The Government’s intended review of the Dairy Industry Restructuring Act (DIRA) is a stalking horse for a much wider foray into dairy farming, Opposition MPs said.
During the first reading of the DIRA Amendment Bill (No 2) National claimed to know the hidden intent of Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and why his coalition partners supported the two-page Bill under urgency.
New Zealand First and the Greens had been promised a forthcoming dairy industry review to include topics such as the environment, land use, climate change, foreign ownership, the dairy core database, labour relations, water rights and value versus volume.
“The fear out there in industry is that they’re going to get dealt to by Labour and the Greens through this process,” former Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said.
Hamilton MP David Bennett came out swinging, saying O’Connor’s intention to have a wide-ranging review including environment issues and land use was nothing to do with the DIRA’s purposes.
“This process under urgency is the worst nightmare for dairy farmers.
“I bet that one of the things that will come out of this will be a stocking-rate cap on dairy farmers.”
Bennett was accused of scaremongering by NZ First MP Mark Patterson, himself a farmer from Lawrence.
“We support the bill and urgency because we accept the goodwill of Minister O’Connor to undertake a thorough and comprehensive review of DIRA under terms of reference that will benefit this very important industry.
“The previous legislation that was put up by the National Party was half measures and it is time that we took a proper and comprehensive look at this legislation.”
Urgency was necessary because the DIRA provisions were due to expire in the South Island on May 31 because Fonterra’s market share had fallen to 75%.
Taranaki-King Country MP Barbara Kuriger, National, sought reassurance on behalf of farmers that the amendment bill was not a cover for a whole lot of other stuff that lay beneath it.
Associate Agriculture Minister Meka Whaitiri said the Government would give certainty to dairy farmers and ensure that the whole dairy industry was robust and fit for service.
Bennett said after the debate that Parliamentary consideration of the amendment bill was greatly shortened and it would pass through the third reading very soon.
He thought O’Connor’s terms of reference for the review when they came out would be general, allowing the dairy industry’s critics to bring up all their issues.
“The Labour Government and the Greens are using this DIRA excuse to have a full-blown attack on the dairy industry.
“Farmers need to be aware that this is the attack on them that was always planned and this is the mechanism being used.”