The West Coast managed to do what the major centres couldn’t and had “thousands” turn out on Saturday to register their dislike of the government policies. A couple of things made this protest somewhat unusual.
The protesting crowd was made up of odd bedfellows with farmers, miners and members of the fishing industry forming the majority of the number. The other unusual factor was that it was held in what is traditionally considered to be heartland Labour territory.
The crux of the protest was that people had had enough of not being allowed to make a living from the natural resources.
As at the Wellington rally last week, Government ministers said the protestors had it wrong. Doc Minister Eugenie Sage said that the Coast had received $240 million from this government on top of the $120 million ... 19 years ago in 2000 ... while Local MP Damien O’Connor, who didn’t front, said the group was being “spurred on by misinformation from the Opposition”.
What both protests have highlighted is that people seriously do not like uncertainty, and the Government's drip feeding of polices over the last two years without showing a pathway, benefit or economic evaluations, has created so much uncertainty many of those away from the major centres are now saying 'enough is enough'.
When the Government closed down future oil and gas exploitation and said the country needed to move to more renewable energy sources some on the Coast thought that this might provide the catalyst for more hydro on the West Coast to provide some of this energy. Sadly for them, no. This option was shut down despite the local council believing they had met the environmental test required several potential hydro scheme which may have provided a boost for the West Coast have received the thumbs down. Another irony for the Coast is that despite the pressure to close its coal mines, New Zealand still imports a tad over 600,000 tonnes (2018 figures).
Given that the Government’s response is that these groups have it all wrong, there is unlikely to be many changes. With the voting power residing in the major centres the regions will need to gain more sympathy from a wider audience to gain traction with this Government.
It was perhaps a little ironic that there has been a recently published a story about the bargain homes that can be brought in “dying New Zealand towns”. With over half of New Zealand’s population now residing in cities of over 100,000 residents the decline of smaller towns looks set to continue.
Forestry land still open slather
The Government has boosted the powers of the Overseas Investment Act. “The Government is delivering on its promise to protect New Zealanders’ interests by applying a new national interest test to the sales of our most sensitive and high risk assets to overseas buyers.” If land owners thought this might apply to the ease at which foreign investors can access land for forestry it appears they will be disappointed. The focus appears to be on infrastructure such as ports, airport and telecommunications. Water bottling also rated a mention, but not land.
Dairy prices lift again
On a more positive note the Global Dairy Trade auction result lifted yet again. Overall the lift was +1.7% with Whole Milk Powder up by +2.2% and Cheddar Cheese which had been on a downward trend doing a small comeback with a +2.5% lift. Butter was the only major product with a negative result, down by -1.3%.
Volumes were down on previous sales and this had a large part to play in the lift.
A $7.50/kgMS farm gate milk price is looking more likely as the season progresses.