By Guy Trafford
The Government certainly seems to be trying to build bridges with the farming sector based upon Damien O’Connor's involvement.
Wearing his hat as Minister of Rural Communities he spoke to farmers and others at the Mystery Creek Field Days this week. He was announcing the Rural Proofing Policy.
The focus of the policy is to make sure rural communities unique challenges are reflected in government policy. He said, “The bottom line is that rural Kiwis should have equitable access to social and economic opportunities, to reach their full potential,”
Communities will be glad to hear this but perhaps this news is too late for those (including myself) who have been looking forward to watching the Rugby World Cup in their living room, but likely will miss out given the substandard internet coverage that will persist for some time yet.
On the other hand, Shane Jones, the Regional Economic Development Minister, has accused Fonterra’s upper echelon of being out of touch with it shareholders base. He said, "I believe that they have become disconnected from the farming community and I said in front of Mr John Wilson that I have requested the Minister of Agriculture - when he looks at his dairy restructuring - identify the issues and whether or not it's time for us to look at a restructuring of Fonterra,". Someone in Fonterra seems to have upset him as he went on to say he wants the company to "focus less on interfering in politics and more on justifying the money they've lost overseas". Shane Jones is creating an image of either attacking large companies, given his previous criticism of Air New Zealand, or standing up for the regions. At this stage it is unclear. Either way, it is not doing a lot to enthral his government with some business sectors.
One of life’s ironies is that a past head of Air New Zealand, Christopher Luxon, is one of the names mooted as a possibility to succeed Theo Spierings as CEO of Fonterra. That is bound to really wind Minister Jones up.
In the context of the mycoplasma bovis outbreak and subsequent finger pointing I have only just been made aware of two farm databases apparently (judging by their descriptions) set up a number of years ago to help in the prevention of bio-security and other rural emergency’s. One is run by government owned AssureQuality and is called AgriBase and by all accounts has 142,000 farms and forests recorded. The the other run by MPI called FarmsOnline.
Both, if we need two, are a good idea for recording information and in the case of FarmsOnline recording NAIT movements. The thing I am surprised at is given AgriBase has 142,000 records in their database, how come I’ve only just heard of it. Not necessarily blaming them, perhaps I was asleep at the wheel, (The boss often accuses me of this). So we have, AgriBase, FarmsOnline and of course the NAIT site, all set up by government in some form and all to record information for among other things bio-security.
Also, 142,000? Stats NZ states New Zealand has 52,785 farms (including horticulture) so that leaves 89,215 if all farms are on the data base, not all are going to be forests and even then, the New Zealand Farm Forest Owners Association has identified 15,000 owners of forests over five hectares. So perhaps the back lawns are included?