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FFNZ President Tom Lambie Speech

FFNZ President Tom Lambie, delivered at 10:20am November 9

Speech Begins

Good morning and welcome to the 2004 National Council meeting.

It is not by accident that we meet in Wellington to prepare our work for the year ahead. As the lead rural advocacy organisation we have to inform and influence the thinking of Government and its officials.

I have just returned from a visit to Uganda in my capacity as Vice-President of IFAP, the International Federation of Agricultural Producers.

Uganda is a country with immense resources and with magnificent opportunities.

But what hinders them? Foremost and fundamentally, farmers are only just starting to develop secure title over their land, and this lack of secure title has hindered investment in farm businesses.

Whatever country you attempt to farm in, the criteria for investment is the same. You need a Government that will provide a good legal framework, enforce the rule of law, provide secure title to your property and allow you to get on with your business.

As a country, Uganda has an enormous ability to produce food but farmers cannot be sure that the land they farm today will be theirs tomorrow. Their land has not been surveyed - there is nothing to say they have security of title or lease.

The fundamental message in Uganda or New Zealand is exactly the same - to have the confidence to invest, and be successful in their business, farmers need security of title.

It seems to me so self evident, yet remarkably, our Government continues to float policies that bring considerable uncertainty to farmers' property rights.

We are told that all New Zealanders expect to be able to go to the local beach or river when they want, to paddle or sail a boat, or throw out a fishing line. In an attempt to enhance and protect that expected right the Government is prepared to trade the rights of property title.

This is seen not only in the foreshore and seabed debate but also in the public access over private land debate.

You might own land up to, or even through a river, but the Government appears to have decided that if this is somewhere the general public wants to go - then too bad. The general public should be able to access it if they want to fish, collect watercress, swim or sunbathe.

Secure property rights are also important in the provision of infrastructure. Good infrastructure is a must.

Once again it is Government's role to deliver or see that the environment is right to encourage investment in infrastructure.

All around the world farmers need to market their produce cost effectively. They can only do it with infrastructure that allows cost competitive supply - well maintained roads, good communication systems and reliable energy sources.

But delivering cost-competitive energy must not be delivered at the expense of landowner's rights.

Transpower's recently announced plans to build a new transmission line in the upper North Island are a case in point. An upgrade of the core grid could meet growing demand and ensure future security of supply.

If this upgrade is shown to be the best option to meet the Auckland region's increasing energy demands, private land will be needed to build the line. Although a preferred route is yet to be decided, and will not be decided without consultation, it will traverse private land. But any access to this land will be negotiated. Transpower must seek property easements, and must compensate farm owners for the impact of the new line on their life and livelihood.

Transpower is obliged to transmit energy for New Zealand's future, but must also listen to the concerns of landowners and local communities.

If it goes ahead the new transmission line will be a long and at times difficult process, but the path of consultation, negotiation and compensation has been chosen to protect the rights and interests of all parties. Transpower acknowledges this is the only way it can gain the long term support of the rural community whose land will be affected.

The path of consultation, negotiation and compensation appears to have been rejected by the Government when it comes to providing access to private land for recreationalists and visitors to New Zealand. The Minister has said he wishes to introduce legislation to extend the Queen's chain across private land.

Farmers need a strong and united voice to deal with this and the other myriad of issues. Almost daily there are "experts" who seek to tell us how to farm. Urban based "experts" living in their highly modified environments call for us to redesign the way we farm. This in itself shows how out of touch they are. Farming is daily about changing, adapting and redesigning. Sustainable farming is about good prioritisation and well informed decision making.

The strength of the Federation is that the membership can tackle these issues collectively. Members and staff all play a role in this, but there is one in particular I want to thank today - our Chief Executive, Tony St. Clair, who leaves the Federation at the end of the year.

Tony has led the Federation for almost eight years. Through this time, there have been dramatic and positive changes to our organisation. The Federation was repositioned so the organisation could more effectively add value to the business of farming for our members, resulting in the delivery of more favourable policy outcomes and enhanced services to our growing membership.

Tony leaves Federated Farmers in excellent shape. There is a renewed pride in the Federation. The Federation is in its sixth consecutive year of growth, with its highest voluntary membership since the removal of the compulsory levy in 1996.

Support for the Federation and its work has been strengthened - through the support of existing members and the many new members who by signing up, tell us we're doing a good job.

Tony, on behalf of Federated Farmers, thank you very much. Like the ethos of all good farmers who recognize their role as stewards, you leave the Federation in better heart than when you arrived. Your achievements are appreciated by all.

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