Farmers hope Budget 2020 will focus on rural connectivity

Last month, the Government announced it would be giving its rural broadband rollout a $15 million boost.
Last month, the Government announced it would be giving its rural broadband rollout a $15 million boost.

With Budget 2020 set to be announced this week, Federated Farmers say they are hoping rural connectivity will be a focus for the Government. 

Finance Minister Grant Robertson will announce the Budget - which comes as the country faces a massive fallout from the COVID-19 pandemic - on May 14.

Billions of dollars have already been spent trying to businesses afloat and stimulate the economy and it is expected the Budget will bring more support for many struggling industries.

Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers vice-president, says the events of recent months have shown the importance agriculture has for the economy. The pandemic has also shown how important it is that rural communities are well-connected.

"There are people out in the rural area right now who are really struggling for their kids to be able to do their schoolwork, being able to fill in GST returns, do all the cloud computing and stuff for all the farm software," Hoggard told Rural Exchange on Monday. 

"It really is holding a lot of farmers back, the fact they don't have the connectivity, they can't use the latest tech on their farms. So that's a big one."

Last month, the Government announced it would be giving its rural broadband rollout a $15 million boost, aimed at helping lift the development and wellbeing of isolated communities as the economy recovers from COVID-19. Hoggard said he welcomed that move. He also said rather than new announcements, he is hoping what has already been planned can be done more quickly.

"Effectively at the moment we're a bit behind in the delivery of the IT. Our big call to the Government would be rather than coming up with anything new, let's just hit the fast-forward button on that, smash that one, then let's look at the gaps and what can we do to fill those gaps beyond that."

Hoggard said he accepted it was necessary for the Government to spend up large to stimulate the economy, but said he hoped the Budget would also "maintain fiscal discipline".

"I'll probably be going to pay off this through my taxes for the rest of my life, and my kids will probably do it for part of their life. It may even go to the grandkids," he said.

"It's needed to get through this period, because the economy's been hit hugely, but let's not go and waste any of that money on your Ministry of Works-type shovel-leaning projects that we saw back in the '80s  - let's make sure it's on real stuff that's actually pushing things forward, that's going to have a lasting improvement in New Zealand." 

Contact Newshub with your story tips:
news@newshub.co.nz