Environment policy update 10 June 2021

// Climate Change

There has been a lot happening recently in key areas of environment policy. The following email has been sent to farmers.

image of farmers

We wanted to update you on some key areas of environment policy work of concern to farmers, as there has been a lot happening recently.

Climate Change Commission final advice

  • Yesterday the Climate Change Commission’s final advice to the Government was released. It includes proposed greenhouse gas emissions reduction budgets and advice on policies that could achieve those budgets.
  • Over the next few months, the Government will consider the advice and is expected to announce in December what it intends to take on board.
  • We’re still digesting the 400-odd pages of the final advice but it appears the Commission has taken our feedback on board in some areas, such as the need for limits on carbon offsetting through exotic forestry and the need to revise their assumptions about possible future productivity and efficiency gains for the sheep and beef sector, which is pleasing.
  • However there remain areas of concern, specifically four key areas.
  • First, the levels of projected exotic forestry planting. This remains a major focus for B+LNZ. While the Commission has strengthened its advice on the need to amend the ETS to manage afforestation, the Commission is still forecasting on average 25,000ha per year of exotic forests to be planted over the next decade. It’s vital that the Government place limits on forestry offsets soon because as the carbon price rises the amount of sheep and beef land sold into carbon farming will increase. We will be putting forward policy options for limiting offsetting in the coming weeks.
  • Second, the levels of methane reduction being proposed. While the Commission has not recommended a change to the targets in law, we remain concerned that through the budgets it has recommended the Commission is effectively shifting the goalposts on targets that are already too high. We will be engaging with the Government on this.
  • Third, the lack of reporting on the significantly different warming impact of various gases and the lack of recognition of the progress our sector has already made. B+LNZ is calling on the Commission and the Government to start reporting on the warming impact of different gases, rather than on emissions based on GWP100 which does not adequately represent the intergenerational impact of changes to methane emissions versus reductions in carbon dioxide. Total methane emissions in New Zealand have contributed little additional warming since the early 2000s. However, the GWP100 metric implies that agriculture contributes to half of the emissions produced in New Zealand. We’ll continue to advocate for better reporting.
  • And fourth, the levels of livestock reductions projected for sheep, beef and dairy cattle. We know this remains an area of concern for farmers and will continue advocating for more nuanced solutions that take into account the Paris Agreement’s requirements around not threatening food production.
  • There’s more information about our initial response in the media release on our website. Read it here.
  • B+LNZ (in collaboration with other industry organisations) has been engaging closely with the Commission over the last year to present evidence and influence their advice and now we will be focused on engaging with the Government as it considers the Commission’s recommendations.

Biodiversity – particularly Significant Natural Areas

  • We have been working on Significant Natural Areas (SNAs) and the Indigenous Biodiversity National Policy Statement (NPS) over the last few months and have recently had meetings with Minister Shaw and the Director-General of the Department of Conservation to raise farmers’ concerns, in particular the mapping of SNAs on the West Coast and Northland.
  • Farmers are justifiably concerned because in these regions SNAs constitute a significant proportion of their farms (in many cases up to 60-80 percent), and there is currently no certainty about what they can do on that land.
  • In our recent meetings we have called for a pause on the mapping of new SNAs until there is clarity. We sent out a media release last week which sets out our position. Read it here.
  • A leaked email last week indicates the Government is intending to ask regional and district councils to pause any new mapping.
  • This week we also held four highly attended workshops with farmers in Northland to help them provide feedback – and push-back – to their council on SNAs.
  • For the last year B+LNZ has been successfully advocating for the NPS on Indigenous Biodiversity (first consulted on in 2019) to be delayed. Farmers have too much to deal with on essential freshwater and climate change.
  • This remains our primary view. We’re pushing for this to be delayed until at least the end of the year.
  • In parallel we’re working with Federated Farmers to get changes to the original proposals.
  • In particular, the definition of an SNA needs to be narrowed so that it doesn’t cover entire farms and the language needs to be clarified so that agricultural production and biodiversity protection can co-exist.
  • Our overarching principle is that any biodiversity policies should ensure that biodiversity on farms are an asset and not a liability. One of the ways we’re trying to achieve this is through getting recognition for sequestration by native trees on farms.

Low slope map for stock exclusion

  • A couple of weeks ago, the Chairs of B+LNZ, Federated Farmers, Deer Industry New Zealand and DairyNZ wrote jointly to Ministers again raising their concerns about the low slope map for stock exclusion.
  • In the letter we laid out our concerns about the inaccuracies of the map released as part of the essential freshwater policies in August 2019 and we put forward an alternative proposal of a general rule at the regional level.
  • We have had some encouraging discussions with the Government and believe it should be possible to find a practical way forward.

Integrated farm planning guidance from the Government

  • This week the Government released guidance on integrated farm planning.
  • The key thing farmers need to know is that this isn’t regulatory, and the industry is already working on this kind of integrated approach through our recently released farm plan and our work with processing companies on the New Zealand Farm Assurance Programme.
  • The Government has published this guidance on integrated farm planning to encourage the simplification and streamlining of farm planning.
  • We agree with the principle and will look at the guidance to see if there is anything in it that we could bring across to our farm plan as it evolves.
  • We’ll continue to ensure our farm planning approach is farmer-led and farmer-tested, that information recorded by farmers adds value to the business and can be used for multiple outcomes and that privacy is controlled by individual farmers.
  • The integrated approach of B+LNZ’s new farm plan environment module covers soils, freshwater ecosystem health, forage cropping, climate change and biodiversity. Other modules will be added over time.

We'll keep advocating on these issues and working closely with other industry organisations to get sensible and workable outcomes for farmers.