MPs tell worried European farmers 'NZ has reached peak cow'

The Labour and National MPs who recently toured Europe say they managed to convince many European MPs that Fonterra is not a threat to their dairy farmers and assured them New Zealand has reached 'peak cow'.

Five MPs recently toured Europe as part of a top-level Speaker's delegation, which took place as free trade agreement (FTA) negotiations between New Zealand and the European Union appeared to be nearing conclusion.

The MPs told 1News on Thursday they spent much of their trip talking about New Zealand's dairy industry and reassuring their European counterparts.

National's agriculture spokesperson Barbara Kuriger said that she had to explain to politicians in Europe that New Zealand's dairy sector and milk supply are no longer "going up and up and up" because environmental capacity is at its limit.

"We had to sort of say look if we do a deal, we're not going to double our milk production tomorrow and come up and flood it into your market."

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Kuriger said she explained to her counterparts that many people feel we have too many cows in New Zealand and that "in some catchments we probably do".

Parliament's Speaker Trevor Mallard said their key message was that "New Zealand has reached peak cow".

"We're not going to produce a whole pile of extra milk which can swamp their markets."

Information obtained by the ACT Party shows the trip had a budget of $211,000, or just over $40,000 per MP, although final costs are not yet in.

ACT's leader David Seymour said the MPs appeared to spend a lot of time sight-seeing and visiting historic places and it amounted to a tax payer-funded holiday, while many New Zealanders are struggling with the cost of living crisis.

"If people seriously believe that paying 40 grand for a few poorly-known politicians to go to the other side of the world where no one will even recognise them is somehow helping New Zealand then I think we've got far too much faith in what politicians can actually achieve," he said.

But Mallard said if the free trade agreement (FTA) is swiftly ratified then the benefits to the New Zealand economy could be enormous.

"$200,000 against a $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 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 go on the trip.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern leaves for Europe on Sunday hoping to get the Free Trade Agreement over the line.

A second cross-party Parliamentary delegation is also leaving for Europe this week, with Labour and National MPs as well as one Green MP taking part.