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Jim Sutton speech to Maori farming hui

Jim Sutton speech to Maori farming hui

8 July 2004

Te Ohu Whenua Hui a tau,
Palmerston North

Ladies and Gentlemen: I am delighted to be here today among so many people for this meeting. It is important that these hui are to become an annual event. I know that other industries benefit greatly from the networking opportunities these sorts of meetings provide.

Sheep farmers meet at least once every year, deer farmers do, even Chinese gardeners do ? so why not Maori working in the land-based industries of agriculture, horticulture, and forestry?

I think this development is another part of Maori farming gradually emerging from behind its low profile of a few years ago.

In the days of early European contact, Maori became flourishing market gardeners, selling surplus to early visitors and settlers, even having an export business to the new colony of New South Wales. After the formation of New Zealand, that was gradually eclipsed by European-style agriculture, as adapted by pretty dynamic new settlers determined to build a better life for their families in, for them, a new world.

Now, we are experiencing a renaissance in Maori farming, and this is to be welcomed.

In part, this is because of industry organisations and their activities, such as the former Meat Board's revival of the Maori Farmer of the Year competition and the Arowhenua Cup. I congratulate them on the success of that.

It's something I even see at Parliament. I had one of the agricultural spokesmen of a major opposition party tell me that actually there were more farmers in the Labour caucus than there were in his own party. And there are more rural people on our side of the House. Just because some of them are Maori, they are invisible to others, it seems.

Ladies and Gentlemen: The Government understands very well the importance of primary industry to the economy and rural communities to the country.

Since we were elected in December 1999, the Labour-led Government has worked to return services to rural and provincial areas. This has seen the Heartland Services centres set up, extra funding for rural nurses and GP retention, mobile surgical buses, and the extension of paid parental leave to seasonal workers who have been in work for at least 6 months, notably meat and dairy workers. I am hopeful that we can ultimately extend that to the self-employed, so that farming families will be able to get assistance as well.

On the business side, we're helping extend broadband internet access to people wherever they live. This will improve rural young people's education, but also the efficiency of farm businesses.

Since subsidies and other taxpayer-funded supports were removed in the mid-1980s, agriculture has responded dynamically to market signals. It has gained significantly more productivity that the rest of the New Zealand economy. Farmers and other agricultural producers have seized opportunities, adapted new technology, and been highly innovative.

For our country, and our economy, to achieve the way we want it to, this level of innovation must happen across the board. The Government has highlighted three "horizontal enablers" ? information technology, arts and creative design, and biotechnology ? as areas that, if they attain their growth potential, can add value across the broad scope of the New Zealand economy.

A report from MAF to the Growth and Innovation Advisory Board last year assessed the importance of primary industries to New Zealand's economic wellbeing and highlighted that while primary production has been extremely innovative, there is plenty more potential remaining.

This is where you play an important role in developing that potential.

The sweeping improvements to health, education, and family incomes announced in the latest budget - Budget 2004 - could not happen without economic success ? in significant part, that of rural New Zealand. Our primary producers ? people like you, together with those who supply you with inputs and prepare your outputs for sale ? provide about 60 per cent of all our country's export earnings.

This Budget included measures directly targeted at primary production such as the continued increase in biosecurity funding, up another $46 million over the next four years. That makes a funding increase in biosecurity baseline funding of 57 per cent since the Labour-led Government was elected in November 1999.

Funding also increased for trade negotiations with China and Thailand and for scientific research and development.

More broadly, this Budget was one of growth and opportunity, balancing economic and social investments. This budget will take New Zealand ahead ? it is good for families, and good for the economy.

It's a budget for getting New Zealanders into work and making work pay. It is about providing fairness and security for low to middle income New Zealand families

We are making significant extra investments in education and health. Knowledge and health are pre-requisites for top economic performance.

The budget provides for close to half a billion dollars over the next four years for directly strengthening economic performance. The investments include developing our export markets, increasing our R & D spend, and attracting quality offshore investment.

We are increasingly looking for skills and the people with them to continue the innovation in our industries, especially in our primary industries.

This Government is trying to promote excellence and to develop an environment where people are encouraged to develop their skills and highlight winners.

The work that we do in the domestic arena, alongside your own work, is important.

