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Meeting answered key questions

I attended Mike Butterick’s woolshed meeting with Ministers Todd McClay and Mark Patterson on Monday afternoon.

It was at the McFadzean Cattle Company property on Wiltons Road, which was an ideal venue.

More than 100 locals were there, all with an interest in what the Coalition Government was planning for agriculture and the provinces. They wouldn’t have been disappointed.

Minister McClay told us that National had campaigned on getting Wellington out of farming and the coalition was going to do just that. The rural economy was the most important part of the New Zealand economy and needed fewer rules and regulations, he said.

He explained that in the previous five years, more than 20 regulations were imposed on farming, and they all came with a cost. Farmers were spending too much time filling in forms.

The coalition governments’ aim would be to bring trust back into farming and that meant fewer rules and regulations. They wanted simpler forms that farmers could fill in themselves instead of having to spend money on expensive consultants. The aim was to get the most cost-effective way of meeting objectives.

McClay also talked trade, specifically the European Union deal that he described as ‘a high-quality trade deal’.

He concluded by telling the meeting that ‘we have the most experienced agriculture team that Parliament has ever seen. We have four people from three parties all working hard together’.

He was followed by Rural Communities Minister, Mark Patterson from NZ First. He is a South Otago farmer in his own right and was president of Otago Federated Farmers.

In a wide-ranging talk, he started with the perennial problem of low wool prices. He was positive about the future of wool, saying, ‘we must get hill country farming back on track’.

As Associate Minister of Regional Development he was also committed to water storage as am I. Reading the Times-Age earlier in the week, the opposition from the likes of Forest and Bird is gearing up, but as Mark Patterson explained, ‘the fast-tracking legislation is now law and water storage is part of that’.

I found that reassuring because for Wairarapa to thrive both now and into the future, then water storage is a must have.

Patterson went on to tell the meeting that ‘the Regional Infrastructure Fund was there and available for projects like water storage in Wairarapa’ so we need to get the show on the road and now.

His final comment was to suggest Wairarapa became a unitary council, which I totally support. I’m neutral on the amalgamation of our three councils but passionate about a unitary council. That would mean we’re not jumping to the tune of the Wellington Regional Council and the impractical stupidity they continually try to foist on us.

It was a great meeting which the locals I spoke to really appreciated. Thanks to Mike Butterick for organising the event.

Alan Emerson is a semi-retired writer, farmer and businessman living in Wairarapa. He writes a weekly column for Farmers Weekly and has written and/or edited five books.

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