26 May 2017

Lack of science spending disappoints farmers

1:42 pm on 26 May 2017

Farmers say it's hard to argue with a Budget boost for lower-income families but there needs to be more investment in biological and environmental science.

William Rolleston

William Rolleston Photo: Supplied

Federated Farmers President William Rolleston said more emphasis should be placed on backing up farmers' efforts to improve water quality and environmental conditions with scientific research.

"We would have liked to have seen more priority ... on building up our scientific capability.

"I think it's really critical, that hard work that farmers have been doing in the environment space in terms of improving water quality.

"Farmers are working really hard there and that's backed up by investment in biological sciences and also environmental sciences.

He said was happy however with the extra $18.4m spend on biosecurity over four years and a $63m capital injection towards irrigation projects.

He had no quarrel with the Budget's focus on spending on public services and social investment, but said he would have preferred a reduction in the threshhold for the top tax rate and company tax.

"In terms of business tax we would have liked to have seen the government being a bit bolder and moved on business rates because we need to stay internationally competitive.

He said as conditions on the farm got better and Fonterra improved its dairy payout, paying down debt and consolidating a slush fund would be more important for farmers than ever.

Business New Zealand chief executive Kirk Hope backed that up, saying the Budget got a pass mark but could have gone further.

The lack of adjustment to the top tax threshold and leaving company tax rates unchanged were missed opportunities, Mr Hope said.

"What we wanted to be able to do was to remain internationally competitive.

"A tax cut for business would have done that. Over half a billion of the one-and-a-half billion surplus is contributed from the business tax rate.

Business New Zealand Chief Executive, Kirk Hope at its offices in Wellington

Business New Zealand chief exective Kirk Hope Photo: RNZ/Teresa Cowie

"So that's what we were hoping for - we didn't get that."

Mr Hope said changing corporate tax would have helped to stimulate greater business investment and growth.

He said the family packages and lower-income tax adjustments would stimulate consumer spending and flow through the economy, while spending on roads and rail and debt reduction would also be welcome.

Infrastructure has been another one of the government's centre pieces this budget with $4bn set aside for projects including repairing Kaikōura's roading, investing in Auckland's rail link and spending on new schools.