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Labour leader’s pitch for region

When Labour leader Chris Hipkins visited Wairarapa yesterday, he sat down with reporter FLYNN NICHOLLS outside Masterton’s recently built state houses to discuss some important election issues.

One of Labour’s more controversial policies for rural communities has been the pricing of agricultural emissions, even though the 2015 Paris Agreement states that nations should reduce emissions “in a manner that does not threaten food production”.

Hipkins said going above and beyond is essential for New Zealand food producers’ sustainable reputation.

“It’s in farmers’ economic interests for us to keep that reputation; it’s just about making sure farmers have enough time to adjust,” he said.

Labour’s policy is that farmers must report their agricultural emissions by this time next year and start paying for them by September 2025.

“When I’ve spoken to farmers about the need for it, there is a lot of acknowledgements that New Zealand trades on its clean green reputation,” he said.

Hipkins noted that major international buyers of New Zealand products like Nestle and Tesco want to dramatically reduce their supply chain greenhouse gas emissions by the end of the decade.

“The reality is if we wait until next decade – which is what the National Party is saying – before we start to deal with agricultural emissions, we run the risk of sabotaging one of our best industries.”

Hipkins also noted that New Zealand farmers are global leaders in reducing nitrate leaching and said they could make money sequestering carbon on their own farms.

Asked if Labour is overregulating farming in general, Hipkins said regulations are necessary for our environment.

“The areas where there’s been increased regulation have been things like water quality,” he said.

“We all have an interest in having lakes and rivers that we can swim in and enjoy, and farmers have their role to play in that.”

On the increasing cost of housing, Hipkins insisted the bright-line test – which makes people pay income tax on any gains to a residential property they sell within a certain time frame – is more effective at stopping speculators flipping houses than an outright capital gains tax.

“Ultimately, a capital gains tax takes over a decade to implement, so it’s not going to give us the kind of turnaround that we need,” he said.

“Extending the bright line test to 10 years, actually, in terms of the rental property market, is a quicker way of delivering the same outcome. It makes sure that those people who are speculating in the housing market in order to turn a quick buck pay tax on that.”

A recent review on the future of local government found the sector needs a radical overhaul and suggested that central government give councils access to extra revenue streams like rates on Crown land or a share of GST.

“We need to have a conversation about New Zealand’s expectations for local government and how do we best pay for those,” Hipkins said.

“Central government needs to work in partnership with the local government sector to identify what that change will look like, but it’s not going to happen overnight.”

Asked about the policies from the past six years Labour’s been in government that he’s proud of, Hipkins said there are “heaps.

“I’m very proud of our covid response, which was an ongoing series of measures that gave us one of the lowest death rates from covid of any country in the world – we should all be proud of that,” he said.

Hipkins is also “stoked” about the apprenticeship boost, which subsidises employers for taking on apprentices, as well as the free lunches in schools programme.

“We want to extend both of those – the apprenticeship boost was long overdue, and the lunches programme is now feeding 220,000 Kiwi kids every day, so I’m very proud of that.”

The Times-Age couldn’t help asking the Labour leader what he thought about Waka Kotahi NZTA’s decision to lower the open road speed limit on SH2 to 80kmh between Masterton and Featherston.

“This is a legitimate concern because there are some roads that need lower speeds for safety reasons, but there are also some decisions that I don’t think make sense,” Hipkins said.

“I mean, Featherston through to Greytown is a long, straight, wide road. In my view, I think they got that one wrong, and I think they should look at it again.”

Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls
Flynn Nicholls is a reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age who regularly writes about education. He is originally from Wellington and is interested in environmental issues and public transport.

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