Alf misses the robust critiques of bad farm policy that would regularly flow from former Federated Farmers dairy leader, Lachlan McKenzie.
Lachlan stood for president of the feds, but the job went to Bruce Wills. We haven’t heard much from him since then.
But another McKenzie has popped up to tell city slickers and greenie tossers what he thinks of their silly ideas.
This one is Ian McKenzie and he has done a fair job of pouring a bucket or two of water over Labour’s water policy.
Labour’s plan is to have farmers and other large-scale water users pay a “resource rental charge”, to spare taxpayers the need to cough up $500 million for funding new irrigation schemes and for cleaning up polluted waterways.
Ha. Fancy words to avoid saying “tax”, eh?
Come to think of it, buggers like Brendan Burns – Labour’s water spokesman – probably struggle to spell and pronounce a word as long as “tax”.
Oh, and Labour says it wants to work with farmers on the proposal.
It wants to work with farmers like the police want to work with the Mongrel Mob.
That’s why farmers vote National (or, let’s face it, maybe Act too).
But what are the lefties up to?
Labour’s policy would make regional councils responsible for allocating water rights under a system in which “water goes to the best uses rather than to who applies first”.
But a “fair price” in the form of a resource rental would be charged to big water-users including farmers and industries to “encourage wise use of water and its allocation for higher-value uses”.
Party water spokesman Brendan Burns is trying to tell us the plan is not a revenue-gathering exercise but an “economic and environmental tool” which would also alleviate the burden on taxpayers.
“Part of the reason we’re wanting a resource rental is at the moment the Government is saying mum and dad taxpayers shall potentially fund $400 million in irrigation development.”
This is a snide reference to your Key Government’s commitment of $35 million to enable the development of irrigation plans and its intention to invest up to $400 million more in schemes that stack up.
We have also increased taxpayer funding for cleaning up degraded waterways – $94 million will be spent over the next five years.
So how did Burns’ burbling go down with the feds?
It completes a hat trick of ill-conceived policy releases over the past week, “highlighting a poor grasp of agricultural issues and a worrying anti-farming streak”, Ian McKenzie says.
There will be a big amen to that in Alf’s neck of the woods, where we recognise the importance of farming.
“The worst aspects of Labour’s proposals around water management are they are pre-empting the Land and Water Forum’s nutrient management and water allocation recommendations whilst imposing punitive taxes on a small but dynamic part of the agriculture sector ,” says Ian Mackenzie, Federated Farmers national board water spokesperson.
“They want to replace the current allocation regime with a pick the winner model which fails to acknowledge that water and land as a package already moves to the highest value use and that the current allocation model may not be as broken as some would suggest.
“The policy’s nutrient management plan is formed around anti-dairy farming principles rather than sensibly addressing water quality issues. The water quality policy also fails to acknowledge urban New Zealand’s significant contribution to water pollution.”
McKenzie went on to say that picking on urea as the root of all water quality evils shows Labours’ science advisors have yet to pass agronomy 101.
Again it is anti-farming, McKenzie points out – it is perversely weighted against our horticultural and arable industries.
He reckons it would not deliver any positive environmental gains and it could encourage more movement to dairying.
“Resource rentals are just another word for tax and despite Labour’s claims these would drive water use efficiency, punitive taxes don’t usually drive behavioural change, especially where there are no alternatives. Reverting to dryland sheep farming from dairying on the Canterbury plains would destroy Canterbury’s economy. Labour also fails to acknowledge the millions of dollars farmers are already investing in technology to drive water use and nutrient use efficiency.”
But McKenzie does agree with Labour on a few points: he can agree that agriculture has to sort out its share of the water quality issues New Zealand faces; water is and should remain a public good; and allocation models based on market economic instruments have severe flaws.
But then he tells the Labour flakes their policy proposes no sensible solutions to those issues and is likely to produce perverse outcomes.
Lachlan couldn’t have said it better.