The agriculture showcase is a massive deal for rural New Zealand – and an important fixture in the political calendar.
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.
And it’s big?
The largest event of its kind in the southern hemisphere.
And it’s on now?
It opened this morning, and runs until Saturday. More info, if you want to attend, can be found here.
New Zealand loves farming and agriculture – is that why Fieldays makes the news every year?
It’s more about what Fieldays represents and who it attracts – from a political perspective. Fieldays often sets the scene for a showdown between both ends of the parliamentary spectrum over how to support farmers while also acknowledging it’s not the “greenest” sector. As farming is often considered the “backbone of our country” (dairy, for example, is our largest export goods sector), politicians want to avoid damaging the relationship between Wellington and rural New Zealand. In an election year, like this year, you can expect that showdown to be even more toughly fought.
Tell me more…
Broadly, politicians are always trying to out-farmer one another. National often tries to position itself as the party of farmers and has traditionally been seen as such by the sector. Earlier this year, party leader Christopher Luxon unveiled a “getting back to farming” policy that he said would cut through red tape. “When farmers succeed, New Zealand succeeds,” he said. Just this week he was out in his gummies meeting farm workers north of Auckland (a photo opportunity that was somewhat overshadowed by Luxon describing New Zealand as “wet, whiny and negative”).
Meanwhile, one of Act’s newest recruits, Andrew Hoggard, is a big name in the farming sector due to his prior involvement with Federated Farmers. The party already had reason to boast about its rural credentials with “proud farmer” Mark Cameron elected in 2020. Act was also one of the most vocally supportive of Groundswell protests across the country last year, when tractors rolled into main cities.
I’d forgotten about those protests…
They are often used as an example of how Labour has in recent times struggled to win over farmers. That being said, some of the protests were overshadowed by, well, other protestors.
The current Labour government has faced flak for policies seen as costly and burdensome for farmers. But even still, last year’s amendments to the proposed He Waka Eke Noa emissions scheme were an attempted push back on this, with then prime minister Jacinda Ardern saying this was developed in consultation with farmers and growers. See, all parties just really want to claim they’re the farming party.
We’re going to hear a lot more about He Waka Eke Noa at this year’s Fieldays, aren’t we?
Absolutely. National this week announced it was U-turning (or, as the Herald wryly said, “moo turning”) on its support for the proposal and would be bumping out any emissions pricing timeline by at least five years to 2030, which pissed off the Greens. Expect this issue to come up a lot.
So Fieldays is going to be extra political this year?
For sure. It’s election year, baby.
Prime minister Chris Hipkins will be in Hamilton today and tomorrow, accompanied by a horde of lower profile ministers. “I want the primary sector to know my government remains committed to partnering with them to grow New Zealand’s export value by meeting the changing values of consumers abroad who are increasingly interested in the environmental credentials of the products they are buying,” said Hipkins in a statement.
National’s Christopher Luxon is attending, too, almost certainly in the Red Band gumboots he wore when meeting with farmers on Monday. According to Business Desk, Act will be bringing a whole busload of its MPs (literally, there will be a bus). And even James Shaw, unlikely to receive the warmest of welcomes, will show face in support of He Waka Eke Noa.
Where can I read more about Fieldays?
Our live updates are on the ground at Mystery Creek today, and there’ll be more on The Spinoff tomorrow morning.