Tonight’s event is one of the best demonstrations possible of farmers caring for their land and wanting to leave it in a better state for future generations.
It’s an event I’m proud to support and champion loudly to as many New Zealanders as possible.
This year has seen tensions rise between farmers and your critics and this is likely to continue as we get closer to the election. Tonight I want to say a few words about how we can tackle this divide and tell our story.
Agriculture’s importance to New Zealand
There’s no doubt that agriculture has permanently changed New Zealand’s environment, and frankly, it’s indefensible to argue otherwise.
How else could you introduce ovines, bovines and countless other species to an ecosystem once only dominated by birds and expect nothing to happen? In fact, all human activity has had a massive impact on New Zealand’s environment.
However it is equally true that agriculture has become one of the enduring characters of New Zealand’s national psyche.
Alongside our well-known Number 8 wire mentality for finding practical solutions, it has also formed the backbone of our economy.
Farming has allowed us to build countless schools, hospitals and roads, and enjoy a standard of living envied across the globe.
And as the Budget last week showed, our economy is good health – and a strong primary sector is a critical part of that. Without it, we wouldn’t have been able to afford the families income package, health increases, educations increases and everything else we announced.
In general, I think most New Zealanders know that and want farming to succeed and do well.
A few weeks ago I made a comment about not being able to double the amount of cows in New Zealand which attracted a bit of attention.
For some people, my comments were surprising and seen as a ‘flip-flop.’ That’s because many believe a myth that this Government somehow determines who farms what, and has a preference for dairy.
Of course, this myth ignores the role of regional councils in setting environmental limits and granting consents, and more importantly the role of the farmer who alone makes the decision and carries the risk associated with their business.
For any farmers reading those articles, my comments about not being able to double the number of cows was obvious. Farmers have a better understanding of their land and its limits than anyone else.
As I look around the room tonight, I can attest that farmers are environmentalists, and their land is their legacy.
An environmentally sustainable farming operation is not just a source of pride within the community; it’s an asset to pass down to future generations.
Some of the recent attacks on farmers are deeply unfair and it frustrates me that some people believe farmers are destroying their land and the country.
It was incredibly disheartening to read a recent article that showed some school children were being bullied for coming from a dairy farming family.
It’s also disappointing to hear calls to put a ‘cap’ on the number of dairy cows in the country. This is cynical politics for a number of reasons.
First, it deliberately isolates one particular farming type as the sole cause of water quality issues in New Zealand. These issues have built up over decades from a variety of land uses, both rural and urban, and will take decades to fix.
Second, it’s naïve to the yearly event of calving, where the population of cows almost doubles in a short space of time.
Finally, it ignores the process by which the impact of farming on our environment is regulated. That is, at a regional council level, managed on a catchment-by-catchment basis.
That is how we are going to achieve our goal of having 90% of rivers swimmable by 2040.
Around three quarters of our waterways across the country are in good shape, and achieving our goal of 90% will be a long-term project that will cost the country around $2 billion – that’s taxpayers, ratepayers and farmers.
We are going to achieve it in a practical, realistic and sustainable way that doesn’t ruin our economy at the same time. This is a long term issue and we’re all in it together.
A huge amount of work has already gone in with new rules, standards and monitoring which simply didn’t exist 10 years ago. Around $450 million has been committed towards freshwater clean-up projects.
In recent years there has been a huge reduction in pollution entering our lakes and rivers from dairy sheds, factories and town effluent systems, and billions has been spent on upgrades.
There is also a huge investment in science and good ideas from both Government and industry looking for new technologies and ways to improve farming practices.
The benefits of irrigation
Another example of myths and mistruths is irrigation.
As part of this year’s Budget, we’ve announced additional $90 million of funding. This includes grant funding of $26.7 million over the next three years, plus a capital boost of $63 million towards irrigation investment.
Of course, there are many inconvenient truths about irrigation for critics.
A reliable water supply for growers and farmers has major potential to boost economic growth, creating jobs and exports in the regions. At the same time these schemes can deliver real environmental benefits by maintaining river flows and recharging groundwater aquifers.
