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Peters: Farmers Must Reject Being National’s Doormat

Rt Hon Winston Peters

New Zealand First Leader

Member of Parliament for Northland
27 MAY 2016

Waikato Federated Farmers,

Airport Conference Centre

Tamahere,

Hamilton

5pm, 27th May, 2016

“Farmers Must Reject Being National’s Doormat”

Twenty-eight years ago, the late David Lange said: "Farming is a sunset industry and manufacturing and tourism will take its place."

Yesterday’s Budget resembled nothing so much as a Hollywood film set. Some had star roles and the rest were supporting actors, bit players or crowd scene fill-ins.

The budget was totally Auckland-centric with the regions virtually forgotten despite being the economic powerhouses of this country.

The Cabinet rank of the Minister for Primary Industries tells you a lot about the modern National Party.

The Minister responsible for over 70% of our physical exports is one of Cabinet’s tail-end Charlies.

Out of 20 Cabinet Ministers he is ranked 15th.

That again came through in the Budget?

If Mr Guy did plead for extra dollars for biosecurity, or for agricultural research, he got exactly what his cabinet rank suggests.

That’s because whether you believe it or not farmers are looking like an endangered species within National’s urban dominated Cabinet. Nine of Mr Key’s Cabinet come from Auckland with a further six from a major centre.

We know farmers have traditionally voted National.

As a result you have become the reliable doormat that’s taken for granted.

After all, you don’t give much thought to a doormat until you trip over one.

Coming from a far flung regional electorate makes one appreciate the gulf between what the government says is happening, and what is actually happening on the ground.

As a country we have a mountain of issues being papered over by huge public and private debt. One of our great dangers is the high proportion of our economy being financed by overseas money.

Resource Management Act reform

Back in 1989, the RMA, we were told, would reduce government expenditure, curb the increasing cost of housing in Auckland and Christchurch and reflect market-driven economics.

That was the promise but things haven’t worked out too well, have they?

On the RMA, New Zealand First’s guiding principle is simple. Resource management and planning, just like our judicial system, should be colour-blind.

That has always been New Zealand first’s policy. And National went into the 2005 and 2008 elections belatedly claiming to be the same.

The truth is different.

Recently an interesting story was relayed to us.

The Hon Nick Smith was at the Ascot Hotel in Invercargill when he got buttonholed by a farmer over National’s separatist fetish for Maori wards on local body councils.

What the farmer got instead was Minister Smith’s “Road to Ngāruawāhia conversion”. He passionately felt Maori-only wards were important.

Race-based representation should have no place in our democracy.

Homeowners, farmers and businesspeople should welcome our determination to put private property rights back into the RMA.

New Zealand First believes that a Kiwi’s home or farm is his/her castle.

Property rights was in the original 1989 Resource Management Bill but Simon Upton and National removed it when they passed the law in 1991. Even Minister Amy Adams’ recent Technical Advisory Group wanted the 1989 property rights clause reinstated.

New Zealand First is committed to re-balancing the pendulum on private property rights.

Auckland risks swallowing the economy whole

New Zealand First fails to see how ripping up Auckland’s metropolitan limits will do anything aside from concreting over some of the most productive soils on earth.

Auckland’s problems result from a failure to prepare its infrastructure to handle mass immigration of 68,000 per annum net, or the population of New Plymouth, the majority of whom are going to Auckland.

In Dargaville, Kerikeri and Kaitaia, and we wager Huntly to Otorohanga too, a great many Kiwis are tired of hearing about “Auckland” just because many in the media happen to live there.

Auckland matters as it leads ballooning household debt. Since September 1998, household debt has increased 286%; from $59.7bn to over $231bn as of March. That’s an incredible average of $811m borrowed every month since I left the role of Treasurer. In that positon we won the inflation war, managed a currency crisis, retired debt and boosted spending on health and education.

This level of household debt is alarming as it dwarfs the $59.3 billion owed by agriculture and the $90 billion owed by business. If we add the total Crown debt, then every man, woman and child in New Zealand owes over $100,000.

So what is the solution?

First, let’s turn the immigration tap way, way down.

And let’s stop foreigners speculating on the Auckland housing market and land banking on the outskirts of Auckland.

And let’s debunk now, the lousy excuse that Auckland’s problems have been caused by the super city council that National created. The fact is, no council could have dealt successfully with the artificial demand for services that National’s mass immigration has imposed upon them.

