A new (moo) era for the farmers' voice?

Does the change of political leadership at Federated Farmers amount to a quiet, green revolution? Are farmers realising just how much they've lost touch with urban New Zealand and doing something about it?

Federated Farmers is one of the most powerful lobbying organisations in New Zealand; certainly the dominant voice amongst the many farming and rural groups.

When a new president is elected it makes the news, its CEO is the deputy Prime Minister's brother and when Fed Farmers doesn't like a government policy, it can play a significant part in forcing a backdown (remember the fart tax?).

It's a lobby with clout.

So when a new president goes on national television and announces a new era of engagement, it's worth taking note.

Bruce Wills, elected to the presidency just two month ago, was on Q+A on Sunday debating with Massey University environmental scientist Dr Mike Joy concerns about New Zealand's waterways and whether tourists arriving for the Rugby World Cup expecting a 100% Pure experience would be disappointed by the pollution in our lakes and rivers.

It's an issue that's gaining a foothold in people's minds, especially when the government is having to spend $81 million to clean up our iconic Lake Taupo.

About the same time Wills was winning the Fed Farmers presidency, the Environmental Court gave the green light to a new Waikato Regional Council policy that means cows numbers on the farms around the lake are likely to decrease, and decrease significantly.

The policy permits only one cow per two hectares – about a fifth of current stock numbers. Any more and the farmer needs to apply for resource consent.

Wills' predecessor Don Nicolson, now a candidate for ACT, reacted furiously to the initial court ruling back in 2008, saying, "If other councils think about using this decision in their plans, the federation is ready for a major fight."

Asked his position on the ruling, Will made a telling statement:

"The new regime that's running Federated Farmers wants to have a more open and honest discussion with the entire society about our environmental responsibilities, so my sense is that the approach will be quite different".

"A new age of entitlement?" Paul Holmes asked.

"I hope so, because I think it's time," Will replied.

Are we about to see a greener, kinder farming lobby?


This is the start of my post at tvnz.co.nz. To continue reading, click here. But feel free to add comments and debate below