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'We Need A Rural Focused Political Party' - Vegfed


'We Need A Rural Focused Political Party'

The election of minority political parties with even informal links to Government, highlights the need for the rural sector to have its own members of Parliament.

Mr Brian Gargiulo, President of Vegfed (New Zealand Vegetable and Potato Growers Federation) said today that some policies which have been put forward recently (such as a call for total organic production) could have serious consequences for mainstream agriculture unless the decision making process can be tempered by a political party representing the rural sector.

"I accept that the election of minority groups to Parliament is a natural consequence of the MMP system and that it does give minority parties the opportunity to take part in the debate. But I only hope that the minorities, Greens, with about 100,000 votes, and ACT with not much more, do not expect to force the coalition into accepting or discarding their plans for the sake of gaining Green support.

I think Jeanette Fitzsimons, from what I have seen and heard of her in the news recently, will have the will and discipline to accept the moral limitations which the very small share of the total vote must impose on her party's approach to participating in the democratic process of government .

"The ability of minority parties to have a voice in Parliament again raises the question:

Why don't we have a party that represents the needs of the rural community ? We constitute nearly 15 percent of the population. We (the primary production sector) produce nearly 60 percent of the country's wealth. But there is no one who really represents our needs. "Yes, we have a Minister of Agriculture, Jim Sutton, but his role is mainly to support the business and production side of the rural sector, not the social and community needs.

"I see, however, that he has said he will try to do more in this respect and we have to welcome that. (Auckland, incidentally, have a Minister all of their own.) But for all Mr Sutton's goodwill he will not have the political clout that a party, in its own right, would have if it was elected by and for, the rural sector of New Zealand. "If the Greens can gain seven seats in Parliament with just over five percent of the vote would not a well organised political party representing the rural sector gain even more?.

Mr Gargiulo said New Zealand had had a country/rural political structure in the past. There were bigger numbers in the rural sector then. The cities had not grown as they have and manufacturing played a considerably smaller role in the production the wealth of the nation. "But as I said, we still produce over half the wealth of the nation and we should not have to put up with any more decline in rural services, cuts to schools, the closure or downgrading of rural based hospitals, higher transport costs, fewer banks, post offices, shops, emergency services and so on.

"The new Government is making encouraging noises and even taking action on some of these issues. But I wonder if a government, for all its goodwill, whose heartland and soul is in the city, will ever be able to understand and deliver what we need.

" How many seats would a rural party take with nearly 15 percent of the population?

"We don't want to run the country. But by golly, we do want a chance to have a share in running the affairs of New Zealand - not just in producing its wealth".


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