There are a range of environment policy challenges currently on the table including the Essential Freshwater policy proposals; the Emissions Trading Reform Bill and its implications for large scale afforestation; and the government rushing through Resource Management Act reform and a Forests Amendments Bill.
We have been meeting key MPs and Ministers from all political parties, and with senior officials from government agencies, to ensure sheep and beef farmers’ voices are heard.
While cautiously positive about the Government’s changes to the original Essential Freshwater reforms announced on 28 May, we still need to see the detail of the actual regulations before we can form a final view. It’s clear the devil will be in the detail: B+LNZ Preliminary Analysis of the Freshwater Policy Announcements (PDF, 666KB).
It is highly unusual for a government to make such a major policy announcement without releasing the regulations. We are urging the government to make these available as soon as possible and will be working to ensure the regulations match the policy intent of what was announced.
There are also areas that we need to clarify as the information released was very high level, including the new sediment standards, and definition of “intensity” to necessitate fencing in hill country fencing. We continue to have concerns in particular around the hill country winter forage cropping rules.
Over the last few weeks, B+LNZ has also been working intensively on the Emissions Trading Reform Bill.
The ETR bill will lift the cap on the carbon price. All analysis indicates that when this happens there will be an acceleration in the conversion of sheep and beef farms into forestry. Carbon farming will become more profitable in some parts of the country, because of distortions created by the carbon price.
We are seeking a mechanism in the bill so future governments can limit the amount of forestry offsets available to fossil fuel emitters, if either they or the Climate Change Commission become concerned about the negative impacts on rural communities.
While there is recognition of our concern, so far the Government has been unwilling to include a clear and robust mechanism and this is increasingly frustrating.
B+LNZ is also deeply concerned about proposed changes to the Resource Management Act currently being considered by Parliament, which may impact on people’s ability to comment on new regional rules, and last-minute proposed changes that would allow regional councils to consider climate change issues as part of the planning and consenting process.
B+LNZ, in conjunction with a number of other agricultural organisations, has written to Ministers, raising our concerns specifically about the climate change amendments. They were inserted very late in the process with no time for adequate consideration of their implications, and there is a strong argument that New Zealand’s climate change targets are an issue for national-scale policy direction rather than through splintered regional planning processes.
More broadly, B+LNZ is concerned by indications the Government is considering further changes to the RMA that would bring in a new era of centralised land use decision making based around a Council’s interpretation of land use suitability: effectively determining what can be done where, how, and when. We will keep watching this space and intervene wherever we can to preserve flexibility of land use within environmental limits.
This week, B+LNZ also joined the Forestry Association and other organisations such as Federated Farmers to raise concerns about the Forests Amendment Bill.
Our concerns here are not related to our concerns about large scale afforestation. The Forests Amendment Bill, as currently proposed, would enable the government to intervene deeply in the market for buying and selling of logs in New Zealand.
The Government would have the power to effectively dictate the terms of sale of logs, including ultimately placing restrictions on the export of logs. B+LNZ is concerned about the precedent set by this from a systemic perspective. If market controls and export restrictions are placed on one sector, it is paving the way for the same controls to be placed on other sectors in the future.
B+LNZ hosted a webinar on Thursday 18 June at 3pm for farmers to find out more about the Essential Freshwater policy announcement, and Emissions Trading Reform Bill, and what B+LNZ is doing on your behalf.
We will continue to keep you informed of developments.