The past 12 months have been kind to rural New Zealand.

Prices in almost all sectors are at very good levels, with lamb, venison and kiwifruit being the standout performers.

Dairy, beef and forestry are also performing well, as is reflected in the country's export receipts.

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The outlook for the next year is encouraging, too, which is positive for our provincial towns and all businesses servicing our expansive and diverse agricultural sector.
The other great positive about this comparative buoyancy in the sector is it enables farmers to bring maintenance up to date and get on with managing some of the environmental challenges we face.

The management of the M. bovis outbreak is settling down and the Ministry for Primary Industries appears to have it in about as good a space as could be expected.

The fact there have been no unpredicted outbreaks of the disease to date is very encouraging for the cattle industry in New Zealand. By "unpredicted outbreaks", I mean the NAIT system has enabled the ministry to trace all outbreaks, including those in the beef sector, back to the source.

The elimination of this debilitating disease is a very ambitious and expensive challenge for the cattle industry and the Government, but it is also hugely important and will be worth every bit if achieved.

The other big challenges facing rural New Zealand, and the farming and tourism sectors in particular, relate to preserving and protecting our beautiful landscapes and the environment in which we live and operate our businesses.

We have made much progress over the past few years. While the initial years of the Horizons Regional Council One Plan were somewhat contentious, it is now reasonable well entrenched and accepted.

I am confident the agricultural sector will continue to adapt and effectively manage what is a pretty big challenge for us all.

The burgeoning tourism industry is facing significant challenges to the environment it operates in and some of our more beautiful tracks such as the Tongariro Crossing are really under pressure — as are the facilities in small towns on our more popular tourism routes.

In the South Island they're feeling the heat, too, with almost 950,000 visitors to Aoraki Mt Cook National Park in the year ended March 2018.

The growth in the number of campervans and freedom campers travelling around New Zealand is creating huge demand for more facilities.

So, too, is the cruise ship industry, with the increasing number of ships visiting our shores putting pressure on our ports and infrastructure.

The growing number of tourists visiting this part of the world is good for New Zealand, as is a thriving agricultural sector — but protecting our environment and maintaining our infrastructure is vital for the ongoing success of both enterprises.

Ian McKelvie is the National MP for Rangitikei