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Urban-rural vote split challenging

Published: 2:31PM Monday September 19, 2005 Source: RNZ

An urban-rural split revealed in election voting patterns will make it more of a challenge for Federated Farmers to do its job as a farm lobby group. 

That's the view of Federated Farmers president Charlie Pedersen. 

Election results have shown a strong rise in National Party support in provincial and rural areas while Labour's support remains solid in the cities. 

Pedersen says the vote reflects a growing urban rural split that has implications for Federated Farmers irrespective of who ends up as the government. 

He also says the lack of certainty in the election result will be an ongoing issue for whoever becomes the government. 

Central Otago high country farmer Gerry Eckhoff, who has lost his parliamentary position after two terms as an Act MP, sums up the town-country voting split in another way. He sees the split as between those who produce and those who consume. 

With the drop in support for Act, Eckhoff isn't high enough up the list to make it back to parliament. He admits to being a little saddened by that, and regrets that he won't have the chance to be an advocate for rural New Zealand as part of a government. 

But he feels he did make a contribution in his two terms as an opposition MP. 

Eckhoff played a leading role in campaigns that forced the government to change tack in two areas - the defeat of the so called "fart tax" that may have been imposed on farmers for greenhouse gas emissions from farm animals, and the government's decision to delay controversial legislation increasing public access along waterways.

Eckhoff says he has no immediate post-election plans, but with two sons running the farm he thinks it's highly likely he will be focussing some attention on the issues that pre-occupy high country farmers.