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Rangitata and the Future of the National Party

Written By: - Date published: 8:49 am, October 24th, 2020 - 42 comments
Categories: election 2020, national, tech industry, uncategorized - Tags:

Some have recently been making histrionic arm waving about the decline of the Baby Boomer’s influence.

Let me introduce: the National Party.

This wasn’t the worst shot they’ve had. Like Donald Trump, the base has held under their very, very bad year. We can use Rangitata as an illustration of the best future for the National Party. Unlike Donald Trump, they’ll be back and at some point they will be government again. 2026?

National’s Rangitata Chair Alison Driscoll summed it up pretty well in her speech on the night:

I know this party will come back bigger and better. We’ve taken a hiding tonight and there’s a lot of people out there who really need to think long and hard about what they’ve done over the last two weeks because it’s our people that have fucked us up. I’m sorry – it is our people who have done this. I think personally, and I don’t mean to be negative, but the party needed a kick up the pants.”

National will of course come back stronger, and there’s some great opportunities to gain out of Rangitata itself.

Ashburton, Methven, Temuka and Timaru, Rangitata’s population centres, aren’t townships that spring to mind when discussing the Labour Party (big ups to those Labour activists who hung in there and triumphed anyway).

But in no small part when we are discussing the future of the National Party we are discussing the future of farming and the agricultural economy and its societies around that economy. That’s still the stuff that makes us the money.

As highly intensified and advanced agricultural centres, they have collectively managed their land to higher and higher levels of productivity over recent decades, and made a good living. The intensity of irrigation in this electorate is the highest in New Zealand.

One natural path back towards regaining such a seat is for National to reconquer New Zealand as driving wealth through agriculture.

It’s still only National’s agricultural heritage that best links our agricultural produce to crafts. Consider all those little cottage industries that thrived under lockdown. Weaving, for example, has one of the best global support stores out of Ashburton in a little company called Ashford. The whole of National’s caucus should be knitting in Parliament: what an awesome signal that would be to our local business and to crafts. No one would be laughing once all those women voters felt the support for their craft work, and all the wool growers and shearers saw the leadership.

National can also set out how it will enable the agricultural economy to use technology to extract more and more for less and less materials and land and labour. For example, shutting down seasonal workers as much as possible and providing bonuses to farm industries who employ year round. Or cash incentives for full roboticised mechanisation of farms. Or setting up a water price regulator so that farmers are rewarded for using less and less water rather than constantly assuring them of a single tariff for volume. Rangitata as an exemplar for practical high tech is a great illustration of National’s policy sector with huge political upside: our entire technology sector.

National will need more of the right people to gain deep inroads into this broad sector, but if they can do it they can help New Zealand re-imagine farming from being an old man’s game. They proposed a $1.29 billion plan for growing our tech sector. Does National have the right people to make that political bridge between the broad tech sector and agriculture? It should. If it doesn’t yet, it will. At least it started in the right place: with cash. Lots of cash.

Cash, rather than regulation, should be Nationa’s preferred tool for getting very similar results to what the Greens and Labour want. Public cash.

National can also unify New Zealand’s rural agricultural economy to the broader public health effort of Covid19 by bringing rural disease management, conservation pest management, and human disease into a single frame of national effort. It was National who started off the Predator Free nationwide effort. And it was National who took the Mycoplasma eradication effort by the horns (excuse the pun). While urban elites may rejoice that Kauri Dieback is now on the same biosecurity status as Bovine Tuberculosis, where National can lead is a simple underscoring of the growing complexity and interdependence of public and animal and conservation health: bridging agriculture to public health.

Our interdependencies are now across the world susceptible to widespread, irreversible and cascading failure.

Except in New Zealand. There is a political gift to be taken, if National wants to uplift it, of New Zealand as a fully unified effort across all its infection and restoration efforts. That’s conservative as a party in all the right senses. It’s the unification of effort that we are missing and probably only National could do. National needs to find the way to use this current crisis to put the national effort back into National.

New Zealand can also be branded by National as one of the very few countries in the world where there could be integrated management to pest and pathogen alike. You may well ask: how could such a profoundly negative story assist any major political party? Well if Labour can win an election on it, National can too. Whenever the World Health Organisation finishes its investigation into COVID 19, there will be massive new questions about pathogens originating from animal hosts, and that virus transmission risk is highest from animal species that have increased in abundance and even expanded their range by adopting to human-dominated landscapes.

So National can steal back the mantle of national purpose, unifying the city and the country together again as Labour can never do. At a pretty fundamental level, there’s agreement to restore New Zealand to an ever-stronger state of environmental purity. The motives for doing so may differ, but that united political and policy effort has a common national end few disagree with. Only National has that, or will have that.

