Qualified Brash Bravo For Goff

Sensible New Zealanders will be hopeful that recent comments by Labour leader Phil Goff about the availability of new sections in earthquake-ravaged Christchurch herald the end of his latter-day lurch leftward, says ACT New Zealand leader Dr Don Brash. 

"Mr Goff has expressed fears of a likely sky-rocketing of house prices in Christchurch as home-owners unable to rebuild on their existing properties seek out new sections," Dr Brash notes.

"He observed that one of the solutions was to ensure the resource consent process didn't unduly restrict the availability of new sections.

"I applaud that observation. I have been arguing for some time that consent procedures and zoning constraints under the RMA are distorting residential land prices all around the country. In Christchurch the situation is hugely exacerbated by the surge in demand for new sections in the wake of the earthquakes.

"Unfortunately the wisdom of Mr Goff's remarks is subverted by his talk about knocking the heads of insurers together. He is blaming them in part for the upsurge in demand because of their reluctance to insure rebuilt homes on existing sections. Is he saying they should be bullied or coerced by law into doing so? Does he want in effect to nationalise the insurance industry? That would indicate a serious relapse in his recovery from Kremlinomics. 

"The willingness or otherwise of insurers to insure is a key signal of the viability of any project in an open market - and as Mr Goff himself acknowledged, the market should be allowed to work.

"The only heads that should be knocked together are those of government, the Canterbury Earthquake Recovery Authority and the Christchurch City Council. Among them they must make sure that zoning restrictions do not needlessly limit the availability of new sections and drive prices up artificially. Red Zone home-owners who've already lost huge amounts of equity don't deserve such a double-whammy," Dr Brash concludes.

Nix NAIT Says Nicolson

ACT New Zealand Agriculture Spokesman Don Nicolson is applauding today's decision by the ACT caucus to oppose the remaining stages (2nd and 3rd readings) of the National Animal Identification and Tracing (NAIT) Bill.

The Bill will require all dairy and deer farmers to tag their animals electronically and register them online as from July 1 next year.

"It's a lemon," says Mr Nicolson, former Federated Farmers president and ACT's #4 list candidate.

"NAIT supporters claim it is the ultimate biosecurity measure, the ultimate guarantee against an outbreak of something like foot-and-mouth here. But since tens of millions more ruminant livestock will be out of it than in, that's a joke. Ultimate bureaucrats' dream, more like it.

"This Bill won't improve on what the industry already has. The existing national animal-tracing system (paper- and tag-based) is sufficient. If there were a market advantage to an electronic system it could be made a condition of supply without any need for regulation.

"New Zealand dairy companies are already recognised for quality assurance programmes for livestock management.  Our trading partners have exhibited no particular concern about New Zealand’s existing traceability procedures. Yet National and Labour want to railroad farmers, stock agencies and truckers into wasting thousands of dollars in administration time on something they don't need, with threats of $10,000 fines for failure to comply.

"If this legislation is to be passed, there should be a farmers-only referendum attached to it so that those who would have to pay get to have their say. And its implementation should be delayed till 2017, to coincide with the rolling out of improved broadband. The ACT Party will push for these changes in Parliament after the election.

"NAIT is a further illustration of why farmers should party-vote ACT and ensure a strong voice in Parliament against such unnecessary, draconian and anti-farmer legislation," Mr Nicolson concludes.

Brash Goes In To Bat For Auckland Restauranteurs

ACT Party Leader Don Brash says local council officials in Auckland should embrace the World Cup spirit and show some Kiwi camaraderie by easing up on restrictive bylaws and giving restaurant owners not based in ‘Party Central’ a fair crack.

Dr Brash was responding to New Zealand Herald reports that bar and restaurant owners anxious to extend World Cup hospitality have been warned they could face prosecution.<?xml:namespace prefix = o />

“Local officials need to get into the spirit of things and start getting behind local businesses, not making life hard for them”, Dr Brash said.

“I’ve had first-hand reports from several of these small business owners, and all they really want is to make the most of a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

"Pubs and restaurants close to Eden Park have already had to pay thousands of dollars just for approval to operate on match nights, unlike their counterparts in 'Party Central' on Queen's Wharf.

