Taranaki Feds Farmers prepare for next 50 years

LAIRD HARPER
Last updated 06:54 06/06/2014
Fed
LAIRD HARPER/Fairfax NZ
CHEWING THE FAT: Green MP Gareth Hughes, centre, gets the lay of the land at the Taranaki Federated Farmers 50th provincial conference.

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Political power has helped Taranaki Federated Farmers celebrate half a century of rural prosperity.

Dozens of farmers piled into Hawera's TSB Hub last week for the organisation's 50th provincial conference. They managed to pull in Energy and Resources Minister Simon Bridges, Green MP Gareth Hughes and Trade Minister Tim Groser to share their ideas.

President Bronwyn Muir said it was exactly what the organisation needed to hear as it moved forward into another 50 years.

"I think the combination of speakers brought it together really well. It gave us a very good overview of the position of those parties leading up to the election."

Muir, who retained her position at the helm of the Taranaki branch during the annual general meeting, said it was up to farmers to evolve and keep pace with the rest of the business sector.

"We have some challenges in front of us around changing dynamics and how we maintain membership.

"I am really going to call on our younger members to offer forward ideas and lead the discussion on how the organisation provincially looks.

"We have got to include technology in a way that we are seen and active in industry discussion."

Groser talked about his experience in international agricultural trade negotiations.

"I just see myself as another piece in the production chain of New Zealand agriculture," he said.

"We have a wonderful set of opportunities for New Zealand.

"We have a wonderful future ahead of us as this high-quality, sophisticated, safe producer of increasingly sophisticated foodstuffs."

When asked if there was too much emphasis on trading with China, Groser said the short answer was no.

"But the corollary to the short answer is let's spread our risks. Let's have alternative markets open to us should China go cold."

He said New Zealand should be selling as much as it could to the massive Asian market while developing alternative economic and political platforms.

Earlier in the day, farmers had a chance to hear from those who will soon be shaping New Zealand's discussions and decisions.

Bridges and Hughes chose to focus their speeches on the energy sector. However, Bridges kicked for touch when fielding questions about keeping the millions of dollars in royalties from oil and gas in the region, and the need for a decent road north out of Taranaki.

He said that while Taranaki made "a lot of money" for the rest of the country, it wasn't all one-way traffic, and the region benefited from higher-paying jobs.

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Hughes urged farmers to focus on clean, green innovation while staying within the natural limits of the planet.

He said New Zealand could easily compete with the rest of the world, but didn't have to do so by seeing who could intensify the fastest.

"We can't win forever if we are simply dependent on milk powder and logs."

Also on the bill were New Zealand Federated Farmers president Bruce Wills and South Taranaki District Mayor Ross Dunlop.

The day-long conference closed with an after-dinner performance by the Hawera Repertory Society and a couch session in which former presidents discussed the history of Taranaki Federated Farmers. Muir said it was an opportunity to look back at the thousands of volunteer hours members had poured into the province and the way they were shaping its future.

- Taranaki Daily News

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