Guy Trafford sees farmers starting to get militant over Government policies that starve rural communities of services, with elections less than a year away

Guy Trafford sees farmers starting to get militant over Government policies that starve rural communities of services, with elections less than a year away

It’s still a year out from the elections and already farmers and land owners are marching on Parliament.

In this case it is to highlight the concerns farmers have regarding the open access overseas investors have to purchase land to convert to forestry without having to meet any of the normal controls or constraints overseas investors normally have to go through.

The march, organised by the lobby group “50 Shades of Green” while targeting foreign investment, is likely to be also used as a vehicle for venting frustrations farmers are feeling at the onslaught of new regulations and the associated cost.

The appearance from the rural side-lines is that some (vocal) sectors of non-rural folk see farmers as privileged and getting more than their fair share from society. However, when it comes to services that certainly isn’t the case. You just have to move away from the main state highways, and sometimes just leaving town limits will achieve the same, to find that not only will cell phone coverage disappear but road quality rapidly deteriorates.

Speak to any farmer and you will get a list of complaints regarding cost of rates and lack of services. Road berms have to be mown, sometimes hundreds of metres or more, water may be supplied to the gate but at a steep price, rubbish may be collected but also at an extra price. Most likely download speed of internet is at a speed that impacts upon productivity. On a good day ours is 0.7 Mbps (and often well below) apparently the New Zealand average is 21 times faster at 14.7 Mbps.

Roading appears to be getting worse with patching (badly) the norm to the point where our local council has put up lower max speed signs rather than repair the road.

Many may view the rural life style through rose- tinted spectacles with many partaking of life style living. However, based on CoreLogic’s numbers from last year and looking at the wider Auckland region the average urban house is owned for nine years while lifestyle blocks for only four. Some regions are far lower than this with Porirua nine and one. So, while many may wish to partake of the rural lifestyle it appears not everyone is cut out for it.

Obviously, everyone has a choice but that doesn’t mean that there is not an equity issue regarding services. After all we pay the same fees for internet, cell phones petrol tax etc etc.

The issue with the conversion of good farmland to forestry is that these (poor) services will be even further reduced.

Health, schooling and banking services can all be added to the list of essential services that have been on the decline. While the government through Shane Jones and Damien O’Connor have said they will review the lack of any oversight of foreign investment into forestry, little has been translated into action.

Whether the latest actions will move the Government to look into their policy closer is unlikely. Their response to the march was for Shane Jones to call them “rednecks” and Damien O’Connor inferred the farmers points were “fiction” and didn’t stay to engage in any conversation.

Back on October 7th RNZ did a piece which showed that the four largest private land owners in New Zealand are all foreign owned and all forestry. Foreign ownership of New Zealand assets in itself may not be a bad thing, bringing in additional funds and purchasing power. However, without some sort of requirement to provide additional benefits it is the rural communities that bear the negative aspects of having absentee owners. While media coverage of the protest march was reasonably extensive the lack of attending numbers discounted the message somewhat. Thousands were ‘promised’ to attend but in reality, only hundreds fronted.

The irony is that economically, returns for most farming systems are doing well. So, given that finances are not the driver it perhaps shows the depth of feelings many farmers have that has led them to go onto the streets.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

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Hopefully farmers will realise the progressive left offers a far better future than the status quo. Rednecks with dirty hands and probably smelly (who would get close enough to find out) the country doesn't need them anymore.

By progressive you mean selling all our land to overseas buyers and planting pine trees?

We need a lot of trees to benefit the environment, simple really. Cows are a massive source of pollution and they have to go, if we need to call in the Russian mafia to get rid of the cows and replace them with plants, then that is what we need to do and I support it.

you realise that pine trees are an invasive pest?

... yes ... this is just another version of environmental vandalism ... radiata pine trees are a pest ... a quick growing , low timber quality , monoculture ....

Shame on you , Shane Jones ... you're the redneck ... not the farmers protesting this latest idiot policy from a government of the supreme stupid ...

People who ascribe to this extremism are traitors to NZ.


Not all farmers care, but a lot do... The smelly farmers can wash the dirt off and be clean. No amount of water and bacteria killing soap will wash the stink of urban hypocrisy and ignorance off.

How can anyone clean anything when the water is so polluted by farmers?


You eat their food, you're responsible for their pollution.

You're a vegan? You're responsible for the pollution of chickpea and lentil farmers in India. You're responsible for the pollution caused by transportation over the oceans as well.

You can't eat pine trees.

How dare you!

Lentils cause a secondary level of environmental pollution ...

.... ever stood close to a vegan or vegetarian , or down wind from one ... wind being the operative word ... methane and hydrogen sulphide city , my friend ... block your nose !

Such an ignorant view. You are no better than those on the far right who walk around with placards saying "fags must die". You're just to the far left of the spectrum.

