The News Column - September 2022

Alexandra hosted its first-ever South Asian Cultural Festival, and it was a privilege to speak at the opening and announce the poster competition winners. Some of the artwork by our local school children was quite incredible! Congratulations to the Arasan NZ Trust, who organised a great community event in partnership with Welcoming Communities and the Central Otago Regional Council.

Calving is in full swing too, and with lambing on the way, it is a busy time for farmers. The primary sector is the backbone of our country, bringing in $52b in revenue last year, and we are grateful for the hard work of our farmers and growers.

It is still a time of struggle for many though, as New Zealand is experiencing the worst worker shortage in at least fifty years. 

Talking with growers, there will be another significant workforce crunch this summer unless something is done. Minister Stuart Nash's recent comments regarding backpackers not being the ideal tourist as they travel on a shoestring budget, weren't encouraging as backpackers typically provide a lot of the seasonal workforce in Central Otago.

The Government needs to engage with the industry now to resource the seasonal workforce to ensure the fruit doesn't just fall on the ground again like it did last summer.

Farmers are also reporting issues with the freshwater regulations coming into force at the start of November. Under the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater 2020 regulations, farms using intensive winter grazing are required to have either certified freshwater farm plans or apply for a resource consent.

But despite the looming November compliance date, the Ministry for the Environment is yet to publish guidelines meaning none of the affected farms are able to develop the plans. This means thousands of farmers face uncertainty around whether to plant crops for winter grazing next year as it will require everyone to go through the costly and time-consuming process of applying for resource consents.  The worst part of this is that forcing farmers to apply for consents is unlikely to achieve any environmental gains.

National supports moves to improve New Zealand’s freshwater management, but the current regulations are clearly not fit for purpose.

National will be pushing hard against these unworkable regulations and regulatory overreach. There needs to be more emphasis on local solutions rather than a one-size fits all blanket rule.

The 65th annual Alexandra Blossom festival happening later this month is definitely something to look forward to.  It's New Zealand's longest-running festival, starting in September 1957. Hopefully, you and your family look forward to enjoying the many activities.