Speech: Andrew Hoggard

Real Change Now, SkyCity Theatre, 4 June 2023

Thanks for the introduction, Mark… Before I start talking about what I see the challenges are for farmers and why I am joining ACT, I do want to pay tribute to the work that Mark has done over the past 3 years.

3 years ago, like many other New Zealand farmers, I would have said “Mark who?” but 3 years on… well, every single one of us knows who Mark is.  He has been our voice in parliament… he has worked tirelessly for New Zealand farmers… and as many farmers have said to me, he was the only one standing up for us in Parliament.  Others may ‘talk the talk’, but walking the walk is something else.  So, ‘thank you’ Mark for everything you do.

I am looking forward to joining Mark in parliament, and adding my voice and experience to help Mark in giving NZ farmers the even stronger voice they deserve. I also want to say a big thank you to the wider ACT team, for making me feel so welcome and appreciated.  Other parties may be bigger, but none is as committed to delivering real change for New Zealand… So, thank YOU.

So why am I here…what changed my mind from several years ago when David first asked whether I had considered going into politics? From memory my answer consisted of around 2 words… Direct from the Oxford Farmers dictionary!. Just to be clear it wasn’t “Hell yeah” … A bit more on the… ahhh, ‘agricultural’ end of the spectrum.

Well, our ACT team have the 3 “C”s they like to talk about when talking to the public – Those being Crime, Cost of Living, and Co-governance.

Now those three are all part of my thinking as well, but for me and I think rural audiences I would like to add a fourth C…that being Confidence.  For 6 years I was the Economic and Finance spokesperson for Federated Farmers… And every 6 months we used to do a farm confidence survey. This measured many individual things, but mainly it was about farmers overall confidence in the way their country and sector are heading.

For those 6 years, apart from the blip when we were all released from covid home detention, that level of confidence has only gone ONE way … And that is down.  It breaks your heart to see it, but it currently sits at its lowest level ever, since the survey began.

Why is confidence important?  Well, farming is often a multi-generational endeavour… We invest for the long term. If one season is poor, then as the saying goes there is always next season. We are the eternal optimists… Always looking for that improved weather forecast, or market price. With so many uncontrollable variables, you need to be able to have confidence in that any rule changes, will be properly thought through… That they are needed… They are science based… And they will occur at a pace of change that is manageable.

Perhaps most importantly they will actually be practical and do-able in the real world.

When a farming family invests literally hundreds of thousands dollars in infrastructure or equipment… That can only be with the confidence that they will get the chance to fully realise that investment.  They need real confidence that their capital – and their blood sweat and tears – won’t be wasted.

Confidence is the real bedrock of New Zealand’s most important industry – Our farming.

It is not just with compliance and rules that confidence can be eroded… It is also in how those in leadership positions stand up for their sector, and champion it. 

Someone who has little to no confidence will not invest… they won’t go the extra mile… It literally starves our economy of the ‘get up and go’, striving attitude that is our lifeblood. 

And this not only impacts on the farm’s productivity… but, as you know and I know, it flows through our entire economy.

Confidence doesn’t just occur by happenstance. The current government began the erosion of farmer confidence with the Freshwater package… a series of rules that were so impractical and poorly thought-through that a number of them had to be abandoned within the week… I only wish I was making this up.

Farmers started to point out the absolute stupidity of some of them… Even as the government insisted it knew better.  Other rules, like stock exclusion, are now on their 3rd rewrite… In a vain attempt to find something that works.

Just imagine for a moment that YOU are a high-country extensive farmer… You have an incredibly low environmental footprint, that had been captured by these stock exclusion rules. This rule on its own… could make a number of these iconic farms uneconomic at a stroke.

For 4 years you have been in the limbo of not knowing whether your farm has a future.  Now imagine the stress and uncertainty you would feel…

What incentive is there to invest? 

What if you had wanted to retire?

Who would take the risk of buying your farm… with the exception perhaps of a carbon farmer? How much of the value of your life’s hard work has now been wiped out? 

Farmers - ALL small businesspeople, for that matter - deserve a government that RESPECTS them… And takes the power they have seriously.  To just flippantly state “oh well we will fix that one up” is just… not… good enough.

How can you and I have confidence in a government that reads a report suggesting a global reduction target for methane… and then fails to read the part of the report that says whatever you do, “don’t use these numbers for national targets” …  And then goes right ahead and sets those numbers as our national target?  It can only be ignorance or ideological pig-headedness – no offence to pigs intended, by the way… So, which one is it?

I used to hate having to give the media commentary every time the confidence survey came out.  I think there are enough commentators out there as it is.  And because I don’t actually want to be negative about my sector…  I want to be positive… I want to talk about how fantastic it is… how much opportunity there is available for young people coming into Farming.

And most of all because – like ACT itself – Farming isn’t about commentating and carping… It is about getting stuff done.  The very best of real New Zealand values.

The negativity doesn’t help to attract people into our sector… and then that makes things even worse.  But we must be realists… And pretending this lack of confidence doesn’t exist is not going to help.

So, what does that leave… Well it leaves us rolling up our sleeves and getting stuck in with ACT to Enact real change in 2023.

Each of us can make a difference and build that confidence back up for farmers… and every other Kiwi that wants to have a bit of courage… Take a chance… And take their future in their own hands.

To help play a role in improving that confidence in the future for our farmers is one of the good reasons I am willing to put my hand up for more work.  And today, my message to you is simple:  Join me.  Join us.  Together we can make a real difference.

If we look at the 4 top Priorities farmers need Government to focus on – Well, firstly its Fiscal Policy.  And I think that it’s critical that only ACT has put forward an alternative budget that brings government spending back under control.  After all, why shouldn’t the government live within the same constraints as the rest of us?

Secondly it was the Economy & Business Environment… Again, only ACT has the courage to be talking tax cuts… putting money back into the productive Economy… And not the black hole that is the Wellington Bureaucracy.

The 3rd priority the farmers listed was Regulation & Compliance Costs… And  once again, only ACT is consistent in its opposition to turning NZ farmers into International sacrificial Guinea Pigs at the altar of Emissions pricing. 

Instead, we will devolve limit-setting to local communities rather than centralised planning… Because in spite of all the name-calling from some parts of the media, we are deeply concerned with the natural environment.  So much so, in fact, that we believe it is safer in the hands of those whose future is intimately tied-up with it!

That is why we will repeal 3 Waters…

We will go back to basics with Resource Management, with rules based on sound science and facts… not mysticism and virtue-signalling

We would replace flawed rules with practical common sense… And finally, we would offer real, tangible support to Agriculture & Exporters.

In the NZ parliament who has been the consistent champion of Agriculture… Well, it has been Mark Cameron and the ACT Party.  And often, as a lone voice. But THAT is all about to change…

And that is a big part of ‘why ACT’ for me… And why we now can truly be thought of as ‘the Party for real Kiwi Farmers’

That’s why we need Real Change in this country… and only ACT has the consistent track record of standing up to be counted when the going has been tough.

Others will promise it… Only ACT will deliver it.  And that’s the real difference.

Thank you all.

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