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What do farmers want and why do they have a thing against women, Maori & the rest of us?

Let’s face it I have no beef with farmers in fact some of what they are saying makes sense, but the problem is you cannot take them seriously when they join hands with people and movements that are quite frankly out the gate. At the root of the protests around the country is the notion that there is just too much regulation and farmers, like everyone else, have been doing it tough during the COVID19 pandemic. So, setting aside the fact they have been joined by Donald Trump supporters, anti-vaccination groups and other fringe groups waving flags and running amuck lets just look at the root cause of their concerns:

  1. Seeking a halt to, and rewrite of, unworkable regulations – freshwater, indigenous biodiversity, climate change and Crown Pastoral Land Reform bill (new regulation affecting high country farmers).

Let’s face it the legislation they talk about is unworkable for some but not all Farmers. For example, they talk about the three waters reforms but don’t put any other alternatives up other than retaining the status quo. The problem with that is our water waters are filthy, degraded, polluted, and over stretched. That isn’t rhetoric, read any report by any scientific research group and you will draw that conclusion. Then there is the water infrastructure whereby tens of billions of dollars will need to be invested just to clear the backlog of maintenance and bring it up to speed.

Note: that has been largely presided over by Local Government and not Central Government and when you look at many of the Regional Councils out there a lot of Farmers are elected representatives. Then there is that old chestnut of Indigenous biodiversity. There are farmers out there, and I have met many, who are doing incredible things when it comes to land and freshwater restoration. There are some also using their own resources to restore habitat for native species. But there are also those who think it is their God-given right to do what they please with the land they believe they own. Each of us are nothing more than guardians for a period before the next generation take it over. Then there is climate change. The fact is most farmers believe in climate change and the work needed to be done to change our planets fortunes. That’s right – many do believe in climate change; but when you go through the ranks of the current movement there are many who are on the public record for opposing the science and subscribing to the mythology that there is nothing to see here.

  1. a stronger advocacy voice on behalf of farmers and rural communities.

This is something that clearly the farming community need to sort out amongst themselves. The current movement has, for example, a website designed by a contractor for the so call Taxpayers Union who have strong and associated links to a range of anti Maori causes and the current Government such as Hobsons Pledge. In all reality Farmers already have strong advocacy channels built up over many years – including Federated Farmers. So, are we dealing with a fringe movement or are we dealing with all these various representative groups now under this single banner? And what role is the right-wing fringe group of the Taxpayers Union playing? And let’s not deny that farmer interests are often taken up by Members of Parliament across the aisles and have been for many years. In areas such as mental health and suicide prevention Farmers do need a voice as they do in good public and economic policy making but that is a far cry from what is happening at the moment. And let’s come back to the racism and misogyny permeating the protests. “We live in New Zealand not Aotearoa” “Stop ramming Maori language down our throats” “New Zealand is being transformed into a semblance of Zimbabwe, or South Africa or Venezuela” “Jacinda is Stalin”. If they are serious about the development of really good public policy alternatives, then they need to side-line the sort of racist and misogynistic language coming from some in their supporter base.

  1. seeking solutions to environmental issues that are tailored to regional/district differences.

What is really being said here is solutions by us for us and everyone else who isn’t a farmer doesn’t know what they are talking about. The reality is that we are a small country both population wise and geographically speaking. A dirty river is a dirty river, land degradation is land degradation, and it doesn’t take a multitude of little groups dotted across the country holding cart blanche over local and regional decision making in the way they describe. Why? Because it has proven not to work already and that is the failure of Local Government. Over allocation of water resources, loss of native species, loss of freshwater ecology – the list could go on before we even get to the pointy end of rural and regional services. Now; if they said we still have a problem with telecommunications coverage in our rural and regional areas as well as town water versus pump then I get it. But its not about seeking solutions – its just about hate for a government very few of them voted for. And that comes to my point; I would be let down as well if the party who I traditionally voted for were behaving like idiots, were fighting inside of themselves, or were constantly trying to come up with one liner that make no sense. I am of course talking about the National Party. One of the prime reasons this movement exists is because National has failed to get its act together – and those voters are streaming to the ACT Party. This is not about Farmers as such – this is about a tussle in the right side of politics and one of those traditional National Party voting blocks, Farmers, have been caught up in it. You don’t see too much of the Labour vote being bled to the ACT Party in the latest polls – in fact the Labour Government has maintained much of its base; The right side of politics on the other hand is awash with disruption.

That’s why we have seen the initial alliance between the Farmers, the hard-core Christian right such as the Destiny Church, the Taxpayers Union and even the fringe of the Outdoors Party – and joining them are the anti-vaccination alliance of conspiracy spreaders and Trump supporters. A loose group of haters of pretty much everyone that doesn’t believe in the word they are spreading. And that’s why I think our Farmers need to exit the stage; hui and meet amongst themselves, their traditional representative groups and kick this other lot to the curb.

Farmers, like other groups in Aotearoa, have a right to be heard. But that right to be heard needs to tempered with the issues we are all trying to deal with. The truth is thousands of small businesses across the country have either hit the wall or are coming close; we have mental health challenges ahead that have been amplified thanks to the uncertainty the pandemic has bought, we have a new generation of young people who have essentially lost a whole years education and even some who have now been permanently lost to the system. Homelessness hasn’t gone away, families unable to hold that new born baby, farewell a parent or loved one; people have lost jobs, lost homes and lost savings – that is the brutal reality that has affected more than just Farmers.

So when I see signs of people supporting Donald Trump at these so called Farmers protests; of people taking to the stage spouting religious dogma, of anti-vaccination signs, signs telling me my people are trying to force Maori on to them, words like apartheid or segregation – I’m sorry; but you don’t have my support.

And for the record – those other signs that Farmers feed New Zealand? Take a note – it takes us all.

The points in bold were taken from the Groundswell website. Matthew Tukaki is Chair of the National Maori Authority


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