New Zealand's environmental and economic future is being
threatened by the ''dire situation'' in the sheepmeat industry,
Environment Southland chairwoman Ali Timms believes.
Ms Timms raised her concerns yesterday with Primary
Industries Minister Nathan Guy, saying there was widespread
and growing concern in the community about the state of the
In a statement before the meeting, she said she was meeting
Mr Guy to discuss the ''real risks'' to the country's
environmental and economic future if the issues were not
resolved. The Government would face barriers in meeting its
economic growth agenda, and regional councils would struggle
to meet the water-quality goals of the national policy
statement on freshwater, she said.
While she was not asking the Government to directly
intervene, Ms Timms said she was pushing the case for
''national leadership'' as it would be difficult to meet the
freshwater targets of the NPS without the sheepmeat industry
having long-term viability. Southland and many other regions
were facing water-quality issues due to elevated nitrogen
levels. It was clear the generally less extensive nature of
red-meat farming helped to lower the overall environmental
footprint in rural Southland, she said.
The region has experienced a huge increase in dairy
conversions in the past 20 years, bringing environmental
Statistics released by LIC and DairyNZ in December last year
showed Southland had 11.1% of all dairy cows in New Zealand,
with 532,079 cows, a massive increase from the 170,323 in the
region in the 1998-99 season. In contrast, sheep numbers
dropped by 1.3 million in the period from 2007 to June 2012.
After the meeting, Mr Guy said the pair agreed the red-meat
industry was important to New Zealand and, particularly,
Southland. He was following the various discussions about the
future of the sector closely. Meat Industry Excellence was
developing a proposal for a meat industry summit and he would
support that process if it had broad support across the
He had also made it clear he was not prepared to intervene in
private business matters without broad sector support.
''We need to remember the Government doesn't own this
industry,'' he said.
If a significant portion of the sector offered a solution on
how to improve the industry, his door was ''always open''. He
would consider any proposals to maximise the value of meat
exports and achieve sustainable profits for farmers and
The Government was strongly supporting the industry through
the Primary Growth Partnership, and the Red Meat Profit
Partnership programme was the most comprehensive
collaboration across the sector that had ever been
undertaken, he said.
It was worth noting there were ''lots of positive signs'' for
the industry. The Ministry for Primary Industries' Situation
Outlook for the Primary Industries was updated earlier this
year and predicted meat exports would be $1.2 billion higher
than originally forecast.
Beef and Lamb New Zealand's latest forecast several weeks ago
also predicted better pricing and strong demand for sheepmeat
and beef products from key markets, he said.