Thousands pour in as Fieldays opens at Mystery Creek

By Monique Steele for RNZ

Politics, new equipment and the tractor pull contest have taken centre stage so far at the opening day of the New Zealand Fieldays, the largest agricultural event in the Southern Hemisphere.

Thousands have poured through the gates despite fears this year's 56th event could be smaller due to economic constrictions.

National is making its presence known with Prime Minister Christopher Luxon kicking off the speaking round at Fieldays - with Agriculture Minister Todd McClay poised to follow.

He is also speaking at The Ministry of Primary Industries Leaders Luncheon.

Mr Luxon told industry leaders this morning the Government is doing everything it can to bring inflation and interest rates down which will help the whole economy and the food and fibre sector grow.

"We have massive ambition about going for growth. We want to double the number and value of our exports in the next ten years.

We are going to get rid of the impractical and ineffectual regulations which I think ahve held the sector back for some time. The previous government went to war with farmers and introduced a wave of regulations which often worked at cross-purposes."

It is expected the Government will make a raft of announcements at Fieldays - including rural support funding and resuming live animal exports by sea which it campaigned on.

It has already got rid of low slope maps, winter grazing consents and yesterday announced agriculture will not go into the Emissions Trading Scheme - a move that's been slammed by Labour, The Greens and environmental groups as a huge backwards step.

Farmers enjoying the sights, sounds and smells of Fieldays say they're happy with changes the new Government is making.

Te Awamutu ground spreader Peter is excited to see what else they do.

"It's better than the last one. You've got to give them time to sort it out. Hopefully it will look better and turn around."

Retired dairy farmer Ian Rutherford from Duntroon in North Otago feels the same.

"Dairying has been kind to us. We are very pleased to see a change in government."

Others were there for more agricultural pursuits.

Craig's a young contractor from Matamata - he'll be competing in the tractor pull competition this week.

He says work's treating him well.

"The weather's good, the grass is growing and the cows are happy. Can't complain."

Fellow Matamata contractor David says coming to Fieldays is a great chance to get out and about. He was heading off to check out the stands and the deals - and check out the tractor pull.

National, ACT and New Zealand First all have sites at Fieldays and Labour is also making its presence known - leader Chris Hipkins will be at Fieldays on Friday visiting stalls and speaking at the new Advocacy Hub.

The National party is also using Fieldays to launch a 'Rural Nats' group.

The special interest group will focus on rural people and issues - helping to develop rural and agriculture policy.

National MPs from five regions including Barbara Kuriger, Mike Butterick and Miles Anderson will lead the Rural Nats in their respective areas.