CEO Note – Busy time on climate, water, and biodiversity

With the government’s consultation on their freshwater proposals having finished last week and their recent announcement of the adoption of He Waka Eke Noa – the Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment, it’s been an incredibly busy few months in the policy space for Beef + Lamb New Zealand.
Thursday, 7 November 2019

That hectic pace isn’t likely to let up either, with more to still be done around the freshwater proposals as the government starts to consider all the feedback farmers provided, the Zero Carbon Bill, which passed its third reading in Parliament yesterday, and a new draft National Policy Statement on Biodiversity due out before the end of the year that will have implications for sheep and beef farmers.

Over the past couple of months, we’ve run nearly 30 events attended by approximately 3,500 farmers – all focused on the environmental issues facing the sector and the policy responses that the government has proposed. This roadshow has been invaluable not just for us to update farmers on what’s going on in this space, but to also hear directly from farmers about how they will be impacted by what’s being proposed. Thank you to all of you who provided useful advice for our submission but also thank you to all of you who submitted on the freshwater proposals. Your input and response adds weight to what we’re able to do on your behalf. 

Many of these events we’ve run with our industry partners, and while we don’t always agree on the response to these policies, we focus first on collaborating where we have commonalities. For example, He Waka Eke Noa and the Food & Fibre Skills Action Plan 2019-2022 are both examples of cross-sector collaboration where we’ve worked together as a sector to get wins with the government. We can’t do this on everything, but wherever we can, we’ll continue to work together closely for the benefit of our farmers and the wider sector.

In other areas, we’re seeing the conversation shift too. There has been a significant effort in partnership with farmers to raise concerns with government around the impacts of increasing afforestation on sheep and beef farms. Work like the Wairoa Report that we commissioned to model job losses in rural communities from blanket afforestation has been followed up by in-depth media coverage, and we’re seeing the government become more aware of the unintended consequences of their policies in this area.

There’s more water to run under the bridge on the freshwater proposals, and in the coming weeks we’ll continue to engage at a range of levels to raise concerns around the policies, including releasing research into the economic impact of the water proposals on the sheep and beef sector that we used in B+LNZ’s submission during the consultation. You should continue to engage with your local MP and take them through your submission. Helping them understand the implications is still useful in seeking to influence the final outcome.

We’re also working on other initiatives to better tell the story of New Zealand farming, including explaining our unique environmental footprint, as while we have areas we need to improve in, too often we’re lumped in with statistics from overseas that don’t have any relevance to the way we farm here.

The most powerful stories throughout all of this are those that you, as farmers, can share about what you’re doing on farm, as a catchment, and in your communities, to improve the environment. We’re committed to owning our issues and addressing them, and the more we can show first-hand examples to the rest of New Zealand, the better placed we are to have a seat at the table for the policy decisions that impact us.

As  always, please continue to give us your feedback and ideas for how we can represent you better on key issues.

Sam McIvor
Chief executive