The government’s new freshwater laws, signed off this week, have the potential to create significant unnecessary costs for ratepayers, farmers and entire communities, Federated Farmers says.
Landcorp – now known as Pāmu Farms of NZ – has peeved former agriculture ministers Nathan Guy and David Carter over a previously secret submission to the Tax Working Group (TWG) led by former finance minister Sir Michael Cullen.
In its submission, the state-owned farmer advocated for both a tax on water and nitrogen fertiliser and stated that it was not opposed to a capital gains tax.
Landcorp’s pro-tax submission is in stark contrast to the views of Federated Farmers and many others in the farming sector. Guy and Carter have described the submission as ‘a kick in the guts’ for rural communities.
“Landcorp’s sneaky submission to the TWG proposing a water tax, nitrogen fertiliser tax and not opposing a capital gains tax proves just how out of touch the state-owned company is with farmers on the ground,” Guy claims.
The former agriculture minister has also questioned why Landcorp could submit to the TWG more than a month after submissions to it were closed off. He believes the state farmer has been encouraged ‘behind the scenes’ by its political masters to present a pro-tax opinion from the farming sector to the tax working group.
Guy is also asking why Landcorp’s submission wasn’t publicly listed on the TWG website until it became public through the Official Information Act.
Federated Farmers Andrew Hoggard has accused Landcorp of “throwing other farmers under the bus”.
Federated Farmers rejects these new tax proposals, Hoggard says.
“There’s already a lot of regulations by regional councils focusing on a lot of these issues — managing it that way. Coming in with taxes is sort-of like just doubling up.”
When questioned in Parliament, the minister responsible for Landcorp, Shane Jones, conceded he was not aware of the submission until alerted by media and that he did not know the SOE was promoting environmental taxes. Jones denied there has been political encouragement for Landcorp to make a submission.
However, he conceded the idea for the submission came after Landcorp executives – including its head of environment Alison Dewes and consultant Peter Fraser – met with Treasury officials about environmental taxes.
Both Dewes and Fraser are well-known environmental advocates and have publicly campaigned against irrigation expansion and other environmental issues. Landcorp also has its own ‘environmental reference group’ chaired by freshwater-campaigner Marnie Prickett and including high-profile anti-farming advocates Mike Joy and Forest and Bird’s Anna-Beth Cohen.
It is understood that Landcorp’s chief executive Steven Carden approved the TWG submission and although it was signed off by Landcorp’s board, the board members were not aware of its advocacy for environmental taxes.