Let’s have a look at the proposed Ruataniwha project. Groups like Greenpeace would have you believe this will lead to large swaths of the Hawkes Bay becoming dairy country.
In fact, dairy is only expected to account for 22 per cent of the water take from the scheme.
The new Hawkes Bay Regional Council commissioned a review of all the science and decisions behind the dam.
The report concluded that it’s more likely the local community would achieve the ambitious environmental objectives of the Plan Change 6 with the dam than without the dam.
I could give numerous other examples, like Central Plains Water which is taking pressure off groundwater sources and will improve water flows into Lake Ellesmere - Te Waihora, helping the long-term process of improving its water quality.
Or the Waimea Community Dam near Nelson which would reduce nitrate leaching by converting land from pasture to apples.
There’s also a strong contradiction from some critics who warn to expect more volatile weather from global warming such as droughts, but then would deny farmers an essential tool to help them mitigate the impacts of it.
Telling our story
While some of us might disagree with the views of those who are opposed to farming, there’s one thing we can’t disagree with: they are very effective at getting their views across.
As farmers, we tend to lie down too easily. Being humble is a source of pride.
It was recently pointed out to me in a letter that farmers were taking too much of an unfair kicking, and so as the Primary Industries Minister what the hell I was doing about it?
My answer was that I’ll continue working my butt off, but if we really want a message to change the public perception of farming, it can’t just come from a politician like me.
It's going to need to come straight from the woolsheds and dairy sheds.
It's going to need to be from someone in a swanndri, not a suit.
It’s going to need to come from the people in the room tonight.
Who else is going to explain that farmers have spent over $1 billion of their own money towards environmental measures on farm.
Who else is going to explain that farmers have fenced enough waterways to cover the distance from Auckland to Chicago and then back again.
And it’s also important to understand that while farming may not be the sexiest thing around, food is.
Maybe we stop calling ourselves farmers, and introduce ourselves as food producers?
My challenge to all of you here is to set yourself some goals of promoting your industry to your friends and family who might not know that much about it.
In the age of social media, everyone here has the ability to influence public opinion more than you’d think.
For example, this weekend I’m organising my family to plant trees on our farm. We need to Tweet or Facebook pictures of the work we are doing for our land.
You might think it’s nothing, but it’s one small way you can demonstrate the environmental progress we are making.
But just before you think there’ll be some point where we all live in harmony, remember this: this debate won’t end - it won’t go away.
Farmers and environmental activists will never fully agree.
If farmer agrees with the activist they have no cows. If the activist agrees with the farmers, the public have no reason to donate to them to advocate.
The answer is finding that balance in the middle ground.
We’re sometimes quick to dismiss criticism of our industries as coming from ’soft townies.’ We shouldn’t forget that ‘soft townies’ are the consumers buying all our products.
As I’ve always said, our goal is not to double the volume of our exports, but double the value of our exports.
We feed around 40 million people around the world – we’ll never be able to feed 80 million, so we need to feed 40 of the wealthiest million people.
Of course, this is much easier said than done. The wealthiest consumers are also the most aware. They want to know more detail about the products they eat.
They want to know how their food is produced in a safe and environmentally sustainable way.
They don’t just buy the food, they buy the story.
And if we don’t come out of our shells, someone else will tell that story for you.
As a Government we are firm believers we can grow the economy and improve the economy at the same time.
It’s not enough to say that we can have both operating in unison - in fact, for the sake of the country, we must.
Finally, congratulations again to all the Regional Winners tonight and to the National winner and recipients of the Gordon Stephenson Trophy for 2017 – Peter and Nicole Carver from Taranaki. They are passionate about the sustainability of their land and will be fantastic ambassadors for the primary sector.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Associate Minister Louise Upston have announced $3.3 million in new funding for eight climate change research projects in the agriculture, horticulture and forestry sectors.
The research projects were approved by the Ministry for Primary Industries under its Sustainable Land Management and Climate Change (SLMACC) research programme.
