The Government is struggling to justify its water policy as its guesses around costs are increasingly at odds with expert estimates, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller and Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson say.
“While Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor stated in Parliament the cost to farmers of meeting the Government’s proposed new water policies would be just one to two per cent, LandCare has estimated the drop in farm revenue for a case study catchment would be more likely to fall between seven and 46 per cent,” Mr Muller says.
“An AgFirst report, commissioned by the Ministry for the Environment states shifting to a five metre fencing setback on a Waikato Bay of Plenty dairy farm will come at a cost of 40 per cent of earnings over a ten year period.
“Both Local Government New Zealand and LandCare report that over half of the Waikato-Waipa catchment and almost 100 per cent of the Clutha catchment would need to be converted to permanent forestry to achieve the policy’s bottom lines.”
“Environment Minister David Parker first seemed unaware of these estimates, dismissing them as nonsensical scaremongering. Today he claimed that they were wrong, despite the report being linked on the consultation website,” Mr Simpson says.
“Farmers are rightly feeling confused and worried. Mr Parker assured New Zealanders ‘Trust me, I know what I’m doing’, but he has released 2,000 pages of technical reports with various costs and impacts. The suggestion that the reports don’t all apply just adds to the confusion.
“The LandCare report clearly states that the substantial costs incurred by farmers may drive farmers to change their land use or shift their employment to non-agricultural work all together.
“Releasing 2,000 pages of material during calving and lambing is not fair on farmers. Ministers need to extend the consultation period to twelve weeks and provide clearer analysis of what the impacts of the proposals will be.”
Research published by Local Government New Zealand shows the enormous impact on land use the Government’s freshwater proposals will really have, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“If implemented, these proposals are going to see farmers in the Waikato go out of business and their land be converted into a sea of trees.
“According to the modelling, sheep and beef farming is expected to fall by 68 per cent, while dairy would be reduced by 13 per cent. Meanwhile plantation forestry would boom by an astonishing 160 per cent.
“Plantation forestry would then account for over 50 per cent of farmland in Waikato, as these onerous regulations make sheep and beef farming completely untenable.
“We can only get improved water quality and prosperous rural communities if farmers can see a way to farm their way to better environmental outcomes. These proposals take farmers’ options off the table and are a disaster for the Waikato.
“There has been huge investment made and improvements are occurring with Land, Air, Water Aotearoa’s data showing improvement in eight out of nine water quality indicators across our rivers.
“There is more to be done but these changes only take the profitability out of dairy, which therefore means there is less money for environmental investment. The farmer’s voice has to be heard in this debate or we are all in deep trouble. This goes way beyond the kitchen table of our local farmers as it will cut deep into the economy of Hamilton and surrounding towns.
“When Local Government feels the need to send a shot across the bow of Central Government the Minister must take notice. These proposals will have dire consequences for rural New Zealand.”
The Government’s cynical consultation process for their Freshwater proposals is lacking in proper process and downright disrespectful, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“David Parker has claimed he has engaged with the sector but this is misleading. Sector representatives had to sign non-disclosure agreements and couldn’t share any pre-announcement detail with any actual farmers. Considering the breadth of the proposals this just doesn’t cut it.
“He has left rural New Zealand just six weeks to try and ascertain what the wide-ranging changes will mean for them at the busiest time of the year. It reeks of a predetermined process and heaps further pressure on to our 23,000 farming families.
“The Minister has proposed a new bottom line for nitrogen levels that will require a 27 per cent reduction on average across New Zealand with an over 80 per cent reduction in some catchments.
"These proposals are asking our agricultural sector to reduce their footprint by over a quarter, and when questioned about the potential impact of this, all the Minister could say was ‘trust me, I know what I'm doing’. This is an unacceptably cavalier approach to a sector that is responsible for 60 per cent of New Zealand's exports.
“The Minister needs to provide the consultation process with some basic assessment of what these proposals will cost New Zealand. Astonishingly the draft Regulatory Impact Statement simply says ‘the modelling to date of the economic impacts on farms has been very limited’.
“How much David Parker's proposal will cost is a basic question that the Minister has to at least attempt to answer during the consultation process.
