This election has the attention of farmers. It was instructive to attend a meeting on Tuesday night in Wanaka with David Parker on water quality and commercial water charging.
Easy 100 people. Standing at back. Parker’s slide show illustrated the multiple damaging intensive farming practices. No farmer in the room argued that rivers were getting better after that.
Then came water pricing. Some younger farmers could see that a cost to alleviate the environmental impact was worthwhile. Most didn’t. The Otago Regional Council apparently has done a great job defending the environment according to one farmer, when all the others were terrible. They came across as righteous entitled snowflakes.
Parker was saturated in policy detail, in histories of river catchment, in his personal history of fishing. Unflappable and fact based. It was people from the audience that gave strong debate with the unrepentant farmers.
I cycled from Wanaka to Hawea on Saturday in a horizontal snowstorm. At 11k’s I rode next to a cyclone fence and a long irrigator arm, with a large herd of cows huddled in the snow. No shelter. I thought: what are you making? Ice cream?
Maybe the $NZ dollar will sink with a Labour government, so agricultural commodities boom, so Labour gets political cover to implement charging. Maybe.
Parker can’t do worse than the Land and Water Forum results. He was clear most farmers hate the idea of any charge. And he knows he must target regional councils.
If the government changes, it must not be bullied by agribusiness lobbyists. They will come for them and will orchestrate the rage.
From what I saw, Parker will defeat them with a calm delivery of irrefutable facts. And sound policy. This fight will be big.