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Chairman's report from Jamie McFadden

Rural Advocacy Network AGM 2022 – Chairman's report.

When the Hurunui SNA Group formed 22 years ago, one of our founding principles was that people have the right to be fully and accurately informed about the implications of legislation that affects them.

Traditionally the Government and councils have been the worst offenders at not providing full and accurate information, but it is concerning that our national farming advocate organisations have recently adopted the same tactic.

A graphic example is the primary industry partnership He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN). HWEN came about when our national farming organisations requested the opportunity to come up with a nicer way to emissions tax farmers than the Emission Trading Scheme (ETS).

Given the green light, HWEN subjected farmers to a sales pitch predicated on fear, false expectations, and a lack of full disclosure. How many times did we hear from our industry leaders the words – “you wouldn’t want to end up in the ETS.” This was a slick marketing campaign to make the ETS look bad, and HWEN look good.

For many years our national farming advocates have argued for councils and the government to fully cost proposals, including a detailed cost-benefit analysis. And yet, with HWEN, we have no idea what the emissions tax will be, the full extent of administration costs, and there has been no opportunity cost analysis. The sequestration credits have been massively overstated, and a read of the fine print reveals a very different story to what farmers are being told.

Another example where our national farming organisations are letting farmers down is Significant Natural Areas (SNAs). All their publicity is carefully constructed to have farmers believe the problem is the SNA criteria when it is the policy itself that is flawed. Our national farming organisations do not want farmers to know the full implications of SNAs because they have previously agreed to the SNA policy and mandatory mapping requirement on all councils.

Our national farming organisations have become agents for implementing the Government's agenda rather than strong advocates looking after our best interests. Farmers no longer have any traditional national advocacy that can be relied on to keep us fully and factually informed and faithfully represent our concerns.

This has created a void in advocacy that is now being filled by Groundswell NZ, Rural Advocacy Network, and many other new rural lobby groups. Taking on a role of national advocacy was never the intention of our respective groups, but the dire state of our industry voice leaves us with no choice.

One of the biggest threats to the viability of us as farmers, growers, food and fibre producers is the many unworkable regulations. However, these issues will not be fixed without first addressing the failings of our national farmer advocacy model.

A reason why we are ending up with many of the unworkable regulations is because our national advocacy organisations are either agreeing to them or meekly accepting them. When asked whether the HWEN partners would be recommending an alternative tax to the ETS regardless of the catastrophic consequences on our industry, the reply was yes.

While RAN has an important role in partnership with Groundswell NZ at a national level, we must not forget the local issues. It was a massive boost to have the three mayors of Hurunui, Waimakariri and Kaikoura district councils support our last Groundswell NZ protest, but there are major challenges ahead. While the Land Management team at Environment Canterbury regional council are doing a lot of fantastic work with farmers, huge problems remain in the policy and compliance sections.

Thank you to everyone for the messages of support and encouragement and to the RAN committee members for their valued contributions through meetings, phone calls and the occasional lean on a gate.

Jamie McFadden


Rural Advocacy Network

13 August 2022

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