NZ Election 2020: New Zealand First unveils agriculture policy, promises changes to freshwater rules, 'incentives to reopen pathway to farm ownership'

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters.
New Zealand First leader Winston Peters. Photo credit: Getty

New Zealand First announced its agriculture policy on Monday, promising to change some of the "impractical" details of new freshwater regulations and to continue supporting water storage projects across the country. 

The party also pledged to ensure an "immediate move" to certified Farm Environment Plans for the 2021/2022 season to allow farmers time to get their plans up and running and to increase accelerated depreciation on wintering sheds, which the party said would allow certainty for farmers around new plans.

The party's policy addressed controversial freshwater regulations introduced in August. Many farmers, particularly in Southland, called those regulations impractical and unworkable and threatened to boycott them.

New Zealand First leader Winston Peters on Monday said while his party was "in support of the broad direction" of the Government's freshwater policy, "New Zealand First believes the direction of travel contained some impractical details around resowing dates, pugging definition, accuracy of mapping and achievable Dissolved Inorganic Nitrogen (DIN) limits".

"To work, such regulations need to be standardised alongside certified Farm Environment Plans, whilst recognising that one size does not fit all."

Peters said more flexibility was needed if the rules were to have an effect.

"Regional councils and farmers need flexibility to ensure regulations are fit for purpose. For example, by allowing winter cropping on slopes over 10 degrees, where that is clearly appropriate, resource consent should not be necessary."

The party said it would continue to hold its position blocking tax on water, and would also push for more "incentives to reopen the pathway to farm ownership".

"Our New Zealand First Farms policy would leverage Landcorp’s balance sheet to provide equity funding for qualifying young farmers into their first farm, first share milking job or first line of stock to assist building equity," the party said.

It also said it wanted to see the reinstatement of the Farm Cadets scheme and an "internal RSE scheme", where workers from around New Zealand can take part in seasonal work opportunities in other parts of the country. 

"In the present COVID economy where essential workers for agriculture are needed and are not available in New Zealand at present, then we must, in the interim, acquire them from offshore, while in the meantime doing everything we can to train New Zealanders to fill these roles." 

As part of its policy, the party said it would:

  • Build the New Zealand First Farms initiative to assist qualified new entrants towards farm ownership by leveraging Landcorp’s balance sheet
  • Facilitate water storage and irrigation schemes while working in tandem with local groups and Government to fund and build water storage capacity and capability, so that they meet the needs of modern aquaculture and horticulture
  • Provide government co-funding for primary sector ‘New Zealand Brand’ value add initiatives, such as Beef and Lamb New Zealand’s “Taste Pure Nature” or protecting the term of ‘Manuka Honey’
  • Increase funding and capacity for primary production research
  • Introduce accelerated depreciation for wintering sheds
  • Dedicate funding for riparian planting and fences
  • Update the Sharemilking Act (1937)
  •  Investigate stock agent licencing reforms
  • Enable domestic testing of ryegrass for methane reduction
  • Explore the feasibility of wool carpets and insulation in all Government funded buildings
  • Consider the total overhaul of strong wool marketing models
  • Support the National Animal Welfare Advisory Council (NAWAC) in formulating animal welfare standards
  •   Support research into regenerative farming models
  • Help unify the Manuka Honey industry to add value to our export products
  • Support agricultural training institutions such as Telford in Balclutha.