Conference opening by Don Nicolson, President of Federated Farmers.
Good morning and welcome to Auckland, the Queen City and your National Conference for 2009.
We farmers are proud to be in New Zealand’s largest city, a super city, representing New Zealand’s largest and most important industry – agriculture.
Today is a first for your Federation.
Today we are holding our first Plenary Day featuring an outstanding array of speakers culminating this evening in our first Cream of the Crop national awards to recognise the very best in agribusiness and agriculture.
Tomorrow, the Prime Minister, the Hon. John Key will address us at a working breakfast.
Before we kick off though, I would like to acknowledge my hard working Board.
They do a tremendous amount of work on your behalf.
Can I say thank you.
To our equally hard working provincial presidents, some of you attending your first National Conference in that capacity, welcome and thank you.
Our provincial leaders make a deep and abiding personal commitment to better the lot of farmers, all farmers.
I think the investment you make into the Federation is exemplary.
I am in awe at the personal and professional commitment you all make.
To our life members, members, non-members and media.
Welcome to Conference 2009.
I am hoping the Minister’s words today and the Prime Minister’s words tomorrow will back agriculture as New Zealand’s trump card to get us all out of recession.
I also trust this recession will finally end the parody that farmers moan in good times and in bad.
To hear moaning and bleating, listen to other sectors of the business community. Agriculture is unique for we are not bleating or holding out a begging bowl.
When we say back agriculture, we are looking for the policies that will enable us to grow while retaining more of our hard earned money in our own pockets.
But I do wish to address the massive negative impact one farm has on the entire economy.
That farm, at 110 acres or 45 hectares, is among the smallest in New Zealand and is located in just one part of the country.
That farm has doubled its expenditure in just the last ten years from around $39 billion to nigh on $80 billion today.
That farm is called Government and it’s located in Wellington.
That 110 acres is the area of office space that Government occupies.
It seems we farmers can’t win as Dr Bollard blamed us only a few years ago for keeping interest rates high.
Now some commentators rashly and irresponsibly believe farm debt to be the tip of a speculative bubble.
If you want to know what is holding New Zealand back?
It is the doubling of Government expenditure.
Non-tradable inflation is an enemy that sails under the radar.
The impact of runaway government expenditure has not had enough, not nearly enough, critical scrutiny by commentators, the media, Treasury or the Reserve Bank.
More on that tomorrow. Today’s programme is packed with excitement.
We are here to learn as well as to lead.
In this I would like to acknowledge Auckland City Mayor John Banks, who is a judge for Agribusiness Person of the Year to be announced this evening.
I wish Mayor Banks the best of luck as he moves to become the first ‘Lord Mayor’ of the Auckland super city.
So why do we farmers, supposed bastions of conservatism, embrace the super city concept?
It recognises that there is something damn rotten with local government and more importantly, how it is funded.
It also shows that cities and farming is not a mutually exclusive concept.
Since we are here in the ‘super city,’ I think you deserve to know, which is the best council in Auckland for its treatment of farmers and farming?
And I think you will be astounded.
That council is the most cosmopolitan, the most multi-ethnic and the most multi-racial in the entire region.
That city is the melting pot which is Manukau City.
Manukau treats its farmers as equal citizens and not as entities to be farmed for their rates.
The council and its staff proactively engage with farmers and with Federated Farmers. This isn’t new but has been a consistent culture with Manukau under Sir Barry Curtis and current Mayor, Len Brown.
I think other councils around New Zealand and I hope, the new super city, will learn a thing of two from Manukau.
It is an example and proof farmers are part of the city as much as the city is part of farming.
I’m pleased to say that Farm Day, an initiative championed by Nuffield winner, Ali Undorf-Lay, was a breakthrough for this year.
It was a good learning curve.
2010 will be bigger, bolder and more exciting.
Federated Farmers is committed to front footing what we do and I will elaborate on this in my speech tomorrow.
So, please, do enjoy this Plenary Day and the exceptional speakers arrayed for you.
I ask you to not be meek when it comes to asking questions and seeking answers.
The best way of learning is by asking.
Two way communication is a dialogue and dialogue is what this Plenary Day and your Federation is all about.
I am delighted to declare the 2009 Federated Farmers National Conference, open.