"No one wants to see the law being broken," says Dr Brash, "but Council officials need to loosen up and show some flexibility.

“Not all Rugby fans and tourists want to be corralled into ‘Party Central’ – Auckland’s got a lot more to offer.

“Restauranteurs and publicans have a great, one-off opportunity to showcase the rich array of great Kiwi hospitality the city has to offer, both in the inner city and on the outskirts.

"A lot of enterprising people, just keen to provide a great kiwi experience, have had their ideas knocked back.

"I've been told of one restauranteur being refused permission to allow buskers outside his establishment. Resource consent has been refused for street stalls. A proposal to hold a street festival in Kingsland has been turned down, notwithstanding enthusiastic support from the locals.

"Kingsland is one area where there are likely to be thousands more seeking food, drink and entertainment than existing establishments are legally permitted to cater for. But requests for flexibility have fallen on deaf ears. Some silly bureaucrats are treating the World Cup more as a Civil Defence emergency than a celebration.

"To those officials I say, lighten up and help us get out the welcome mat. ACT will champion the cases of any business being stymied by bureaucrats from trying to make this the best Rugby World Cup ever," Dr Brash concluded.

RMA is biggest obstacle

Act views top-class infrastructure as being a cornerstone of future economic growth. If New Zealand is to prosper we need great transport and power networks and great allocation of our water resources.

Of particular importance is rebuilding Christchurch's infrastructure and relieving the transport bottlenecks in Auckland and Wellington. Act strongly supports investment in infrastructure whenever and wherever a comprehensive cost-benefit-analysis stacks up.

We realise that such developments will be expensive. Serious consideration must be given to economic pricing for road usage. Act supports phasing out petrol tax and road user charges, where possible, in favour of congestion charges and tolls. Such changes will not always be popular but when the alternative is decades of gridlock, politicians should have the courage to do what is right.

Act fully supports the National Infrastructure Three Year Action Plan goal to encourage demand management and pricing in infrastructure sectors.

Private sector investment in road construction, both through direct ownership and through public private partnerships with central and local government should be encouraged.

All new infrastructure projects should be subject to rigorous cost-benefit-analysis. The Labour Government's disastrous buy-back of KiwiRail is a prime example of what happens when such an analysis is not carried out. 

The Government has committed to partial sale of some state assets if given the mandate after the November election. Act welcomes this and believes the scope should be extended to Government-owned infrastructure projects such as KiwiRail.

We are also aware that there will be a need to further expand our electricity lines network over the coming years. We support such upgrades.

The biggest obstacle to infrastructure development is the Resource Management Act.

We support the provisions in the Resource Management Act that provide for expedited consent processes for projects of national significance. However, we are concerned that the amendments introduced by the Government in this regard do not go far enough insofar as they still allow objectors who are not directly and tangibly affected by projects to raise objections. The RMA should be reformed so that only those whose property rights are directly and tangibly affected by a project can raise an objection.

Act is concerned that New Zealand's water resources are not being used optimally and that our water infrastructure leaves much to be desired. Tradable water markets have created exceptional efficiency gains in Australia and should be given serious consideration in New Zealand.

This article was first published in the New Zealand Herald on 9 August 2011.

Toothpaste Controls Given A Root Canal

New medical regulations which will come into force on Monday 1 August 2011 will lead to greater choice of sanitary products for consumers, and cut unnecessary costs for businesses, says Regulatory Reform Minister Rodney Hide.

“Under the Medicines Regulations, everyday products like fluoride toothpastes, anti-dandruff shampoo, barrier creams for nappy rash and acne creams will no longer be subject to the same burdensome controls applied to prescription medicines.  Because of the costs and slowness of these controls, many sanitary products freely sold in other countries have not been available in New Zealand in the past. 

“Other regulatory changes will allow 'general sale' medicines like cough and cold remedies and travel sickness products to be sold through vending machines.
 
"This is a great example of what 'better regulation and less regulation' means. More options for New Zealanders, lower costs, and less unnecessary hassle for business.  Everyone wins.

