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Politics and agriculture meet at Fieldays

It’s Wednesday, June 14 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, coming to you on the ground from Fieldays, with support from the news team back in Auckland.

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The agenda

  • We’re live from Mystery Creek in Waikato for Fieldays 2023.
  • Politicians from across the spectrum will pop by the annual event, including PM Chris Hipkins and opposition leaders Christopher Luxon and David Seymour.
  • It’s exactly four months from election day – and this year’s Fieldays falls against the backdrop of tension over the He Waka Eke Noa emissions pricing scheme.

Politics and agriculture meet at Fieldays

It’s Wednesday, June 14 and welcome to The Spinoff’s live updates. I’m Stewart Sowman-Lund, coming to you on the ground from Fieldays, with support from the news team back in Auckland.

Get in touch on

The agenda

  • We’re live from Mystery Creek in Waikato for Fieldays 2023.
  • Politicians from across the spectrum will pop by the annual event, including PM Chris Hipkins and opposition leaders Christopher Luxon and David Seymour.
  • It’s exactly four months from election day – and this year’s Fieldays falls against the backdrop of tension over the He Waka Eke Noa emissions pricing scheme.
Jun 14 2023

New funding to help farmers reduce greenhouse gas emissions

PM Chris Hipkins fronts a press conference. (Photo: Marty Melville/AFP via Getty Images)

The government’s unveiled new measures it hopes will help farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

$17.7 million will go towards a new greenhouse gas testing and research facility, while a further $4.3 million will be invested in “soil and grass research”.

“Our goal is to partner with farmers to ensure New Zealand retains its brand as a low emissions, environment friendly source of food and fibre,” prime minister Chris Hipkins said.

The funding was announced at the annual Fieldays event in Waikato. Hipkins spent the day at the event today, alongside a large group of ministers. “Farmers can’t do it all on their own and agriculture is too important for the government not to be investing in better environmental outcomes. We want the best price for the best products, produced by the best farmers in the word – and our plan is working.”

Asked by The Spinoff earlier today whether the large government presence at Fieldays was a sign there was concern about getting rural voters, Hipkins said. “Look, I’m out to get every single vote that I can, I’m not writing off any segment of the voting population.”

The only minister not afraid to wear gumboots at Fieldays


I noted earlier that gumboots were surprisingly hard to find at Fieldays, with many attendees opting for more traditionally fashionable footwear. That observation very much extended to our politicians. Out of the high profile MPs in attendance, only minister Peeni Henare was papped wearing his gummies. His colleagues had opted for tidier shoes, he later told me, because they were “worried their [gumboots] wouldn’t look as dirty”. Fair call. 

Peeni Henare's gumboots

Meanwhile, National leader Christopher Luxon donned some fancy looking leather boots. Stylish. The prime minister Chris Hipkins opted for a pair of tan Skechers sneakers. I’m not sure which is more (in)appropriate for a farm show.

A special shout-out to Act’s Mark Cameron for also being unafraid to wear gumboots at Fieldays. They looked well worn, too (I forgot to take a piccy).

Finally, to conclude this wrap, I’d like to highlight this masterful ensemble worn by minister Duncan Webb. He described it as “Canterbury chic” and said it was “as rural as Christchurch central gets”. He threw it together after realising he had to travel from Fieldays directly to the urban comforts of Auckland.

Food prices still much higher than last year

Supermarket shopping can be a confusing experience. (Photo: Getty / Treatment: Tina Tiller)

Continuing the trend of increased food prices, the latest figures released by Stats NZ show food prices for May 2023 were 12.1% higher than in May 2022.

There were rises across all the food groups, and consumer prices manager James Mitchell said the largest driver within grocery food price rises was the increasing prices of “fresh eggs, potato chips and lollies”.

The second largest contributor was the rise in the price of fruit and vegetables, which sat at an 18.4% increase. In particular it was avocados, kūmara, potatoes and tomatoes that saw the biggest increases.

