Leading figures from the major political parties will be grilled on their primary sector policies at the inaugural Rural Issues Debate at Mystery Creek Events Centre in Hamilton on 14 September.
Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ), DairyNZ and Federated Farmers have teamed up to organise the event, which will be moderated by radio host and columnist Heather du Plessis-Allan.
The debating panel will feature Damien O’Connor (Labour), James Shaw (the Green Party), Todd McClay (National), Andrew Hoggard (ACT), and Mark Patterson (New Zealand First).
The event will be one of the only chances to hear from all major parties specifically on their vision and plans for rural New Zealand ahead of the General Election in October.
“It’s tough right now in rural New Zealand, profitability is under pressure and farmer confidence is low,” says B+LNZ chair Kate Acland.
“The Kiwis that depend on the primary sector for their livelihoods are feeling it too. We need politicians who are prepared to stand up for rural New Zealand and fight for sensible, workable and practical policy.
“The Rural Issues debate provides an opportunity to shine a light on the issues that impact those of us that live in rural New Zealand and for all the main political parties to explain how their policies will make a difference to our primary sector.
“B+LNZ, DairyNZ and Federated Farmers already work closely together in a number of important policy areas, so it made sense to jointly organise this important event.”
Federated Farmers National President Wayne Langford said: “This is the most important election in living memory for New Zealand’s farmers and rural communities.
“Farmer confidence is at record lows with a cost-of-farming crisis, rising interest rates, falling commodity prices, and a long list of new regulations adding extra pressure for farming families.
“It was important for Federated Farmers to provide a platform for people to hear directly from the politicians how they plan to improve the lives of the 2.5 million New Zealanders who live outside of a major centre.”
DairyNZ chair Jim van der Poel said: “Rising costs and declining milk prices are already having a significant effect on rural communities. It is important all parties are thinking about these issues and the impact they are having.
“We want whoever the new Government is after 14 October to work with the sector on how it can help ease the pressure, support rural communities, and grow new opportunities.
“It’s vital for New Zealand that our farmers succeed, given their significant contribution to not only local rural communities but all of New Zealand’s economy. It would be great to hear from the candidates on how they see the new government working with the sector to ensure we have a common view on our future role.”
The debate will be held in front of a live studio audience and will be livestreamed from 7.30–9pm on the New Zealand Herald website.