"Health regulation obviously needs to control risky substances.  But the old controls were ridiculous.  New Zealand treated toothpaste like medicines’.  Clearly, this had to change," Mr Hide said.

Anti-Smoking Bill An Affront To Basic Rights

ACT MPs Hon Heather Roy, Sir Roger Douglas and Hilary Calvert are taking the rare step of issuing this joint press release explaining why they voted against the Smoke-free Environments (Controls and Enforcement) Amendment Bill on Thursday.  They do so because they believe the constitutional implications of the Bill are greater than its content would suggest.  They note that the Bill violates the basic right to freedom of expression.

“Section 14 of the New Zealand Bill of Rights Act protects the right to freedom of expression. This Bill violates that right.  The right to display legal products in a store is basic,” Hon Heather Roy said.

“The fact that the Bill of Rights has been ignored by Parliament is a disgrace.  That the transgression was ‘minor’ is irrelevant.  Either we uphold the basic rights of all New Zealanders or we descend toward a society where rights have little meaning.  It’s no surprise that among recent international attempts to ban or restrict smoking is that spearheaded by North Korea’s Kim Jong-Il.  We are hardly keeping good company,” Ms Calvert said.

“The law is yet another tedious example of nanny-statism and political correctness.  Parliament is interfering in the lawful activities of ordinary New Zealanders to advance the agenda of anti-smoking activists.  That is a travesty of what Parliament is supposed to be about. I fear the activists won’t stop till they’ve achieved complete prohibition,” Sir Roger added.

“Smokers have rights too.  We support their rights.  We don’t like smoking, but we don’t believe it is for us as MPs to say whether people should smoke or not, much less whether they may display a legal product or not.  That our Parliament deems it fit to interfere in people’s personal lives, as it did on Thursday, saddens us,” the MPs concluded.

Farming Leader Announced As ACT Candidate

ACT New Zealand leader Don Brash today said that he was delighted to announce former Federated Farmers President Don Nicolson would be standing as an ACT candidate in the 2011 general election.

“Don is highly respected, not just among farmers but throughout the business and political sectors. He’s been a strong and tireless advocate for property rights in particular and for much less government intervention in the lives and businesses of all hard-working New Zealanders, so I think he is an ideal candidate for ACT,” Dr Brash said.

Mr Nicolson said he identified strongly with ACT’s core principles of individual freedom, choice and personal responsibility, and that he was particularly concerned about spiralling government spending and the costs and constraints on economic growth imposed by the Resource Management Act.

“I’m very pleased to be standing for the party that will hold the government to account over its borrowing and spending. I look at it like this: I’ve spent my working life paying back my borrowings out of earnings, but now find the government is borrowing around $4,000 a year for every New Zealander.

“If bigger government is good – and the total crown cost has multiplied by a factor of 2.5 in 11 years to almost $100 billion – then why is it that health, policing and education never seem to have enough money?

“With the government having more than doubled its spending I ask: do we feel twice as well served by the state? The answer is an emphatic no. So we have to cut back state spending and meddling and allow free enterprise and innovation to flourish.

“As a farmer, probably the worst example of state interference we face is the Resource Management Act, so it’s fitting I’m standing for the ACT Party whose policy is wholesale reform of the dysfunctional RMA.

“I’ve worked hard over the years representing farmers and I’m very excited about what could be a fantastic opportunity to represent not just farmers’ interests, but the interests of all owner operators, and indeed all New Zealanders,” said Mr Nicolson.

Mr Nicolson farms sheep, cattle, bloodstock and forestry in Waimatua, 12km east of Invercargill.

 

Private initiatives are the way to go

A group of business leaders have teamed together to create and fund a new group called Pure Advantage. Pure Advantage is dedicated to helping New Zealand make the most out of green growth opportunities. I think this is a great example of how private initiatives respond to both opportunities and community needs.

The launch of this group is simply another reminder that the Government doesn’t have to do everything for New Zealand. We are a country populated by people both willing and able to think and act for themselves. We can cope just fine without an all-encompassing nanny state.

Pure Advantage is a group of leading New Zealanders who saw an opportunity to improve New Zealand’s environment, economic prospects, and living standards. They have seized this opportunity - I think that is commendable.

