Farmers are no longer the voting bloc they once were, so if they're going to survive they need to do what the major political parties are doing and court the metropolitan voice.

That was the message from Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones at Federated Farmers' Northland AGM for an audience who were feeling under threat from climate change and forestry policies.

His comments were made in line with others on issues including urban sprawl, his confidence in the ability of the Resource Management Act to be rolled out effectively, the on-the-ground response to what farmers were facing with Mycoplasma bovis, and the behaviour of the Australian-owned banks.

But he emphasised that the voters politicians ultimately had to win over were no longer behind the farm gate, but had moved to the larger cities.


Farming had to win urban hearts and minds to be remembered when policy was created for New Zealand to live under.

"We are in a race for power and influence," Mr Jones said, adding that there had been a notable "changing of the tide".

He also spoke of how farming was being presented to city dwellers as an industry that needed to be brought into line, of how rural waterways were presented as mismanaged as opposed to city waterways, calling out "that rhetoric" for what it was.

The language being used was casting farming as a "cancer-inducing" industry, he said.

"Would you like a gallery of guilt with your latte?" he asked, saying farming was being "guilt-tripped out of existence".

He also reminded his audience that it was put a National Government that had committed New Zealand to the targets of the Paris Accord, saying that had revealed the influence of the metropolitan vote.

He said it was important that the levy-funded organisations that represented rural businesses worked with those in governance who understood that rural people were human beings who needed functioning businesses to exist.

"Pick your friends very carefully. Make sure they're connected to the problems you're experiencing on the ground."