Farmers to have more influence on Government decisions after Labour flipped rural seats

Labour is promising to work more closely with farmers after electorates from Northland to Rangitata voted for them, meaning rural communities will have more influence on Government decisions.

With rural communities usually a thorn in a Labour Government's side, some of that tension is easing after 14 electorates previously held by National - many of them rural - went to Labour in the October election. 

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern gave a speech to the Primary Industries Summit on Tuesday where she thanked the rural community for giving Labour a strong mandate.

"The success of Labour in rural New Zealand is a huge honour, but with it comes huge responsibility. And also huge opportunities," Ardern said.

"The vote represents both an endorsement of the direction the Government is heading, as well as a requirement to work more closely with our rural communities and I want to see more of that happening locally."

Ardern seemed to make a good impression.

"For what one would assume in a city girl, you seem to know a hell of a lot about farming," Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard said of the Labour Party leader.

The rural community turned out big time for Labour at the election, and the Prime Minister is promising to listen to those new rural voters.

"We have a responsibility to deliver to those communities who voted for us," she said.

And with new rural electorate MPs to back him up, the Agriculture Minister is looking forward to having more clout in Cabinet.

"I've got a few more MPs around me who now have direct connections to farmers, who have a better understanding, so it helps when it comes to discussions," Damien O'Connor told Newshub.

Farmers have issues to raise with him: not enough seasonal workers, poor internet connection, and new freshwater requirements.

"A number of them are adding cost without any additional environmental benefit," said Hoggard.

The freshwater regulation aims to clean up waterways, setting limits on fertiliser and ground-damaging practices like winter grazing. 

Labour has already made changes to the regulation and it's likely to make more. 

"It's got to be practical and I hear when those communities say to us that we need to work on that in some areas, and that's what we're working hard on," Ardern said.

O'Connor told Newshub: "We will get to the right outcome. We just have to make some adjustments."

With such a wide mandate, Labour will have to balance keeping farmers happy with expectations from other voters to meet climate commitments and to clean up rivers.