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Opinion: Craig Hickman

Opinion: Craig Hickman
Photo: NZ Herald

A friend once told me that current Green Party policy will be Labour Party policy within ten years.

It was said to get me thinking about the possibility of a future ban on the importation of palm kernel, and the evidence speaks for itself.

The ban on plastic bags, the proliferation of cycle lanes, protection for renters and the ban on live exports have all been longstanding Green policies that have eventually been enacted under a Labour government.

Last week Nestle, the world’s biggest food manufacturer, buckled under pressure to take action on their environmental impact and ditched its policy of buying carbon offsets to make certain brands “carbon neutral”.

Instead, Nestle will now concentrate on reducing their actual carbon output by focusing on their own emissions and that of their supply chain.

A big part of their supply chain is, of course, ingredients, and one of Nestle’s biggest ingredients is milk.

Nestle have joined a growing list of Fonterra customers who are very interested in the carbon footprint of New Zealand milk.

Being a significant customer of Fonterra, this announcement could impact New Zealand dairy farmers in a more direct way than any policy currently being announced by political parties hoping to win my vote.

Perhaps just to reaffirm the possible threat to the livelihood of New Zealand dairy farmers, Nestle have just launched a plant based, non-dairy, vegan certified KitKat. While I am normally keen to try any new snack foods, I will be leaving this one on the shelf and sticking to the normal full dairy deliciousness.

I’m not willing to take the risk that the vegan version might taste better.

If you were to generalise about New Zealand farmers you would traditionally peg us as National voters, and former Prime Minister John Key certainly had the rural vote sewn up. Key was well known for his “Ambitious for New Zealand” slogan. His personal story of growing up in a state house and, through hard work and perseverance, becoming a currency trader and then Prime Minister was the perfect backstory when it came time to pitch his slogan to Kiwi voters.

Christopher Luxon hasn’t hidden his admiration of John Key. Key was rolled out at Luxon’s first National Party Conference as leader and a few other events for a round of back slapping photo opportunities. Stay tuned for the return of Key if the polls remain close.

Luxon and his agriculture spokesperson Todd McClay have been loud in their determination to win back the rural vote that resoundingly deserted them at the 2020 election.

They release their agriculture policy on a windswept farm in the Waikato. While the event was overshadowed by Luxon categorising New Zealanders as “negative, wet and whiny”, their policies lacked the ambition we saw from the Key-led National Party.

Luxon wants to scrap the ute tax, live animal exports would be reintroduced, and a Review Panel would be created to consider every local and central government regulation.

There was more, but nowhere in the nebulous wish list was anything that would greatly assist me and other farmers meet the challenges we face to meeting Nestle’s and others emissions reduction criteria.

Green Party agriculture policy would certainly address most of Nestle’s needs. Their proposed ban on the importation of palm kernel and the phasing out of synthetic nitrogen fertiliser would definitely lead to lower stocking rates and lower overall emissions, unfortunately it would also lead to Nestle looking elsewhere for ingredients as New Zealand’s dairy output plunged to a catastrophic low.

But you have to give them points for pushing an ambitious agenda, rather than taking us back to how things were when Key was PM.

Nestle is a business, and they are looking to lower their carbon footprint because that is what the market demands.

Fonterra and other processors are asking their farmers to lower their on-farm emissions because that is what their customers demand, and if we can’t provide it, Nestle and others will look elsewhere.

National purport to be the party of business and the party of farmers, yet I haven’t seen anything from them that addresses these very clear market signals.

National are currently riding high because they’re not Labour, I’d find it much easier to give them my vote if they had some solutions.

Hopefully when Key joins Luxon on the campaign trail he will share some advice on how to be truly ambitious for New Zealand.

by Craig Hickman