National leader Bill English was making hay while the sun shone in a rural charm offensive on the campaign trail on Wednesday - but faced a couple of tricky questions.

He barely had to lift a finger to harvest it - in some farming circles, Labour leader Jacinda Ardern has been dubbed 'Jacindageddon' courtesy of policies such as water charges, the possibility of a capital gains tax on farms, and bringing farmers into the Emissions Trading Scheme early.

So at a meeting with the local Young Farmers group in the farmhouse of Jim and Sue van der Poel in Waikato, English made sure he raised the issue of the water charges for irrigation.

That was in response to a question from sharemilker Hugh Edward about the urban-rural divide. English urged the farmers not to pay too much attention to "extreme views."


He referred to reported comments by Labour's David Parker to irrigators in Canterbury that if they complained the charge would be 2 cents per thousand litres of water rather than the lower end of Labour's band - 1 cent.

"That's an extreme view. That kind of punitive attitude, unfortunately is not rare in the Labour Party, but in the general public people don't treat adults like that."

He assured the farmers they were respected by most people, even those in the cities.

"People in Auckland don't want to see rural communities laid flat by punitive taxes. Extreme views say 'there's too many cows, slit their throats, that's how you fix it.' But the rest of New Zealand says we're good at this stuff."

English said the main concern was New Zealand's image as a 'clean green country' and many farmers appreciated that and invested in more efficient irrigation systems or wintering sheds which cost hundreds of thousands of dollars but yielded little in extra profit.

Afterwards Edward said he believed there was a divide between rural and urban New Zealand which was partly fed by a lack of information on both sides.

"A lot of people don't know anything about farming and never get a chance to go out and see what it's about. They just hear about it, and if they're only hearing the bad side of the story that's what they're going to think, that we're ruining the environment.

"The reality is, we spend a lot of money trying to protect it."


English was also told by one farmer present that it was a struggle to get good New Zealand workers. The farmer said he was struggling to employ good New Zealand workers and it was getting tougher to get work visas for his Filipino staff under tougher Government rules on immigration. "The Kiwis that do apply for jobs just don't want to work, they'd rather sit at home. How do you get guys who want to work?"

English has previously been criticised for saying employers had told him some young unemployed people were "pretty damned hopeless" and didn't turn up to work or failed drug tests.

He replied to the farmer that the Government was investing in supporting young unemployed workers to get into jobs and to stay in them.

Earlier in the day English had announced another pleaser for rural and provincial areas - a new tranche of funding of $270 million to extend ultrafast broadband to 190 more small towns, and more rural broadband and mobile coverage in blackspots such as remote stretches of state highways and some tourist areas.