Your opinion, and those like you, should be disregarded. And those of us sitting either centre right or left should be allowed work out the solutions with diplomacy and compromise.

In a climate emergency crisis, there is no room for diplomacy and compromise, we must act now.

What good is saving the world if we all starve or kill each other first. There's always room for diplomacy.

Which is what your attitude and ideas will lead to.

Top notch trolling, well done

I was impressed, got a got Saturday morning laugh.

In this case it is to highlight the concerns farmers have regarding the open access overseas investors have to purchase land to convert to forestry without having to meet any of the normal controls or constraints overseas investors normally have to go through.

The march, organised by the lobby group “50 Shades of Green” while targeting foreign investment,

Farmers now facing the same spectre young city Kiwis have of being unable to compete with foreign funds and losing ownership the land on which they've been born.

I get the feeling in Auckland too that we're seeing decreasing levels of service around potholes, berms etc. I have heard civil engineers theorising that it is due to the subcontracting of anything and everything and low ability to have good oversight of the quality of these subcontracted services. Potholes are repaired cheaply and shoddily and the subcontractor collects the fee only to get to repeat the same task not too many months later. Likewise when Auckland Council outsourced maintenance of motorway grass spaces / berms to the Aussie crowd the standards seemed to go quickly down hill.

They are up to their eyeballs in debt. Spending money on a million vanity projects and anything that will deter people from driving cars in the CBD.

And so they cut the essential services...

Indeed, soft spend on marketing, festivals, events and other social/cultural wellbeing fluff is always at the direct expense of asset maintenance. But the former is popular, easy to see, and gives the appearance of Value. Whereas the latter is largely invisible, often done badly or too late, is expensive and offers little to no perceived Value for the rates dollar.

And, as from mid-May 2019, the Four Well-beings are back as the objective of local government. So expect much, much more of the soft spend.....

. .. but but but ... Mr W ... surely we're all meant to feel good... aren't budgets about our well being ....

Not gnarly smelly stuff , like who's gonna collect the rubbish / rebuild the drains / ashphalt the streets ....

Said it before...these Nat supporters stood by while us townies watched as our major asset type was sold off to foreign buyers. They should also be asking if National will be reversing the foreign buyer ban which they so strongly objected to. So if farmers want my support, how about you guys unify your message and help us with foreign buyers and immigration - all of which is a foreign sell off.

They are not "your" assets - they have legitimate owners who should be able to do with them as they please , including selling them to the buyer of their choosing. You have no claim here at all .

So the farmers should shut up that your point?
But you haven’t read what I said with any comprehension. For townies are major asset is the home, for a farmer the farm. They are grizzling about their farms being sold off - yet were silent about our homes. It’s the rules around who can buy here which is the issue silly.

My point was not that farmers should shut up but rather that you should .
You have no say at all on who people sell their houses of farms to .

Concern around land sales for forestry is just one of many farmers are raising . No connection here to house sales - other than in your mind.

If you can’t see the connection you are disconnected

If you expect services from wider NZ society then you have to reocgnise that wider NZ society is constituted of stakeholders who have a say and a vote on what goes on in New Zealand society. The foreign buyer ban is an example of that. If you believe that's not as it should be feel free to go and form your own country somewhere else and make all the rules to suit just you.

Farmers now facing the same spectre young city Kiwis have of being unable to compete with foreign funds and losing ownership the land on which they've been born.

Yes, we are all in this together. Why have successive governments sold us out like this? It just makes no sense.

At least this one did ban foreign owners (aside from Australians) investing in residential property. Not sure what impact that has had though.

anybody that chooses a rural lifestyle has the same problem of poor quality infrastructure,pay extra and get less.RD surcharges,slow internet and if your neighbour has a powerful electric fence unit clicking away next to your copper line then bad least if you are farming then all those charges are deductible


Surprised those two politicians resorted to insult and derision. It isn't a great adea to throw stones when in a minority Govt.

The carbon scheme is taking land out of production, the wealth creator is gone. Timber trees are a punt on the future 30 years out, by then the Western world and Asian demographic crisis should be in full swing.

I can understand taking wealth creating businesses out of production if they are being replaced somewhere else in the economy, thats not happening.

I do worry about what accounts for modern day leadership.

I prefer a modern, progressive, androgynous leader to a stale pale male facist. it something to be ashamed of being a pale male??


The unspoken secret is that the last bastion of bigotry, hatred and racism that is still tolerated in public discourse comes from... the progressive left.

whats the advantage of being androgenous? lol

I think your comments are better suited to Stuff. The adults are talking here.

Indeed. Distinctly average troll is distinctly average.

Woke as I am.
I am very woke.
As we all are

Shaw & Co plus the PMs department are taking down the Californian path feels that way. Looks that way. All the way. Auckland too.

More detail

Replaced by...ummmm.....aaaaahh...lets just introduce a new tax. Government's problem solved.

