Fed Farmers tenure drawing to close

Phill Hunt is standing down as Federated Farmers Otago president next month. Photo: ODT
Phill Hunt is standing down as Federated Farmers Otago president next month. Photo: ODT
Phill Hunt is looking forward to spending the next 12 months on the farm "and getting the gates swinging the way they used to".

The sheep and beef farmer from Maungawera, near Wanaka, is standing down as president of Federated Farmers Otago at the annual meeting on May 15, after a three-year tenure.

It had been an enjoyable and interesting role, which he estimated was probably the equivalent of a two-day-a-week job, he said.

He had been very fortunate to have the support of his wife Lizzie and their daughters Hillary and Fiona.He first got involved with Federated Farmers about 1989 but then concentrated on TBfree Otago. He was encouraged to stand as vice-president of Federated Farmers Otago several years before his appointment as president.

At the time of his appointment,  the issues facing farmers in the region included water allocation and making the Otago Regional Council’s plan change 6A work, Mr Hunt said. Farming incomes were down at that time and it was a challenging time in the red meat industry.

Three years on and 6A was "still there" and much work was still to be done in terms of implementation.

"It’s here and we just hope it’s going to get the results it has been designed to get," he said.

Many farmers were getting farm plans organised and doing on-farm work to minimise what was coming off their properties and there was a new way of thinking Decades of farming practices probably led to some of the issues and it was going to take longer than a couple of years to rectify them, he said.

Fundamentally, the issues in the red meat sector were still there. It was in a good phase at the moment as  product prices were good and there did not seem to be a lot of inventory, but the sector was still quite fragmented.

The dairy industry was still doing well at a level at which he believed most farmers could "make ends meet", while crossbred wool was an "utter disaster" and it did not look as though there was "any golden moment around the corner" for it.

It was a real shame as it was such a great product that ticked all the boxes as a sustainable, natural product but consumers did not seem to have picked up on that yet, he said.

Water quantity  was an issue and much work was still to be done over mining rights.

Then there were also the "bread-and-butter things that happen year in, year out", dealing with regional and district councils to ensure farmers were able to continue farming as they expected to be able to do.

He was concerned about falling membership of Federated Farmers, with farms being sold to neighbours, and  a "huge" percentage of farmers  were not members.

He urged non-members to join because of the work that went on behind the scenes to ensure they were able to farm.

He was hoping for a good turnout at Federated Farmers Otago’s annual meeting  at the Cross Recreation Centre in Balclutha on May 15.

He was proud of the number of people who had gone through leadership and governance training, some of whom had joined the province’s executive.

That training was "brilliant" and it was not necessarily just so that they would go through Federated Farmers but it would enable them to represent the likes of their school board or the fire service, all those things that rural New Zealand needed, he said.

Guest speakers at the meeting included Lawrence farmer and New Zealand First list MP Mark Patterson, Otago Regional Council chief executive Sarah Gardner and Federated Farmers national board member Miles Anderson.

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