The advantage of private initiatives like Pure Advantage, vis-à-vis Government initiatives, is that participation is optional. Not all New Zealanders will agree with Pure Advantage’s aim and because it is private they can make this clear by not participating. They can vote with their feet. Compare that with Government initiatives such as the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) where participation is compulsory; the only way New Zealanders can vote with their feet on the ETS is by voting ACT this election.

A further advantage of private initiatives is that they only work if they have community buy-in. This encourages competition of ideas and competition between groups trying to meet society’s needs, making it more likely that an efficient solution will be found. Compare this with Government initiatives such as the ETS: a small group of people in Wellington get to force a futile scheme onto all New Zealanders regardless of whether it is efficient and regardless of whether those forced to participate want it.

I wish Pure Advantage all the best in their endeavours – I have just one request: please don’t be tempted to lobby the Government for more regulation.

To the Government, I say the vast majority of Kiwis are capable of looking after their own interests and organising themselves voluntarily to deal with the problems and opportunities that exist in the world. We don’t need you to do it for us.

You can find out more about Pure Advantage at www.pureadvantage.org.

Regulatory Standards Bill - First Reading

I move, that the Regulatory Standards Bill be now read a first time.  At the appropriate time I intend to move that the Bill be referred to the Commerce Committee for their consideration.

The Regulatory Standards Bill aims to improve the quality of regulation in New Zealand. 

As a Government, we use our power to regulate to ensure that people live safe lives, get treated fairly, protect the environment, maintain a competitive and efficient economy, and much more. 

But regulation also imposes costs.

Excessive regulation can impose unnecessary compliance costs on businesses and individuals, deter investment, and limit innovation and competition.

Decade by decade, the quantity of regulation made in New Zealand has increased.  Between 2000 and 2009, over 68,000 pages of legislation were passed.  This equates to creating or amending around 105 Acts and 405 regulations, every year. 

Many of the countries we compete with have focused on improving the quality of their regulation, with more success than New Zealand. 

New Zealand’s ranking in the OECD Product Market Regulation Indicator has fallen from 4th in 1998 to 14th in 2008.

As a small, isolated country, we need to do better, if we want to be competitive in the global economy.

Regulatory quality has been a strong focus for this Government, as set out in its Statement on Regulation of August 2009. 

We have introduced a number of administrative measures designed to improve regulation as it is made, and the stock of existing regulation. 

These measures include strengthened regulatory impact analysis requirements, a programme of regulatory reviews, and a government-wide scan of the regulation on our books.

These measures have led to improvements in the quality of regulatory policy advice provided to Ministers. 

The fact is, however, that administrative measures alone will never be enough to deliver the level of improvement that New Zealand needs. 

Only the Regulatory Standards Bill’s more stringent requirements can bring about a change in the way governments think about regulation.

The Regulatory Standards Bill has its origins in the Regulatory Responsibility Bill, which I introduced as a Private Member’s Bill in 2006. 

The Regulatory Responsibility Bill was examined and substantially revised by an expert Regulatory Responsibility Taskforce established by the Government in 2009.

The Regulatory Standards Bill is the result of the work of that Taskforce.

I would like to thank Dr Bryce Wilkinson who first put forward the case for a Regulatory Responsibility Bill in his 2001 publication "Constraining Government Regulation".  I would also like to acknowledge Roger Kerr, Executive Director of the New Zealand Business Roundtable for his tireless work in gaining support for this Bill over the past 10 years.

The Regulatory Standards Bill aims to increase the transparency of lawmaking and the accountability of law-makers.  The Bill has three key components:

  • It provides a benchmark through a set of regulatory principles that all regulation should comply with. 
  • It provides transparency by requiring those proposing and creating regulation to certify whether the regulation is compatible with the principles. 
  • And it provides monitoring of the certification process through a new declaratory role for the courts.

The Bill identifies a set of principles of responsible regulation, which all regulation should be consistent with.

“Regulation” is defined to include Acts of Parliament, statutory regulations, and tertiary legislation, but excludes regulation made by local government.

The principles are distilled from sources such as the Legislative Advisory Committee Guidelines, the common law, and Parliament’s Regulations Review Committee.

