The powers that be in New Zealand can't keep bagging farmers, National Party leader Judith Collins said on Tuesday at a campaign meeting in Rua Roa, just out of Dannevirke.

Collins said farming was the mainstay of New Zealand economy since Covid-19 struck and meant that high-value tourism and overseas students were no longer contributing.

"Apart from farming we don't have much else in New Zealand, but we do have big exports markets for our beef and lamb and horticulture."

National's Wairarapa candidate Mick Butterick, who introduced Collins, said it was areas such as the small community of Rua Roa where New Zealand's recovery, both economic and political, would occur.


However, Collins said things were pretty tough for a lot of people.

"During lockdown 400 jobs were lost every day, that's a lot of people. Statistics New Zealand data shows that 185,000 people either won't have a job next year or be running a small business.

"What National is saying very clearly is if you are in business, now is not the time for a Green Labour government. That's not what you do when you care about your country.

"If we talk about a green tax, which the Greens are on about, they are after you," Collins told the meeting.

"They have no understanding of how you got to where you are."

Switching to the subject of water, Collins said New Zealand didn't have a problem with water, but it did have a problem with water storage.

"Irrigation is not only about dairying, it's also vital for our horticultural industry."

Collins said a National government intended to get rid of the Resource Management Act.


"I hope you are all okay with that. The funny thing is that pretty much everyone in Parliament wants to get rid of the RMA."

But she said the problem lay with what some wanted to replace it with.

"Their solution is actually a problem."

Collins told the farmers present they shouldn't have to gain consents for everything they do.

"It's your land, you paid for it and you have a lot of responsibility as landowners.

"People who live on the land love the land, and people who don't live there don't understand that. Like any asset, you have to look after it, just like a business has to look after its staff.


"What you do is what builds this country. Nothing changes that except attitude."

Collins said New Zealand was entering its worst economic situation in 160 years.

"Dare I say that's even older than Winston Peters and I mean no disrespect to him."

She commented on Labour's announcement that it would make Matariki a public holiday.

"I have no problem with Matariki being a public holiday but let's swap it for one of the public holidays we already have, such as one of those provincial holidays. Or why not have five more."

Collins said the solution was not about another paid holiday.


"What matters is to stick with what's important."

One issue that mattered was protecting New Zealand's borders.

"If you say you are going to test everyone coming in then you need to get the results. There has been a total border failure.

"The number one thing is to test people when they get on a plane. I saw today that a whole lot of people on a flight from India had tested positive for Covid-19. We're told it's not their fault.

"Apparently I'm mean and nasty and not caring enough.

"National has a border plan and it involves one agency, to actually have someone in charge, a single point of contact.


"We can sort that out and we can sort out the economy, get rid of the RMA and build infrastructure. Part of that was National's announcement that it would carry out a long-overdue rebuild the main part of Hawke's Bay Hospital.

"It would cost between $400 million and $500 million. You would say that's a lot of money, but I would say that's one week of the lockdown wage subsidy. We would rather spend one week's wage subsidy on that."

She said National has agreed to some fast-tracking of legislation because New Zealand needed to get things done.

"If we are going to spend and borrow money it's got to be about building infrastructure. This keeps people in work and that is crucial."

She described borrowing money as economic morphine.

"There comes a time when you have to turn the tap off. It's tough out there and it's going to get a lot tougher."


Among questions from the floor was National's stance on overseas investors buying arable land on which to plant trees.

"This is a false situation being driven by carbon prices. We will change the Overseas Investment Act. Buying up pastoral land does nothing for our people, it actually denudes whole communities. It's not going to add anything to forestry. It's sticking something in the ground and watching the bank balance grow."

How National's new anti-meth policy would work in a small rural community was another issue raised.

Collins outlined the steps National had taken in the past in terms of testing wastewater for drug traces and expanding drug and alcohol treatment programmes in prisons.

"The meth problem has become worse in the last three years, and people being deported from Australia has made it worse. Obviously we will be going after the big dealers and at our borders. And we are going to particularly focus on money laundering."