Environment, crime and water on the political agenda at Field Days

New Zealand First deputy leader Ron Mark talks to people attending Field Days in Feilding.
David Unwin/Fairfax NZ.

New Zealand First deputy leader Ron Mark talks to people attending Field Days in Feilding.

Biosecurity and environmental concerns were high on the agenda of farmers looking to bend the ear of politicians at the Central Districts Field Days.

Most major political parties had representatives at the Field Days, held in Feilding over the weekend, either sending some in for a day or two, or setting up stalls.

Fairfax events manager Brett McMeekin​ said 23,700 people paid to be at the event. 

While there were reports farmers weren't too keen on spending, McMeekin said stallholders were pleased.

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"One said that if he packed up and went home after the first day, he would have done double his take on last year."

But they weren't just there for the deals, getting in the ears of politicians was also on the to-do list for farmers.

National party member and Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie said there used to be a time when people would do an arc around politicians to avoid talking to them, but now he was busy most of the time talking to his constituents.

Environment and water issues were high on people's agendas, he said.

Most people seemed relatively positive no matter what industry they came from, although sheep farmers had been doing it tough with the price of wool and meat, he said.

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Getting out and listening to people at events like Field Days was crucial for an electorate MP.

"If you don't know what is going on out there, then you are in trouble," McKelvie said.

Labour Party spokesman for primary industries Damien O'Connor​, making his first trip to Central Districts Field Days, said people were especially keen to talk about issues in election year.

Farmers were particularly interested in the One Plan, a contentious resource management document for the Manawatu-Whanganui region, he said.

He had a different take on how people were feeling, saying it felt quite flat.

"Getting $80 or $90 for a lamb just isn't going to cut it, and farmers are going to walk away from sheep."

Dry stock farmers were likely finding it tough in a hard meat industry, he said.

"In the end, farmers, by nature, have to be eternally optimistic and so I think people were mainly there enjoying a great day."

People were also keen to talk about the setup of the Ministry of Primary Industries and how they approached biosecurity and food safety.

New Zealand First had a large presence at the event, with three of its MPs - Richard Prosser​, Darroch Ball and Ron Mark - doing the rounds on Saturday.

Prosser, the party's primary industries spokesman, said investment in rural New Zealand came up a lot.

Rural communities contributed a lot to the economy, but more should be invested back into them, he said.

"A lot of the focus seems to be in the cities."

The party's policy of relocating government departments to places like Masterton, Palmerston North and Whanganui would have a flow-on effect to the nearby rural communities, he said.

Mark said many people had also been talking to him about rural policing.

Almost all major political parties have announced they will invest in more police if they are in government after the election.

Mark said people wanted to know where those officers were going, and if they would be properly resourced to respond quickly to uniquely rural crimes like cattle rustling and thefts of quad bikes.

 - Stuff

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