The Fast Forward Fund was axed by the NACT government in Feburary. This was a fund that was to be invested and the proceeds and capital drawn down over 10-15 years to invest in agriculture. The funds would be distributed with equal contributions from agricultural businesses. Farming provides well over a third of our overseas earnings and is likely to be one of the prime drivers in helping us out of the recession.
Now the government will apparently put in a simple provision for $90 million over 3 year according to Moana Mackey:-
Moana Mackey says that an AgResearch paper presented to a Waikato agricultural advisory committee suggests National’s promised “better” deal in place of Labour’s guaranteed fund will be a mere $90 million over three years.
“And it gets worse. Where Labour’s fund, with promised industry support, may well have eventually reached $2 billion, National’s promised replacement appears contingent on matching dollars from industry at a time when industry has been hit by the economic crisis. In a time of recession we should be investing more in R&D and innovation, but what the Government seems to be proposing is a fund which will be effectively limited to short-term research.
“What the country and the primary production sector in particular need is long-term certainty. I am sure Professor Gluckman would agree, but the AgResearch paper suggests that government contributions to any initiatives other than those producing short-term results will be quite uncertain,” Moana Mackey said.
Which means that the expected average government contribution of about $45 million per year under the Fast Forward Fund is now going to be $30 million with a far shorter time horizon. This is hardly the type of contribution that is likely to build an ongoing research programs in agriculture. Since it is difficult to see how most agricultural research projects will come to fruition in 3 years, I suspect that there will be a lot of projects that simply don’t start – because there is no continuity of funding.
Agricultural research has been one of the most productive areas long-term for scientific investment. However NACT prefers to invest in lower-yielding infrastructural investments like the Waterview connection, the Auckland super-city, and the farcical Fibre-to-the-home project. None are likely to yield as much to the economy as investment in agricultural research. They appear to be done mainly for various political reasons that have nothing much to do with helping the economy in the medium to long-term.
Alan Emerson had this to say in the NZ Farmers Weekly last month:-
It’s getting increasingly lonely out here in the rural sector. Almost daily we can read about more money for Auckland, more motorways for the cities, more money for city broadband users but, correspondingly, no money or recognition for farming.
It gets worse with our key to the future, the Fast Forward Fund being wound up, no doubt to pay for Auckland motorways or Wellington broadband.
The Fast Forward Fund told our scientists, business people and school leavers that we had a government prepared to invest in our future and that agriculture was the way of the future. We now have a government with an opposite view. Reality is that agriculture will lead us out of recession; no other sector has that capability.
What irritates me most is that there’s no-one standing up for rural NZ. Feds’ Donald Aubrey did stand up for rural broadband but what about the Fast Forward Fund, tax credits, subsidies to manufacturing, further subsidies to tourism and the planned mega-city of Auckland?
There’s been a dearth of rural leadership on the current goings on in government and that has enabled the government to trample over us and support others to our detriment.
I agree. Perhaps it is about time for farmers who look forward to stop voting for these idiots who only seem to be able think without any forward vision.
As an aside, the most stupid statement I’ve seen for a while comes from MacDoctor. It shows a fundamental misunderstanding of research and development strategies.
In a time of recession you cut costs, Moana. The only research you fund is the stuff that will have immediate benefits (you know, the stuff National is keen to fund) – otherwise you go belly up and bankrupt.
So wrong. In a time of recession you increase spending on R&D when there are less demands on the resources required to do it. There are few benefits left in research that takes a short time to realize. That is because all of those things have been done before, and the yield is small. You get the benefit from research that changes the business fundamentals. So when you are coming out of a recession it increases the following rise in the economy. But then, Mac like NACT, thinks like an accountant. With a lack of vision that drives our economy backwards compared to others. That is what showed in National’s last term and they are trying again through a monumental lack of vision.