“This funding plays an important part in helping our primary industries prepare for the future challenges of climate change,” says Mr Guy.
“The information we obtain through these research projects help us better understand the effects that climate change has on our primary sectors, and to make informed decisions for the future.
“There is a high calibre of research projects approved for funding. For example, AgResearch will be looking at the energy efficiency of livestock agrifood products through their lifecycle to overseas markets. Another project will look at the potential impact of climate change on where different horticultural industries are based.”
Four of the eight projects involve the forestry industry.
“In one of these projects, Landcare Research New Zealand will be looking at the best options for land use following radiata pine harvesting in the Gisborne District, and looking at the potential of less common forest species for off-setting greenhouse gas emissions,” Ms Upston says.
“Forestry is one of New Zealand’s largest and cheapest forms of carbon storage and will play a major role in adapting to climate change. These projects have an important role in building our knowledge and preparing for the future.”
A full list of successful projects receiving funding through SLMACC is available at http://mpi.govt.nz/funding-and-programmes/forestry/sustainable-land-management-and-climate-change-research-programme/.
The wine industry has become the fourteenth industry sector to join the Government Industry Agreement (GIA) biosecurity partnership, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced today.
“It’s very good news to have New Zealand Winegrowers working with the Ministry for Primary Industries and other industry partners on biosecurity,” says Mr Guy.
“It means we can work together on preventing, managing and responding to the most important risks like Pierce’s Disease and Brown Marmorated Stink Bug.
“This shows the wine industry takes biosecurity seriously and wants to work collaboratively with MPI on preparedness and responses.
“As the recent Biosecurity 2025 Direction Statement outlines, biosecurity is a shared responsibility. We need everyone working together sharing their expertise and experience.
“Last week I was proud to announce an $18 million boost to biosecurity in Budget 2017, meaning the total biosecurity budget is now just under a quarter of a billion – the highest ever.”
The signing of the agreement was attended by Mr Guy at a ceremony in Parliament tonight.
New Zealand’s wine exports are worth around $1.6 billion a year.
Other signatories to the GIA include:Vegetables NZ TomatoesNZ Kiwifruit Vine Health Pipfruit New Zealand New Zealand Pork New Zealand Equine Health Association Onions New Zealand Forestry Owners Association New Zealand Avocado Growers’ Association New Zealand Citrus Growers Incorporated Potatoes New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries
A boost of $18.4 million of operating funding over four years from Budget 2017 will help further strengthen the biosecurity system and protect our borders, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.
“Biosecurity has always been my number one priority as Minister because the primary sector is the backbone of our economy. Unwanted pests and diseases have the potential to cause major damage to our producers,” Mr Guy says.
“There are increasing demands on our biosecurity system because a growing economy means more people are travelling here and trade volumes are increasing.
“These new initiatives will help us prepare for this challenge and implement the Biosecurity 2025 Direction Statement, which was publicly released last year and sets out a long-term vision for protecting New Zealand.
“Part of the new funding will be used to manage biosecurity risk off-shore so fewer pests and diseases make it to New Zealand. Import Health Standards (IHS) will be reviewed to ensure the rules around importing goods are strong and up to date,” Mr Guy says.
“A major focus will also go on lifting public awareness and participation because biosecurity is the responsibility of all New Zealanders. This will involve targeted programmes to drive awareness and behaviour changes, and to meet our goal of having 90 per cent of relevant businesses actively managing pest and disease risks.
“The funding will also be used to accelerate the development and uptake of new tools to detect and eradicate pests, including sonar scanning of vessel hulls and automatic acoustic traps for use in pest surveillance and eradication.
“This follows steps in recent years which has seen MPI employ 50 new biosecurity staff and 20 extra biosecurity detector dog teams, and introduce new x-ray scanning machines, including mobile units that can be moved around the country.”
A significant boost of $30.5 million of operating funding over the next four years in Budget 2017 will upgrade and modernise the fisheries management system, including the roll-out of cameras, monitoring, and electronic reporting on all commercial vessels, Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy says.
