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Fieldays has come and gone for another year. I enjoyed being able to visit exhibitors from the Waikato electorate, as well as catching up with many farmers at the nation’s largest agricultural expo. While sector returns look strong, farmers I spoke with at Fieldays were worried about the conversion of pastoral farm land to forestry, excessive red tape, workforce issues and environmental taxes.

On Fieldays’ Thursday, I was proud to be in the packed ANZ Pavilion supporting Simon Bridges as he launched the third in our line of Discussion Documents, focused on the Primary Sector. I am really pleased with this document; it showcases our positive and innovative approach to what is the backbone of our economy and highlights areas that we are looking to make changes in. Most importantly, it seeks feedback from you – your thoughts are instrumental to us developing the right policies, so please take this opportunity to share your perspective.

The New Zealand primary sector contributes over $45 billion to our economy and employs over 350,000 people. We produce enough food to feed about 40 million people around the globe. Our reputation as a safe producer of food underpinned by sustainable farming practises is a huge consideration for international consumers. That’s why it’s important we continue to support the sector’s growth and ensure our policies are fit for purpose.

As the global population grows we need to produce more food, so it’s important that we have the workforce to manage, develop and maintain New Zealand’s agricultural and horticultural businesses. National are proposing a Primary Sector Visa to address this important issue. The visa would act as an avenue for skilled and experienced migrants to help get residence and build their futures here.

A big concern for Waikato farmers is local workforce, or the lack thereof. National’s discussion document supports providing vocational education and agricultural training pathways for young New Zealanders to enter, succeed and stay within the primary sector.

Another major point of focus is rural health; we’re committed to ensuring that rural communities have access to core services that meet their needs. The Coalition Government have been letting these communities down; Lumsden Maternity Centre is a good example to draw on and National promises to reinstate the centre’s maternity status.

We have also proposed a mobile health clinic, which will be serviced by a health practitioner that travels to remote rural communities on a regular basis. This will provide a ‘warrant of fitness’ health check for patients who may struggle to get into town to see their doctor.

These are just some of the many topics covered in the discussion document, and I encourage you to pop into my office in either Morrinsville or Matamata to pick up a copy, or head online to www.national.org.nz/primary_sector. I want to keep the discussion going in the electorate, please get in touch with your thoughts and to have your say on our policy leading into 2020.

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