Climate change and irrigation: Rangitata. Yes, it will likely need to bite the bullet of national water price regulation, not just water quality regulation. But as well as pushing irrigation as the driver for higher and more stable productivity for annual wealth per hectare, National could promote irrigation as New Zealand’s best defence against climate change. Water security has damaged Labour’s Phil Goff, is expanding the economic and social security of the Nelson area, and completely drives the economy of mid-Canterbury. Labour is also wading (sorry) into water governance reforms this term, which will of course piss off rural towns. Irrigation should be a major political issue where National can gain a strong edge back against Labour.

None of the above, of course involves National’s usual cut costs and cut worker power approach. It’s a conservative+liberal rural+tech approach. It’s Rangitata.

Rangitata isn’t the most obvious place to look for solutions to National’s future, but they should.

42 comments on “Rangitata and the Future of the National Party ”

  1. Robert Guyton 1

    The engineering approach to water scarcity is the wrong one and will exacerbate the problems. Water is best stored in the soil, as molecules attached to humus. Until that's understood and actioned, the environment will continue to degrade and degrade and degrade…

    Lee Valley.

  2. Patricia Bremner 3

    Mycoplasma bovis and National and control… ha ha.

    • Muttonbird 3.1

      He trolling.

      So National can steal back the mantle of national purpose, unifying the city and the country together again as Labour can never do. At a pretty fundamental level, there’s agreement to restore New Zealand to an ever-stronger state of environmental purity. The motives for doing so may differ, but that united political and policy effort has a common national end few disagree with. Only National has that, or will have that.

      Why can't Labour do it? He hasn't explained why, and in fact it looks like they just did over the last three years.

      If National do finally get on board it will only be because Labour and the Greens have shown them the way.

      • vic gill 3.1.1

        think back to 2008. Jim Anderton proposed a fund funded by govt and farmers to develop agriculture based products for the benefit of farmers and the country. Labour adopted the proposal for that election, National won and threw the policy out. Great thinking national and why would they be so progressive now.

  3. Maurice 4

    Beware the Revenge of the Boomers …

    Leaving nothing but debts for the Future!

    • RosieLee 4.1

      Bullshit.

      • Maurice 4.1.1

        That is a not so pretty "rural" comment!

        • Phillip ure 4.1.1.1

          You are generation-blaming for the neoliberal political ideology followed by both labour and national…that has got us into this shithole…?….that has an inherent logic/fact chasm ..and is both simplistic and fatuous…which you could really shorthand to 'bullshit'..eh..?

  4. Gabby 5

    All that heavily irrigated productive land won't outweigh the voters drinking shitty water and wading in shit.

    • Stuart Munro 5.1

      The combination of aquifers scraping bottom and sealevels rising mean salination of the aquifers is only a heartbeat away. Let that happen and the Canterbury dairy bubble will go the way of Carthage.

      • Descendant Of Smith 5.1.1

        Salination isn't just caused by sea water. If downstream areas dry out due to upstream water storage or excessive irrigation then salts are unable to carried away on a regular basis. Later rising of the water tables, say through a flooding event then spreads the salts into the whole area. You don't need to be near the sea to get salination.

        • Stuart Munro 5.1.1.1

          It can happen though – it's a function of relative pressures. Take all the fresh water out and the strata become prone to flows from whatever external source is nearby.

  5. Phillip ure 6

    Maybe send collins some knitting-needles..?..as a prompt .?..but seriously!..national must know they need a re-brand/re-evaluation..and I thought that muller and kaye were going to attempt that..to bring national back into the centre (and outflank labour..like clark did to them..)…but the far-right were having none of that..and muller's meltdown..and nationals' failure to appoint kaye as leader in his wake..(as the best tory to go up against j.a…) put the kibosh on those ideas..but that is what national have to do…and part of that move to the centre will be a greening of the party..(in best case scenario outflanking labour)…if they take care of that..and offer viable solutions to poverty/housing etc .rent-to-own was mentioned this time out ..so they are getting there..it would seem..but make no mistake..if national do this they will be back as contendors..they just have to change their spots…if they don't they will just continue their march into irrelevancy..

  6. RedLogix 7

    I've been reading Mark Lynas over the past week or so, an ecologist in the eco-modernist school. His thoughts on agriculture expand the vision of it's role:

    But what if the current definition of sustainable intensification is also too narrow? In a new open-access paper published in the journal Ambio, the Swedish environmental scientist Johan Rockstrom and colleagues argue for a radically expanded concept of sustainable intensification. This is one that would put agriculture at the centre of a positive transformation rather than simply trying to limit its negative impact while still producing sufficient crops to feed humanity.

