An article in the HB Today this morning got me thinking. Titled ‘Modern farm workers not mucking in’, it was in the Heartland lift out written by Vicky O’Connor of Federated farmers. The gist of the article was that schools, sports clubs and community groups are finding farm workers are not joining in the local rural community as much – to everyone’s loss.
The reason behind this was listed as increased corporatisation, contractual rather than permanent employment, nomadic sharemilkers, and immigrant workers. Wow. These are all changes that are going to be acclerated with increased irrigation on the Ruataniwha Plains.
So has the HBRC considered these issues? Has one of their $12m worth of reports covered any anticipated social changes? Not at all. And this is yet another thing wrong with the thinking behind the dam.
No consideration at all is being given to the likely social upheaval of increased intensification of agriculture on the Ruataniwha Plains. And this is sad. Because we should care. As long as I can remember farmers have relied on each other, in good times and in bad. Their sence of community used to be one of their great strengths. But the article hints at how rural communities are breaking down in New Zealand.
We need to apply fresh thinking to the future of agriculture in New Zealand. I don’t believe we need to go down the path of ever increasing intensification. We should become the world’s deli, not the world’s supermarket. We need our farmers to no longer me mortgage slaves and have the freedom to do what is best for them, their communities, and the environment.