Labor and National MPs who recently toured Europe say they have succeeded in convincing many MEPs that Fonterra is not a threat to their dairy farmers and assured them that New Zealand has reached the “peak of cow”.
Five MPs recently toured Europe as part of a high-level presidents’ delegation, which came as negotiations for a free trade agreement (FTA) between New Zealand and the EU European Union seemed to be coming to an end.
MPs told 1News on Thursday they had spent much of their trip talking about New Zealand’s dairy industry and reassuring their European counterparts.
National Agriculture spokeswoman Barbara Kuriger said she needed to explain to European politicians that New Zealand’s dairy sector and milk supply are “not going up and going up” because that the environmental capacity is at its limit.
“We kind of had to say listen if we make a deal, we’re not going to double our milk production tomorrow and come and flood it into your market.”
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Kuriger said he explained to his counterparts that a lot of people think we have too many cows in New Zealand and “in some watersheds we probably have them”.
Speaker of Parliament Trevor Mallard said their key message was that ‘New Zealand has reached the peak of the cow’.
“We’re not going to produce a whole bunch of extra milk that could flood their markets.”
Information obtained by the ACT party shows that the trip had a budget of $211,000, or just over $40,000 per MP, although the final costs are not yet known.
ACT leader David Seymour said MPs appeared to be spending a lot of time touring and visiting historic places and it amounted to a taxpayer-funded vacation, while many New Zealanders are struggling with the cost of living crisis.
“If people seriously believe that paying $40,000 for a few unfamiliar politicians to go halfway around the world where no one will recognize them somehow helps New Zealand, then I think we we have way too much faith in what politicians can actually achieve,” he said.
But Mallard said if the free trade agreement (FTA) is quickly ratified, the benefits to New Zealand’s economy could be huge.
“$200,000 versus $1 billion, I think the only regret I have frankly is that [ACT MP] Mark Cameron, who was another farmer, I would have loved to have him on the trip, and Mr Seymour wouldn’t let him come and help New Zealand.”
The ACT party says it was a caucus decision for Cameron not to make the trip.
Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern leaves for Europe on Sunday in hopes of pushing through the free trade deal.
A second cross-party parliamentary delegation is also leaving for Europe this week, with the participation of Labor and National MPs as well as a Green MP.