On a smaller scale, the overall prices for fruit and vegetables (particularly tomatoes, mandarins and kiwifruit) dropped through May, which non-alcoholic drinks like soft drinks, energy drinks and bottled water had the biggest rise.

Wait, what even is Fieldays??

If you’re reading today’s updates and have absolutely no clue what Fieldays even is, we’ve prepared a handy explainer. Find that here – and check out an extract below:

For starters – and this is important – Fieldays or Field Days?

It is, somewhat nonsensically, Fieldays. One word.

Now that’s sorted, what is Fieldays?

It’s an agriculturally-focused trade show, which promises to showcase “cutting edge technology and innovation”. It’s sort of like Armageddon Expo, but for farmers instead of nerds (or maybe, farming nerds). Here’s how the official website describes it: “Fieldays presents New Zealand’s agricultural and primary sectors with an international marketplace to advance agriculture, while honouring our three pillars – innovation, education, globalisation.” It’s held every year in Mystery Creek, near Hamilton.

Read our full explainer here

Yes it’s Fieldays not Field Days (Image: Getty, design: Archi Banal)

I thought everyone would be wearing gumboots at Fieldays

Just dropping in here with some important/unexpected fashion news from my first couple of hours at Fieldays. Where, I ask, are all the gumboots?

I was repeatedly assured by people in the know that everyone would be decked out in their redband gumboots for the annual agriculture trade show. But from an early and unscientific survey it appears that tidy leather boots, such as you might see on the feet of a lawyer, are the shoe choice for many attendees today. An uneducated guess would suggest RM Williams is the preferred brand, though I’ve also observed Doc Martens and at least one person braving the wet grass in Allbirds sneakers.

Here at The Spinoff’s Fieldays HQ (just me and an instant coffee), I’ll be keeping a close eye on the preferred footwear of our politicians. I glimpsed what appeared to be a tan sneaker on the prime minister, which seems to be the same shoe he wore in the aftermath of weather disasters earlier in the year. A clear favourite for the PM. National’s Christopher Luxon proudly showed off his gumboots earlier in the week. My advice to him at this very moment would be to avoid repeating that choice today.


‘Fertiliser tax’ off the table, Hipkins confirms

Dairy cows on a farm in the Taranaki region (Getty Images)

Continuing in the pre-election routine of announcing things that won’t be happening, the prime minister today ruled out a “fertiliser tax”.

It’s quashed rumours swirling in the farming sector that the government was planning to bring in a levy on fertilisers, potentially as an interim measure ahead of the proposed 2025 start date for agriculture emissions pricing.

Speaking to a business audience at Fieldays this morning, Hipkins took the tax off the table. “I don’t support a broad-based tax that doesn’t provide the nuances that are inherent in He Waka Eke Noa. So I can confirm today the government will not be implementing a fertiliser tax,” said Hipkins. “We want to work hard with you to make He Waka Eke Noa work.”

To give credit to the PM, it appears the rumours of a potential tax were fairly unfounded. Damien O’Connor, the agriculture minister, told parliament earlier in the month that the government had “no proposal to introduce a fertiliser tax”.

Also in his speech today, Hipkins continued to talk up He Waka Eke Noa, the agriculture policy at risk after National pulled support for it earlier in the week. “It is important that we continue to move forward,” he noted, acknowledging that the relationship between government and the farming community can be, at times, tense.

The Bulletin: We’re taking longer overseas trips but fewer of them

Stats NZ released the latest net migration figures yesterday and they’re nearly back to pre-pandemic levels. 

For those us using the departure gates with the intention of returning, we’re taking fewer holidays but they’re longer. New Zealand travellers spent an average of 24 days abroad in the April 2023 year compared with an average of 19 days in the April 2019 year.

