As a member of the rural sector, be it at the smaller end of the scale, I was somewhat bemused at my reaction to the news that the Government has ‘achieved’ a $7.5 bln excess on the last financial year's books.
Two things immediately sprung to mind; the first was the that this excess is going to piss off the climate change activists. Here is the Government proclaiming to the world what wonderful changes it is setting in place, and at the same time are happy raking in the loot while Rome burns. Lets hope only figuratively at this stage.
From their (the activists) perspectives I can see them feeling increasingly frustrated at the rhetoric by the seemingly lack of action and so feeling that Government have little reason to not ratchet up actions, and will increase their protests and clamour to try and achieve faster change.
The other thought, which is related, was that odds-on agriculture will end up bearing the brunt of this. Given what is already in the legislative pipeline I’m not sure what more the Government could do but my bemusement started at thinking am I just getting paranoid as a result of what has been inflicted upon agriculture in the last few years.
And if I’m feeling a bit under siege, then I feel for those famers who are more financially exposed and have a longer career ahead (hopefully). They will have considerably more reason to feel cynical about the road ahead than me.
The surplus also led me to start thinking about how would I like Government to spend it. To be honest I couldn’t come up with a coherent plan. Providing some sort of infrastructure protection for the increasing impacts of weather extremes sounds sensible, but where would you start. With our moderate climate the whole issue seems a bit esoteric at the personal level. However, all the science tells me that is a stupid attitude and we should be making preparations while we are able. In fact, given how small New Zealand’s impact upon climate change is, a focus on mitigating against the impacts makes far more sense than trying to reduce global warming.
Given the increasing amounts of carbon that developing countries are adding to the mix along with the likes of Australia and the US, which seem incapable of getting rational policies instigated, no matter how advanced our policy making is, it is not going to make a whisper of difference apart from providing some high moral ground to stand upon.
What changes the Government does bring in as a result of the healthier bank balance remains to be seen. Given the lack of skilled labour to achieve anything around infrastructure, apart from business as usual progress (or lack of), it is hard to see anything meaningful developing. So, will they take the easy option and bring in a tax cut just in time for the next round of elections. (Although that is probably better than providing everyone with a year’s supply of Big Ben Steak and Cheese pies which I heard someone put forward ... even if that would surely provide a lift to the dairy, beef and arable sectors.)
The British becoming even less relevant
Apparently, it appears yet another group of experts are predicting the demise of the animal protein food sector. British supermarket leader Sainsbury commissioned a report to plot changes in Britons eating habits in the future. They predict that by 2025 25% of Brits will be vegetarians and there will be a huge rise in the consumption of ‘fake meats’.
Fortunately for New Zealand farmers what happens in the UK, while of cultural interest, is of far less importance than what it was 10 or more years ago. I think everybody accepts that there will be challenges ahead for meat and dairy but given New Zealand’s competitive advantages I predict that we will still be standing and prospering, especially in 2025. Beyond then is really getting into crystal ball territory. Judging by the short experience at the Christchurch Riverside Farmers market what consumers want is food with a story and somehow a story about a petri dish doesn’t seem to have the same allure.