Getting our act together at select committee
The passing last night of the Farm Debt Mediation Act and amendments to the NAIT Act is not only good news for the agriculture sector but a great advertisement for New Zealand’s select committee process, Federated Farmers says.
"The squabbling and name-calling in the Parliamentary ‘bear pit’ tends to grab the headlines, but away from the limelight in select committees our MPs are more willing to put aside politicking and strive for practicable solutions," Feds Vice-President Andrew Hoggard says.
"We certainly saw this with the Farm Debt Mediation and NAIT bills. MPs from all sides of the House listened closely to submissions from Federated Farmers and other industry representatives, and asked probing questions. The result, in both cases, is legislation that is significantly improved from first drafts."
Federated Farmers acknowledges the work of NZ First, in particular Mark Patterson, the Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor, as well as Ministry officials to develop farm debt mediation legislation that should help facilitate better conversations between farmers and their banks and if necessary a more structured way to address problems.
As Mark Patterson noted in last night’s debate, the legislation is not a "get out of jail free card", and won’t absolve farmers who make poor financial decisions.
"But it does go some way to addressing the power imbalance between a farmer whose business is also their livelihood and often the family home, and major multinational financial institutions. There’s now a process that ensures some fairness and transparency," Andrew says.
The farm debt mediation legislation goes live in June 2020 and in the meantime MPI will be setting up the architecture for it and working to get mediation bodies accredited.
On the NAIT front, the select committee adopted a number of Federated Farmers’ suggestions - including that farmers not the Government own core data entered on the system, and a review period for the ‘unsafe to tag’ provisions.
"Like the Government, Feds wants much better NAIT compliance and we welcome the acknowledgement that the latest rule changes are but first steps as we continue the drive for progress on operational and ease-of-use improvements to ensure we have a system that is fit for purpose and able to deal with foreseeable future risks."