“Damien O’Connor has been equally cavalier, at one point stating the costs would only equate to ‘one or two per cent’, while under further questioning he admitted this was simply a ‘guesstimate’.
“This Government has shown they are reckless when it comes to business confidence and New Zealand's export sector. New Zealand can't afford this Government.”
Today’s freshwater announcement is a gut punch to rural New Zealand from a Government that continues to heap pressure onto our most productive sector, National’s Agriculture spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“These proposals will put the shackles on our farmers’ ability to innovate and will heap costs on to a sector that is already facing historically low confidence.
“What’s appalling is that there is little-to-no economic analysis to be found in the document, with no mention of the severe costs that will be inflicted on to farmers and the wider economy.
“Farmers have put their shoulders to the wheel and put in the hard yards for our water quality, with dairy farmers fencing off over 98 per cent of waterways and spending over $1 billion in environmental investment over the last five years. National applauds these efforts but the Government continues to ignore the sector’s hard work.
“We all want improved fresh water outcomes but we have to back farmers to farm their way to better outcomes as they have been doing. Farmers must see a pathway to improve while being profitable, our rural communities and economic wealth as a country depends on it.
“The primary sector accounts for 60 per cent of our exports and is the backbone of our economy. If we want first world healthcare, transport and education, we have to sell something to the world to afford to buy our first world affluence.
“These new proposals will be a hammer blow to what is a highly vulnerable sector and will damage our competitive advantage as a country.”
Farmers will have mixed feelings towards today’s announcement that pricing of agriculture emissions is likely to be deferred until 2025, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“National has always held the view that agriculture should only enter the ETS, or an equivalent pricing mechanism, when there are sufficient tools for farmers to lower their on-farm emissions and international partners are taking similar steps.
“New Zealand is already the most efficient producer of beef, dairy and lamb products in the world. Our farmers have proven time and again that they are highly adaptable. When provided information, opportunity and the tools, they will exceed expectations.
“However, we believe taxing the sector without farmers having the ability to reduce their on-farm emissions will hurt our competitiveness and reduce livestock numbers at a time when global demand for low-emissions food is increasing.
“But farmers will be wary of the mixed messages in the report recommendations. On one hand, the Government is saying they have reached a historic agreement with the sector on a five year work programme before on-farm pricing is established, on the other hand, they are consulting on an option that would essentially ignore this agreement and introduce agriculture into the ETS by 2021.
“Labour campaigned hard on implementing a water tax, capital gains tax and emissions tax on farmers by 2020. We strongly opposed all of these taxes. Introducing agriculture into the scheme before the tools are available to address emissions will simply be a new tax on the sector.
“National has always been a strong supporter of technology not taxation, and partnership not pricing.”
The Prime Minister’s admission that she is open to the idea of declaring a climate change emergency is nothing more than hot air and rhetoric, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“This amounts to nothing more than political posturing and virtue signalling, the Climate Change Minister himself has admitted that he expects emissions to continue to rise until the mid-2020s, and declaring an emergency would not have any impact on this.
“There is no clear understanding of what declaring a ‘climate emergency’ would actually mean or what would occur as a result.
“When governments declare emergencies they are for natural disasters and requires the full and urgent attention of all relevant government departments. This declaration lacks all such substance and is merely a feel good statement with no plan or meaningful action standing behind it.
“If the Government was explicit in what it would change, fund, or prioritise differently by declaring an emergency then we would be open to the debate, but currently it is just symbolism over substance.
“National is taking a bipartisan approach to climate change and supports the establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission. The focus should be on developing real plans to drive our emissions down rather than making empty declarations.”
The Minister for Climate Change admitted this week that emissions will continue to increase for the remainder of this budget period, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“Minister Shaw said today in Environment Select Committee that emissions will continue to rise until 2023, which is as far as this budget process stretches.
“Despite the claims by this Government that climate change is this generation’s ‘nuclear-free moment’, the Minister is simply passing the baton on to future Governments.
“The Minister has been quick to propose emissions reduction targets that would keep New Zealand within a ‘1.5C limit’. This actually requires carbon dioxide emissions to reduce by about 5 per cent annually over the next 10 years, but the technology to achieve these goals is elusively on the horizon.
