Advocacy update: biodiversity and sequestration

// Biodiversity

Farmers are grappling with an unprecedented amount of new and proposed environmental rules. Here’s an update on what B+LNZ is doing to get the best outcomes for farmers.

image of mixed plantings on farm and sheep

An update from Andrew Morrison, Beef + Lamb New Zealand Chair

What’s B+LNZ doing about the proposed biodiversity legislation? 

We recently provided a submission jointly with Deer Industry New Zealand as part of the consultation on the exposure draft of the National Policy Statement on Indigenous Biodiversity (NPSIB). Thanks to the 300 or so farmers who answered our survey – the input was really valuable.

While minor changes have been made to the NPSIB, fundamental issues remain. Of key concern is the fact that the criteria for a Significant Natural Area (SNA) is still too broad and will capture all areas of native biodiversity on a farm. SNAs have the potential to seriously impact what farmers can do on their land and with huge swathes of farmland covered in native biodiversity this has enormous ramifications for our industry. 

What else are you doing about the biodiversity legislation and what can I do? 

B+LNZ continues to raise awareness of farmer concerns outside of the consultation process, including inviting Ministers and officials on-farm to see the practical implications of the NPSIB. We’ll keep pressuring the Government to reconsider the legislation and have not taken any option off the table. 

You can also contact your local MP to let them know the criteria for SNAs is still too broad and that more time and analysis is needed to get the rules right. You could also note that farmers are proud custodians of native biodiversity but the proposed legislation will potentially make this a liability.

Why is sequestration a focus? 

Simply put, farmers are sequestering carbon through trees on farms and should be rewarded for that.

The Climate Change Commission recently provided advice to the Government on the primary sector’s recommendation (through the He Waka Eke Noa partnership) for an emissions pricing system as an alternative to agriculture going into the ETS.

While the Commission ultimately supported a farm-level pricing system outside the ETS and felt this was the best approach to pricing agricultural emissions in the long term, they challenged the inclusion of sequestration within the He Waka Eke Noa pricing system.

They suggested the non-ETS sequestration included in the He Waka Eke Noa proposal could receive recognition through a separate system. They believed this would reduce complexity and could create inequality with other sectors that are not able to get similar sequestration recognised.  

Why are you advocating for sequestration to remain in the proposed system? 

Our key priority is ensuring that when farmers start to face a price on their emissions in 2025, they get proper recognition for their sequestration from day one. 

We strongly believe the best way to achieve this is through He Waka Eke Noa as we don’t think the regulatory change needed to give effect to the Climate Change Commission’s proposal could be ready in time and we can’t risk a gap. 

  • Farmers told us it’s currently very difficult to get post-1990 native vegetation in the ETS. 
  • While ultimately we’d like to improve the ETS, the reality is it will take many years to do this and there is a risk that the ETS would never include all the additional sequestration covered in He Waka Eke Noa. 
  • The Climate Change Commission has suggested setting up an alternative system to reward the wider environmental benefits of native vegetation like biodiversity. Again, while this would be great, we can’t see how this could be in place by 2025. 
  • We believe it would be much simpler and less costly overall to include sequestration in He Waka Eke Noa as this is already being set up – rather than trying to build a whole new separate system. There are tools out there already that allow farmers to measure their emissions and sequestration.

What else are you doing on sequestration and what can I do?  

We’re continuing to build awareness about why sequestration should remain within the system proposed by He Waka Eke Noa. We’re also lobbying the Government to invest more in better measurement methods for sequestration on farm. 

We encourage you to contact your local MP to emphasise that farmers should be rewarded for their sequestration. 

What else are you doing on climate change? 

B+LNZ’s priority over the last six months has been trying to keep agriculture out of the ETS and to set up a separate framework that, while not perfect, can be improved over time. 

We’re now working with Federated Farmers and DairyNZ on a strategy to tackle the methane reduction targets in the Climate Change Response (Zero Carbon) Amendment Act, which will be reviewed in 2024. The targets are too high and we will be looking to get them revised based on the latest science.

Find out more

Read more about our work on the methane reduction targets.