Dairy farming in NZ - the politicians’ views

ELECTION ISSUE?: Months out from the general election, the major political parties have significantly different positions on diary farming.
ELECTION ISSUE?: Months out from the general election, the major political parties have significantly different positions on diary farming.

Just months out from the September 20 General Election, the major parties are at varying levels of coyness about their agricultural policies.

However, National is bullish about its "ambitious plans" to grow the dairy sector and says it is a big part of its plans to double primary exports by 2025.

Minister for Primary Industries Nathan Guy says the key to hitting its 100 per cent agricultural export-growth target inside 11 years is building on the momentum of the Primary Growth Partnership.

Guy says the plan is to encourage irrigation and water storage, build new roads, move forward with free trade deals and Resource Management Act reform.

In the aftermath of last year's drought, irrigation sits high on National's list of priorities.

"The Government has signalled plans to invest up to $400 million in regional-scale irrigation schemes to encourage third-party capital investment. The Government is also supporting development of suitable projects to the prospectus-ready stage through the Irrigation Acceleration Fund," Guy says.

Labour's Primary Industries spokesperson Damien O'Connor said the party had "no firm written (agricultural) policy at this point".

However, on a recent visit to the Waikato and Coromandel, O'Connor identified stringent environmental practices and a capital gains tax on farmland as key policy planks.

"People buying farmland should do so on the basis of its productive-return capacity, not on some expectation of a capital gain that effectively makes it more difficult for the next farmer to make a living," O'Connor told the Waikato Times.

He says the National-led Government had allocated significant funds for research and assistance but focus should have been on environmental management.

"The levels of intensification of dairying across the country are so much greater now that it's getting increasingly harder for farmers to maintain production."

New Zealand First Primary Industries Spokesperson Richard Prosser says the party supports the expansion of dairying as long as it is aligned with moves in the industry aimed at answering environmental concerns.

The party would also like to see more value adding to the "minimally-processed commodities" that still comprise a large chunk of the nation's dairy exports.

New Zealand First says foreign ownership is "not investment" but a "transfer of wealth". However the party does support the purchase of farmland by "migrants who have attained citizenship or who have been granted residency and are using that residency".

The Green Party believes foreign investment needs stronger oversight, says its Primary Industries spokesperson Steffan Browning.

"We propose that all foreign investment proposals undergo a national interest analysis. Foreign investment must meet sustainability criteria, and needs to be closely monitored to avoid the expatriation of profits from our productive asset base."

The Green Party says it supports dairy farmers who are producing in harmony with the environment.

"There are good examples of less intensive dairy production where environmental and animal welfare effects are significantly reduced, where the farm is more profitable and there are good personal outcomes for the farming family."

This view is shared by the New Zealand Maori party, which supports developing iwi environmental monitoring, evaluation and improvement of water quality.