“This funding will help introduce the world-leading Integrated Electronic Monitoring and Reporting System (IEMRS), which will give us arguably the most transparent and accountable commercial fishery anywhere in the world,” Mr Guy says.
Vessel position monitoring and electronic catch reporting will begin on 1 October this year. This will be followed by cameras on every vessel phased in from 1 October next year. This means that every fishing vessel can be monitored at all times, no matter where they are, and any illegal activity dealt with.
“This ‘Future of Fisheries’ funding will also allow fine-scale management of fish stocks, using the better information provided by the IEMRS system to focus on smaller geographic areas so that more precise and effective management decisions can be made. For example, this could look at specific bays of concern,” Mr Guy says.
“The new investment will also support more detailed scientific research to improve our knowledge of the marine environment, enabling management of fish stocks as well as the ecosystems that support them.
“New approaches will also develop new information about the state of our fisheries using biological indicators of stock status. This is a key focus of the Future of Fisheries.
“While the commercial industry will be paying to have the cameras and other new technology on their vessels, the new fisheries management system will also be partly funded by the Ministry for Primary Industries,” Mr Guy says.
“Our fisheries management has long been recognised as world-leading, but we now need to invest in the latest technologies so we can stay world-leading in the high quality management of our fisheries.”
Additional grant funding of $26.7 million over the next three years plus a capital boost of $63 million towards irrigation investments in Budget 2017 will deliver economic and environmental benefits through better use of water, says Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy.
“A reliable water supply for growers and farmers has major potential to boost economic growth, creating jobs and exports in the regions. At the same time these schemes can deliver real environmental benefits by maintaining river flows and recharging groundwater aquifers,” says Mr Guy.
“The importance of water storage has been reinforced over the last few years with severe droughts in places like the east coast of the South Island and Northland. The funding we are providing in this budget will help develop new private sector schemes which will reduce the impacts of droughts on rural communities.”
Mr Guy says new irrigation schemes must meet stringent environmental tests. “It’s important to note that any new developments or conversions must farm within environmental limits set by regional and local councils.”
Of the new funding, $26.7 million over the next three years provides matched grant funding to regional scale irrigation schemes, helping them progress through the phases of development to reach construction.
$63 million of new capital funding will support investment in the construction of regional irrigation infrastructure. Both initiatives are administered by Crown Irrigations Investment Limited (CIIL).
“Capital investments made by CIIL are usually in the form of secured loans, as in the case of the Central Plains Water Scheme where CIIL invested $6.5 million in the first stage – since repaid – and is now investing $65 million in Stage 2.
“CIIL’s role is to be an early-in, early-out investor to kick-start projects that otherwise wouldn’t get off the ground. The investment is important because research by NZIER has found that irrigation contributes $2.2 billion to the national economy and this has the potential to increase further.”
“In the next few years there are a number of potential projects likely to need investment, including the Waimea community dam near Nelson, Flaxbourne community Water Project, Hunter Downs Water and the Hurunui water project. These would support a wide variety of land uses, including horticulture, sheep, beef and arable.
“Importantly, the water can also be used for urban supply and improving environmental, recreational and social outcomes.
“This Government is committed to improving the quality of our waterways while maintaining the livelihood of our regional communities. The Government’s investment in improving water storage helps achieve both goals.”
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed the latest progress report of the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord project, showing dairy farmers have now fenced off over 97 per cent of waterways.
“The Water Accord is a voluntary project led by the industry to improve farming practices and water quality. This Year Three update shows a range of targets have been achieved, including stock exclusion from 26,197 km of measured waterways which is the equivalent of Auckland to Chicago and back again,” says Mr Guy.
“99.4 per cent of regular stock crossing points on dairy farms now have bridges or culverts to protect local water quality, and over 10 million dollars has been spent on environmental stewardship and farmer support programmes.
“9,517 nutrient budgets were processed and nitrogen information provided to farmers, representing 83% of the industry.
“Dairy farmers deserve credit for the leadership they have shown in recent years. There has been a major reduction in pollution entering our lakes and rivers from dairy sheds, factories and town effluent systems.
