Celebrating 25 Years of Scoop
Special: Up To 25% Off Scoop Pro Learn More

Gordon Campbell | Parliament TV | Parliament Today | Video | Questions Of the Day | Search


Andrew Hoggard's Speech At ACT's 'Change Makers' Rally

Thank you all, it’s great to be here.

One year ago, I spoke here as a newly announced ACT candidate. Since then, the new Coalition Government – with ACT at its heart – has ended Labour and the Greens’ war on farming.

I spoke last year about the lack of confidence farmers felt in their future. At the time, the Federated Farmers’ farm confidence survey had reached its lowest ever point.

This was mainly driven by government policies that gave farmers no confidence that investments they made in their farm, for productivity, animal welfare, or environmental benefits would actually generate a return to them.

Now, at the time farm commodity prices were not too bad. Since then, we have seen a drop in those international prices, and the last year has been particularly tough. Despite that, farmer confidence has lifted because they see policies and actions from the Coalition Government that give them hope.

New Zealand farmers feed 40 million people around the world. They are the epitome of change makers – getting up at the crack of dawn to make a difference in their own life and the lives of others. Here’s one thing lefties and environmentalists don’t understand: farmers are the true environmentalists.

We live off the land, so we have every incentive to care for it. New Zealand farmers are the most emissions-efficient in the world, so punishing them, only for that production to be done offshore, makes absolutely no sense from an environmental perspective. ACT understands that.

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading

Are you getting our free newsletter?

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.

The biggest challenge for many people in rural New Zealand right now is interest rates. They’re higher than they need to be because of rampant inflation. Of course, inflation has been driven by massive government spending and excessive red tape which drives down productivity.

The recent budget was a step on the path to restoring fiscal discipline in Wellington. It didn’t go as far as ACT would have liked, but it went further than it would have if ACT wasn’t at the Cabinet table.

Every small businessperson understands the need to live within your means, to prioritise spending on what will provide the most benefit for your business. That’s the sort of thinking ACT is bringing to the table.

But that’s one side of the story. The other side is the red tape. Farmers are in a unique position where, not only do we have to deal with all roadblocks every other small business faces, but we get a whole heap of special ones as well.

Stopping Significant Natural Areas was an early priority for me and the Government. Significant Natural Areas are parts of your land the council looks at and says “that looks pretty, you’re going to lose your property rights over that”. Under the indigenous biodiversity rules set up by James Shaw, councils were required to map out all the supposed Significant Natural Areas on private land in their districts.

We’ve removed that requirement and pushed the deadline out till 2030, while we do a proper review of the use of significant natural areas.

We already have a significant amount of land in the DOC estate, which that department struggles to look after. And the QE2 trust, where farmers voluntarily put covenants on special parts of their farms to protect them, If every QE2 covenant was stitched together it would be the land size of our fifth largest national park.

It's impressive – and that is all voluntary, this shows that private landowners do care.

What’s the problem we are trying to solve here? If it’s to protect indigenous biodiversity, there’s already a solution in front of us: private landowners doing it themselves without the need for more red tape.

We’re also removing stock exclusion rules. This would have forced farmers of some of the more extensive lightly grazed land, and most difficult terrain in the country, to fence off all waterways, for exceptionally low environmental benefits but at a massive cost to those farmers.

And we’re sorting out winter grazing rules. But frankly the rules forced on farmers by the last government were ridiculous, and poorly thought out. These rules add little but extra bureaucracy and form filling.

Most importantly, the Coalition Government is going to deal with the big kahuna – the underlying legislation these regulations are based on, that is the RMA. In this area, my colleague Simon Court is doing superb work in coming up with a replacement for the RMA. As every change maker knows, it is desperately needed.

Councils and courts have taken the view that you’re guilty of not using your land correctly until you prove yourself innocent. With ACT in Government, the starting point of the new RMA is going to be that it’s your land, you can do with it what you like unless it’s proven you are causing harm to your neighbours or the wider commons. That is a fundamental shift from where we are at present.

We wouldn’t need to have fast-track legislation if we had the underlying policy right. Everyone should have a fast-track, whether they are building a wind farm, putting a culvert in, or building a deck. With both myself and Simon Court working on the replacement for the RMA, you can be assured that ACT’s voice is being heard.

The most significant of all the pieces of national direction that is being reviewed at present is the National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management. Freshwater is critical to every single one of us.

Go without it for three days and you are likely not with us anymore, regardless of your ethnicity. Likewise, if we don’t have an economy then we all struggle with supporting our modern existence, a whole range of competing factors need to be considered with water policy and they need to be balanced, and most importantly they need to look forward not backwards.

The guiding principles I will take to the freshwater ministers group are: what rules and settings will most benefit all New Zealanders going forward, make the most sense for business confidence, and enable people and communities to best look after environmental outcomes that are important to them.

Elsewhere, I’m ensuring animal welfare rules are practical, methane targets are based on sound science and economics, compliance costs in biosecurity and food safety are reduced, and that we have a coherent plan for agricultural vocational training.

The war on farming is over, it’s time to celebrate our Farmers and Growers for all they do, they farm without subsidies, they provide economic activity for the country, they look after the environment because they care not because they are paid to do it. In ACT you have a number of MPs who get this more than any other Party. We have lived and breathed Rural NZ, and will continue to do so. A plethora of MPs will descend on Mystery Creek this week, and play farmer dress up... The real ones will be at the ACT tent.

© Scoop Media

Advertisement - scroll to continue reading
Parliament Headlines | Politics Headlines | Regional Headlines




InfoPages News Channels


Join Our Free Newsletter

Subscribe to Scoop’s 'The Catch Up' our free weekly newsletter sent to your inbox every Monday with stories from across our network.