In the run-up to the general election, Federated Farmers have sounded a clarion call, highlighting their concerns about questionable deals and extravagant Government expenditure.
At the heart of their grievances lies a contentious proposal by the Ministry for the Environment (MfE) to allocate up to $600,000 over three years to non-governmental organizations (NGOs) participating in resource management and freshwater reform processes.
Mark Hooper, a spokesperson for Federated Farmers on the Resource Management Act (RMA), voiced their reservations.
"Federated Farmers were approached to participate in the pilot program and were presented with an alarmingly short timeline - a rush job of 4 weeks just so it can be completed before the election," he said.
The rush, Hooper contends, raises concerns about the transparency and prudence of government spending so close to a major election.
"This doesn’t pass the sniff test for us at this stage of the political cycle, so we are turning the money down out of principle and we’re calling on other organizations to do the same."
The controversy deepens as the government's RMA and water reforms have sparked intense debate. The Opposition has pledged to repeal these laws if they emerge victorious in the upcoming election.
"It seems financially reckless to be looking to sign contracts just weeks before an election, particularly when there is a chance these programs will be scrapped altogether."
The urgency displayed by the Ministry has left many questioning the motives behind this rapid push.
"I want to know why the Ministry is in such a hurry.
"There is absolutely no reason why this needs to be rushed through before the election."
Federated Farmers are now urging the government to immediately postpone this pilot process or consider scrapping it altogether.
"Is this really the sort of thing the government should be funding in the first place?" Hooper queried.
He went on to question the necessity of the government allocating hundreds of thousands of dollars to select lobby groups for their engagement in policy processes.
"If the government really believes the only way people are going to be able to engage with their policy processes is if they have a six-figure war chest, that tells you everything about how complex and broken these government reforms are."
In lieu of state-funded support for NGOs, Hooper argued that the government should prioritize the development of a policy process that local communities can genuinely engage with.
"Federated Farmers will continue to engage in these processes as the independent voice of farmers," Hooper affirmed, "but we won’t be doing it with taxpayer funding."
As the debate rages on, it remains to be seen how the government will respond to the concerns raised by Federated Farmers and whether this expenditure will come under further scrutiny in the lead-up to the election.