A recent survey shows government regulations are a major concern for farmers, but Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern says this anxiety may actually come from "fear and uncertainty" over things that haven't happened yet.
The survey was released by DairyNZ yesterday as part of its The View from the Cowshed report for the lead up to the 2020 election. It showed that 42 per cent of farmers were worried about government regulations, rather than climate change or financial difficulties.
"Sometimes that's a reflection of not just what people are experiencing, but what they're worried about ... that really important issue of certainty," Ardern told The Country's Jamie Mackay.
When it came to issues such as climate change and water reform, Ardern said farmers could be experiencing the "fear of what regulations might be coming, rather than what we've actually done."
"I totally accept that we have to make sure that while we're consulting and engaging our primary sector leaders in making these decisions, we equally have to move on them so that we don't have this fear and uncertainty of what regulatory environment our sector might be working in."
Another worrying statistic was that 62 per cent of farmers reported that they, or someone on their farm had experienced mental health issues in the past year.
Adern said she was worried about these kind of statistics, and believed they were the cumulative effect of "a lot of pressures on our primary producers."
"We've had drought, we've of course had the uncertainty of the global environment with Covid. We have had some changing behaviours from our banking sector - particularly on those who might be heavily indebted."
The government also had "a role to play" amongst these concerns and Ardern said that was "front of mind in the way we've tried to work collaboratively" with the primary sector.
"There's probably not a group I've met with as much as the farming leadership group. I've really placed a lot of importance in staying in touch and working collaboratively and we've seen the outcome of that."
"A lot of the work we've done has been together."
Another top priority for farmers from the DairyNZ survey was connectivity, with 50 per cent reporting they had inadequate broadband or mobile reception.
Ardern said she was keen for a breakdown of those statistics as both her government, and the one before had "worked hard to prioritise broadband rollout for our rural communities."
"I wouldn't mind seeing where we're still getting reports of poor access because people shouldn't be experiencing that. It just creates a digital divide between rural and urban and those are the exact places that we need to be overcoming that."
Finally, 63 per cent of farmers had been impacted by drought in the past 12 months, Mackay asked if this meant there would be more water storage facilities in the future.
The government had been working in areas such as Northland to help with water issues, including drinking water, Ardern said.
"We have put extra funding in to support that, and of course we already have the drought relief response as well."
"So that is something we keep a very, very close eye on and we have been working to try and overcome."
Also in today's interview: Ardern talked about how she was dealing with recent comments from Winston Peters and Donald Trump.