NZ Election 2020: The major parties' agricultural policies at a glance

Farming and the primary industries have been a major focus of this year's political campaign.
Farming and the primary industries have been a major focus of this year's political campaign. Photo credit: Getty

With the agricultural sector being credited with being key to helping the country's economic recovery in the wake of COVID-19, farmers and the primary industries have been a central focus for political parties ahead of the upcoming general election.

Here's a quick summary of what each of the main parties are promising if they are elected on October 17. 


Labour leader Jacinda Ardern
Labour leader Jacinda Ardern Photo credit: Newshub.

Labour has promised to contribute at least $50 million to help farmers transition to environmentally friendly practices and cope with growing compliance costs.

The strategy is called integrated farm planning, with leader Jacinda Ardern saying the party would partner with industry to create a "single planning framework" to reduce costs for farmers and growers around the country and reduce the burden of compliance.

Once fully rolled out, the farm plan would provide a framework that would meet all on-property requirements, including environmental management, labour, biosecurity and health and safety, the party said. It would replace the "overlapping and wide-ranging reporting, auditing and consents that are currently required".

The plan includes:

  • $50 million investment to create single farm planning to streamline compliance
  • Reducing costs for farmers and growers
  • Creating greater returns for farmers
  • Supporting a transition to a clean, green carbon neutral New Zealand

Agriculture spokesperson Damien O'Connor said one of the first farm plan templates to be rolled out would seek to replace the consent process for intensive winter grazing.

"Working with the regional councils and the industry we will design a template that makes applying for intensive winter grazing consent much easier or, over time, supersedes the need for the consent process," O'Connor said.


National leader Judith Colllins.
National leader Judith Colllins. Photo credit: Getty

Key to National's plan is reducing "regulatory burden" for the agriculture sector, the party says.

Leader Judith Collins promised to address issues around worker shortages and encourage innovation, giving farmers the "opportunity to farm their way to better outcomes, rather than being regulated into oblivion".

The party also committed to introducing no new taxes for the farming sector.

In order to lessen regulatory burdens for the wine industry, the party said it would amend the Sale and Supply of Alcohol Act, allowing wine tourism operators to charge for wine samples from cellar doors.  The amendment would also change rules requiring any business that operates both an on-licence and off-licence, as wineries with restaurants often wish to do, to have 85 percent of their revenue come from the sale of alcohol, something difficult for wineries operating as restaurants to achieve. 

The party promised to:

  • Repeal the Resource Management Act (RMA) and replace it with an Environmental Standards Act and Planning and Development Act
  • Allow skilled workers and Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers to enter New Zealand
  • Create a fast-tracked Primary Sector Visa
  • Repeal or review the nine new water regulations Labour introduced in August
  • Promote water storage options  
  • Review the treatment of forestry in the Emissions Trading Scheme
  • Remove the exemption that streamlines the process for forestry applications in the Overseas Investment Office test
  • Remove the review process around introducing agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme in 2022
  • Pass seven changes to the Zero Carbon Bill, including a review of the methane target
  • Pursue an active free trade agenda to open up new markets for New Zealand's food and fibre products.
  • Enforce stronger penalties for biosecurity offences
  • Build the infrastructure to ensure better connectivity for rural communities

Green Party

Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson.
Green Party co-leaders James Shaw and Marama Davidson. Photo credit: Getty

The Green Party promised $297 million in funding to support farmers and growers to transition to climate-friendly practices.

Co-leader James Shaw said the money would go towards grants, loans and other resources to support the transition of low-emissions farming.

The party also said it would place a levy on the use of nitrogen and phosphorus fertilisers, phase in stronger limits in the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater Management to progressively reduce nitrogen pollution, and ban the important and use of palm kernel extract (PKE) as supplementary feed.

The party also said it would:

  • Encourage New Zealanders to buy ethically and Kiwi-made, by overhauling the certification and labelling for sustainably-grown and organic products; and extending country-of-origin labelling.
  • Promote buying local with funding for urban food gardens and community agriculture.
  • Work with tangata whenua and within a te Tiriti o Waitangi framework to establish a resource rental on commercial use of water.
  • Ensure land use is diverse and sustainable, by changing the rules around forestry and strengthening land use rules to protect high quality soils and farmland.

New Zealand First

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

New Zealand First says that "value, not volume" is the key to keeping New Zealand's agriculture sector strong.

The party promised to provide Government co-funding for "New Zealand Brand" value add initiatives.

It also said it would change some of the "impractical" details of the new freshwater regulations.

"While in support of the broad direction of fresh water 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," leader Winston Peters said.

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

The party said it would also continue to support water storage projects across the country and help encourage more people into agriculture, namely through "incentives to reopen the pathway to farm ownership".

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 


ACT leader David Seymour.
ACT leader David Seymour. Photo credit: Getty

The ACT Party said it would repeal the Zero Carbon Act and introduce a "no-nonsense climate change plan which ties our carbon price to the prices paid by our top five trading partners".

It also vowed to "push Government to provide leadership on more accurate measurement and management frameworks for methane emissions".

The party said it would remove all subsidies for commercial forestry investment, and change Overseas Investment Office rules so that the sale of farmland to overseas purchasers was on a "level playing field, whether being purchased for forestry or not".

It also promised to implement a number of changes around water, including:

  • Remove the requirement for mandatory three-metre setbacks across all low slope land parcels in favour of allowing customised solutions for individual properties with a focus on measurable outcomes.
  • Allow regional councils and communities to set their own freshwater management limits. Limits and management interventions should be catchment-based, as opposed to being determined by a one-size-fits-all approach set in Wellington. While it's appropriate for central government to set the framework and methodology, local challenges and solutions should be identified by the people on the ground.
  • Insist upon peer-reviewed scientific evidence and quality economic analysis of the Government's Essential Freshwater reforms.
  • Encourage technological solutions to reducing nutrient run-off and leaching.
  • Require that full compensation be paid by Government if it locks out part of a farm from production, e.g. by declaring it a wetland.
  • Require regional councils to move towards market-based tradable water-use rights, where possible.

ACT also said it would replace the Resource Management Act, make a number of changes around winter grazing and increase funding for sealing and maintaining country roads.

"We want to see the rural sector given the respect it deserves," said leader David Seymour.

"Through COVID-19, the efforts of our farmers raised the level of respect rural New Zealanders get.

"The rural sector has been given a short reprieve from the campaign of demonisation. It’s time to put that change in rhetoric into action."