    Conventional thinking tends to see balancing food production with the conservation of ecosystems as competing imperatives: more food equals less natural land and therefore reduced biodiversity. Hence the need to increase yields, producing more food per unit of land area so more of the Earth’s surface can be spared for valuable ecosystems like rainforests and wetlands.

    But Rockstrom and colleagues argue for something much more profound, which they term a “paradigm shift” aimed at “repositioning world agriculture from its current role as the world s single largest driver of global environmental change, to becoming a key contributor of a global transition to a sustainable world within a safe operating space on Earth”.

    The paper being referenced is here.

    In essence we need to stop viewing farming as an extractive, ultimately destructive activity, and reframe it as a core tool in our quest to become responsible stewards of the planet. But at present we have two broadly competing models of how to get there.

    One is the mass industrialised system we see in most of the breadbasket food plains of the world. It represents a fantastic intensification of production, enabling our population to be sustained through to it's current peak phase. But it also steps over boundaries, especially in terms of water use, nutrient run-off and bio-diversity loss.

    The other, that I'll respectfully label 'the Robert Guyton' model (because we can instantly understand what this stands for), represents a far more nuanced and intense understanding of biological systems. It dives deep, where the industrial model spreads wide.

    The opportunity lies in converging these two bodies of knowledge. The is of course a natural tension involved here, but this is the driving force of evolution.

    Bringing this back to the OP, I tend to agree with Ad. If we want progress it will be National who deliver it. There is a rule in politics that says deep radical change ultimately comes from your centre right/conservative party, because the hard core conservatives who might otherwise block change …. have nowhere else to go. (As an example it was a National govt that introduced MMP.)

    But the left also plays a role in this process by ensuring there is a constructive dialog and a fertile space to cultivate the seeds of change. A toxic political space will yield only more weeds.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.1

      There is a rule in politics that says deep radical change ultimately comes from your centre right/conservative party, because the hard core conservatives who might otherwise block change …. have nowhere else to go. (As an example it was a National govt that introduced MMP.)

      That's not a rule – that's a belief. National also tried to get rid of MMP and replace it with a less democratic system because it knew that it was on a long term slide to irrelevance.

      The solution is not with National or any other conservatives.

      • RedLogix 7.1.1

        The exact opposite is true, when conservatives are on board with a change you know it is secure. As for your counterfactual about some elements of National not wanting MMP is irrelevant, because the majority of them voted otherwise. The point is that the ones who didn't want MMP had nowhere else to go on that issue, and for this reason MMP became a fixed feature of our political system.

        When National gets on board with the agricultural innovations Ad is talking about, you will know they will stick … again because the minority who are still skeptical will have nowhere else to go.

        The trick of course is to create the political landscape in which National can safely make that leap.

        The solution is not with National or any other conservatives.

        This idea you have that the conservative segment of the human population can be somehow marginalised and permanently ignored is a monumental conceit. As irksome as it is acknowledge this, at least 90% of new ideas are either bad ideas or ill-timed. Conservatives protect us from them.

        • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1.1

          The exact opposite is true, when conservatives are on board with a change you know it is secure.

          Ah, no.

          Sure, when conservatives back a change then its less likely to be changed afterwards but that doesn't mean that the conservatives are going start a change in the first place.

          As for your counterfactual about some elements of National not wanting MMP is irrelevant, because the majority of them voted otherwise.

          IIRC, only ~51% of the voting population at the time voted to keep MMP which indicates that a majority of National voters voted to change it and the chances are that they wanted to change it to the less democratic system that John Key championed.

          Even when MMP was put to the voters it still only won with little more than a bare majority.

          Chances are that it was majority left-wing voters with a minority of right-wing voters in both cases.

          When National gets on board with the agricultural innovations Ad is talking about,

          Which will only happen once its already happened.

          The trick of course is to create the political landscape in which National can safely make that leap.

          No, the trick is to bring in the changes and make sure that the majority of people are better off because of them and then National will work to keep them.

          This idea you have that the conservative segment of the human population can be somehow marginalised and permanently ignored is a monumental conceit.

          I don't ignore them. I just don't expect them to have any new ideas about making life better for the majority of the population and am pleasantly surprised when they do.

          As irksome as it is acknowledge this, at least 90% of new ideas are either bad ideas or ill-timed.

          That's probably true but the ideas still need to be looked at and evaluated.

