NZ Election 2020: Farmers hope Labour's success could mean less power for Greens

Farmers are hoping Labour's overwhelming success at the polls on Saturday will mean the Green Party has less say in the country's agricultural policy.

Preliminary results - which do not include special votes - show the Greens increased their party vote from the previous election, winning 7.6 percent of the vote or 10 seats. Despite the Green's increased popularity though, Labour earned 49.1 percent of the vote or 64 seats, giving them the power to govern alone.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has yet to confirm whether Labour will form a coalition with the Greens.

Federated Farmers say they hope Labour's increased strength might mean the Greens end up with less power to make policies that influence rural communities.

"From a farming point of view, the positive I take is that Labour doesn't have to rely on the Greens," Federated Farmers president Andrew Hoggard told Magic Talk's Rural Exchange on Sunday. 

"Some of their policies were not what most farmers would like," he said. "So it's good they're not going to be held to ransom, as it were."

Farmers have been outspoken in recent months about their opposition to certain regulations introduced by the Government, including the Emissions Trading Scheme and new freshwater rules. They have also made their views clear to politicians such as Environment Minister David Parker and Minister of Conservation Eugenie Sage. 

When farmers in Southland threatened to boycott freshwater rules - particularly those concerning winter grazing - Sage called them "irresponsible" and Parker warned them "no one is above the law".

Hoggard said farmers will be watching carefully to see what Cabinet positions are filled by whom, when the new Government is finalised.

"We now have a vacant Minister of Foreign Affairs," Hoggard said. 

"Now David Parker is, you would assume, one of the people in the running for that. So if he becomes [minister of] foreign affairs, we'll have someone new in the [Ministry for the] Environment and certainly when you're new in a seat or in a position and you've got some concerns with the old person's position it's very much easy to walk back on stuff. Whereas if they're your ideas it's a lot harder to walk back on them. So how the Cabinet shakes out will determine a bit how things move forward."

Although New Zealand's rural communities traditionally vote National, a number of normally solid blue seats turned red this year, including Rangitata, which was won by Jo Luxton, East Coast, won by Kiri Allan, and Wairarapa, won by Kieran McAnulty.

Hoggard gave those MPs credit for winning their electorates, saying they had "really engaged" with Federated Farmers and had "done the hard work" in their communities over the past few years. 

"Jo's been very engaged and she hasn't put a foot wrong in terms of stuffing anything up, she's from a farming background so moved there as a sharemilker many years ago, so she does know farming. I think she - like Kiri and Kieran- has just done the hard work in their electorate and gotten that support."

Hoggard said those Labour MPs were a change from many of the Green politicians who "possibly have never been outside the city in their lives".

"That was a big concern a lot of people had, just [that they had] absolutely no empathy, no understanding of the reality of how farming works and what people do in the rural environment and how it all ticks over. 

"So having a few people that will have a bit of say that do understand the basics is important."

Although Labour don't need to partner with the Greens, politician commentator Bruce Edwards told Rural Exchange it would probably be in their best interests to do so.

"The benefits are, first it looks good. It looks like she's inclusive and that she's not just being greedy with power," he said.

"Secondly, it looks to the future. It means that perhaps at the next election when the tide goes out on Labour - and it will, this will be their high tide mark - they may fall short of being able to govern. And if the Green were alienated in 2020 by not being used by Labour then they won't play ball, they won't be so friendly. 

"Thirdly, and probably the most important reason I think, is they don't want the Greens outside the tent, criticising from outside, they want them in the tent. Labour's going to have to make lots of hard decisions and they're going to disappoint a lot on the left over the next three years and the Greens are going to be that left. So it's better to keep them sweet, give them a few jobs, keep them busy, a few policies, and that will keep their left flank protected. So I think it's a no-brainer that she tries to get the Greens into Government, but of course they might be well advised to stay out  to give them more freedom."

Regardless of who ends up in power when the Government is finalised, Hoggard's advice for farmers was simple: "carry on farming".

"I don't think a lot is going to change in the immediate term," he said. "We'll keep working on these issues. I think we've just got to remember right now in the world's situation agriculture is extremely important to New Zealand, we're earning in export dollars and other industries are closed up. I don't think anyone in Parliament that's making the calls will be wanting to shoot the golden goose right now. 

"So I just urge everyone to keep farming to the best of your ability. Yep, we've got some stupid rules that are in place that we're working on changing [but] I'd focus on doing the smart stuff you know is right that's good for the environment, that's practical. 

"Keep doing that stuff and hopefully we'll get these rules sorted out."