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Government May Reap Bitter Fart Tax Harvest

Government May Reap Bitter Fart Tax Harvest

Over the weekend, I joined the ACT bus on the northern leg of a nationwide tour to support our primary producers by campaigning against the Government’s stupid livestock emissions tax.

Termed the ‘Fart’ tax, Labour’s tax against farmers has been ridiculed around the world and made rural New Zealand – as well as the Government – a laughing stock. Not only has the tax been mocked in T-shirt slogans, songs, and cartoons, but it also features on internet ‘believe-it-or-not’ websites.

One such site is “Weird News”, where the headline “New Zealand farmers protest fart tax” is sandwiched in between “Aliens ate my two-headed love child” and “Man eats own toes”.

Even reputable newspapers like the “Washington Times” have attacked the Labour Government, lamenting the fact that New Zealand’s stock flatulence tax was a measure of the lengths to which shameless politicians would go to squeeze another few dollars from already heavily taxed citizens.

Ordinary Kiwis think the idea of such a tax is so ridiculous that it must surely be the Government’s idea of a joke – the problem for farmers is that it is not a joke, but a tax that will cost rural New Zealand around $8.5 million: 72 cents for each dairy cow, 54 cents for beef and 9 cents for sheep.

Labour plans to use this money to fund research into climate change and greenhouse gas emission reductions, claiming the sector has only contributed $800,000 towards such industry research and must do more.

Federated Farmers disagrees, and its president says farmers already invest almost $100 million into research and development to improve production – far more than most other sectors. They believe research funding must stand up to a simple cost-benefit analysis: that benefits to farming productivity will outweigh the costs. They believe the Government’s proposed rural tax, as it has been described, will do no such thing.

To make matters worse, as well as using the Kyoto Protocol as an excuse to tax farmers, Labour is also using it to confiscate their property rights – carbon tax credits – without compensation. Farmers feel strongly about this having, over the years, diversified their production into timber woodlots and native tree plantations. To have that responsible, environmentally conscious contribution ignored by a Government that continues to fail to even keep its own lands pest free – putting New Zealand’s native wildlife at risk – is completely unacceptable.

Whether you are a farmer or not, you have to question the motives of a Government that seems intent on persecuting farmers in such a punitive manner – especially when farming forms the country’s backbone: primary production generates 17 percent of the total value of all goods produced nationwide, and a massive 67 percent of all New Zealand exports. Adding to this sector’s cost burden hardly seems sensible, especially in light of the escalation in red tape that is paralysing small businesses across the country.

A new survey of business compliance costs, released by Business New Zealand and accountants KPMG this week, has found that – three years after the Government announced a campaign to cut business red tape – the problem is bigger than ever. Chief amongst the culprits were taxation, ACC, OSH, and the Employment Relations Act. Farmers, in particular, also find that local authority charges, rules and regulations as well as the RMA, can be compliance cost nightmares. The Government’s proposed dog law changes, which will require dog-proof fences from the road to the farmhouse door, will be yet another expensive burden.

On top of all of that, not only are many farmers having to cope with lower returns, but they are also growing increasingly alarmed at the Government’s new plan to erode their private property rights: right to roam laws that will provide public access across their farms. At the forefront of their minds are issues of stock and property safety, loss of privacy, the erosion of property values, as well as the question of the wandering public’s health and safety liability.

Farmers are not taking Labour Government attacks lying down. Throughout the country they are mobilising, rallying their forces, ready to converge on Parliament on September 4th with their trucks, tractors and livestock, hoping to persuade the Government to see sense and drop the whole idea of the tax. Already at some of the protest gatherings, crowds of 1,500 have turned out to sign petitions and express their anger at a Government which, they believe, is treating them with disdain.

I suspect Labour – traditionally no friend of farmers – has miscalculated the impact of its ill-advised tax. If farming community protests continue to grow stronger, it would not be a surprise to find the Government backing down. That is why ACT is out there, gumboots and all, encouraging all those who support our primary producers to back the farmers in their opposition to this stupid tax that has made our great little country such a laughing stock.

The rally will be held on the steps of Parliament on Thursday 4th September

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