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Speech by Federated Farmers board member and Grain & Seed chairperson Ian MacKenzie at the Rural Contractors New Zealand’s Conference, delivered on Tuesday 26 July in Ashburton.
I am a past Mid Canterbury provincial president of Federated Farmers and have a long involvement in advocating for farmers and rural communities.
I have been away from a direct involvement with agri-politics for a few years, although as a farmer and partner in a contracting business I understand most of the issues.
Federated Farmers has and would like to continue to have a good working relationship with Rural Contractors. We have representatives on the Agricultural Transport Forum (ATF) which meets to discuss aspects of transport policy and how to practically include agricultural vehicles and their use on the road.
We have to remember the only rights we have to do things are effectively granted to us by the people of New Zealand. We have to persuade these people that allowing us to go about our business is not only in their interest, but will cause them no danger and little inconvenience.
We have to work together on these issues, otherwise, we will never achieve critical mass to persuade anyone of the merit of our argument and that we deserve some concessions.
To this end, the ATF’s role needs to be:
Safety on the roads is the driving force behind most of these rules.
We have to be able to satisfy those who draft the rules, and other road users, that compromises for agricultural vehicles will not affect the safety of others.
Yesterday, (Monday 25 July), you agreed that exemptions for work rules could apply only to members of your organisation. A worthwhile offer, but one that I suspect would mean Rural Contractors having to undertake Health and Safety audits on its members to ensure that you can deliver what you promise. That may not be a problem.
Inconvenience on the road is less of a concern to the law makers.
The 30 km/h exemption for agricultural vehicles satisfied law makers that the safety of our roads was not unduly compromised. Let us try and build on that concession. Let’s light up our vehicles like Christmas trees, persuade the law makers this keeps other motorists safe and seek extensions to concessions already granted.
No concessions will be granted to trucks, but it may be worth exploring the reasons why the concession for an exemption to keeping a log book within 50 kilometres of one’s base was scrapped.
Federated Farmers can help Rural Contractors with many of these issues. We have credibility in Wellington; as I understand it we have an invitation from the Government to work directly with them to help create more workable rules where possible.
We have services to help inform our members as to the rules and changes to them, as well as staff members who are dedicated to certain issues so we can advise members one on one.
We have policy staff all round the country who are used to working with district and regional councils who can assist in local issues such as bridge limits and other local by-laws.
There must be scope and benefit to our overall success in looking after our members interests in forming a closer and perhaps more formal relationship.
Under MMP, rural New Zealand has been sidelined in its political importance. Our best chance of achieving anything is by working together.
I look forward to working with you over the next few years.