This year, under new leader Christopher Luxon, my focus will be on restoring confidence among farmers and growers.
Since COVID-19 arrived on our shores in 2020, New Zealand’s primary sector has ensured our economy has remained buoyant and deserves to be recognised for the contribution it has made.
While changes are needed, the Government’s broad brush approach of unworkable regulations is not the way to achieve productive results. Planning within catchments and communities will find the answers we need to move forward.
As Shadow Minister of Agriculture, I will bring ideas to the table, listen to others and together, work out a path to a successful food and fibre future.
Key issues include methane measurement, water quality and quantity, workforce, technology and the services in your rural communities.
Methane measurements — Current metric measurement GWP100 calculates the warming effect of methane over a 100-year period which overstates the warming impact. Unlike CO2 methane cycles out of the atmosphere in 10-12 years. Better measurement method GWP* reflects that shorter cycle and is more accurate. Our farmers already produce food at the lowest emission rates in the world, so we need measures which don’t result in the leakage of food production to farmers worldwide.
Water quantity and quality — While water is our most valuable resource, several proposed storage projects have been stopped or stalled due to regulatory restraint, cost or uncertainty. As we search for climate solutions and find new ways to produce both renewable electricity and energy, some smart minds should work together on ideas for multiple water storage infrastructure projects. We need ‘can do’ answers, especially for areas of NZ more exposed to drought. On our journey to cleaner water, we will focus on regional and local solutions taking into account local soils, rainfall and land use.
Rural workforce – We need more employees in every area of the primary sector. We want to educate students better about the future opportunities open to them. But until we get there, we must bring in qualified immigrants and seasonal workers to ensure productivity is at its maximum potential.
Technology will help us pave a path to the future. We must be open-minded to new options and technologies. We must be brave enough to discuss what gene editing might add to our toolbox. A boost in rural connectivity will ensure our ability to use modern technology options that are available.
Rural Communities have always been the heart of New Zealand. That heartbeat needs strengthening with better services for health, education, police, rescue and wellbeing, along with robust infrastructure such as roads, water services and mobile services.
I will be following with great interest the new Rural Communities team within the Ministry for Primary Industries who have been tasked with keeping your interests to the fore with other Ministries.
I am excited and looking forward to engaging with you in 2022.
Let’s change up the conversation and ensure that farmers and growers can feel proud.
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