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Ag ministers good news

Ag ministers good news

The new historic three-party coalition has a pleasing representation of rural New Zealand in parliament, and appears to be good news for Mid Canterbury's farmers and rural communities.

National Party’s Todd McClay has been appointed as Minister of Agriculture, supported by associate ministers Nicola Grigg (horticulture) from National, Andrew Hoggard (animal welfare and skills) from ACT and Mark Patterson from NZ First.

McClay is also Minister of Forestry, Minister for Hunting and Fishing, Minister for Trade, and Associate Minister of Foreign Affairs.

Grigg also has the Minister for State of Trade and Minister for Women portfolios. Hoggard is Minister for Biosecurity and Minister for Food Safety and Associate Minister for the Environment, while Patterson is also Minister for Rural Communities.

Mid Canterbury Federated Farmers president David Acland said he was "really pleased" with the representation that rural New Zealand had in parliament and the inclusion of two hands-on farmers with the inclusion of Hoggard and Patterson in those roles - and Grigg coming from a local Mid Canterbury farming background.

Acland was also pleased with the spokesperson roles and how the roles had been distributed to meet the balance between the coalition parties.

"They provide tension and it highlights the importance of the rural areas in New Zealand."
Both Patterson and Hoggard are former Federated Farmers presidents, he said.

Patterson's role representing rural communities would allow the Otago sheep and beef farmer to focus on rural education and rural health and "access to all that sort of stuff", said Acland.

Hoggard, a Manawatū dairy farmer, had experience through Federated Farmers negotiating with the previous Labour government on regulations around climate change and in the freshwater policy space.

"They both have good hands-on experience in these roles to work with Todd McClay."

Acland said Hoggard's environment and biosecurity portfolios would hopefully reduce the "silo mentality" that existed between the two.

"There's good balance" in the representation, he said.

Acland was also pleased to see a "change and refresh" with the rejig of portfolios held by Labour Party ministers.

Former Rangitata MP and Labour list MP Jo Luxton has taken on the agricultural role and was at a recent Federated Farmers national council meeting to meet everyone and "explain how she wants to go forward".

Dunedin MP Rachel Brooking is Labour's new environmental spokesperson.

Acland said the previous ministers had been "quite combative" and the change in portfolios "should freshen up how they look at those roles".

"If we don't have general consensus - across parties and across governments - we can't build enduring change and we end up with violent (policy) swings."

Acland said farmers wanted policies that were good for the environment and communities.

"We don't want sudden change. We want long-term vision and investment in transport and infrastructure that will enable the free flow of freight and traffic to the export ports in Timaru and Christchurch.'

Acland said the new government's plan to "turn back the clock" on the Resource Management Act reform was good.

He said farmers needed clarity on the proposed changes to freshwater regulation.

"They are having conversations with rural and environmental groups to reach agreement and progress toward enduring change."

Acland said some of the freshwater regulations had a deadline of the end of 2024 and farmers needed clarity on any changes before Christmas.

Mid Canterbury had freshwater plans before it was required by the Labour government and was ahead of many other councils - and was "one of the most highly consented areas" in the country.

Acland also wanted clarity around climate change mitigation and whether there would be a cost to farmers.

"Corporates like Fonterra are driving change on emissions, so there is no need for charge."

In Acland's view the cost was used to encourage change and was not needed if farmers were already on the "right trajectory".

Agriculture ministers

Todd McClay - Agriculture minister, forestry minister, trade minister, hunting and fishing minister, associate foreign affairs minister.

Nicola Grigg - Minister of State for Trade, Minister for Women and associate agriculture minister (horticulture).

Andrew Hoggard - Biosecurity minisiter, food safety minister, associate environment minister, associate agriculture minister (animal welfare, skills).

Mark Patterson - Rural communities minister and associate agriculture minister.

Shane Jones - Ocean and fisheries minister, regional development minister, resources minister, associate finance minister, associate energy minister.

By Sharon Davis