Groundswell building for a while
This movement has been brewing for a long time. As businesspeople, as employees, as families and communities we generally don’t care too much what goes on in politics, right? Most of the time people just want to get on with their lives.
We only show up in places like this when we can no longer ignore the scale of what is affecting our work, affecting our plans for the future and undermining the contribution that we make to our society.
It comes down to this. We didn’t get to be a first-world country simply by being kind. We didn’t get here by reading nice speeches or giving each other lots of hugs. We got here through the sheer hard work of those who came before us, and it’s that same spirit that will build a better future for our children.
When you put that future at risk — that’s when we show up, right? That’s when we bang on the doors of our politicians and tell them to wake up — stop dancing around spouting rubbish — and start listening to the people of the real New Zealand.
Almost all of the grievances that we bring here today have their roots in a fancy idea dreamed up in Wellington which is then rammed down the throat of provincial New Zealand — and they genuinely seem to believe that we should be grateful.
Well, maybe it’s time we got a backbone and said, “that’s enough”.
We will not be made to feel like second-class citizens just because we work with our hands and drive a ute. These hands grow the country’s food, they build our roads, fix our machinery, harvest our crops and trees and they actually produce something!
Since when did being productive become politically unacceptable, something to tax, regulate and undermine?
The list of ways this Government is slowly strangling provincial New Zealand is long and painful, made worse by the litany of patronising explanations as to why we must subject ourselves to the so-called “just transition”. It doesn’t feel very just to me.
However, none of this should really surprise anyone — this narrative is exactly what the Government has said that it will deliver. I guess the problem was we all actually supported the idea of less pollution, more biodiversity and cleaner freshwater — we just presumed there would be a half-decent plan. That was our first mistake.
You’d expect that if you want to drop vehicle emissions, you might target pointless discretionary travel, or at least offer some plausible alternative to a ute before you start smashing legitimate ute owners with taxes.
With biodiversity, we thought that maybe the Government might get its own house in order (I mean, it does own the vast majority of native areas in the country). You would think they might lead by example and clean up the mess of possums, weeds and goats in their own patch before they started beating farmers up? No again.
On freshwater they deliberately shut farmers out of the process and invited in a bunch of academics and activists, then wondered why their original plans were a complete disaster. It’s taken a year of wrangling to get anything like sensible rules that can be of any use.
You probably all know that the ETS is my favourite thing to hate; well, here’s why. No other government in our history has deliberately used subsidies to promote an utterly worthless, temporary and reckless enterprise at the expense of legitimate exporting activities. No other government has been quite stupid enough to presume that we can be just as wealthy selling invisible products to ourselves as we were when we sold actual things to the world.
God help us all. It isn’t enough to just care, you also need to know what you are doing. It’s common sense that if it’s too hard or too expensive to do business — then business doesn’t happen.
The people of New Zealand shouldn’t have to continually make submissions on half-baked, predetermined policy changes concocted by officials who have never left officialdom. The Ministry for the Environment and MPI need to hear this.
It is not possible to come up with good policy which makes sense to the people it impacts, if you have no understanding of those people or their industries. This issue is endemic in Wellington and that needs to change.
If enough of New Zealand asks for it, then maybe that change can happen. It won’t happen if we do nothing.
We need the rest of New Zealand to understand that having a nice smile isn’t enough — that we need some substance behind that smile, and that if Jacinda can’t find it in Wellington, then she better find it somewhere else.
We can’t afford another term of this well-meaning mess of policy disasters and economic incompetence. There are better policy options — the Government needs to find them.
■ Kerry delivered this speech yesterday during the “Howl of a Protest” as a farmer and farmer representative, not a councillor.