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Prime Minister talks farming, Cyclone Gabrielle, and He Waka Eke Noa

The Country,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Feb 2023, 1:49PM
Prime Minister Chris Hipkins. Photo / File

Prime Minister talks farming, Cyclone Gabrielle, and He Waka Eke Noa

The Country,
Publish Date
Wed, 15 Feb 2023, 1:49PM

Prime Minister Chris Hipkins doesn’t come from a farming background, but he does have an appreciation for Kiwi farmers.

As a “young fella”, Hipkins stayed at his great-grandfather’s bach in Northern Taranaki – which was built on the edge of a farm, he told The Country’s Jamie Mackay.

“So, we spent quite a lot of time there in the summer holidays – but I would not make a claim to have a deep connection with New Zealand’s rural community.”

However, Hipkins said his work as a Member of Parliament changed his perspective.

“I’ve had the opportunity to get out and about and speak to plenty of farmers and visit many of the industries that are supported by our primary sector, and I have huge respect for the contribution that they make to New Zealand’s way of life.”

Hipkins’ start as Prime Minister has been a baptism of fire with him leading New Zealand through Cyclone Gabrielle, which he described recently as the “most severe weather event this century”.

Mackay asked if these kinds of natural disasters required a different approach to climate change from the Government.

He wondered if Hipkins was considering altering urban planning laws to mitigate the changing climate, rather than working on reducing emissions.

“I actually think we need to do both,” Hipkins said.

He believed the urban population could “learn a bit” from their rural counterparts in this regard.

“When I drive around the rural communities, I don’t see many farmers building their houses in the valleys on their farms where they’re likely to be flooded, and I also don’t see them building them on the edge of cliffs either.

“I think there’s a bit that we can learn from the way the rural community understands the land that perhaps has been lost a little bit in our urban development and our urban planning laws and approaches.”

Hipkins has made changes since becoming Prime Minister, which Mackay likened to a “policy bonfire”.

He asked if the Government’s agricultural emissions pricing scheme would be added to the pyre.

“We haven’t made decisions on that yet,” Hipkins said.

The He Waka Eke Noa – Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership was formed by the industry to negotiate with the Government to keep agriculture out of the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

Hipkins said the partnership played an important part in reaching a conclusion.

“He Waka Eke Noa is basically us saying we accept that the rural community – the farming community – think that there is a better way of dealing with agricultural emissions than the Emissions Trading Scheme.”

He said the Government wanted “to create an opportunity to explore that” and try to reach a consensus.

“We’re still committed to that process … obviously we’ve got to get an outcome out of that process if that’s the way that we’re going to go forward.

“So, I want to see some outcomes out of it - but I’m not backing away from it.”

Also in today’s interview: Hipkins talks about his background and pondered what made him appealing to the general public.

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