As an MP and National’s spokesperson I move in rural communities constantly and last month, during Parliament’s recent three-week recess I visited many more from Timaru to Te Hapua.
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Barbara Kuriger says farmers, growers and rural folk are overwhelmed by a government wanting more for less. (file photo)

OPINION: If you know me, you know how fiercely proud I am of being a farmer.

I doubt many New Zealanders would realise rural communities are this country’s second largest city with 700,000+ people.

And despite what people are reading or hearing in media throughout the country, they are innovators.

So many Kiwis do not understand the skill, innovation and guardianship our farmers apply to their lands every day, in every weather, in this country.

That is especially true of dairy farmers who are always seen as the biggest environmental ‘villains’ by critics and the uninformed.

We are, and I say this loudly and clearly, the best at what we do – with the smallest carbon footprint across the globe.

In February, research showed New Zealand’s CO2 per kg FPCM (fat and protein) was -0.74 – 46 per cent less than the average of all countries studied.

Following us is Uruguay at -0.85, while Australia is in seventh place, the USA ninth and Ireland rounding out the top 10 places, figures show.

Our dairy sector produces half the emissions of all other international producers.

Yet farmers are being criticised daily across all sorts of media.

I often talk about the language people use when they speak about farmers and rural communities. I even spoke about it in the House in early July.

Farmers I see, are feeling the immense pressure of rapid regulation changes, as well as the environmental criticism levelled at them.

Rural leaders and support groups are being contacted daily by those who are struggling. It’s a heavy burden being felt both mentally and physically.

Those taking part in the Howl of a Protest in New Plymouth drive their vehicles through the city’s main street. (file photo)
ANDY JACKSON/STUFF Those taking part in the Howl of a Protest in New Plymouth drive their vehicles through the city’s main street. (file photo)

These issues have never been more evident than at the ‘Howl of A Protest’ rallies across NZ on July 16.

Farmers, growers and rural folk are overwhelmed by a government wanting more for less and deciding on how they are to deliver it.

The clear message was… enough!

But any depth of what primary industries were saying to the Government that day, seems to have been missed… by the Government.

Labour needs to get out and see how the rural sector operates before announcing whimsical regulations which have absolutely no practical application and don’t connect with any overall plan.

Without bigger earners like tourism and foreign exchange students thanks to Covid-19, and industries which could be earning billions hampered by legislation, the Government needs to recognise where its export income is coming from.

It also needs to prioritise substantial, and I mean big money, to help food producers devastated by recent floods.

These are the people who make this country money. Cycleways across bridges can wait.

Meanwhile, in an era where the state of people’s mental health features daily in the media, I ask people to think before they speak.

Because words matter

– Barbara Kuriger is the Taranaki/King Country MP and National Party spokeswoman for rural communities

Victorian scientists in Australia will be working on methods to reduce the environmental footprint of the Australian dairy cow and to create a more profitable and sustainable dairy sector.

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