Dairy rules haunt vote on president

It may be a one-horse race for the presidency of Southland Federated Farmers.

Southland vice-president Russell MacPherson will be running today at the federation's annual meeting, but president Hugh Gardyne remains silent on whether he is willing to lead an organisation opposed to a new dairy conversion rule he spoke in favour of. The executive censured him for his support.

Mr MacPherson said he expected members to stay and listen when Mr Gardyne delivers the chairman's report.

"We're not all rebels; people will respect Hugh's comments."

Mr MacPherson had put himself up for the presidency today but he did not know whom he was running against, if anyone.

Days before the election, he had rung Federated Farmers members in Southland but did not consider it campaigning and had not been out kissing babies, Mr MacPherson said.

"Oh no, I've just been talking to people and saying what I'm up too ... Babies would cry if I kissed them. I never aspired to be president but there's a lot of things you don't aspire to, and you end up doing the job."

Win or lose today he had no regrets, he said.

"The only regret I've got is the public perception of dairy farming and farmers. It's not fair ... If I get up and I'm not voted in then I know where I stand. But it's really important: it's unity of purpose, and farmers all in together."

Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms said yesterday she did not know if she would be booed, or be walked out on, by disgruntled farmers, as when Mr Gardyne, who supported the new conversion policy rule, spoke against the view of the executive.

"I don't know, I have no idea, you know. When people come to my meetings I treat them with the upmost respect and I would expect that in return as well."

She will speak about Environment Southland's new conversion policy rule.

"I really see it as an opportunity to talk to a large number from the dairy industry inparticular. It's an opportunity to put across information to all those people and I think that's really important."

Primary Industries Minister David Carter, who will also be a guest speaker, said he would talk on mainly national issues but he was aware of the new dairy conversion rule in Southland.

"I clearly think that in some catchments around New Zealand, we need to consider the amount of dairying that can occur in an uncontrolled fashion.

"In other words we need to look at limits under current science for some particular catchments but I don't have the information, nor is it my job to get specific about Southland, versus Canterbury, versus Waikato, or anywhere else. Those are the responsibilities of regional councils."

Hugh Gardyne was in Christchurch yesterday and was unavailable to comment on whether he intended to stand for re-election today.

The Southland Times