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Bruce Wills wants to see 'collaboratively designed policy', and central govt paying for 90% of roading costs

Bruce Wills wants to see 'collaboratively designed policy', and central govt paying for 90% of roading costs

By Bruce Wills*

Given how controversial mining and ‘fracking’ seems to have become, I wanted to learn more about the oil business from the ground up.

From a health & safety perspective, the petroleum industry is impressive.

Equally so is Taranaki Regional Council’s regulation of the industry.

The more I learn about hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ the more questionable some of the claims against it become.

The technology promises to make us less dependent on imported fuels and in the long run, it could provide a means to transition to new fuel technologies.

I do not believe any credible person is proposing we go ‘cold turkey’ when it comes to petroleum. 

London’s Mayor Boris Johnson, who wants to make it easier for New Zealanders to live and work in the UK, put his views on this matter more stridently.

Last year he wrote,

…the eco-warriors betray the mindset of people who cannot bear a piece of unadulterated good news. Beware this new technology, they wail. Do not tamper with the corsets of Gaia! Don’t probe her loamy undergarments with so much as a finger — or else the goddess of the earth will erupt with seismic revenge. Dig out this shale gas, they warn, and our water will be poisoned and our children will be stunted and our cattle will be victims of terrible intestinal explosions.

If farmers were allowed to clone just one regional council it would have to be Taranaki.

Here is a region that has petroleum exploration, farming and a good environment too.

The comments of London’s impressive Mayor and the equally impressive Taranaki Regional Council, remind us that local government elections fall in October.  

Not to let an opportunity slip by, Federated Farmers has produced a manifesto ready to support our members, farmers and interested members of the public.

It is designed to be used as a tool to gauge the promises voters will no doubt hear.

Since 2002, council rates have increased a staggering 97 percent; three times the rate of inflation.

More worrying, by 2022, they are expected to increase by a further 58 percent.

Rates are fundamental to any community as it funds infrastructure right through to social and cultural events.  Yet to meet the challenge of the 21st Century New Zealand, our preference is for councils’ to uniformly target more of their rates to those who benefit from council services. I write this from an industry where ‘user-pays’ is the order of the day. 

We further suggest rates should be kept relative to inflation and with more transparency over how they are evaluated. This could be by highlighting properties and their rates contribution. This may also spark greater voter engagement because engagement is missing from the low turnouts associated with our local government elections.

Another thing our manifesto looks at is the regulatory performance of councils.

Local regulation can prevent farmers from farming properly or businesses from growing; literally making or breaking employment opportunities.

It is why being realistic, fair and equitable matters when councils design and implement local regulation.

There’s little doubt collaboratively designed policy built off a platform of openness and trust provides a way forward. Indeed, freshwater collaborative planning will be embedded into the RMA, giving communities and landowners a greater say in planning what they want for their waterways. This spirit needs to be widened because we all have a stake in successful and sustainable districts, towns and cities. 

Yet one of the most essential services for farmers and the wider community is the nation’s roads. For rural folk like me, all roads are nationally significant but government spending has not kept pace with roading cost inflation. Federated Farmers wants the Government’s roading share increased from 50 to 90 percent, using revenue from vehicle registration, fuel taxes and licensing for roads. All of this would allow councils to reduce their local rates burden while being much fairer; as many road users are not local. 

While a second Auckland harbour crossing appeals, the $10 bln. pledged to fund that and an ‘inner city rail loop,’ does not.

We do not have public transport for goods so imagine what even ten percent of that sum would do for ‘local roads,’ where 72 percent of our merchandise exports are generated.

Things like an efficient roading network may not be sexy relative to a new sports complex but it is critical for jobs and opportunity. As is local regulation and the way our councils are funded. Like petroleum exploration, it needs policies to be based on facts and not innuendo.

This is where our manifesto slots into the mix. 

To get the farmer prescription for this year’s local elections, simply go here »

Above all, make sure you vote.


Bruce Wills is the President of Federated Farmers. You can contact him here »

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.


We seem to have champagne expectations but only willing to fund a beer budget. Govt roading maintenace funding essentially flatlines for next wee while as it builds the Roads of National Sigiificance.
If FF want the Govt contribution to be 90%  - then this is essentially a reduction in funding!
Take the existing 50% Govt funding, reduce council funding, then Govt funding becomes 90%!
Good on ya Bruce!

"Things like an efficient roading network may not be sexy relative to a new sports complex but it is critical for jobs and opportunity."
"For rural folk like me, all roads are nationally significant but government spending has not kept pace with roading cost inflation"
So an alternative to government increasing its subsidy to Local government for roading from 50% to 90% would be to allow Local government an alternative tax source -petrol tax, income tax etc. Given that public goods like an efficient road network is critical for jobs and opportunity then this tax is a kind of local compulsory saving and investment scheme.
The problem with the central government subsidy for local roading is it becomes a political football. Rural areas want the funding because they generate the exports, Auckland wants it because they are so big, Christchurch wants it because it is so munted, Wellington wants it because it is the capital. The provinces want what everyone else is getting.... 
The end result is it is easiest to give nobody what they want, hence the stagnating government payments for roading despite rising costs.

