Dangerous games

WHAT’S GOING on at Landcorp? It appears the state-owned farmer has taken a dangerous lurch into the political world with its recent actions.

An Official Information Act (OIA) request has revealed that the Government-owned and controlled farmer lodged a late submission to the Tax Working Group (TWG), advocating for taxes on water and nitrogen fertiliser and saying it was “not opposed” to a capital gains tax.

This pro-tax stance is directly at odds with the majority view of the farming sector and raises questions about why the state farmer would stick its beak into highly political issues.

That a government body should be seen as promoting and advocating for such overt, politically charged tax policies is a big enough concern. However, to also learn that Landcorp lodged its submission to the TWG more than a month after applications closed gives the impression it was encouraged to do so by its political masters.

This should be a major concern for all taxpayers that the long-held tenet of an apolitical public service is now being called into question. One also would have to ask if the Minister responsible for Landcorp – Shane Jones – is either asleep at the wheel or complicit in the SOE’s irresponsible and dangerous politicking.

The state farmer must not only be seen as apolitical, but also perceived as being apolitical. At present, perception and reality are opposite.

And Landcorp’s actions have – unsurprisingly – attracted political fire. Current National Opposition members and former agriculture ministers Nathan Guy and David Carter have heavily criticised its behavior. Carter has accused the state farmer of having been encouraged ‘behind the scenes’ by its political masters to present a pro-tax opinion from the farming sector to the TWG.

The TWG submission comes on top of the state farmer’s highly questionable appointment of a number of high-profile environmental activists to advisory roles in its midst. Questions are now also being raised about whether these appointments are just a sop to the green-leaning politicians occupying the Treasury benches.

Former AgResearch and Scion (forestry) boss Warren Parker has just been appointed chair of Landcorp. As a former high-level public servant, Dr Parker will be well aware of the sacrosanctity of an apolitical stance needed at Landcorp. He needs to pull the state farmer and its management back into line quick-smart.

If he fails to do so, Landcorp will face the wrath of avenging politicians hell-bent on revenge when the government changes, as it will at some time.