Federated Farmers advocates on multiple areas under Infrastructure, but key ones we have been focusing on include the below
Roads are critical for getting primary products from the farm to the factory and then onwards to the port for export.
Roads should be funded by road users and for state highways this is the case, with the money coming mainly from petrol tax and road user charges. However, on average only around 50 percent of funding for local roads is funded by road users (via the National Land Transport Fund) with the rest having to be funded by councils through rates.
In recent years there has been a squeeze on NLTF funding for local roads which has caused some councils to up their rates, increase debt, and/or reduce their spending on roads impacting on the integrity of the network.
With regard to using the roads, transport rules should enable farmers to use their vehicles productively and safely. Recent changes to the Agricultural Vehicle Rules should help achieve this with estimated cost savings of $51 million over 25 years. Federated Farmers also supported reforms to reduce compliance and administration costs associated with Road User Charges.
A reliable and cost-effective electricity supply is a must for any farming operation. Electricity can be a significant input cost and outages can be very disruptive and expensive.
Competition is the best way to get better services at lower cost so Federated Farmers supports the current electricity market. This is consistent with our general preference for market-based approaches to market regulation, tempered with appropriate levels of regulation to encourage competition.
A particular concern for farmers is the arrangements for hosting electricity infrastructure on their land and what happens when infrastructure is upgraded or replaced. Some of these arrangements involve inadequate compensation and have caused resentment and anxiety. Federated Farmers advocates for fair compensation to landowners to recognise the continuing impact of electricity lines on farming operations.
Fast and cost-effective communication, through broadband internet, is no longer considered an unattainable luxury for farming and rural communities. Broadband is increasingly seen as essential to the business of farming as well as social well-being of rural communities. Government agencies and the private sector increasingly prefer farmers to interact with them electronically.
However, the state of the telecommunications network is in places poor, especially in rural and remote areas, and this prevents farms and rural communities from realising broadband’s potential.
Federated Farmers strongly supports the Government’s Rural Broadband Initiative. Good progress has been made with the RBI but the challenge now is how in the future the RBI network can be extended even further to cover those remaining New Zealanders without phone, internet or broadband services. Cell phone coverage also need to be enhanced to allow farmers to make use of improved farm data management and communications. Wider cell phone coverage will also help improve on farm safety.
In part because of inadequacies with telecommunications, farms and the rural communities still rely heavily on postal services and these need to be retained.