By Willy Leferink*
The death of Nelson Mandela seems like one of those ‘JFK’ moments.
Only he, in the year he was elected the first president of a democratic South Africa, could address Federated Farmers sister body there like this: “You have confounded the stereotype images, spurned the past and embraced the future. Perhaps one should dare to ask the question: what else could have been expected from a fraternity working on the land; committed to the soil and nurturing a love for the country in its bosom!”
Since Nelson Mandela knew how to milk a cow those words seem right for New Zealand today.
Here was a person born on a poor farm that was given every reason to hate but instead embodied St Francis of Assisi’s famous prayer, “Where there is hatred, let me sow love, Where there is injury, pardon…”.
Mandela was a freedom fighter who used words and not violence to win South Africans over.
His belief in freedom extended to trade, enterprise and exports, just take what he told farmers in 1997: “Successful farmers like their counterparts in industry will be those who seize the opportunities of a competitive global economy”.
In a 1999 speech, he said, “Despite liberalisation of trade, there remain areas of protectionism in the developed countries. In agriculture, for example, Europe seeks to protect its rural communities by capturing markets that are the true competitive advantage of the South”.
As we work towards a Trans Pacific Partnership and following the recent WTO meeting in Bali, those words remain true today.
Yet South Africa’s rainbow metamorphosis is a remarkable tribute to a truly remarkable human being.
In recent weeks, I have found myself in the NZ Herald after the sale of a farm that gave me a taste of the Overseas Investment Office (OIO). What I found after the event is that the OIO releases approvals at the end of the month, after the month in which approval is granted. This fact and the calls it generated came as a bolt out of the blue.
Okay, what we sold our farm for seems like a lot of money at face value but just like any homeowner, you have something called a mortgage to repay first.
While there is a sum left over my wife and I are not boarding the next plane for the Sunshine Coast, which seems the path for many small to medium sized businesspeople after selling.
Instead, we are pouring a great deal of the surplus into more sustainable farming particularly wintering barns.
I am putting my money where my mouth is because I am convinced these are a solution to nutrient loss; especially Nitrogen.
I am not saying it is ’the’ solution but one of many coming on-stream.
It’s a personal opinion, but for the farms I have interests in, I believe these barns are the right thing by our animals and the environment.
I can only hope the Canterbury Land & Water Regional Plan evolves to reflect this and other innovative ways of farming.
My wintering barns are also a solution any capital gains tax would rob me a slice of for productive reinvestment.
If we strip away the rhetoric, a capital gains tax is a penalty on success and I’m not sure that’s a good message to send to society.
While I don’t have an issue with public disclosure over the sale of my farm, it would have been nice to have been told when. As it was, I was caught on the hop at the Australian Dairy Farmers conference. If it caught me on the hop I imagine it caught the Barilla family too. It means their first taste of New Zealand was not Kia Ora but a media scrum.
Is this how we want to treat one of the largest family owned food companies in the World? The very people who can open doors for our exports.
My excellent sharemilkers remain on the farm but are now partners with a multinational family owned food business that started in 1877.
There’s is a ton of upsides for New Zealand here.
Being an immigrant myself we are not helping ourselves when politicians play the ‘johnny foreigner’ card.
On the same day the OIO revealed the sale of my farm, the Auckland house of former Hanover Finance director Mark Hotchin was sold to a foreign-born businessman for $39 million.
Where are Phil Goff and his rural land Bill on that?
Willy Leferink is Federated Farmers dairy chairperson