An appeal to address the urban/rural divide was made at the opening day of the Rural Contractors NZ conference in Invercargill. Former RCNZ President, Southland’s John Hughes asked National’s Agriculture & Trade spokesperson Todd McClay to make this a priority, saying it had become its most divisive in the last five years. “I’d love you to convince people we are not the enemy,” Mr Hughes told the MP after his opening address to the conference of 150 rural contractors from around the country. “We are not a bunch of rednecks. Everyone in this room is a conservationist. You don’t kill the goose that lays the golden egg.”
Mr McClay says he agrees the divide had worsened, though earlier urban New Zealanders had thanked farmers and the rural sector for continuing to produce food through the Covid lockdowns. He says even last year there was room for optimism as the Government’s emission tax proposals caused a reaction from urban as well as rural centres and policies like the ute tax were resonating in town and country alike. It was too easy for Governments of the left to blame the rural sector on environmental issues.
“Farmers in my experience are custodiams of the land. We need to find a way to talk about the good things that are being done.”
Another questioner asked about recognising the carbon sequestration of pasture. Mr McClay said the Government had said this was too hard to do but land was being converted into forestry where only one sequence of sequestration might result.“It doesn’t matter where it comes from. If it can be measured, it should be counted.” Australian farmers were already able to class sequestration in the soil as valid, he said.
The Rural Contractors NZ conference continues until Thursday.