We do not need farmers to tell us how to vote thanks.
Especially if their idea of sexy is a sports complex.

This hmmming is going on in New Plymouth, from where a whole lot of local money has gone over the sea and far away, leading to some itchiness about what it will look like when it comes back.
Chalkie can see why.

Had a group of radical fundamentalist Islamic suicide bombers from Stratford destroyed the New Plymouth council chambers in 2004 , and thereby prevented the sale of Powerco , re-building the council building would've been chump change compared to the extra $ 250 million gained on the increased capital value of the Powerco stake to 2013 ... not to mentioned the continued  steady stream of dividends received each year .....
... hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm ... who really are the bigger " terrorists " here ? ....

So Gummy are you agreeing that selling power companies generally can be disastrous, given New Plymouth's say $400 million loss of value from selling their stake in Powerco? Or is it just timing, and dependent on the particular power company?

No !
& Yes .

What nonsense.
Everyone knows the fundamentalists live in Inglewood.

"it needs policies to be based on facts and not innuendo."
and where pray is the fact(s) in your post? I see none....what I do see is a failed ACT type outlook unable to come to terms with the forever growth mantra failing on a finite planet.
I see, so the user pays model so championed by the right/National with farmers voting for it. Is now being abandoned by ppl who voted for it, now find that have to shift costs onto others who may wall be least able to afford it...
Yeah that seems fair...
Mate, you need the roads, you pay for them.
Rates, yes a huge issue...6% per year isnt sustainable, but no one knows how to cure that. PS they tried locking down state taxes in Califormia, it almost went you want a rinse and repeat?
Technology promises?  absolute b*llocks frankly. So what you are doing is passing the future failure onto the scientists and engineers when they fail to deliver on your la la land make believe world. Yet in almost the same breadth you deny what the scientists tell you about global warming. So on the one hand you shoot the messenger and on the other you uh will want to shoot the messenger....thanks for that.
"The technology promises to make us less dependent on imported fuels and in the long run, it could provide a means to transition to new fuel technologies."  It wont be, not in terms of an economy that we have today based on cheap fossil fuels with an EROEI for 8 to 1 or better. 
"The more I learn about hydraulic fracturing, or ‘fracking,’ the more questionable some of the claims against it become."
Fracking has a huge production drop off rate making it un-economic in money terms let alone EROEI, and huge potential for ruinning your water supply something as a farmer you should be petrified about, its a scam.....

"unable to come to terms with the forever growth mantra on a finite planet."
bloody green commies, they're everywhere. 
That was my almost exact first thought on reading the article.
Fracking good? Mindless stupidity more like. The idea that pumping polluted crap in to the ground to force even more polluted crap out is good,yea rite.
And  just for the record Bruce, I'm farming and I don't believe in global warming.

Where does green commie come into, infinite growth can fit into a finite planet? So you didnt do math in school?
Actually I think you find "commies" are  just as opposed to "Green" as "capitalists" are.  Green means sustainablity "sustain, as is" and even "decline" in expoitation so no more "growth".
Thus both of the sides, left and right need and demand growth to deliver their promises/wants, so both oppose Green, funny what bed fellows you will find...
You may not believe in AGW, but its coming to you, either in extreme weather events or becoming in-insurable...

Many of us capitalists do want green policies ... we don't want to be dirty birds who poop in our nest ... but we want green solutions that make economic sense , and that don't destroy the countryside , as those gawd ugly wind towers do , appalling ....
.... Greenpeace have become a political movement , even their founder has dis-owned them , they're responsible for giving the green movement an awful public persona ... more harm than good , to true environmental care ....

.. paint your roof pitch black , so the HRV system gets yer lounge up to 15 'c in winter .... and 85 'c in summer !
HRV , haaaaaaaaa , what a con !

Trouble is GBH unless and until you put a full economic cost to environmental decline / degradation caused by a process you cannot judge its true economic value/cost.
For instance I think NZ allows cadmium to be in fertilizer? this over decades will mean that our soils cannot be used anymore, or the farmer will pay a huge one off cost in clean up/removal (or abandon it). Say thats 30 years in the future...a farmer today simply ignores this as its not a cost he will have to meet in his life time...meanwhile he gets a huge short term economic benefit.
So Huntley isnt an eye sore? you'd rather Huntley pouring out large clouds of crap and co2  into the air and warming the river nearby, fit for water sports, and looking like an eye sore to boot, or the coal mines that supply it blightling the landscape? Mean while windmills that dont output any AGW gases...and tend to be in a few wind swept barren spots...are bad?
Yes that makes so much sense...not.

.. personally , I'd rather that the Huntly power plant had never been constructed in the first place .. I'm  a fan of replacing coal usage with natural gas , where possible ...
Would've been better for the environment and cost-effectiveness to have spent the Huntly money on a clean & green nuclear power plant beside Auckland City ....

Sorry steven. I was being an ass. I really did agree with you and was just pointing out what seems to be the standard comments from many in the community, I.e. if you don't believe in perpetual growth as the reason for being.