'The devil's in the detail': Farmers wary of Budget's long-term benefits

There has been a lukewarm reaction from farmers to Thursday's Budget, with many wary of the Government's long-term plan for the primary industries.

An environmental jobs package of $1.1 billion was announced, aiming to create thousands of new jobs through regional and environmental projects.

A further $19.3 million investment was earmarked to place 10,000 people into primary sector jobs, while the Budget also included $500 million in initiatives supporting primary industries, with much of that funding going towards eradicating Mycoplasma bovis.

While the announcements were welcomed by Federated Farmers and DairyNZ, both groups expressed concerns about the Government's long-term vision.

"As with so many aspects of the Budget announcements, the devil will be in the detail," said Andrew Hoggard, Federated Farmers vice-president and economics spokesperson.

Dr Tim Mackle, DairyNZ chief executive, said the Budget had some "promising and practical initiatives", particularly with its funding to create jobs.

“With unemployment forecast to hit 9.8 percent by September, we are hoping many Kiwis will consider a career in our world-leading dairy sector," Dr Mackle said.

The Government also allocated a further $3 billion to infrastructure, though exactly how this money will be spent has not yet been decided.

"While the dollars are there, the detail isn’t," said Dr Mackle.

Hoggard said Federated Farmers was hoping the money would go towards enhanced rural connectivity and for water storage and road maintenance in rural areas.

Dr Mackle said recent drought had shown how important investment in water storage was.

"A coordinated approach to water storage would help unlock economic potential, ensure land-use flexibility, and increase the resilience of our rural communities in the face of drought and a changing climate."

'The devil's in the detail': Farmers wary of Budget's long-term benefits

Although the lack of detail at this stage was disappointing, Hoggard said that in the long run it might be for the best given the fact that much of Budget had been done under pressure from the COVID-19 pandemic.

"It is important for us all to remember what an extraordinary level of debt we are committing our nation to, to recover from this crisis."

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the investment for farmers, growers and producers would play a critical role in the country's economic future.

"This is a significant investment which will grow and transform the primary sector.

 "Together, as a nation, we are rebuilding from an economic shock not seen since the Great Depression. But there is a clear path through and the Government is committed to getting New Zealand working again."