It’s election year here in New Zealand, both nationally and agriculturally, which could have a large impact on the farming sector.
In September we’ll elect the next government, while in June, our equivalent of the UK’s National Farmers Union, Federated Farmers, polls for its next president and other national board positions. Both polls are triennial events and come as no surprise, unlike the impending UK general election.
General elections here use a hybrid system called Mixed Member Proportional, or more commonly, MMP. We all get to cast 2 votes: one for a constituency or “electorate” representative in parliament; another for the political party we would like to see in government.
The electorate vote is first past the post. The party vote determines how many more MPs each party gets besides those elected in the 70 electorates. The resulting parliament has at least 120 MPs but can have 1 or 2 more.
Sounds complicated? It is, and often it deals minor parties a powerful hand post election as the 2 main parties – Labour and National – wrangle to agree an alliance with 1 or more of the minnows to form a majority government.
That said, to call the Green Party a “minnow” is perhaps misleading. Thanks to MMP, it has 14 MPs, despite not winning a single electoral seat in 2014. However, Labour landed just 32 seats, hence we have a government led by the National Party.
Opinion polls to date indicate that’s unlikely to change in September, which will be a relief to most of the farming community because a Labour-led government with Green Party backing could cripple the industry with environmental restrictions.
So what of the other election, for Federated Farmers’ board and national president?
As is usual, the incumbent president, Dr William Rolleston, is standing down after a term of 3 years. His successor, and the rest of the Federation’s National Board, will be elected by the Federation’s regional presidents.
Dr Rolleston, a medical doctor who has integrated his family’s 30,000-stock unit farming business with a hi-tech international medical supplies company, South Pacific Sera, has, on the whole, taken a softly, softly, diplomatic approach to the role.
Rolleston has worked with the government and ministries to reach compromise, rather than tub-thumping from an entrenched position. With a National Party-led government in power throughout his term, it’s an approach that’s worked well.
Whether it will be appropriate for his successor depends largely on September’s general election result. Unfortunately for Feds’ provincial presidents, they have to choose who that successor is in the next couple of weeks.