The principles cover seven key areas including: the rule of law, protection of individual liberties, protection of property rights, taxes and charges, the role of the courts, review of administrative decisions, and good law making.

These principles are guides, not binding rules.  From time to time, breaches of the principles will be necessary. 

The Bill provides for this, allowing Parliament to pass any legislation regardless of whether it complies with the principles.  All that the Bill requires is that departures from the principles are “reasonable and demonstrably justified in a free and democratic society”.

In order to encourage transparency about whether regulatory practices are consistent with the principles of responsible regulation, the Bill imposes certification requirements on those who make regulation.

Under the Bill, Chief Executives and Ministers responsible for proposed regulation must certify whether that regulation is consistent with the principles. 

Where regulation does not comply with one or more principles, the Minister responsible must explain why that non-compliance is demonstrably justifiable in a free and democratic society.

If there is no Minister responsible, as is the case with some tertiary legislation, the responsibility falls to the Chief Executive.

Certification allows others to understand the impacts of proposed regulation and the trade-offs that we have had to make. 

We can, and do, have significant impacts on New Zealand businesses and individuals when we use our regulatory powers.  It is only right that we should be open about the impacts that our proposed regulation will have.

The Regulatory Standards Bill provides monitoring of the certification process by allowing the courts to provide declarations of incompatibility where they believe that the principles have been breached.  This power is declaratory only.  The courts will not have the power to strike down legislation, to issue injunctions against Parliament or the Crown, or to award damages to those adversely affected by regulation that is incompatible with the principles. 

The purpose of the declaratory function is to provide an independent, informed opinion on whether regulation complies with the principles.  This function encourages Ministers and Chief Executives to certify diligently and in good faith, as their certifications are liable to be tested in court.

Initially, the courts would only be able to make declarations in relation to regulation made after the commencement of the Bill.  After 10 years, the declaratory power would be extended to all regulation.

In addition to its three key components of principles, certification, and monitoring by the courts, the Regulatory Standards Bill requires the courts to prefer legislative interpretations that are consistent with the Bill’s principles. 

This provision initially applies only to new regulation, but after 10 years applies to the existing stock of regulation.

The Bill also requires every public entity to use its best endeavours to regularly review all regulation that it administers for compatibility with the principles.  The steps entities have undertaken to review their regulation, and the outcomes from this process, must be included in the entities’ annual reports.

This Bill provides us with better disciplines for creating and managing our regulation. 

It provides transparency in a similar way to the Public Finance Act.  That Act imposes certain responsibilities on government spenders.  It says, if you are spending public money, justify it, and be accountable for it.

The Act has created a cultural shift in the way that money is spent in New Zealand and the whole mindset around public expenditure.

The Regulatory Standards Bill places similar responsibilities on government regulators.  It says, if you are using the Government’s regulatory powers, justify it and be accountable for it. 

This transparency will result in higher quality regulation that has fewer unintended consequences, reduced compliance costs and that better achieves policy objectives.

I commend the Regulatory Standards Bill to the House.

Farming: Vital in Our Past, Our Present, and Our Future

Speech by ACT Leader Don Brash to the Federated Farmers Annual Conference
30 June, 2011 

Mr President, ladies and gentlemen,

This afternoon you're enduring a procession of politicians.

I'm sure we'll all be telling you what a great contribution farming makes to the New Zealand economy.

We'll probably all make the point that exports from the land generated some $23 billion in exports last year, nearly 60% of all exports of goods from New Zealand.

Some of us will acknowledge that, in the decade after agriculture was so abruptly stripped of all subsidies by the Labour Government of the eighties, farming achieved the highest rate of productivity growth of any major New Zealand industry, while over the whole 30 year period to 2008 labour productivity in agriculture has been right up there with the very best in the economy.

And achieved that without subsidies, and with the lowest rate of taxpayer support of any farming industry anywhere in the world.

I was reminded of just how extraordinary that productivity growth in agriculture has been when I visited the Wairarapa last week. I was told by one farmer that in 1946, shortly after the Second World War, it took seven men to produce 300 bales of hay in a day. In other words, one man could produce about 43 bales of hay in a day. Now, one man can produce 2000 bales in a single day - a near 50-fold increase in labour productivity!

