Nah, you don’t have to plead with Nick Smith to ignore a public clamour

They must be a sheltered breed, your South Canterbury farmers.

Alf makes this supposition on the strength of a Radio NZ report today that such a farmer is warning Environment Minister Nick Smith not to be swayed by public opinion on applications for large-scale dairy farms in the Upper Waitaki region.

Why should he be worried that a politician might be influenced by public opinion?

Sure, we pollies pore through the newspapers and keep tabs on what people are saying on TV and the radio. And we spend heaps of money on polls to keep tabs on the public mood, and when we have measured it, we blissfully ignore it.

If we all went along with public opinion, there would be no need for opposition parties, and if we had no opposition parties, who would stand up in Parliament to denounce the Government for ignoring public opinion?

Public opinion on the dairy farms in question became plain early in the piece. But Smith – bless him – took his time before it dawned on him, perhaps, that maybe the large-scale dairy farms raised national issues, not just local ones, such as the threat to the international image being built by Fonterra as it promotes pasture-fed dairy products.

And so, having given a splended impression of an indifferent politician for an admirable stretch of time, he has intervened in three resource consent applications to discharge effluent from the farms.

The applications involve nearly 18,000 cows being housed indoors eight months of the year on farms totalling an area of 8555 hectares in South Canterbury. They also involve the discharge of 1.7 million litres of effluent a day.

Dr Smith says he intervened because of the scale of the proposal, the fragile nature of the environment in the region and the high level of public interest.

South Canterbury Federated Farmers president William Rolleston says the Minister needs to be careful and not be influenced by emotion or public opinion.

“There would be a concern if decisions were made that impeded economic growth, which were not balanced by any real environmental issues,” he says.

Pass that by us again?

Rolleston thinks he has to plead with the Minister to ignore public opinion?

Nah.

Moreover, if he wants public opinion to be ignored, he has the right bloke in Nick Smith.

There was a bloody great howl of dismay not so long ago on the matter of higher ACC levies – remember?

Nick was great. He did just what Rolleston wants done and ignored it.

What’s the adjective to be applied to a bloke with this wonderful political skill? Ignorant doesn’t sound quite right.

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