Green role in primary industries

James Shaw speaks at the University of Otago yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
James Shaw speaks at the University of Otago yesterday. Photo: Peter McIntosh
Greens leader James Shaw has a hankering to get his hands on the primary industries portfolio in a Labour-led government. He tells political editor Dene Mackenzie why.

Greens leader James Shaw is unbowed by the latest opinion poll which showed the Greens below the 5% threshold to make it back to Parliament on September 23.

Mr Shaw was in Dunedin yesterday to launch a party tertiary education policy.

He acknowledged the latest poll but emphasised how fluid and inconsistent polls were.

‘‘I never look at any one poll but I do look at the poll of polls and that can be a couple points either way.’’

The Greens had hardened up their message now early voting was under way, he said in an interview.

‘‘We must make sure we gather up every vote. We are being more direct to voters. If you want a change of government this year, you want to stop Winston Peters, if you want the most environmentally friendly and progressive government, give us your party vote.’’

The Greens and Mr Shaw, in particular, have been under scrutiny for the effect some of the party’s policies would have on the income of farmers.

Chief among the policy criticisms was about the nitrate levy the Greens wanted to impose on dairy farms.

The policy could take 6% of revenue from an ‘‘average farm’’, but there were compensations available, he said.

‘‘Farmers are worried, I get that. But our policy is no-one goes broke and no-one walks off the land.’’

The policies announced were designed to help farmers become more environmentally friendly. Included in the policy, was a change to the forestry credits, he said.

Currently, farmers did not get credit for any riparian planting. Credits could only be given for larger-scale planting.

‘‘Our policy is a tree is a tree is a tree. We want farmers to offset their own emissions. That’s the point.’’

The cash from the levy would go into a sustainable farming fund from which farmers could apply to carry out projects.

‘‘We know there are a lot of indebted farmers out there, especially in dairy. It is rude to say give us the cash you don’t have,’’ Mr Shaw said.

In a candid moment, the Greens leader said he would love to get hold of the primary industries portfolio, but no-one was likely to give it to him.

Asked why he would like the portfolio, Mr Shaw pointed out agriculture, dairy and forestry were two, three and four of New Zealand’s largest export earners behind tourism, and every one of those sectors depended on a clean environment.

Climate change, floods, droughts and natural disasters all affected farmers, a reason for involvement in the portfolio.

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy said National would turbocharge the Sustainable Farming Fund, which would be renamed the Future of Farming Fund, by boosting its funding from $7million to $20million per year for investment in agricultural science and innovation.

Mr Shaw said the same policy had earlier been announced by the Greens.

‘‘National is in a contest with New Zealand First for the right-wing farming vote,’’ he said.

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