BECKIE WILSON

beckie.wilson@age.co.nz

After nearly a week of mulling over the newly formed coalition government, Wairarapa farmers are hoping Labour can prove they are ready to support provincial New Zealand.

With Labour, NZ First and the Green party combining last week to lead the country, the region’s farmers are still dubious following Labour’s “anti-farming” campaign.

The uncertainty around the proposed water tax, and what important decisions were left behind, combined with the bid for fulfilling political promises on rural health are just a couple of queries from those in the industry.

Gladstone farmer Karen Williams said what came through in the election campaign was how “distressing” it got for farmers.

However, Mrs Williams is looking forward to what can be achieved and for that to happen she would like to see Labour working in the provincial areas.

While it is still early days, Mrs Williams has taken a positive stance on the government.

She wants to see agricultural representatives advocating how important the rural sector is to the country’s economy.

During the election campaign, Labour’s proposed water tax was “hard to swallow” and was a real kick in the guts for farmers who are already mitigating impacts.

“I think because it was floated as an election carrot to get votes and it was supposed to be about improving our water quality but irrigators aren’t necessarily polluters, you can irrigate sustainably,” she said.

“I want Labour to show that they are not actually just a big city supporter, and the provincial towns will be supported because that’s where the heart of New Zealand is,” she said.

She can see major challenges ahead with three different parties working together.

“I wonder, but we will never know, who was trading what and what really important policy decisions have been left on the table because they couldn’t reach agreement.”

Castlepoint Station owner and previous Federated Farmers vice-president Anders Crofoot hopes NZ First would have a good influence on the economic development in rural areas.

“Much of the stuff said during the campaign was negative towards farming, but I think there is now some moderation on that,” Mr Crofoot said.

“In reality, agriculture has often done quite well under a Labour government.”

In agriculture, things happen on a year by year basis, and tend to happen in cycles predominantly decided by the weather, he said.

Now, it was about agreeing on policies that have an impact on agriculture, and looking after rural communities, he said.

“NZ First will have a moderating influence there.”

Martinborough sheep, beef and cropping farmer Mark Guscott said there will be a lot of changes outside the “our control” that cannot be ignored.

He hopes representatives of the sector will continue to do a good job in terms of forming policies for the rural communities.

Rural Health Alliance of Aotearoa New Zealand (RHAANZ) chief executive Michelle Thompson said urgent meetings need to be had with the upcoming health and primary industries ministers to help solve the serious rural health crisis.

“We are especially keen to pick up discussions on Labour’s election promise to address core inequities of access to health services for rural people and NZ First’s election pledges to develop a national rural and provincial health services plan and to increase health research and development funding to two percent of GDP over 10 years,” she said.

The new government has the opportunity to appoint a rural health commissioner which would provide independent advice for the 600,000 rural New Zealanders.