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What's Happening To Rural New Zealand?

What's Happening To Rural New Zealand?

Wednesday 7 Apr 2004 Gerry Eckhoff Articles -- Rural

First published in the Rural News, Tuesday April 6, 2004.

What's happening to rural New Zealand? While, in the past, the rural community refused to meekly accept Government edicts, it would now appear that the fighting spirit has gone, and Government decrees are now being met with a degree of subservience.

Rural New Zealand is not renowned for its activism, yet the continual erosion of the influence of this country's wealth creators should bring out farmers who are prepared to say: "no more". Where are they?

At the first annual meeting of Meat & Wool New Zealand, Rural Affairs Minister Jim Sutton was lauded by chairman Jeff Grant "as a battler for rural New Zealand" - pardon? Mr Sutton, along with Minister Pete Hodgson, tried desperately to impose what has become known as the "FART tax" on livestock farmers.

Mr Sutton also tried to justify the closure of rural schools. Further, he accepted - on our behalf - the Government-imposed $20 million cost for the inspection of our exports. Public access to private farmland is also Mr Sutton's handiwork - the legislation will appear later this year. Farmers have also been forced to pay a fuel levy to fund Auckland's roading, which presupposes that rural roads are perfectly okay.

Where was Mr Sutton advocating for rural land rights when a landowner was recently sentenced to five years jail for clearing bush on his private property? After all, Labour advocate strongly for Maori land rights.

Costs are also rising dramatically under Labour's re-nationalisation of ACC. The Minister apparently believes that farmers who don't roll their ATVs should subsidise those who do - such is the quality of this Government's thinking. So why aren't the farmers rounding on the only representative they have in Government? Why do they not ask Mr Sutton for an explanation of his actions - or inaction? How much longer are farmers prepared to accept the loss of their birthright, and the rights so valiantly fought for by previous generations?

Where are rural New Zealand's young men and women who are prepared to say to Government - any government - enough? With a few very notable exceptions, most appear to ignore what is happening around them. They don't seem to understand that if your neighbour is subject to unfair controls, it'll only be a matter of time before they too will become victims of bureaucracy and political correctness.

It is very difficult having to battle the vagaries of nature with flood and drought being constant reminders of just why farming can be tough. But rural New Zealand cannot afford to sit back and allow its future to be determined by know-it-all, busybody Resource Managers - who have no practical farming experience, but dismiss the knowledgeable views of the actual farmers toiling on the land.

It all begins with deciding to ask the tough questions of your local or central government politicians at meetings such as Meat and Wool NZ. If your representatives, or the board, are not prepared to hold the Minister to account during these rare visits, then the tough questions must be put by the shareholders of this country - which, in this case, are individual meat and wool farmers. Each of us is responsible, and has a duty to perform on behalf of the generations to follow.


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