Comment: If the government and the agricultural sector worked together we would go a long way to achieving environmental goals without sending hundreds of farmers bankrupt, writes Federated Farmers Otago president Simon Davies.
I was at another of the seemingly endless number of meetings I get roped into when the chairman ended the gathering with a really inspiring message.
Bill, I hope you don't mind but I am going to expand on your message that "If you want to be first, go alone. If you want to go far, go together."
It's a sentiment that's spot on for the current government determination to ram through as quickly as possible a vast array of legislation.
It is a little ironic that for the first 18-24 months of their term, the Coalition has spent most of its available time and money reviewing almost everything, except the colour of my underwear.
Now, with the current term fast running out, the government realises it needs to get actual runs on the board before the next election.
Hence the enormous volume and rush to get this tsunami of legislation (Carbon Zero Bill and freshwater policy being the most contentious) into place.
The fact that this regulation and legislation as it is currently written is likely to permanently handicap regional New Zealand, which in my opinion, appears to be a small and basically insignificant fact for some MPs.
So back to the inspiring message ...
Obviously the current government is content with the "if you want to be first, go alone" bit.
The really disappointing point about all this, is that if the second part of the message was used - " if you want to go far, go together" - it is much more likely to get better results, and actually achieve some of the desired goals.
I am the first to say the aims of this legislation are worthy, and all those involved in the agricultural sector would agree - but not at the cost of everything else.
If the government and the agricultural sector worked together I believe that we would go a long way to achieving water quality outcomes, reduced emissions and all the rest of it, but not at the cost of sending hundreds of farmers bankrupt.
An example of Team Ag working together and with the government is the agricultural industry accepting the responsibility – and a deadline – for developing a mechanism to account for carbon emissions at a farm level.
Farming groups put aside their individual views and took a united approach.
Combined with the willingness of central government to working with the sector with agreed actions and timelines, we're on track for better outcomes and incentives for behaviour change by the slower adopters.
It really is a shame there are not more examples of this type of approach. Team Ag wasn't as united on the Essential Freshwater proposals.
If we had been of one voice, 'going together to go far', three things would likely have happened.
The government would have had a real mandate and steer from the sector that generates a massive 60 per cent of export revenues.
Secondly, the sector as a whole would have likely achieved better overall outcomes.
Thirdly, and most importantly, the overall outcomes would likely be as good, if not better, without costing an arm and a leg.