          Conservatives protect us from them.

          That probably isn't as the Conservative reaction will just be a reflexive kneejerk against anything new. They won't even look at it to see if it could work.

          That's not protecting us from the new ideas – its trying to prevent the status quo from being changed.

          • RedLogix 7.1.1.1.1

            The status quo is what put put food on your table this morning, the lights on in your home, and allows you to safely step outside your front door. It's why you don't live in absolute poverty and you have a life expectancy of around 80 years, and not 40.

            Don't be quite so dismissive of it.

            • Draco T Bastard 7.1.1.1.1.1

              Who said I was being dismissive of it?

              Being able to see its failings is the first step to changing it.

              National, and others, refuse to see its failings and that's why they're never keen to change it and will actively try to prevent those needed changes.

              Probably because those failings are what allow them to bludge so well.

    • Robert Guyton 7.2

      Well, RedLogix, I'm bound to respond; firstly to say that I thrill to your Mark Lynas quote: that's it in a nutshell: "“repositioning world agriculture from its current role as the world's single largest driver of global environmental change, to becoming a key contributor of a global transition to a sustainable world within a safe operating space on Earth”."- it's what I've long thought/professed. As to National-will-deliver, I tend to agree, in the same way as I believe farmers-will-deliver; who is better placed?

      I liked also: "The opportunity lies in converging these two bodies of knowledge. There is of course a natural tension involved here, but this is the driving force of evolution."

      Let's keep moving 🙂

  7. Stuart Munro 8

    They may be highly intensified, but they sure as hell aren't advanced or they wouldn't have set up intensive operations without nitrate remediation or an abundant and secure water supply.

    They're like the US CAFOs, but thirty years behind – not having to deal with environmental regulations about manure lakes yet – regulation being decades behind thanks to a do-nothing political culture.

    Unionise their slave workers and you'd have a Labour stronghold – for all the good that would do anyone.

    • Adrian 8.1

      Most of the "slave " workers are small business owners these days with their own signwritten utes and tractors and equipment, some of it worth half a million + dollars a piece, and are expert in irrigation, soil health, animal health like Artificial Insemination and nutrition, vet services ,shearing gangs, earthmoving and transportation. The lone farm worker is long gone, even the sheperds with a dog are in utes with full internet satellite connections and are now called Farm Managers with a degree from Lincoln . That is the same in viticulture and horticulture.

      Those are the rural National voters that Labour needs to connect with, when their fathers and grand-fathers voted they voted Labour because they had the shitty end of the class stick but not when you have a million of dollars of assets, they are business men and women.

      Their children on the other hand may be the key to change as they are concerned about the country they will inherit.

      • Stuart Munro 8.1.1

        The ones recruited through employment brokers don't fit your description.

        they are concerned about the country they will inherit

        So were we – and our governments sold it out from under us. There is nothing to suggest they will be any more loyal to migrants than they were to us.

        • Adrian 8.1.1.1

          Keep in mind Stuart that the migrant workers here who generally all get at least minimum wage and up to 50% more than that are in the top 10% of earners in their own country.

          They are considered wealthy much like all the young Kiwis who de-camped to the Aussie mines, we never thought of them as slaves or exploited.

          • Stuart Munro 8.1.1.1.1

            It's all a matter of who you run across Adrian – The stories I'm hearing are of sustained exploitation, and there are many of them. You could just have followed the law and hired New Zealanders you know – but you decided to be tricky instead.

            I never want to see another unskilled worker enter NZ, unless they're a refugee. All the rest better have something that really helps make the place work – we've seen the squalor your lot create, if you’re given any slack.

  8. Draco T Bastard 9

    That’s still the stuff that makes us the money.

    People cannot live on money.

    As highly intensified and advanced agricultural centres, they have collectively managed their land to higher and higher levels of productivity over recent decades, and made a good living. The intensity of irrigation in this electorate is the highest in New Zealand.

    You say that as if its a Good Thing.

    One natural path back towards regaining such a seat is for National to reconquer New Zealand as driving wealth through agriculture.

    Except that the majority of the population have nothing to do with farming, see that its not actually making us richer but poorer and that high tech development does better for wealth production.

  9. Incognito 10

    There’s considerable overlap in technology that can be used in agriculture and pest control, for example. However, consideration of Genetic Engineering and the use of Genetically Modified Organisms in NZ is an ethical issue as much as it is a scientific-technological one. I personally can’t see National unify anything or anybody because it goes against their nature and ideology. They will continue to try to rule by divide & conquer, wedge & identity politics, class division, polarising PR campaigns, et cetera. On the other hand, Labour-Greens are much better positioned to build the necessary bridges and include Māori too.

