Luxon Checks Out Rural Heartland

Luxon checks out rural heartland

Feilding-Rangitikei Herald, Manawatu by Conor Knell    19 May 2022

He was delivered to Parliament by the residents of Botany's sprawling leafy suburbs, but National Party leader Christopher Luxon has stopped by Manawatu to get familiar with the National Party's bread and butter farmers.

At the Feilding Sale Yards on Friday, the leader of the Opposition mingled among the crowd.

Accompanied by Rangitikei MP Ian McKelvie, Luxon was there to listen and canvass opinion from farmers attending one of the largest sale-yards in the country.

Near its gates, it seemed almost every ute had a sticker protesting the Labour Party's "ute tax".

And when Luxon entered the sales, a farmer spotted him and shouted: "I'm glad it's not Jacinda turning up. She wouldn't be welcome round here."

Feilding and its surrounding areas is one of New Zealand's farming heartlands and its farmers are not shy about how they lean politically.

The Rangitikei electorate has delivered a National MP to Wellington consistently since the late 1930s, except for the six-year period under the Social Credit party from 1978 to 1984.

Luxon was on friendly turf, and he was keen to show farmers he would be a National leader standing up for rural communities.

"Farmers have been villainised by this Government," he said.

"We've seen it with a bunch of really uncoordinated unworkable regulation.

"Farmers know that we need regulation, they keep changing and evolving their practices but, when you start to look at slope rules, SNA [Significant Natural Area] rules, ute taxes, water supplier services, it's too much."

He said described this like sitting on the other side of a tennis court, getting hit with 10 balls at the same time.

"You just can't deal with it."

Luxon's visit was a meet-and-greet in one of the country's top agricultural regions.

The Manawatu district has generated a total of more than $239 million from farming and associated industries.

Among the sheep for sale, Luxon also spoke about the impact of inflation.

"Food prices across supermarkets, I think was just over 6%, while wages are only up 3%," he said. "That means that everything's getting expensive for everybody and due to inflation, you're worse off than you were 12 months ago."

He said he wanted young people to believe New Zealand was a country where you could start a business and raise a family.

"And that's why we have to make sure that we actually keep dealing with this cost of living crisis."

Luxon is still new on the scene and getting his name out as the man who is ready to get the National Party out of the wilderness.

And by winning over the people who make a living from the wilderness, he may be on the right track.

Luxon is not a man of the countryside, nor does he hide that.

What is important is if he understands and champions the issues rural New Zealanders are concerned about.

If he does that, it could bode well for National taking back the many rural seats previously lost to Labour.

"Farmers have been villainised by this Government."