Guy, if you are wondering why rural services are of such poor quality a quick look at the Selwyn District Council's annual plan might be helpful. Out of a total allocation of $98.1m, $3.5m is for upgrades to rural water services, $5m is for connecting rural roads to the new southern motorway and the rest will be spent in Rolleston. It would be interesting to know how closely the spending pattern mirrored the rates take.

It's an insult to farmers to suggest they don't know the difference between central Govt and their local council.

What the frig does government policy have to do with the cost of taking away their rubbish or supplying water?

Keeping up with the Jones's tree hugging systems is about as daft as he is. It will be the death of us all, if we cannot eat, drink and be merry and get our Manuka multiplyed and Registered.....for the Honey Munny.

Mmmmmaybe we should plant all nuts in the ground, as long as they are not peanuts, with little return. Bees are better at bringing Wealth to NZ, than a Jones Boy.

And nary a chop will stick nor pine be warranted, if we do things right, but a little potty will out perform a tree hugging Bureaucrat, with no idea of needs, wants and most certainly...Profits.

A good post Andrew, and interesting reading of associated forestry articles. NZ is certainly not alone in struggling to find a way forward in sensible forest planting. Perhaps an important point to take out of all the debates from the NZ and overseas experience of unintended consequences in planting trees to save the world, can be encapsulated in that wise observation of President Reagan..."the most frightening words in the English language are,...'hi, I'm from the government & I'm here to help you'..."
In other words, in the current local environment of saving us from the impending doom of climate change, it is extremely unhelpful to have politicians of all varieties proffering solutions which are just ill thought out bumber sticker labels.
I think the worst thing farmers can do is accept public money to plant trees. It will end up biting them on the backside!

Shouldn't transport infrastructure funding be allocated based on population density?

Fact - only just over 8,000 ha of farmland has been sold oversea to go into forest since the new rules.
Fact - Overseas buyers can't plant permanent forests - they have to be used for timber production
Fact - over 150,000 ha plus of forest was converted to farms - where are the howls of protest
Fact - a lot of this land converted to farms is going back to forest as it is a environment stuffup - thanks John Key and mates
Fact - forest create more wealth, jobs and provide better soil erosion control, biodiversity than farm land
Fact - Westland Dairy etc all sold overseas
Fact - Meat companies still aren't making there cost of capital
Fact - UK famers union (There feds) want carbon zero from there farms by 2040. -google it - your competitors are way ahead of you
Start to read and listen to science or else nature will get you - Ask Australia

Forestry creates biodiversity? You might want to check out that soil life underneath a pine tree plantation. Soil erosion? Maybe ask the people of Tolaga Bay about that? Jobs? Why is Mayor Little so concerned for his district of Wairoa? Also I'd encourage you to take note of meat company profits this year.
Fact - Jack Lumber doesn't know the meaning of Fact.

Read Alliances annual report release from the CEO - they state they and others arent meeting the cost of capital - get the FACTS.
Wairoa - I have land there - cant get anyone to do work - have to bring people in after trying for 2 years to get someone local to do the work. My farm neighbours have the same problem and are pulling their hair out as well - reality of actually being there with skin in the district - not bluster. The population is falling every year not from trees but from demographics - check the FACTS. Soil erosion, bio diversity - read the literature and scientific reports - the best thing would be to have credits for soil carbon for farming - watch what happens when you have a storm and soil erodes - you need soil to have carbon. Most of the East coast farming would be shut down in a few years all based upon soil and carbon loss - all based upon science.

I think there is an enormous role for forestry, complimentary to livestock farming. I think it should be long term high value, with value added locally.
I hate seeing farmland going into Pines, just short term and I don't see a lot of upside. I also see a lot of risk from Pitch Pine canker and pine beetle.
That forestry conversion to dairy has turned into an expensive mistake.
Westland dairy was a tragedy, one dryer they built cost 280 million and they sell out to China for 500 mill, it was a bargain but we had debt and needed out.
Meat companies are probably having royal year with China demand so strong. Little exposed to one market but thats another days problem.
Even in great times for livestock farming, Carbon credits are out competing farmers for land.
Pan Pac just got approval for 10,000 hectares and Some Austrian guy 1100 hectares .
Govt should never be picking winners.

Im worried about M Bovis as a tax payer forking out heaps of money. Also when Foot and Mouth gets here - talk to Vets - its not if but when (hopefully never for everyones sake!!). We all face risks. Pan Pac- they have invested billions in processing and employ a lot of people and want to secure and grow the business. We are all exposed to China but have very little other options for any industry. A problem for all. Great for farmers this year and lets hope it continues for the sheep and beef people as they need a turn in the sun. I hope all sectors go well.

Out of idle curiosity, what work is being done at central or local government level to identify the upgrades to the roading network which will be necessary to cope with the upcoming forestry industry expansion?