THERE’S A hackneyed saying that if you lived through the 1960s, you won’t remember them. (Attributed to the tendency for people in that era to use mind-altering substances.)
However, for anyone who farmed – or was associated with farming – in New Zealand during the 1980s it’s a time no one will ever forget. For those in the rural sector the election of the fourth Labour Government and the unleashing of its economic agenda would have a major impact, much of it still felt almost 30 years later.
These challenging times of major change are nicely encapsulated in former Otago Daily Times farming editor Neal Wallace’s new book about how Rogernomics changed the face of NZ’s rural sector. Published by Otago University Press, When the Farm Gates Opened is a fascinating look back at the amazing changes thrust upon the country’s rural sector and farmers when the 1984 Labour Government took power and set about reforming the economy.
The economic reforms launched by the 1984 David Lange-led Labour government changed New Zealand forever. Agriculture bore the brunt of those changes and became an historic reference point for the primary sector: a defining and pivotal moment when financial subsidies abruptly ended and farming learned to live without government influence, interference or protection.
The changes were more sweeping and wide-ranging than anything farmers and farming had expected. Some adjusted, some did not.
Thirty years on, this gripping and moving social history relates the story of a rural sector battered and bruised by rapid change. It traces the period building up to the economic changes by talking to political and sector leaders, and the most important contributions are interviews with those most affected.
All the main players during this time – many of whom have now died – are included: Rob Muldoon, David Lange, Roger Douglas, David Caygill, Jim Sutton, Peter Elworthy, Collis Blake and Jim Bolger, to name a few.
This is a must-read for all who lived through these times, and even more so for those who did not. It’s an amazing reminder of how much the farming sector has changed in the past 30 years and should be a mainstay on bookcases nationwide.
When the Farm Gates Opened: the impact of Rogernomics on rural New Zealand, at major book retailers. RRP $30.