In the year ending in April, net migration climbed to 72,300 with a net gain of 98,400 non-New Zealand citizens. Monthly net migration gain fell to 5,800, less than half of the gains seen in February and March. You’ll recall there was a fair bit of talk just before the last OCR announcement about the impact of net migration on inflation, with predictions running both ways — we could be seeing a big sustained spike or we could be seeing pent-up demand that would even out.

Kiwibank senior economist Mary Jo Vergara says the surge over the past few months was likely due to pent-up demand, and she expected flows would ease over the coming year.

Panel announced to probe editorial processes at RNZ

Willy Akel will chair the review panel.

Media lawyer Willy Akel will chair an external panel tasked with reviewing RNZ editorial processes following revelations that stories from Reuters and the BBC had been “inappropriately edited”, most to add a pro-Kremlin slant. He is joined by another lawyer, Linda Clark, a former journalist at RNZ, and Alan Sunderland, former director of editorial standards at the ABC in Australia.

One RNZ digital editor has been stood down while the investigation into the edits, which now span 22 stories and mostly relate to Russia and Ukraine, is undertaken.

“The Board had concluded a review independent of RNZ was appropriate, and that drawing upon such expertise is the best way forward,” said RNZ chair Jim Mather in a statement. “We have tasked them to conduct a robust and comprehensive review of RNZ editorial processes. This is in the interest of achieving and protecting the highest standards of journalism at RNZ,” he said. “We are focused on restoring the public’s confidence in us.”

He said the terms of reference would “allow for rigorous scrutiny of RNZ’s editorial processes and examine factors and warning signs which led to international wire stories being subedited with inappropriate content, and then published.”

The full terms of reference are:

1. To review the circumstances around the inappropriate editing of wire stories discovered in June 2023, identify what went wrong, and recommend areas for improvement. This includes reviewing the handling of the complaint to the broadcasting minister from the Ukrainian community in October 2022.

2. To review the editorial controls, systems, and processes for the editing of online content at RNZ, assess their effectiveness, and recommend improvements.

3. To review RNZ editorial policy and practice and recommend improvements based on any relevant findings.

4. To advise the board on options for ensuring RNZ has processes in place to safeguard against misinformation or partiality in its news and current affairs content.

5. To advise the board on any other related matters that warrant further consideration.

Speaking on RNZ this morning, Mather said he expected the review to “leave no stone unturned”.

Willy Akel will chair the review panel.

Hipkins leads swarm of Labour MPs to Fieldays

PM Chris Hipkins in May 2023 (Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

Good morning from Fieldays. I’m feeling severely under-caffeinated after crawling into Hamilton behind a procession of farmers, but otherwise ready to bring you live updates from on the ground through until this afternoon. It’s also -1 degrees, and for some reason I opted for a fashion-forward coat look instead of just throwing on a puffer jacket. I’ll be keeping an eye out for any fashion displays from our political leaders today.

And speaking of politics, it’s set to be a big day for politicians across the parliamentary spectrum. It being an election year, all the major parties will be out in force vying for the rural vote. This year’s event is particularly important as it falls against the backdrop of tension over the government’s proposed He Waka Eke Noa emissions pricing scheme. More on that later.

It’s not just the prime minister attending Fieldays today. Chris Hipkins will be joined in Mystery Creek by a delegation of ministers, both high and low profile, from his caucus. Damien O’Connor, David Parker, Peeni Henare, Priyanca Radhakrishnan, Kieran McAnulty, Barbara Edmonds, Duncan Webb, Deborah Russell, Rachel Brooking, and Jo Luxton will all make appearances today.

Hipkins formally opened this year’s Fieldays events shortly before 8am today (a breach of protocol saw the flag raised before the pōwhiri had taken place, according to one attendee). He’ll then attend a business breakfast, before later visiting a number of stalls and speaking to the media.

Meanwhile, National’s Christopher Luxon will also be here later this morning, along with an expected busload (not an exaggeration) of Act MPs, who will be staggering their appearances over the rest of the week.