the next two days we will discuss all of these issues and others such as the critical importance of Biosecurity to New Zealand’s future and the work that goes into trying to make our borders safer and managing unwanted pests and diseases.

The list of milestones we have achieved is large but the list of challenges facing us is also large. You have been dealing with these all year, you have read about them in the papers, you respond to emails, you attend meetings and suggest constructive outcomes and you talk about it at the pub in between Super 12 and the dismal domestic cricket season. You don't need me to outline the value of New Zealand Meat & Fibre Producer’s work.

What I want to talk about now is you. Your role is far greater than coming to sit around this table twice a year.

You have been elected to lead our industry, to be placed in situations where you are not comfortable, to thump the occasional table, and to build relationships. Most importantly, you have been elected to understand our members and their needs and to make a difference to their business. This year your role is even more critical.

At some point, later this year, New Zealand will decide who will be our next Government. Before an election is the only time you will have a willing audience - grab this narrow window of opportunity in the run up to the election with both hands! As the rural urban divide grows and we have more and more "Wellington-centric" decision-making it has never been more important for people to understand what drives the rural community. I encourage you to invite them to your piece of paradise and let them know what you need to remain competitive and to continue the value role farmers play in rural communities. Get a group of farmers together and let them each speak to the future decision makers about their vision for their farms, their industry and their country. Do it in the woolshed, beside your protected piece of bush or your pristine river. Show them what is at stake if they get it wrong!

I urge you to drive them past the local school if you still have one, show them how far it is to your doctor. Explain the trauma faced by an expectant mother when she is told the closest help is an hour in a helicopter away or worse, two hours in an ambulance. Tell them about how much it costs you to maintain your piece of road and remind them how much tax they take for it. Tell them how galling it is to be told that your twenty years of experience with agrichemicals counts for nothing. Take them past the dogs and pose the question how micro chipping legislation will make one scrap of difference to the risk of attack. Explain how stock biting dogs don't last. And most importantly make sure they know how lucky they are to live in a country with an economy that thrives on a competitive advantage, built on its natural resources, cared for through sheer hard graft, outstanding innovation and personal investment.

I am proud of the contribution that this group and all the members we represent make to our industry and I look forward to spending the next two days discussing with you how we can make that competitive advantage even stronger.

Acknowledgements. FMG, Ravensdown, The National Bank of New Zealand, Telecom and New Zealand Post.


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