Significant new policy proposals have come at the dairy sector throughout 2019.
I’m proud of the fact that DairyNZ and farmers have united as a sector to put forward well-considered, constructive ideas on how we can respond to big issues like freshwater policy and an emissions framework.
We were pleased to achieve a major win when the Government announced agriculture will not enter the Emissions Trading Scheme. Instead they have accepted an industry proposal – He waka eke noa – to build an enduring farm-level emission reduction framework.
The Government has listened to the views of dairy farmers, DairyNZ and our primary sector partners. We can now focus on achieving behaviour changes onfarm which are practical and impactful rather than imposing a broad-based tax.
Putting agriculture into the ETS would have taken money out of farmers’ pockets when it would be better invested onfarm to prepare for and start the process of managing emissions.
We also recently lodged our submission to the Government’s Essential Freshwater package. The proposal is of huge significance to both farmers and to New Zealand. Concern about some aspects has been clear since the first public meeting in Ashburton where 350 people turned up.
Over the past three months, DairyNZ staff have attended more than 40 Essential Freshwater meetings and events from Northland to Southland. As well as attending Ministry for the Environment and farmer-organised meetings, DairyNZ also hosted farmer meetings, held submission drop-in sessions to support farmers with submission writing and hosted webinars to explain the proposals and gather feedback. We have had a record turn-out of more than 2100 farmers and rural professionals attend the events we hosted or presented at.
A number of proposals in the package we agree with and support. We support making farm environment plans mandatory, along with requiring stock exclusion for significant waterways. We also support the setting clear of interim standards for swimming in summer.
At the same time there are a number of policies DairyNZ does not support because we believe the Government’s water quality and broader emissions reduction objectives can be achieved with less-stringent reforms, and at a lower cost to the economy.
The economic modelling included in our submission indicates the Essential Freshwater package could reduce Gross Domestic Product (GDP) forecasts by $6 billion by 2050. This would equate to more than $80 billion over 30 years. The resulting economic effects will be felt by all New Zealanders. Many farmers and local councils have joined us to express their concerns that the package does not assess the true impact of the proposals on rural and urban communities.
The proposed nutrient limits are based on overly simplistic causal relationships and are not supported by robust science.
We support expanding the scope and scale of existing Good Farming Practice initiatives and carrying out prioritised and targeted catchment-scale actions. This approach can achieve reduced contaminant losses, and improve biodiversity, ecosystem health and water quality throughout NZ. It has already been effective in improving water quality in Taranaki.
We all want to see healthier waterways and farmers have been very active adopting new practices to improve water quality. Dairy farmers have been on this journey for many years, with significant changes undertaken onfarm as part of the Sustainable Water Accord which a already deliver improved environmental outcomes. We know this work must continue.
Water quality is a complex issue and we need solutions informed by science, as well as by practical experience in rural and urban areas.
That’s why we have appreciated so many farmers taking the time to attend Essential Freshwater meetings and make submissions on such an important issue.
DairyNZ’s submission is online at www.dairynz.co.nz/freshwater
DairyNZ has also been on the road talking to farmers about what the future focus for your levy investment should be and providing an update on the results DairyNZ has achieved over the past year.
We visited many locations around NZ in November and in December we are holding further meetings for farmers:
- Westport, December 10, 11am
- Grey Valley and Reefton, December 10, 7pm
- Golden Bay, December 11, 11am
- Hokitika, December 11, 11am
- Marlborough, December 12, 11am
- Kaikoura, December 12, 7pm.
For venue details visit www.dairynz.co.nz/refresh
With Christmas and New Year only a few weeks away, I hope you and your team enjoy some time with your family. Farming is often stressful and taking time to relax and enjoy time off the farm where you can recharge for next year is so important.
All the best for a great 2020.
- Dr Tim Mackle is DairyNZ Chief Executive