Ag minister loses his cool

After an encounter at Greymouth’s AgFest, Blair Drysdale has lost all respect for Damien O’Connor.

In Home Block6 Minutes

After an encounter at Greymouth’s AgFest, Blair Drysdale has lost all respect for Damien O’Connor.

IT’S SPRING, THAT TIME OF YEAR when everything is flourishing, paddocks full of young animals and rapidly growing crops, a time where things are generally very positive. So, I’ll run with that vibe, for now, albeit somewhat briefly.

In early October Jody found out she’d won the Innovation category of the NZI Rural Women NZ Business Awards for her efforts and achievements with our Hopefield Hemp business, after two rigorous rounds of submitting information, an online interview and waiting for the judges’ results. It is indeed a credit to her, as once we’ve come up with the idea for something, I have a great habit of leaving my extremely capable wife to implement it.

Indeed, our farm has a very vibrant and colourful look about it as it does every year, but this year as the crop rotation has it, the 25 hectares of flowering tulips are right out in front of the house, and it’s been an absolutely stunning view as the curtains are drawn every morning. Most of the spring-sown crops are in the ground and looking good, with only the hemp and swedes left to go in the ground late November.

Back in mid-October, I was well and truly up to date with the work on farm so I took the opportunity to nip over to Greymouth for Agfest, a very successful field day run over two consecutive days that has the vibe of A&P shows of old and is owned and run by a mate of mine, his wife and another couple. We were meant to be over there with the hemp business, but a clash of dates for Jody spelled the end of that and let’s just say it was a very social event for me.

But that’s about where my positivity comes to a screaming halt, much like parts of our food production sector are about to. On the Friday of Agfest just before lunch, I came across NZ Ag’s greatest proponent, poster boy and second row minister, Damien O’Connor. I’ve had a little bit to do with Damien over the years and once the formalities of the trusty handshake were done, I got on with taking the opportunity to hit him with some questions about what the Government had decided about the He Waka Eke Noa proposal.

And it was at this point in which I was gobsmacked with his initial response, an explosion of F-bombs in a petulant childlike and very unprofessional manner. At this point I lost all respect for our so-called Minister of Agriculture and my personal opinion of a man I had always liked, dropped like a bucket load of coal from an Indonesian ship to the dock.

Once he finally calmed down and was able to be reasoned with, I got my questions and points across about not being able to account for the sequestration of carbon at farm level and the inequities of what food producers are facing at a global level. The absolute farcical ETS, whereby global companies essentially buy our hard work so they can carry on polluting unimpeded. If anyone can explain to me how this helps emissions at any level on a global scale, I’m all ears.

The loss of prime New Zealand sheep and beef land is going to be an embarrassment to us as a nation. Cutting our food production, which is against the Kyoto protocol, will be an ecological disaster. It will allow pests to reach places they haven’t before and the fires that await us we are completely unprepared for at a national level. But worst of all, once whole tracts of prime land are planted out in pines, there is going to be the destruction and loss of small rural communities through the loss of jobs, which in turn will have a flow-on effect to our larger service towns.

But we must remember to play the ball on this issue and not the player. It’s not the fault of landowners whatsoever, they’re just following the financial signals and economic benefits coming from our idealistic and virtue-signalling Government.

– Ag minister Damien O’Connor was asked by Country-Wide about his comments and he replied: “I face robust comments from time to time and respond robustly. Having said that, I hope that my language didn’t distract from the substance of the debate and would be sorry if it troubled anyone.”