What the Budget 2018 means for rural New Zealand

Rural Exchange 19/05/2018

The coalition Government finally revealed the highly anticipated 2018 budget last week. There were some winners and some losers in the numbers, so where does the budget leave the primary sector?

Newshub political reporter Jenna Lynch told Rural Exchange that farmers shouldn’t be very happy.

According to Lynch, the Government’s aim to make farms more sustainable was ‘shafted’ by low funding and MPI got pennies compared to what it needs to combat Mycoplasma bovis.

Green Party co-leader James Shaw called the budget the greenest budget ever, with $181m for DoC, $15m for a Sustainable Farming Fund, and $100m for the Green Investment Fund.

I don’t think farmers should be very happy with this budget.

But despite Labour making noise about the environment in its election campaign, Lynch says she’s not impressed with what they set aside for conservation and environmental efforts.

“This isn’t the greenest budget we’ve seen,” she told Rural Exchange. “I think the environment got shafted.”

Lynch pointed out that the budget doesn’t offer farmers ways to “transition to this low-carbon economy”.

Conservation funds will largely go toward the Predator Free programme, which aims to eradicate pests like rats and stoats. Lynch explained that $70m will go towards biodiversity initiatives, though the wording is a little vague.

“This Government seems to have more of a focus on conserving our wildlife.”

Agriculture MP Damien O’Connor got a $15m boost in funding, which Lynch believes is for the Sustainable Farming Fund. But Lynch called it “a drop in the bucket”, as $15m simply not enough to get farmers to reduce their impact despite the Government’s hardball statements.

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor.

And with the spread of Mycoplasma bovis making farmers more nervous by the day, many hoped that Budget Day would provide some relief for rural New Zealand. Nevertheless, Lynch said the budget falls short in its funding to eradicate the disease.

“The budget didn’t have a lot for Mycoplasma bovis in it,” she told Rural Exchange.

Mr O’Connor has previously told the media that M. bovis could cost up to $1b, but the budget doesn’t reflect that. The Government has set aside $85m for eradicating the cattle disease, which Lynch called “absolute pittance”. She also points out that Mr O’Connor has only put $9 million into MPI’s biosecurity funding, which Lynch said is half the amount National set aside in the last budget.

“I think they were talking a big game with this but I don’t think farmers should be very happy with this budget.”

Watch the full interview with Jenna Lynch above.

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