Bill will impact sector significantly

The way New Zealand farms operate is something this country should be proud of. PHOTO: ODT FILES
The way New Zealand farms operate is something this country should be proud of. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Government legislation must not result in a reduction in farming production and cause damage to local communities, writes David Surveyor.

As a farmer-owned red meat co-operative, we are fielding many questions from concerned farmers about the impact of the Zero Carbon Bill.

Our shareholders from the North Island to the deep south include sheep, beef, venison and dairy farmers.

Alliance supports the ambition of the Bill to establish a framework to reduce emissions so New Zealand is contributing to limit the global average temperature increase to 1.58degC above pre-industrial levels. The Paris Agreement also specifically speaks to protecting food production - the world needs protein to feed its people.

While we are committed to looking after the environment, we also support the men, women and children that make up New Zealand's rural communities and have grave concerns about any policy that negatively impacts them.

We believe the impacts on people in regional New Zealand have not been properly explained. It's critical Kiwis are able to understand the ramifications of these proposals.

As the global population grows, the world is demanding more of our pasture-raised food. If we are to be a country that aspires to be good for the world, then we need a profitable and thriving rural sector to produce sustainable food.

The way New Zealand farms operate is something this country should be proud of. Our farmers produce nutritious and fantastic food the world wants to eat. We should celebrate what we do best.

We are ready to play our part and we recently set a goal of ending the use of coal at our plants within 10 years. However, it should be on a fair and equitable basis.

Proposed methane targets should be made based on scientific analysis and a total impact assessment. The methane targets should not exceed New Zealand and global scientific advice. We are being asked to act on the climate science when the Bill itself ignores the science on methane.

The emissions targets ignore native trees and riparian planting by farmers. The Bill refuses to consider these as consuming carbon when the science of photosynthesis is obvious. We are discounting the good behaviour of farmers who are looking after the environment.

Instead, the Bill rewards industrial polluters that buy land and convert it from food production to forestry and then keep on polluting. We should be raising the targets for these emitters to reduce actual pollution, rather than supporting buying up and converting productive farming land.

The "Net Zero'' target for CO2 emissions will accelerate the conversion of productive pasture-based land used for food production to pine forest.

The forecast rise in the price of carbon incentivises this conversion when farmers are unable to use their own planting to offset methane emissions on their land.

The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment estimates this would result in at least half the pastoral land currently used by the beef and sheep sector being converted to pine forest by 2070.

New Zealand has among the most efficient and sustainable farming systems in the world. Our sheep and beef sector has already become more efficient at delivering our products, reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 30% since 1990, and we are continuing to improve our environmental footprint.

We should recognise what has been done and ensure any targets are based on an achievable rate of change.

Without a technology solution, the sector will in effect be hit with a tax to raise revenue without any climate benefit. We need effective solutions and the ability to improve faster.

The Bill threatens to move production from New Zealand to other countries with less sustainable farming systems, and will likely increase global emissions.

The proposals will affect the viability of many sheep and beef farms, rural communities and the red meat processing sector, which generates $8.8billion in export revenue and employs approximately 26,000 people.

Alliance employs almost 5000 people and in many cases our plants are among the largest employers in the towns they are located.

We are New Zealand's largest sheepmeat processor and exporter.

With no suitable technology to reduce methane, the current emissions reduction target of 10% by 2030 proposed will result in the equivalent of 10% less stock available for processing and the commensurate number of job losses.

A vaccine to reduce methane gas may come along, and when it does then it might be sensible to review policy.

If the Government is serious about protecting food production in New Zealand, it needs to ensure legislation does not result in a reduction in farming production and damage to our local communities.

We want a reasoned discussion so Kiwis can see the full consequences of the Bill are balanced with its impact on farming, food, employment and local communities.

Alliance Group supports the intent of the Zero Carbon Bill, but an approach without a well-described path for implementation, puts the wellbeing of the primary sector and New Zealand at risk.

David Surveyor is chief executive of the Alliance Group.



Forget complex legislation, just confiscate any farm that pollutes and throw the offender onto the street where they can take a break from all that hard work and enjoy the good life on the dole for a while. According to farmers it is only two or three bad farmers causing the problems so it won't be a big impact.




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