Farmers see orange over access reforms
New Te Awamutu Federated Farmers president Russell Henderson joined thousands of colleagues around the country last week when he closed his gates to public access to protest the government’s access reforms.
The Action Orange campaign is marked by the orange tape farmers are putting on their gates, plus the week long journey to Parliament of the petition protesting the reform. It was launched last Thursday at Fieldays.
Federated Farmers of New Zealand president Tom Lambie says the protest is a direct result of a government taking private property rights and not listening to the legitimate concerns of rural people.
Federated Farmers is asking all farmers and other land owners to close off public access over their farms for a week, and tie an orange ribbon to their closed gates as a visible sign of their protest.
“Since we unveiled the planned Action Orange campaign, the response from farmers and others has been overwhelmingly positive. I expect thousands of farm gates to be flying orange ribbons,” says Mr Lambie.
The government wants to give members of the public, no matter their character or intent, the right to walk on private land along waterways. Farmers are absolutely opposed to this confiscation of their property rights, and alarmed at the increased risk posed to their security and livelihoods.
Mr Henderson is fully behind the protest, saying the reform is a threat to the rights of land owners and the agricultural industry.
“We live in a free country, we fought for that and we want to maintain that freedom in a democratic society,” he says.
He says in about 90% of cases farmers would allow the public to walk on their land if asked. He says they do not want to lose the right to manage who enters their land. Mr Henderson says the proposed reform is only catering for a tiny percentage of the community who would demand unrestricted access, and completely ignores the rights of the farmer to say no to access in certain circumstances.
Mr Henderson and his wife Jean have been farming on Anderson Road since the early 1960s. The couple are dairy farmers, but have also been growing maize longer than anyone else in the region, having crops since the mid 60s. Mr Henderson has a long relationship with this district. He attended Ngahinapouri School, then Feilding Agricultural College before returning to the region to farm and raise his family. He also has a long relationship with Federated Farmers, progressing from the Young Farmers organisation to the parent body, and now the regional presidency.
“Federated Farmers and Rural Women have an important role to monitor regulations that affect the industry and lobby on behalf of members,” he says. “As president it is my job to pass on my knowledge and experience to help other members, represent the region for the good of the rural community and to be a spokesperson for the organisation."
To see the route of the petition, and other information on the campaign, go to the www.fedfarm.org.nz website.