Mike Butterick. PHOTO/PAM GRAHAM
Farmer believes provincial NZ worth fighting for
Mike Butterick cuts to the chase, which may be useful in the political career he is sticking his hand up for as a potential National Party MP for Wairarapa.
He’s the spokesman who has been fronting the 50 Shades of Green campaign against the conversion of quality sheep and beef farms to forests.
The 47-year-old admits he sold a farm at Te Wharau to forestry three years ago, but he said it was a large farm on extremely steep country and he had tried for two years to have the land turned into a national park.
“It was a pretty hard farm and it’s nothing to do with what’s happening now,” he said.
He knows it will come up if he becomes a politician but said he and his wife had raised four children and been through the teenage years so “I have a pretty thick skin”.
Butterick has decided to seek a nomination for National for the Wairarapa seat being vacated by Alastair Scott and attended the party’s annual conference in Christchurch at the weekend, having recently become a member.
Scott last month said he would not seek a nomination for the 2020 election, leaving plenty of time for someone else to take the job on. The electorate community selects the candidate by vote, expected to happen in February.
National’s Electorate chairman David Holmes said Butterick would likely be one of several candidates.
“We are really happy with him. He ticks all the boxes and he is local and well respected.”
Butterick said he had been on a steep learning curve as spokesman for 50 Shades of Green.
He said it had only been going as a group for 12 weeks and had achieved national prominence with the issues it had raised.
Butterick said he had no political ambitions before the conversion of quality sheep and beef country to forestry became so common he was compelled to take a stand.
He is a farming-business person who grew up in mid-Canterbury.
He came to Wairarapa in 1990 and met his wife Rachel and worked as a shepherd on properties all the way up the coast to Hicks Bay. They returned to Wairarapa where they raised their children who all went through schools in the province.
They have a farm on Manaia Rd as well as a farming business with others.
He said forestry had a role in New Zealand but “what brought it to the forefront was the blanket planting of extremely productive farmland”.
Those associated with 50 Shades of Green delved into the land conversion and felt there were unintended consequences of a well-intentioned policy and they were not being monitored, he said.
“It was at the end of the day a desire to get the right outcomes for provincial New Zealand.”
And that means for everyone, not just farmers.
He said there was a juggernaut of change going on in rural land use.
“We are not anti-trees, they do have a place.”
But a change of rules allowing foreigners to buy land for forests rather than other forms of farming was driving land conversion to forestry, along with rules around emissions trading and policy in the Zero Carbon Bill.
Butterick said when he saw something was wrong he had to say it was wrong.
“You have got to stand up, I believe, and say that it is wrong.
“I am not going into this half-cocked. If I am going to do it, I am going to try to do it properly, because I have a strong belief in trying to do the right thing for the provinces.”
Butterick said he had a practical approach to things and believed sensible policies produced sensible outcomes, adding that if he had a policy wrong as Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones did, he would think about it and adjust.
Having built a farming business with “blood, sweat and tears” he believed provincial New Zealand was worth fighting for.
People needed to remember the role farming played in New Zealand, he said.