Wool levy dead

KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERANEW ZEALAND wool growers have again firmly rejected the idea of a levy-paid industry-good wool organisation.

In a referendum that closed on October 10 farmers declined the opportunity for a new wool commodity levy order. The previous levy was dropped in August 2009.

The new levy promoters and advocates, the Wool Levy Group, concede the fight is lost.

Chairwoman Sandra Faulkner describes the outcome as “disappointing”. She and fellow levy group supporters have a right to be disappointed: they worked hard to get the industry-good wool organisation reinstated. But they should not be disappointed about the voter turnout.

Some 47% of eligible woolgrowers voted – still pitiful – but high compared with most commodity levy referendums that struggle to get more than a 35% turnout.

Now however, the higher-than-normal voter turnout signals that the rejection of the wool levy should be finally accepted.

The vote: 57% of farmers rejected the levy, only 43% favoured it. Meanwhile, the weighted vote from larger enterprises was even more strongly against the proposal: almost 60% rejected the levy.

Faulkner says the promoters faced a twin challenge: to ensure wool growers understood the proposal to introduce a levy under the Commodities Levy Act, and to get a strong voter turnout.

This poll result shows that both of these objectives have been met.

While some proponents of an industry-good wool organisation will be disappointed that their fellow woolgrowers have elected to reject a levy, they must now accept this is the will of a sizeable majority of growers.

Thankfully, Faulkner has conceded there is no chance of a repeat effort to force another vote.

“Growers have had their say and that’s where we are at,” she says.

It is now time to move on for the sake of all involved in the country’s $700 million wool industry.

Clean up up own act

Landcorp chief executive Steven Carden

Landcorp chief executive Steven Carden


LANDCORP CHIEF executive Steven Carden is right on the money in pointing out that the farming sector has effectively lost the confidence of the public. The ‘man in the street’ is now more inclined to believe ‘dirty dairying’ slander than the more balanced messages from NZ’s farmer lobby groups. He is also right in saying the ag sector is ineffective in telling its good news, making it unevenly matched against the few shoddy farmers who give ‘catch and kill’ – aka Fish & Game – the ammunition to create the ‘dirty dairying’ messaging. What Fish & Game, the Greens and other environmental groups – obsessed with their negative perceptions of farming – have done is insidious. They have painted a picture showing farming as a dirty, harmful activity and by implication not a good career choice. Thus it gets even harder to encourage young people to make a career in farming and the wider agribusiness sector. Plenty is going on nationwide to promote agriculture to youngsters as a career of first choice. Sadly, city folk see little of this in the mainstream media. Carden is right: farming needs to smarten up its image fast. At the same time, the perpetual knockers of farming need to reflect on the consequences of their short-sighted self-interest campaigns seemingly designed to drive up membership. The future of agriculture is too important to NZ to be manipulated by lopsided lobby groups for their own petty political interests. Is it asking too much that farmers clean up their act and that environmentalists stop whingeing every time they see a cow? Kiwi common sense must prevail where farming is shabby, then generosity might be expected from the knockers.