    • Robert Guyton 10.1

      Maori seek to align with whoever brings the results they seek. Be that and you'll have their support.

      • Incognito 10.1.1

        Māori are a diverse group and there are over 800,000 Māori with fewer than 300,000 enrolled on the Māori Roll so I think it is unlikely that would align with one single party or even necessarily with the Māori Party for that matter. As far as I know, Māori interests could align with anything ranging from ACT (or Billy) to the Greens. For example, they may agree with ACT’s gun nuts but not so much with ACT’s euthanasia ideas.

  10. swordfish 11

    Ashburton, Methven, Temuka and Timaru, Rangitata’s population centres, aren’t townships that spring to mind when discussing the Labour Party (big ups to those Labour activists who hung in there and triumphed anyway).

    Ashburton & Methven have always been Blue centres but Timaru & Temuka were traditionally Red places … by no means deepest Red but not a wishy-washy pale pink either. (The old FPP seat of Timaru – centred almost entirely on the City itself – remained Labour from the late 20s under the “Red Rev” Clyde Carr right through to the mid-80s under Basil Arthur).

    In the knife-edge 2005 election, both Timaru & Temuka remained Labour but both turned Blue during the Key years & were still slightly Nat-leaning in 2017.

  11. Morrissey 12

    What a miserable bunch. Have they improved at all since that sad photo was taken?

  12. bwaghorn 13

    All that's left in national are the religious fools and the act fuctards, I hope this is the beginning of the end .

    If I was labour everytime collins has a dig I'd ask her what the new leader luxon from botany thinks .

  13. Scott 14

    I would have thought that Rangitata would be one of the first places for National to look for answers.

    It should also be one of the places the Labour govt should look if they want to move politics to the left.

    Ashburton and Temuka may not be towns for Labour to seek out votes but Timaru certainly was – in the 20+ general elections before MMP it only lost twice.

    Gisborne, Whanganui, and New Plymouth were also large centers where Labour could expect to do well in pre-MMP, plus the bellwethers of Hamilton.

    There is a difference between a rural seat like Wairaki and King Country and a provincial seats like Whanganui and Rangitata, that have large settlements in them and none of the commentators seem to recognise that.

    If Whangarei flips in the specials then I count 11 provincial centers to Lab against Nationals 5! That's massive

    It was not the farmers who abandoned National but the provincial households and the small businesses in those centers who after 30 years of neglect from successive governments have said forget you National, we're gonna give the nice lady a go – and good on them for that,

    And this is where for Labour, and the Greens, the opportunity lies, to move to more progressive governments. now and in the future.

    As a lefty liberal blah blah Wellingtonian, I don't give a toss for my ideals or those of the left.

    I don't want a transformation that's gonna sting people the way the 80s did, or not last beyond this govt.

    If Labour can deliver those provincial centers a change to their lives for the better, as well as welfare reform, housing and employment, and retain those centers in 3 years time, then they would have crowded out National from the center and be able to concede ground to the Greens on the left.

    National will be gone burgers as they figure out how to align their factions while losing more ground to Act, causing a split between the conservative and liberal arms of the Nats. They've got real issues and are still going to be without an answer in 3 years' time.

    For JA it's how do they tangibly deliver this term and next while putting in place the kind of generational transition not done before.

    Kieran McAnulty, Kiri Allan, and Penni Henare for 2026 and it starts now.

    • Draco T Bastard 14.1

      If Labour can deliver those provincial centers a change to their lives for the better,

      They can – if they realise that the government is not fiscally constrained.

      Which, unfortunately, is unlikely.

      For JA it's how do they tangibly deliver this term and next while putting in place the kind of generational transition not done before.

      For J.A and Labour its do or die now.

      They have to transform the economy away from the failure of capitalism else they will be voted out next election and that will be the worst thing that could happen to NZ at this time.

  14. greywarshark 15

    Look at the National cohort with their short haircuts, they are little grey men no matter what their height, and any females are also affected – the dread creeping greyness. They need to go to a workshop run by Nandor!* Learn about life, let some sunlight into your mouldy ideas and brains.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/N%C3%A1ndor_T%C3%A1nczos

    Nándor Tánczos – with his dreadlocks and stance he gives the feeling of life and vitality and happiness. Nats in the title photo look like European versions of the Chinese terracotta figures.

  15. Byd0nz 16

    Why would you want the Nats to make a come-back. Put the boot in,smash their blatant self interest Capitalism. Better to encourage Labour to find their Socialist roots and create a world without money.

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