Two sheep on a New Zealand farm
Two sheep on a New Zealand farm

ACT MP Mark Cameron: Authentic words from rural New Zealand

Opinion 02/07/2021

OPINION: Single moments in time are often our most defining. Our shared future is irreversibly linked to what happens in watershed moments. Now is no different.

Civil rights activists that changed the course of history, as quickly as the births or deaths of influencers, will change our futures.

From assassinations, to natural disasters, change has been, and will be, intrinsically linked to the fluid nature of time.

Covid-19 has been no different.

People across the globe, of all ethnicities, cultures, backgrounds, have shared in this life changing journey.

Frustrated, frightened. So many jostling to make sense, of this unsettling new norm.

Where will futures lie, what of tomorrow?

Here on the farm, in rural New Zealand, it’s been no different. Quiet whispers of “what will it all mean?” Murmurings over the farm fence, starry eyed neighbours, an uncomfortable disquiet always present.

In this new ether, where face masks and social distancing are the new normal and where people no longer sneer at its oddity, one does come to realise, our collective new journey, will be a long one.

A marathon, Not a sprint.

Farmers who normally wax and wane with measured apathy to change, have found a resilience not uncommon to country folk. a further doubling down but it’s been hard fought. 

There is much to be done, “best we do not lie waste to what we need to do.”

When asked, the response is often “How much or where, it will be done.”

A rural metaphor for getting stuff sorted.

It’s not just that farmers have been asked to reconcile our unsettling new journey like the many.  “I’m sure we’ll all do our best.” It’s that now we walk through a mire of political change as well where the void is vast, and the political abyss looks ever more, unnerving.

These political new virtues have eroded rural pragmatism and practicality. Where now common sense seems lost, to a widening unknown.

A farmer’s future looks far more uncertain, than what any virus would bring him.

SNAs to freshwater Regulations, to the ETS and climate change.

Or EV utilities and uncertainties around methane emissions.

The normally apathetic farmer, not jilted by much, has banded together, our collective angst grows, now emboldened.

It did not need to be this way.

Where consultation and conversation would have served better, we now see dictate and directive.

We are now asking questions, our collective voice of concern. “How could this be so? Does this Government not know who we are, what we’ve done?” And in disgust. Many now jeer “This is how they reward the very people that keep the economy going.”

It’s not that farmers are better than their urban cousins. We do not consider ourselves to be so. It’s our natural isolation that has kept us one step removed from the Covid-19 onslaught. Our bubble, routinely our farms.

Equally, our isolation has allowed us, to truly show the depth of our wares.

There’s an old saying in farming that head down arse up, equals an honest day’s work. All across the rural sector this rings true, especially through Covid, now, never more evident.

Covid or not, we know we have a country to feed, work to do, and never before have wars or hardships stopped us from doing what needs doing. This virus will be no different.

It’s at times like this one is brought to thinking of that famous saying “death smiles at us all, it’s how you smile back, that defines you.”

A real metaphor for getting things done. With grit and determination rural folk will always remain strong through Covid-19.  

Perhaps in the gloom of uncertainty, such an Adage is inappropriate.... I’m certainly not making light of the challenges we all, as Kiwis face.

It’s that merely, we as farmers, rural folk ask that common sense is not lost in the fog of politics, and that once again we can walk with pride. 

That government celebrates with us in our collective achievements, and allow us to own our innovations, to unbridle our capability.

But most of all, we ask, that we are seated at farm table of our own destiny and wherever possible reduce the size of government and our lives.

The oped was written bu ACT MP Mark Cameron. Mark is a 48 year old dairy farmer from Ruawai, Northland. He's lived and farmed around the Northland region for 30 years. He has a partner, and three children.

He’s seen the calamity of rural mental health and understands what MPI inspectors coming on to your land means in practical terms. No party in recent times has had a professional farmer who actually milks cows every morning enter Parliament. While his family manages the farm, Mark will speak for all those who do.