7 Oct 2014

Labour upset Govt funding Fed Farmers

7:03 am on 7 October 2014

Labour's primary industries spokesperson Damien O'Connor is furious the Government has been funding a farming lobby group that repeatedly attacked Labour's policies in the run-up to last month's general election.

Damien O'Connor.

Damien O'Connor. Photo: LABOUR PARTY

The Ministry for Primary Industries directly and through its Sustainable Farming Fund has given Federated Farmers more than $200,000 of taxpayer money over the past few years.

The public has helped pay for flights, part of the bill for attending an international sheep conference, leadership courses and open farm days.

Mr O'Connor said Federated Farmers kicked the Labour and Green parties at every opportunity during the election campaign while taking money from the National-led Government.

"There'll be many out there who share the view that this money is nothing more than a political bribe. And, in fact, there won't be many organisations that like to bite the hand that feeds them.

"This level of funding is quite disturbing when it's going to an organisation that is supposed to be apolitical."

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.

Nathan Guy. Photo: RNZ

Mr O'Connor said the federation's claim it is apolitical is untrue and the payments have confirmed his suspicion that the lobby group is the National Party in gumboots.

However, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy defending funding for Federated Farmers, saying money for open farm days has been well spent.

"I have been to some of those farm days - they have been hugely successful. One of the challenges that we have in the primary sector is to make sure that we are connecting with our urban cuzzies. And a big part of that is making sure that urban New Zealand understand how important the primary sector is to the New Zealand economy."

Federated Farmers issued a statement saying it is not dependent on Government money since its voluntary membership provides most of the federation's income.

It said it has gone through open and transparent application processes for the money it has received from the Ministry for Primary Industries.

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