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Corney: Meat and Fibre Producers' Council Opening


Ian Corney

Chairman, New Zealand Meat and Fibre Producers' Council

Speech opening Council Meeting

Brentwood Hotel, Wellington

Delivered at 10.00am, Tuesday 22 November 2005

Only a small time ago now the Governor General delivered to Parliament and the nation, the affectionately named "speech from the throne" outlining the plans of the new Government.

Before anyone gets any smart ideas, I would prefer this presentation be entitled "rumblings from the four wheeler".

But back to the content of the speech from the throne. Listen very carefully to what I am going to quote from the speech. "The backbone of the New Zealand economy will continue to be our primary industries"

Well, after two terms in Government, we finally get some recognition for what we work so hard to produce.

I don't know if this was an attempt to glue the rural urban split, but if I was John Campbell analysing the speech, I would have to say those words sound MARRRVELOUS!

As a result of our new and fresh Labour led Government, we have a new minister of agriculture. Even better, he is ranked number three in cabinet.

His name is still Jim.

A Jim of very different sorts. I can sum it up in the words of everyone's friend from Star Trek Dr Spock - "its life Jim, but not as we know it".

It is our responsibility to make our new Jim understand that this country's economic viability relies on the day to day investment decisions of farmers. And if I'm to be entirely parochial, the decisions of 14,500 meat and fibre farmers.

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That means that someone's ability to buy a lamb salad with crispy noodles on a busy road in Ponsonby relies not on the property market, but on you.

It relies on:

You putting the ram out (assuming your chosen breed has been allowed to be released).

You planning carefully when you are going to fly the 'fert' off the air strip (if of course it reaches safety standards).

You deciding when to drench the next lot of lambs (assuming you are an approved drench handler) and well, I could go on.

There is a message.

A message for the new Government that needs to be received loud and clear:

This country's wealth relies on our agricultural industry remaining competitive on the world stage.

Think carefully when deliberating over a new piece of legislation, another national standard or in fact anything that introduces a larger element of uncertainty or risk. These new requirements often result in added costs, barriers and delays to farming - and as a result impact on the economic well being of the whole country.

Feds takes every opportunity to convey that important message on our members' behalf.

There will be no innovation, no product to add value to, no exports, no point in free trade agreements, no Icebreaker, no soft switch technology and I would even go as far as to say no Olympic champions without the products from our farms.

Rising costs at national level, and rising costs at district level, and rising costs at regional level together with peaking returns are squeezing on-farm innovation.

If there is no change to the 'cost plus' culture, soon some of these products are going to be too expensive to produce. That's why this organisation exists.

To tell everyone and anyone who will listen the practical implications of their decision making. Outside farm-gate influences are stifling innovation on our farms.

Our organisation is turning its headlights to the one of those stifling factors in particular - the RMA. I would like to cite you an example

Shearers quite rightly in my view are asking farmers for decent toilet facilities in woolsheds. A reasonable request, but it's not that simple.

You need to find a registered plumber, apply for building, health and resource consents. Then, if you have the wrong soil type, you need all the drainage requirements.

Imagine the cost before a nail is driven? The consequence is that after examining the cost, you say "sorry, long drop it is".

Regulations designed for an urban environment are unrealistic for a woolshed used only 20 days a year.

The Dunedin City Council, in its attempts to provide for light industrial use in a rural zone would have (if it were not for FFNZ) required a consent to bale and store wool on a farm.

While this may not have been the intention, it is a graphic example of how well intentioned policies written by the impractical and ill-informed, can go horribly wrong.

On top of examples like this, we now face a raft of national standards dreamed up in Wellington that will have a huge impact on rural councils' decision making process.

That's why the role you play is so important.

One thing that I have been committed to in this job since day one is working hard to form relationships.

We all know that in our small country you will not get too far without knowing whom to talk to and, even better, actually talking to them.

I have been accused at times of being too close to some organisations. I don't accept that for one minute.

The people who have made those accusations might have failed to grasp the concept that forging relationships, partnerships or being mates or whatever you want to call it does not mean you always have to agree.

What it does mean is that you can still have a decent scrap and come out the other side with your future opportunities for gain left intact.

I was elected to make decisions and get things done. I have done just that and I am proud of what our sector has achieved as a result. The Meat and Fibre Council makes up around 46% of the FFNZ membership. That puts us in a very good position to voice our concerns and be noticed.

Which ties nicely back to life with our new Minister.

Mr Anderton is known for his constructive partnership-based approach. I hope in this council meeting we can decide and agree on what opportunities that brings to our industry and what we can collectively achieve in the next three years.

Over the next two days we will discuss important policy issues and hear from speakers on topics ranging from rural security, the wool industry, trade, and marketing of red meat.

And just before we get on with it and keeping in mind that the Minister, and maybe even the Prime Minister, could be listening; here is what I hope to fill my Christmas stocking.

1. Certainty, that freehold title is just that. That is my title gives me the right to decide how I manage my land. It is my name on the mortgage, I carry the risk, I make the decisions.

2. Compensation for protection of my piece of dirt if the public decides that they know better than I do

3. Freedom from unnecessary compliance costs.

4. A vibrant and profitable wool industry.

5. DoC looks after DoC and not everyone else. DoC should instead focus on its own shortcomings such as controlling the wild pig population, which comes out of its estates and wreaks havoc on private farmland.

6. A continuing strong commitment to biosecurity.

7. Rates which actually reflect the services provided by councils to individual farmers.

8. Access to high speed internet.

9. Chipless dogs.

10. And maybe, just maybe, a corporate box at Eden park for the 2011 Rugby world Cup.


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