“From the Government side, a huge amount of work has generated new rules, standards and monitoring which simply didn’t exist 10 years ago. This includes new regulations to keep livestock out of waterways to reduce E.coli and improve water quality.
“Achieving our goal of 90% swimmability by 2040 will be a long-term project. It will take decades because water quality issues have built up over decades and there is no quick fix.
“There are still challenges ahead but we are going to achieve it in a practical, realistic and sustainable way that doesn’t ruin our economy at the same time. This is a long term issue and we’re all in it together.”
The Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord was launched in July 2013 setting out the dairy industry’s commitment to New Zealand and improving water quality.
It includes a set of national good management practice benchmarks aimed at lifting environmental performance on dairy farms, along with commitments to targeted riparian planting plans, effluent management, comprehensive standards for new dairy farms and measures to improve the efficiency of water and nutrient use on farms.
It has been developed with the input of farmers, dairy companies, central Government, regional councils and the Federation of Māori Authorities.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has welcomed the first export shipment of meat to Iran, scheduled for processing and export later this month by Wellington company Taylor Preston.
“This is great news for Taylor Preston and the wider meat industry,” says Mr Guy.
“It is only the start of what we are hoping will grow to become an important new market for our exporters.
“In the 1980s Iran took around one in every four sheep we exported, so it has great potential. It is the second largest economy in the Middle East and North Africa region.
“Iran has a growing economy and is heavily reliant on imported food. At the same time New Zealand has a strong reputation as a producer of safe, high-quality and nutritious red meat.
"Over time this could become a significant market for particularly lamb, but in the future it could be beef as well.
“This new opportunity follows my visit to Iran in February where I witnessed an agreement between the Iranian Veterinary Organisation (IVO) and the New Zealand Ministry for Primary Industries providing the conditions for chilled and frozen sheep and beef exports to resume.
“It’s more positive news for the red meat industry with 10 establishments about to start a six-month trial sending chilled meat to China. It’s been a tough year for sheep farmers so these significant market access opportunities will be warmly received on farm.
“Opening up new markets for our exporters is a major priority for the Government. This year we updated our trade strategy Trade Agenda 2030 with the ambitious goal of having free trade agreements cover 90 per cent of New Zealand’s goods exports by 2030, up from 53 per cent today. An extra $91.3 million over four years through Budget 2017 is going to help achieve this.”
Recovery activity is progressing well after the magnitude 7.8 earthquake on 14 November, six months ago this Sunday, says Minister of Civil Defence Nathan Guy.
“The complex series of earthquakes ruptured 21 fault lines and rocked the top of the South Island and bottom of the North. Geonet reported that land movements and shaking were amongst the strongest in New Zealand ever and there was damage to homes, infrastructure, roads, rail and land,” says Mr Guy.
“In the six months since there has been a massive whole-of-government approach to supporting communities in their recovery with new funding of around $860 million. As part of this a National Recovery Manager is tasked with coordinating and supporting recovery activities across government.
“We are committed to reinstating the coastal road and rail route to the north and south of Kaikōura, the cost for which will be between $1.1 and $1.33 billion.
“More than $17.5 million from the Earthquake Support Subsidy was provided to 862 businesses in Kaikōura, Wellington, and Marlborough and Hurunui districts. This has helped businesses retain and pay staff while they transition back to business as usual.
“The Government is providing $5.7m funding to restore the Kaikōura harbour to full functionality. It’s great operators Whale Watch Kaikōura and Encounter Kaikōura are putting an extra $900,000 into this. That means the harbour can be made better than it was before and allow for future expansion of the harbour for larger boats.
“The harbour deepening work is nearly complete and it should be fully operational by October, ready for the tourist season.
“The earthquake hit Kaikōura’s tourism business hard - half of its hotels, motels, backpackers and holiday parks were closed in December 2016.
“The Government is helping here with a $870,000 support package to support tourism in Kaikōura and the other upper South Island districts. Much of the funding will go towards starting a strong overseas marketing push so Kaikōura is included in visitor itineraries for next summer. This is in addition to the $350,000 tourism relief package the Government provided Hurunui and Hanmer Springs in late 2016.
