The ACT Party's Ag Spokespeople Mark Cameron and Andrew Hoggard concluded their 'Heartland Tour' on Thursday last week. The pair were joined by fellow MP Nicole McKee, the trio spent a few weeks visiting rural New Zealanders across the country to better understand what they feel they need from a Government.
'Standing up for rural New Zealand' is the tagline of the tour and Andrew Hoggard told REX Today host Dominic George that while the tour is focused on rural issues, he was surprised by the lack of agricultural-policy based questions.
"Most of the questions are about education, justice, crime, that sort of stuff," he said.
"Everyone is really worried about what they see happening in those spaces and what's going wrong with this country."
The most common discussions they had were focused predominantly on the cost of living, crime and co-governance, and Hoggard said there was a real concern around the current economy for farmers especially, who are seeing the highest on-farm inflation in 40 years.
"I've heard of people who, thanks to the bank margins, are up to 12% interest rates on their mortgages and that putting a hell of a lot of pressure on people.
"When you're paying that much in interest rate, when all your farm expenses have gone up, there's probably not much left in the kitty to actually pay for all those other things that you'd like to spend money on in life."
Another major frustration for rural Kiwis, Hoggard said, is the amount of paper work and extra steps that are being added on to their already extremely busy jobs. Things like Countdown asking farmers to provide specific emissions data in order to reduce the supermarket chains carbon footprint are only making farmers more frustrated is the general consensus he concluded.
"At the end of the day New Zealand farmers are the most carbon efficient in the world and it just seems ridiculous to me that we seem to be jumping through more hoops than any other farmers in the world in terms of maintaining that position."
With the national election only a few months away, he told George the ACT Party are seeing a number of prospective voters who had previously voted for Labour now more interested in ACT's policies.
"One third of the new support we're picking up is actually people who previously voted Labour.
"People are just really concerned about a whole range of issues that they were never asked about when they voted Labour last time."
Listen to the full chat between ACT Ag Spokesperson Andrew Hoggard and Dominic George above.