Farmers hope petition will spark Government action on wool

A petition urging the Government to mandate the use of wool in public-funded buildings and KiwiBuild homes is set to be presented to Parliament this week.

Launched by Otago farmer Amy Blaikie, the petition received more than 15,000 signatures.

Supporters of the petition - including Blaikie and her family - will be meeting around midday on Tuesday to officially deliver it to politicians.

Blaikie says she was inspired to start the petition due to the "disheartening" situation faced by the country's wool industry.

"I'm part of the Red Meat Profit Partnership group and we're all looking towards the future and making our farms and businesses sustainable and we're all looking at this amazing product that we produce and no one wants to buy any of it - it's crazy," Blaikie told Magic Talk's Rural Exchange on Sunday.

She says the petition received far more signatures than she expected.

"I learnt when you set up a petition you only need one [signature] so as long as I signed it...and I made my husband sign it so that was two - any more than that is a bonus."

Blaikie says she has had messages of support not just from other farmers, but also a range of other Kiwis such as students and firefighters.

"I'm just amazed by the support I've already had, the phone calls and emails."

The petition comes as wool prices are at an all-time low, with the cost of shearing sheep higher than what farmers earn by selling their wool.

Last year the Wool Industry Project Action Group was created to take a deeper look at the sector's problems and see what could be done to help.

A report based on those findings - which Minister Damien O'Connor described as "grim, but accurate" - was released by the Government last month, outlining a vision to revitalise the sector.

Many hope the plan may signal the start of a new chapter for the industry but others have doubts change will come quickly.

Blaikie says using New Zealand wool in public-funded buildings and KiwiBuild homes would not just benefit farmers but all Kiwis, due to the product's sustainable nature.

With wool being renewable, environmentally friendly, biodegradable and fire-resistant, Blaikie says it's a no-brainer to use it over synthetic alternatives. 

And with the Government recently pushing Kiwis to buy New Zealand-made products she says now is the perfect time to mandate wool's use.

"When they're trying to promote 'buy New Zealand' and promote the economy and stuff, well let's start at home," she told Rural Exchange.

When asked last month what he thought of the petition, O'Connor told Newshub he was "fully supportive" of using wool products in public buildings.