As an aside you might well observe the local body elections in Auckland and wonder just what any of the candidates will be able to do when demand has so outstripped supply in every area.

Spilling outside the urban boundaries, which the two old parties now think is a good idea, will only increase costs and deflect from the real problem – mass immigration.

In a recent interview Mike Hosking described this as being the “halo effect”. Funny that, how much a halo resembles a balloon.

Second, for those who have land banked for speculation we will introduce a Hong Kong-type “use it or lose it” policy.

Third we will stop government’s fixation with all things Auckland that’s made that city an economic Black Hole, diverting essential money from the provinces.

Since 2008, Auckland has hoovered up 46% of NZTA’s total funding for new and improved roads. When it comes to rail, this government cannot afford $6m to reinstate rail freight between Napier and Gisborne or to update Northland’s dilapidated tracks, but it is spending billions on Auckland’s commuter rail. Even with Housing NZ, 46% of its entire portfolio is now in Auckland.

New Zealand is much more than just one city.

No doubt you have heard National say that we’re anti-trade

That is demonstrably false. What we are opposed to is their idea of trade.

We support genuine free trade policy but not corporate protectionist policy masquerading as free trade.

So much of the free trade debate verges on misrepresentation.

Take the Korean trade deal. How can a permanent tariff of 176% on Kiwi milkpowder over 2000 tons into Korea be free trade?

If the importers of plasterboard into New Zealand then pocket all the tariff savings, how does that assist New Zealand consumers.

Of the nine “free trade” deals only CER with Australia and the agreements with Taiwan and Hong Kong, see us export more than we import. Of all or our “free trade” deals to March 2016, we imported $5 billion more than we exported. That deficit is not just bad economics, it is all debt.

And whilst we are at it what happened to Mr Key’s promise that the TPPA would bring $5 billion of extra value by 2025.

There is not one expert who remotely supports that boast. Mind you, he said a flag change would bring billions to our economy as well.

Such claims are simply off the planet.

Closer Commonwealth Economic Relations

Using CER as a basis, New Zealand First questions why Closer Commonwealth Economic Relations has been so overlooked.

The Commonwealth is a sleeping giant with a population of over 2.3 billion people; nearly a third of the world’s population. In 2014, the Commonwealth’s GDP was a massive 17% of gross world product. Intra-Commonwealth trade alone was estimated at US$592 billion in 2013 and will surpass US$1 trillion by 2020.

The Commonwealth is an economic colossus made better by shared language, tradition, legal systems, sport and history. CCER also provides a basis for Britain to enter should she vote to leave the European Union.

Real policies for Primary Exports

Every expert says that the New Zealand currency is overvalued. That overvaluation is a serious loss to exporters. But the government won’t do a thing about it. New Zealand First will reform the Reserve Bank Act so that the currency is an accurate reflection of its worth and exporters will get immediate relief.

The rest of our agricultural policies are in our manifesto and the farming community is invited to study them.

For dairy farmers things are bad, not helped by the huge potential Russian market being flippantly shelved. While dairy farmers are against the wall government ignores its huge potential.

Others are stepping into the void after Mr Key was told by the US and the EU what our foreign policy should be.

Russia’s milk production is about 3 billion litres below what it needs. China and Vietnam are stepping into a void we choose not to fill because you are paying for Mr Key’s inconsistent foreign policy. He sees Russia as bad but looks past China’s territorial expansion in the South China Sea.

New Zealand First also will investigate the merits of a New Zealand physicalcommodities exchange covering spot and futures trading, as well as, derivatives. We are talking about a Kiwi version of the famous Chicago Mercantile Exchange, which plays to our strengths as the world's largest exporter of dairy commodities, the largest exporter of crossbred wool and largest exporter of sheep meat.

In the longer term, we are committed to reach a publicly funded science investment equivalent to 2% of GDP. A priority area for us is the biological economy. National has scrapped the $97 million it spends on primary biological industries research and instead used part of that to increase the money thrown at the IT myopic Callaghan Fund.

Overseas Investment Act reform

The Overseas Investment Office is a laughing stock.

We are going to fix up its processes, its purpose, its investigations and enforce undertakings given by applicants.

Failure to comply will result in forced sales to buyers who do comply.

Silver Fern Farms

The majority-controlled sale of our biggest meat company to Chinese government-owned Shanghai Maling is an appalling scandal.

It is evidence of sickening establishment behaviour in a country that claims to be free market.

It has been accompanied by authorities doing their best to look elsewhere rather than do their statutory duty.

