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The fast-changing face of Fieldays

I visited the Fieldays in Hamilton last week.

I used to go there in the 1970’s as a rural journalist for the old New Zealand Broadcasting Corporation and then Radio NZ. It’s changed.

My memories from the early days were about mud, and lots of it. In many cases you needed a gumboot larger than a Red Band. Today, the roads are all tar-sealed, and mud wasn’t evident, certainly on the day I was there.

In addition, the exhibitors came from a far broader base. Many schools were present, all selling their agricultural credentials, which was good to see. Massey and Lincoln were also in attendance.

This year, there was lots of machinery but also about 20 tiny and portable houses. With a start price of around $120,000 it would make sense to put them on the property as a farm stay. You wouldn’t have to charge a high nightly fee to get a good return.

The food was quite different too. Instead of the sandwiches and pies of yesteryear you could have all types of simple and exotic eats. Mind you the place with the largest queue was McDonalds.

The Fieldays are where you meet friends and acquaintances from all over. It is difficult to be precise about timings as you never know who you’re going to run into.

This year Federated Farmers were there in force with their ‘Hub’ which was a mixture of farming groups. As well as Feds there was Groundswell with bells on, Rural Women, Young Farmers and Farmers Weekly so there was something for everyone.

Federated Farmers organised briefings from politicians, which was really interesting.

Agricultural Minister Todd McClay made a huge impression with his disbanding of He Eke Waka Noa, which I supported. It was too large an amalgam of dispirit groups to ever get anywhere, and it didn’t.

That’s been replaced by a smaller, more focussed group, which is good.

The government is also providing an additional $50 million for methane mitigation research, bringing the total investment to $400 million over four years.

I support that initiative. New Zealand is a small, in global terms, food producer. We largely farm ruminants who, sadly, burp and fart methane and nitrous oxide. That’s a fact of life.

To mitigate that needs research which we are now equipped to do.

The simplification and better focus of our bureaucracy was to the fore much to the delight of the farming community. Minister for Regulation, David Seymour is cutting red tape where it doesn’t have immediate relevance.

The Environmental Protection Agency is a case in point which comes across to me as a hide-bound bureaucracy that is about to get refocused.

The National Advisory Committee on Animal Welfare, [NAWAC], is another with Minister Andrew Hoggard giving it a well overdue refocus.

Todd McClay made the point that ‘where the cost of regulation is greater than the benefit of the outcome, that’s red tape. The government won’t go there.’

That was music to my ears.

I’ll be back at Fieldays next year.

Roger Parker
Roger Parker
Roger Parker is the Times-Age news director. In the Venn-diagram of his two great loves, news and sport, sports news is the sweet spot.

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