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Farmers to boycott Mackenzie ‘imposium’


21 November 2010

Farmers to boycott Mackenzie ‘imposium’

Federated Farmers Vice-President, Donald Aubrey, will not be attending the Environmental Defence Society (EDS) and Forest & Bird organised ‘symposium’ on the Mackenzie Basin’s future, after being advertised as a keynote speaker well before being asked or even invited.

“Along with local farmers, I’m angry at the high-handed way in which organisers have prepared for this ‘imposium’ as though it’s inclusive but it’s not,” says Donald Aubrey, Federated Farmers Vice-President.

“But I think it’s just not right to participate in a symposium while the Environment Court is considering its ruling. It’s not only disrespectful but could be construed as a deliberate attempt to influence due process in local government as well as the Courts.

“I also take issue with the way the EDS booked a hall then released names of speakers over a month ago. Yet they didn’t deign to invite or even call me before advertising the programme. I’m not alone either.

“This sort of approach by EDS chair, Gary Taylor, and others who put themselves on a pedestal stinks. It’s not just presumptive but manipulative.

“It’s beyond rude and tells farmers just how little regard the EDS or Forest & Bird have towards genuine consultation or even politeness.

“They say one thing to the media then do the opposite. This may be normal behaviour in Ponsonby but it’s definitely not how we do things in the High Country. It’s also opposite to the collaborative image they like to portray.

“What the EDS and Forest & Bird are trying to do is to hoodwink the Government into forming a national policy statement for the Mackenzie Basin.

“This is despite a significant plan change proposal that is subject to an Environment Court appeal hearing. In fact, unlike 150 other organisations and individuals, the EDS didn’t even bother to lodge a submission with the Mackenzie District Council.

“Farmers and Federated Farmers wish to engage but not when it’s presented to us as some fait accompli. That’s why some appellants against the proposed plan change are loathe to attend, despite wishing to give the facts on their environmental stewardship.

“No one cares more for the Mackenzie Basin than the people who live in it. That is why any such symposium needs to be developed with local landowner input. But as local landowner Martin Murray explained to the Timaru Herald recently, “they’re not even wanting to listen to us”.

“I think the Hon Nick Smith, the Minister for the Environment, needs to think carefully before endorsing such behaviour with his presence. Only last week he praised Federated Farmers for listening and genuinely engaging but this is nothing like that. His presence lends this charade ‘imposium’ a dignity it just doesn’t deserve.

“Federated Farmers High Country Chairperson, Graham Reed, has questioned why they don’t buy the land they want ‘saved’ and repeatedly offered to help educate Forest & Bird on High Country farming realities.

“Surprise, surprise, he has never been called,“ Mr Aubrey concluded.

Donald Aubrey is presently liaising with both Mr Reed and Mr John Murray, the chair of the Mackenzie Branch of Federated Farmers, with the prospect of holding a jointly chaired symposium early next year after the Environment Court has delivered its decision.


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