If the whole economy had performed as well as farming has over the last 25 years, New Zealand would have living standards on a par with Australia, not well below Australia.

Despite this extraordinary achievement, of which all farmers should feel immensely proud, successive governments have tended to see farming as a sunset industry, important in our past but increasingly irrelevant to our future.

Politicians have talked about riding a Knowledge Wave, about the importance of the creative industries, of movies, and of fashion. They've talked about high tech start-ups, and the opportunity to build a back office for the world's financial industry.

And yep, all of those things are good and to be welcomed. Some New Zealand high tech companies are doing some extraordinarily innovative things.

But the foreign exchange earned from exporting movies and fashion garments is tiny compared with the exports from the farming industry.

And yet farming is pilloried by people who should know better.

All farmers get blamed for the environmental sins of the minority.

All farmers are assumed to be incredibly rich and to pay no tax.

All farmers are assumed to treat their animals with total indifference to their well-being.

After the next election, ACT will not be using its influence to re-introduce subsidies for the farming sector. I know you wouldn't believe me even if I said that we would be doing that!

But to the extent we can influence the policy of the next government - and that depends entirely on how many party votes we get in the election - we will be aiming to achieve three objectives of direct relevance to the farming sector.

First, we will be pushing to get government spending under control.

In the first four or five years of the Labour Government's nine years in office, you'd have to say that they were reasonably responsible, as left-of-centre governments go. Government spending grew slightly more slowly than the economy as a whole.

But in their last three or four years, they started throwing money around in all directions. In the four years to June 2009, national income grew by 20% but government spending grew by an astonishing 43%, and largely as a consequence the government's budget moved from surplus to deficit.

Much of this increase in spending was of very poor quality. Earlier this month, the Minister of Education mentioned that government spending on early childhood education had roughly trebled over the past five years, from about $500 million a year to about $1.4 billion a year - and yet all that extra money has increased the level of participation at preschool centres by just 1%.

The National Government didn't create this mess. Labour did. But tragically National has failed to fix the mess.

Why does it matter? Well, most obviously the huge increase in government spending, coming on top of the slow growth in revenue as a consequence of the recession and, now, the cost of the Christchurch earthquakes, is pushing up government debt at the rate of knots.

The Government has been borrowing over $300 million a week, week after week. At that rate, before long you're talking serious money! That's equivalent to $300 for every household in the country, every week.

But from the point of view of you in the export sector the most serious consequence of all this borrowing is its effect on the exchange rate. When the Treasury sells $300 million of bonds every week, most of those bonds are not sold to Mum and Dad investors in New Zealand, or even to New Zealand-based institutions. They're sold to foreign investors, and of course those foreign investors have to buy New Zealand dollars to buy New Zealand dollar bonds.

And that adds to the upward pressure on the exchange rate.

Yes, export prices in foreign currency have been pretty good lately, and this has shielded the farming sector from the worst effects of the very high New Zealand dollar.

But New Zealand needs the export sector to be doing not just well but extremely well at present! Over decades, New Zealand has accumulated massive amounts of overseas debt - indeed, our net indebtedness as a country puts us in the same league as Greece and Portugal. Why? Because year after year (indeed, every year since 1973!) we've run balance of payments deficits, and last month's Budget predicts that we'll be running deficits for as far ahead as the eye can see.

So we need you in the export sector to be doing extremely well, strongly motivated to produce more milk, produce more meat, and produce more wool.

And the high level of government spending, and the resultant high level of government borrowing, is blunting those incentives by putting upward pressure on the exchange rate.

Actually, the high level of government spending - and government spending today is higher, relative to the size of the economy, than in any year under Labour - has another damaging effect on the exchange rate.

The Reserve Bank is charged with keeping inflation low and stable. But when the government is spending a lot more than it's taking in in revenue, the Reserve Bank has to keep interest rates at a higher level than would otherwise be necessary. Today, the Reserve Bank's OCR is lower than at any other time in our history, but it's still relatively high compared with other countries (with the single exception of Australia). That makes New Zealand an attractive place for foreign savers to invest their money, with resultant upward pressure on the exchange rate.

