30 November 2009
Farmers keen to start Dr Brash’s conversation
Federated Farmers has welcomed the 2025 Taskforce Report released today by Dr Don Brash. The Federation is disappointed
in the negative reaction to a document intended to make New Zealanders think about the future.
“Someone once said that poverty in paradise is still poverty and that sums up the New Zealand condition,” says Don
Nicolson, Federated Farmers President.
“Look, we could complain that a word search in the Report for ‘agriculture’ and ‘agricultural’ threw up just seven
results while there were just 16 occurrences of ‘farm’, ‘farmer, or ‘farming’ in 150 pages. We won’t because it’s a
starting point and not the end.
“Clearly with 35 recommendations there’s going to be a lot of debate. Yes, there’s stuff in the Report that aggravates
me, particularly the Michael Porteresque dismissal of agriculture’s massive productivity growth.
“You’d think our sector’s out-performance of the rest of the economy provides a point of comparison that ought to be
“Yet I’m prepared to debate it. To start the conversation. The shame is that before it was even published we saw people
scurrying for positions.
“One or two recommendations will dominate discussion and the size of Government spending will be one. There’s something
wrong with our mentality when even talking about Government’s spending growth is interpreted as some right wing
“Yet Government is spending some $30 billion more today in real terms than it was back in 2000.
“We’ve literally spent billions upon billions but where are the extra operations, improved education outcomes and even
front line biosecurity? Where’s the money all gone?
“We’ve tried throwing money at issues but massive spending growth by councils and by Government itself has reduced the
effectiveness of monetary policy. It’s impeded a much needed rebalancing of the economy towards the productive tradable
“Most of the recommendations are at a macro policy level and in that, passage of the Regulatory Responsibility Bill is a
no-brainer, as is enshrining property rights in the Bill of Rights Act.
“Yet we feel introducing compensation into the Resource Management Act would provide an easy fix to its current
“Since we represent the largest players in the export sector, an independent Productivity Commission, looking at all
tariffs as well as local and central government asset sales, are all good ideas that should be on the table too.
“But we need to go further and look at how local government is structured and funded. Federated Farmers has some ideas
on this that we will inject into the debate shortly.
“Yet Federated Farmers is disappointed in some of the recommendations and the lack of acknowledgement for the economy’s
“The only mention of water storage comes in a footnote and pasture is mentioned only in passing, yet these represent the
two areas that are economically transformational.
“New Zealand’s iron ore is our plentiful water that we don’t store. Our gold is high quality pasture throughout the
“I must say that tradable water rights isn’t the solution but increasing the storage of water is.
“Dr Brash doesn’t seem to understand farmer psychology in his comments about Fonterra.
“Fonterra was built by canny farmers and it’s a tribute to them that New Zealand’s largest company, which accounts for a
quarter of all exports, remains in Kiwis hands and not in the hands of a New York fund manager.
“That shows how commercially astute farmers are. It’s why we would like a rational debate on how to close up the gap
with Australia,” Mr Nicolson concluded.