The farmers in the meat industry have been taken to the cleaners whilst the party that they have voted for hasn’t raised a finger. If the farming community is not prepared to rise up against this sort of outside attack, facilitated by New Zealand collaborators, against the farmers’ interests then sadly a party like New Zealand First can do only so much.

Farmers are going to have to find out what happened in their name, get off the tractor, and make a collective commitment that they are not going to take this.

They are the victims of a serious breach of this country’s laws - but even the police don’t act unless you lay a complaint.

Head Office Federated Farmers’ leadership on this and other issues is demonstrable evidence that they are part of the problem.

On the issue of Fonterra’s leadership and its top 19 managers taking home $31 million between them each year, Federated Farmers has been silent.

In Wellington and Auckland insiders openly sneer about Fonterra’s farmer control.

They don’t care if Fonterra falls into overseas control and Mr Key wants Fonterra on the NZX.

If the Silver Fern Farms scandal goes unchecked Fonterra will be next.

If Federated Farmers remains silent on these issues then our so called regulators will go on not doing their jobs and establishment cronyism will become standard practice.

New Zealand First is going into bat for farmers in financial distress.

New Zealand First’s Receiverships (Agricultural Debt Mediation) Amendment Bill will defer a receiver’s appointment until debt mediation has occurred. While it is no “get out of jail free card,” it does force lenders to make sure they act fairly.

This legislation should start a major overhaul of the immense powers that receivers have because, just like the banks, they can be a law unto themselves.

The Crafar receivership only came to an end last December after the receivers, KordaMentha, had pulled a staggering $8.9m in “remuneration” from those farms. This included $391,000 even after the farms had been sold to the Chinese.

If things end up in a receivership, most farmers are lucky to leave with the clothes on their back. This is why we are also looking into a simple complaint and investigation option through the Companies Office to keep receivers honest and their costs reasonable.

More on Federated Farmers national office?

Exactly what does Federated Famers head office do for the ordinary man and women on the land?

Where was the Federation on the government’s unnecessary occupational health and safety reforms and a common sense approach to quadbikes and pillion passengers?

We’ve had zero contact from your National Office on issues like debt mediation to RMA and water reform. You say you want broadband, but your head office is advocating against power companies stringing fibre optic in with the power! Is that because of Vodafone?

Your national office has been as quiet as a church mouse on Transpower’s pricing. This is despite the increases planned for Northland, Auckland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Ashburton and West Coast.

Borrowing the words of Teddy Roosevelt, Fed’s national office today “has no more backbone than a chocolate éclair.”

Nothing illustrates this better than biosecurity

Take velvetleaf, the latest stuff-up in a litany of stuff-ups including fruit fly, tau fly and a snake in a Nissan Leaf. We’ve had black grass in Canterbury to black widows in grapes.

Velvetleaf has gone from a handful of sites to over 250 in less than a year. There are two potential sources and both are equally as bad. Aside from dodgy fodder beet seeds, the other suspect, which is rife in Waikato, is the one that has government dancing to the tune of the poultry lobby.

In 2015, New Zealand imported 176,000 metric tons of feed maize from countries with velvetleaf. It is like importing beef from foot & mouth countries? This imported feed is consumed by chickens and ultimately comes onto farms as manure. Can we suggest that right there is a possible velvetleaf link?

Minister Guy casually dismissed your concerns in Parliament citing a report written on the 2011 outbreak. That report never identified the source of the outbreak.

A new approach to biosecurity

First of all we need to stop the importation of high risk items from high risk countries;

Second, Government Industry Agreements must be with an importer because that is where 100% of the risk comes from;

Third, when something gets past the border it must be independently investigated.

Fourth, government must come to the party on velvetleaf and pay compensation to farmers equal to the cost of annual control. MPI should also face the courts here because it is not above the law and its processes have let farmers down badly.

Conclusion

The door of New Zealand First has always been open to the farming community.

Have a good hard look at the National Party right now.

How many of the National Party MPs would know what to do with a sick animal, or a calving cow where the calf’s head has been turned the wrong way.

In farming seat after farming seat there are National MPs who have barely raised a finger to support or defend your interests.

Might I, with respect, suggest that you have a great deal to gain from looking at New Zealand First and the consistency of our policies and performance on primary production issues.

Primary production is still the lifeblood of this country’s economy.

One party, New Zealand First, has always known that - and always acted on that knowledge.

Which other party can today make that claim?

ENDS


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