So that is the first thing ACT would try to achieve of direct relevance to you in the farming industry, getting government spending under control to help ease the upward pressure on the exchange rate.

Secondly, we would seek a root and branch reform of the Resource Management Act and all the bits and pieces that hang off it - like the proposed National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity.

As some of you know, I've been the chairman of the 2025 Taskforce for the last couple of years, charged with providing advice to the Government about how to lift New Zealand living standards to the Australian level by 2025.

I'm sometimes asked: what's the single most important thing to be done if we're to achieve that goal? I reply that there's no single thing which will get us all the way there, but the most important single thing to be done in my opinion is to remove the extraordinary obstacles to progress created by the RMA.

I'm constantly regaled with horror stories of the little Hitlers who far too often seem to populate the lower levels of local and regional government, charging for this, complaining about that, throwing their weight around (sometimes in flagrant breach of the law), refusing to grant consents on the most flimsy excuse.

And I've already had anguished letters from farmers distressed about the implications of the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity if adopted in its present form.

As I probably don't need to tell you, that directs that local governments ensure that there's "no net loss of biodiversity of areas of significant indigenous vegetation" (Policy 5); and requires that tangata whenua be fully involved in developing and implementing regional and district plans to protect indigenous biodiversity (Policy 7).

No mention at all of compensation for trespassing on the property rights of farmers. No suggestion that tangata whenua should have no more rights to be consulted than any other member of the community.

ACT believes that if a council wants to restrict your ability to manage your property as you see fit, then, provided that what you are doing on your own property is not directly and adversely affecting others, the council must demonstrate one hell of a good reason for doing so. And if the council does restrict you in a way that disadvantages you financially, it should compensate you.

ACT also believes that local and regional government should have an obligation to consult with all members of the community equally, and not give any kind of preference to one racial group over another.

So that's the second thing of direct relevance to the farming sector we want to do.

And thirdly, and finally, ACT will press for the abandonment of the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Why do we have an ETS? I have to admit I know of no good reason at all.

To be sure, it seems pretty clear that on average temperatures around the world have been increasing. But they've been increasing for at least the last 200 years, since the days when the Thames regularly froze over, and that warming began long before greenhouse gases caused by human activity could've had a significant influence on the climate.

And we know temperatures were very warm in the medieval period, and in Roman times, when grapes were routinely grown in what is now the United Kingdom. And greenhouse gases could hardly explain that, or the cooling which took place between those warm periods.

Even if a case can be made that human activity is behind the gradual increase in global temperature, it isn't obvious that an increased temperature is necessarily a bad thing for life on the planet. We know that plant life thrives on an atmosphere high in carbon dioxide - which is why many market gardeners deliberately pump carbon dioxide into their glass houses.

And we know that human societies thrive both in Singapore and in Finland, though average temperatures in the two places could hardly be more different.

Incurring the many trillions of dollars in cost which would be involved in any serious global attempt to slow the increase in average temperature would place an enormous burden on all societies, especially those already living on the margins of existence.

And even if it were accepted that human activity is causing the planet to warm, and that the enormous cost of trying to slow that warming is justified, it's entirely unclear why New Zealand should be at the forefront of that effort, at considerable cost to all New Zealanders, including New Zealand farmers.

It's estimated that the average dairy farmer is already incurring increased costs of nearly $4,000 annually (including both on-farm costs from the increased cost of diesel and electricity and the increased costs incurred by Fonterra), and that that will rise to over $10,000 annually by 2015.

So ACT favours the abolition of the ETS system, or at very least its suspension until comparable schemes are in place in all our major trading partners.

But Mr President, ACT's ability to achieve those goals - bringing government spending under control in order to take the pressure off the exchange rate, a fundamental reform of the RMA and all its off-shoots, and the abandonment of the ETS - depends entirely on one thing and one thing only: how many party votes we get in the election.

By all means vote for Bill English in Clutha-Southland, or Shane Ardern in Taranaki-King Country - but please give your party vote to ACT!

Pages