The major political parties vying for votes at this year’s general election came together tonight to discuss the issues affecting rural New Zealand in a debate co-organised by DairyNZ, Beef + Lamb New Zealand, and Federated Farmers.
Hosted and moderated by Newstalk ZB host Heather du Plessis-Allan, the debate took place in the Gallagher Building, in the Mystery Creek Events Centre, just outside Hamilton.
The panel featured Damien O’Connor (Labour), Eugenie Sage (Green Party), Todd McClay (National), Andrew Hoggard (Act), and Mark Patterson (New Zealand First).
The debate focused on rural issues and the topics that affect the vast percentage of the New Zealand population that does not live in a major city centre.
“It’s tough right now in rural New Zealand, profitability is under pressure and farmer confidence is low,” says Beef + Lamb chair Kate Acland.
“The Kiwis that depend on the primary sector for their livelihoods are feeling it too,” she says. “We need politicians who are prepared to stand up for rural New Zealand and fight for sensible, workable and practical policy.”
For Federated Farmers national president Wayne Langford, this election is the most important in living memory for farmers and rural communities in New Zealand.
“Farmer confidence is at record lows with a cost-of-farming crisis, rising interest rates, falling commodity prices, and a long list of new regulations adding extra pressure for farming families,” Langford says.
“It was important for Federated Farmers to provide a platform for people to hear directly from the politicians how they plan to improve the lives of the 2.5 million New Zealanders who live outside of a major centre.”
DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel agrees that the issues affecting rural New Zealanders continue to be aggravated, much due to rising costs and declining milk prices.
“It is important all parties are thinking about these issues and the impact they are having,” van der Poel says.
“We want whoever the new Government is after October 14 to work with the sector on how it can help ease the pressure, support rural communities, and grow new opportunities,” he added.
“It’s vital for New Zealand that our farmers succeed, given their significant contribution to not only local rural communities but all of New Zealand’s economy.
“It would be great to hear from the candidates on how they see the new government working with the sector to ensure we have a common view on our future role.”
As part of our election coverage, the Herald will livestream the debate right here from 7:30 pm tonight.