“Once again this Government has set an ambitious target and failed to deliver on its promises.”
WPQ's from Minister for Climate Change showing increasing emissions here
Official advice given to Climate Change Minister James Shaw has once again been ignored, showing that he only takes advice when it suits his narrative, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“The Climate Change Chief Executives Board advised that to give credibility and certainty, areas such as the methane target should be given to an expert group such as the Climate Change Commission. They also noted an indicative range of a 22-35 per cent methane reduction.
“The Minister chose to ignore this and included an onerous target of up to 47 per cent in the Climate Change Amendment Act Bill. As has become the norm for this Government, its work was shipped off its 250 working groups, only to be ignored.
“The Minister has also dismissed reports from the Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment who likewise advised a methane target much lower than what the Minister has proposed.
“I have supported James Shaw establishing independent advisory groups on climate change, but this effort becomes pointless if he only listens to advice that suits a political purpose.
“National has disagreed with the Government’s proposed agricultural methane target in the Climate Change Bill, and suggested that this matter be put to the new Climate Change Commission the Minister is establishing.
“Targets for 2050 can seem abstract, but when the economic implications are as severe as the $300 billion that has been projected in the Regulatory Impact Statement, it’s important that decisions are well thought out and backed by solid scientific reasoning.”
The Green Party’s motion without debate on declaring a climate emergency in New Zealand goes against the bipartisan approach to climate change, National’s Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“As it stands there is absolutely no clarity as to what declaring a ‘climate emergency’ would mean in practice, what its legal standing is, or what it would actually require of the Government and the New Zealand public.
“If the Government thinks an emergency should be declared they should move the formal Notice of Motion themselves and front on the detail, rather than leaving it to a coalition backbench MP.
“At first glance this looks like nothing more than political posturing and virtue signalling. This is especially true in light of the Minister’s recent comments that he anticipates emissions to continue to rise until the mid-2020’s.
“The National Party has been working constructively with Climate Change Minister James Shaw to build consensus on an independent, non-political, Climate Change Commission.
“We have supported the Zero Carbon Bill through its first reading, but we have very serious concerns with the target level set and want to see changes at the Select Committee.
“Our kids deserve more than empty slogans and highly charged green-rhetoric. They deserve real and concrete plans to drive our emissions down.
“National will not support this non-debatable motion.”
National has decided to support the Climate Change Response Act Amendment Bill through its first reading, but with serious concerns around the proposed methane target and the potential economic impact, Climate Change spokesperson Todd Muller says.
“National is supportive of efforts to reduce emissions, however we must also ensure our approach manages economic impacts and is in line with a global response.
“National supports many elements of the Bill including establishment of an independent Climate Change Commission, a framework for reducing New Zealand’s emissions and a framework for climate change adaptation.
“We have serious concerns about the target level that has been set.
“The proposed 24 – 47 per cent reduction in methane is not reflective of scientific advice and is too much too fast. A range of scientific reports have suggested agriculture would contribute no further warming with a 10 – 22 per cent reduction, which would be a more reasonable target.
“This is exactly the sort of decision the newly formed Climate Change Commission has been set up to consider and provide advice on. Unfortunately the one thing the Commission should be advising on is the one thing they haven’t been asked to do.
“The Regulatory Impact Statement for the Bill raises some big concerns around the economic implications for New Zealanders.
“In total, $300 billion is forecast to be shaved off the New Zealand economy between now and 2050, New Zealand’s economy will be nine per cent smaller under this target compared with the existing 50 per cent reduction target set by National.
“This figure already banks on new technology such as a ‘methane vaccine’ that allows farmers to reduce emissions. It assumes electric vehicles make up 95 per cent of our fleet, renewable electricity makes up 98 per cent of all electricity supply and 20 per cent of our dairy, sheep and beef land is converted to forestry.
“Without these assumptions, forecast costs quickly double or even quadruple.
“We need to reduce emissions and support global efforts to avoid climate change, but we also need to be open and honest about the potential costs of doing so.
“National is aware that we are talking about the future standard of living for us all, so we’re calling on the Environment Select Committee, who will now take the Bill forward, to consult with New Zealand’s science community and focus its attention on understanding an appropriate target level for New Zealand.”