Also hugely important to us all as primary producers, is the work we achieve overseas in trade negotiations.

More than 80 per cent of all the beef, lamb, dairy products, and other primary products grown in New Zealand is exported to overseas markets. Whatever barriers to this trade that we can reduce can have huge impacts on the livelihoods of everyone in New Zealand.

The last big round of international trade talks, the Uruguay Round, was the first to include big changes in agricultural trade.

Research carried out by MAF on the quantitative benefits of the Uruguay Round, showed in the single year of 2000 (the year that many of the gains of the Uruguay Round kicked in) the beef, sheepmeat, and dairy sectors gained about $590 million from product price and volume increases in the major markets of the United States and European Union.

That works out to an average increase in earnings for each sheep, beef, or dairy farmer of $11,500 a year. And that was from changes in our trade with just two of the 146 members of the WTO.

Combined MAF and MFAT research has assessed the overall benefits from the Uruguay Round as at least $9 billion over the 10-year implementation period of Uruguay Round changes, and about 17,600 additional jobs throughout our economy, including 2000 in agriculture in particular.

But the Uruguay Round was only a toe in the door, for agriculture, which is still one of the most heavily protected sectors in the world.

The Doha Development Round has even greater potential. Later this month, there is a significant meeting in Geneva, of ministers and officials, where I hope we can forge agreement on the way forward, towards successful completion of the round. I promise you that Team NZ ? one of the very best in the business -will be doing its best there for New Zealand and for you.

The Government is also putting significant effort into Plan B - a network of progressive regional or bilateral trade agreements.

Public consultation on a proposed trade agreement with China ? its first with a western nation ? is underway, and I hope to see negotiations start early next year. Formal negotiations with Thailand on a trade deal began earlier this month, and it's anticipated these could be completed by the end of this year.

We are still working on a "Pacific 3" trade deal with Chile and Singapore, and that's likely to be "P4" by the time it's completed, with Brunei wishing to join, and as recently as last week, and enquiry from still another Pacific Rim economy.

Discussions are being held with Mexico about a trade deal. We are continuing to lobby for a trade agreement with the United States, and talks are still pending with Hong Kong. After several years of effort, we have a potential breakthrough for AFTA-CER. Other partners are still in the wings.

New Zealand is a trading nation, and we are dependent on access to other countries' markets for our well-being. I can assure you that this Government is doing everything possible to ensure our producers continue to have that necessary access and that it is improved.

Contingent in that happening is a commitment by New Zealand producers to continue to produce safe, high quality products ? in a mix continuously responding to the evolving tastes of the world's most discerning customers.

Part of our commitment to people living in rural communities and working in the land-based industries is the Sustainable Farming Fund, and several of the projects funded through this fund have relevance for Maori in primary production.

This fund supports community-driven projects aimed at improving the financial, environmental, and social performance of land-based sectors. Rural sector sustainability is reliant on three interdependent outcomes: financially viable land-based businesses, sustainable rural environments and thriving rural communities.

The first Sustainable Farming Fund project to be completed was the production of a Maori land use kit for the Opotiki district. This kit has been so warmly welcomed, that the team responsible for it have now applied for and received another Sustainable Farming Fund grant to develop a kit that can be used nationally.

Since then, there have been many projects that involve Maori or have relevance to Maori working in farming. Indeed, MAF, through the Sustainable Farming Fund, is a sponsor of this meeting.

In the latest round, there are two particular new projects that have been approved.

The first is a strategy to develop and test market processes for indigenous crops, by Tahuri Whenua. This project looks at developing a kind of co-operative model for management and marketing of indigenous crops. It focuses on identifying who are growing the crops and when they are being grown around the country so that markets can be developed and consistently supplied.

The other is one on Maori women, family and the land, run by He Wahine - He Whanau He Whenua. This project does work with Maori women in the King Country area to enhance their contribution to land development and give them managment skills that will be useful to both their own properties but also to other groups as well.

Ladies and Gentlemen: Maori working in agriculture, horticulture, and forestry work in the most important industry within New Zealand. If Maori farmers and foresters are not tapping the full economic potential of their land, not only do they suffer directly by this, but New Zealand as a whole is poorer.

Na reira, tena koutou, tena koutou, tena koutou katoa.


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