Introduction: The 2016 Local Elections Are Crucial to Farmers
Farmers are some of the largest funders of local government and the sector most likely to be hamstrung by regulation developed and implemented by councils. This unique combination means farmers mind deeply who represents them.
Farmers need level-headed councillors who prioritise real needs over the ‘nice to haves’, who respect the considerable contributions from ratepayers, and who work hard toward an equitable rating system that is affordable for all ratepayers.
Rates are among the largest working expenses for an average farm. And many farmers’ annual rates bills give them rights to the unenviable and exclusive 10K or even 20K Rate’s Club.
For rating purposes, farms are valued at their potential sale price. For farmers this seldom refl ects their relative ability to pay. Farming is also hugely impacted by local government’s regulation of natural resources - land, water, and air - all of which are critical to food production and New Zealand’s exports and GDP. Farmers look to councils for a practical and common-sense approach to regulation. This means an approach that considers the ability to farm as well as balancing economic impacts with other objectives.
Councils provide infrastructure and services vital to successful primary production and vibrant rural communities, with roading the most important of these. The farming emphasis might be summed up as “fi t for purpose, at a fair price”. To achieve this councils must function in an efficient, targeted and effective way.
New Zealand’s 78 councils provide vital infrastructure, regulate the use of natural resources, and undertake important services for their communities. But regardless of how well councils carry out their roles and responsibilities, for as long as they must rely on property value rates for their funding, the cost of rates will dominate farmers’ thinking about local government.
All of these issues combine to generate a high level of interest among farmers in the work of councils and the decisions they make.
If you plan to vote, or are running for council, take a few minutes to read Federated Farmers’ 2016 Manifesto. It provides an excellent guide for voters and candidates on how to effectively represent farmers and other property owners who make a considerable investment in local government.
Dr William Rolleston
Federated Farmers of New Zealand
For more - see the full Manifesto