“$4.26 million has gone towards a health services package for North Canterbury and Marlborough providing for free visits, mental health services, additional health practitioners, support for Marlborough schools and rural health and support trusts, and paying the balance of Kaikōura’s Health Te Ha o Te Ora health centre.
“People needing housing while their homes are being repaired or replaced after the earthquake have been helped by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Temporary Accommodation Service.
“EQC received around 38,000 residential claims for damage caused by the November earthquake, mostly for building damage in Christchurch, Wellington, North Canterbury and Marlborough. The good news is that EQC and insurers are working towards making the majority of building and contents settlement offers by the end of 2017.
“The earthquake thrust a substantial part of Kaikōura’s rocky reef above the low tide level, destroying over 20% of the pāua habitat. The ban on collecting shellfish and seaweed (excluding crayfish) until 20 November 2017 will allow the pāua to regenerate. A $2 million package is helping investigate the impact of the earthquakes on these fisheries.
“The Earthquake Relief Fund is providing $4 million for uninsurable infrastructure repairs in the Hurunui, Kaikoura and Marlborough districts affecting farmers and others in the primary sector.
“A new $5 million fund announced today will also provide further support for the primary sector.
“So many people have worked incredibly hard to support their neighbours and communities over the last six months and I want to acknowledge these efforts.”
The total cost to government of the Kaikoura earthquakes continues to evolve but currently is still expected to be in the order of $2 to $3 billion.
Other Government support following the Kaikōura earthquakeA Government grant of $2.6 million for the Hurunui and Kaikōura districts to repair waste facilities, recycle earthquake debris and manage hazardous waste. $2.5 million in funding over three years to help local councils shoulder the increased workload from building consents, planning and hazard management. $3 million towards the Government’s new requirement for owners of around 300 unreinforced masonry buildings on busy routes to secure their street-facing parapets and facades. Funding of $3 million to enhance New Zealand’s natural hazards monitoring capability and response service. Funding for a pilot of a free and independent advisory service to help North Canterbury residents with insurance claims. $500,000 for three rural recovery coordinators on the ground and another $500,000 additional funding for the North Canterbury Rural Support Trust. An additional $1 million business grant programme for the Business Recovery Grant Programme for quake-affected businesses in Kaikōura, Hurunui and Marlborough. The Canterbury and Nelson Marlborough District Health Boards have reprioritised their budgets to provide extra services for people in affected areas.
Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy has announced $5 million in new funding support for quake-struck farmers and growers.
The new Earthquake Recovery Fund will support projects that investigate long-term land use options and will also fund professional advisory services for future land use planning.
“The November earthquake has caused significant erosion and damage to land in the Hurunui, Kaikoura and Marlborough regions. Farmers, growers and foresters are now faced with the challenge of determining what to do with their land going forward and this fund is designed to help with those decisions,” says Mr Guy.
The fund is designed to provide support to farmers and growers in two different ways, depending on their needs.
“Funding will be available for farmer and grower led, community-driven projects which are focused on long-term land use diversification, research or restoration. Projects will need to be related to and within the Hurunui, Kaikoura and Marlborough regions or primarily for the benefit of the region.
“We are also offering funding for farmers, growers and foresters who want individual professional advice on their land recovery and long term land use as a result of the earthquake.
“The Government’s $4 million Earthquake Relief Fund announced in December was designed for the initial phase of recovery where farmers and growers needed support for repairs. As they move to the next phase of recovery, the new $5 million Earthquake Recovery Fund will support farmers and growers with the long-term issues they are now facing.”
The Earthquake Recovery Fund will be administered by the Ministry for Primary Industries and is in addition to other financial and support services available.
Funding for projects can be up to $600,000 over three years for projects starting from September 2017. Funding for advisory services can be up to $5,000 per property and will be available from late July/early August 2017.
More details - www.mpi.govt.nz/Kaikoura-earthquake