Environment Minister wants to regulate to force cow destocking

Yesterday the Environment Minister David Parker said in a Q&A interview that environmental regulations were needed to push down the number of cows in New Zealand.

Asked whether regulations would force farmers to destock Parker said “In some areas, it will”.

He says that the Government has won the political battle in a representative democracy so can do what they want – but they still may need the support of NZ First.

Corin Dann You did promise a lot, in Opposition, on water and on cleaning up our rivers, making them swimmable. Will you deliver on that?

David Parker Most certainly. I’ve spent a lot of my life trying to fight for environmental causes. This is my last time through cabinet, and I’ll have failed as a politician if I don’t use my position now to stop this getting…

Corin Dann So, what does success look like?

David Parker Success, in the short term, looks like stopping the degradation getting worse everywhere; within five years, having measureable improvements; and then, over the succeeding generation, getting back to where we used to be.

Corin Dann So an admirable goal, but the question is — how will you do it? Now, you have a— you’ve talked about beefing up the current guidelines, the national policy statement on water. How far will you go? And I guess the key question is here — will you cap the number of cows that can be in a certain paddock, depending on nutrient levels? In other words, potentially force farmers to destock?

David Parker Well, cow numbers have already peaked and are going down, but yes, in some areas, the number of cows per hectare is higher than the environment can sustain. That won’t be done through a raw cap on cow numbers; it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.

Corin Dann But it will have the same effect, though, won’t it?

David Parker In some areas, it will. I mean, that’s one of the really difficult issues that we’ve got work being done on at the moment by both my own ministry, but the Land and Water Forum and various NGOs. How do you allocate the right to discharge nutrient where you’ve got more than the environment can sustain between those who are currently doing it and those who want to do it with undeveloped land?

And Parker said that farmers would not be compensated:

Corin Dann …you’re going to have to force some farmers in some areas, depending on those conditions, to destock. Now, does that open up you do legal action? Do they get compensation?

David Parker No, you don’t compensate people for stopping pollution. Just because you could pollute last year doesn’t mean to say you should be allowed to do it or paid to stop doing it.

This may help the environment, but what about regional economies?

Corin Dann Have you done the work that shows what the economic impact for some, particularly dairying regions, would be?

David Parker We haven’t done an analysis of what the economic effects would be. But it’s very, very difficult to model, because second-best from the farmer perspective may still be very close to the same outcome profit-wise.

I wonder if they have done an analysis of what the environmental effects would be. Maybe that’s very difficult to model too, so they just do what they think might work and too bad for the farmers affected.

Corin Dann But how are you going to make farmers change if they don’t want to?

David Parker Well, the economics will drive that change where there is a high-value land use. Where economics don’t, regulation will.

There’s only three ways to change behaviour — education, regulation and price.

We fought an election on this issue. We’ve got a representative democracy. We’ve won the political battle. Now it’s about implementation. Most of the farming sector agree with that. There is the occasional outlier. One of the Federated Farmers heads from the Wairarapa during the last election denied that dairy farming caused pollution of rivers. So there are some people who are in denial. Now, those people will have to be regulated to do the right thing, because they may not be willing to do it voluntarily. That’s the purpose of environmental regulation.

I think there is fairly universal agreement that the environment needs to be treated and protected better.

We’ve got a representative democracy. But that doesn’t necessarily mean Parker has won the political battle yet.

Labour may not care about forcing some farmers out of business, and the Greens have  wanted lower cow numbers, but National and probably NZ First could be quite reluctant to impact too severely on farming in the regions.

This wasn’t covered by the Labour-NZ First coalition agreement. The only related mentions:


  • If the Climate Commission determines that agriculture is to be included in the ETS,
    then upon entry, the free allocation to agriculture will be 95% but with all revenues from
    this source recycled back into agriculture in order to encourage agricultural innovation,
    mitigation and additional planting of forestry.
  • No resource rentals for water in this term of Parliament.
  • Higher water quality standards for urban and rural using measurements which take into
    account seasonal differences.

So no agreement on destocking regulations. Of course they have kept there more detailed agreement secret.


  1. Grimm

     /  May 7, 2018

    Now that he and Corin have “consulted” and “signalled”, the policy will be out next week?

    It’s been well signposted you know.

    Or, will it need a Greenpeace petition?

  2. The arrogance is strong in this man. As per usual, “too difficult to model” so they do literally ZERO impact work . This lack of work not stopping him undermining and mocking us though

    “Corin Dann Have you done the work that shows what the economic impact for some, particularly dairying regions, would be?

    David Parker We haven’t done an analysis of what the economic effects would be. But it’s very, very difficult to model, because second-best from the farmer perspective may still be very close to the same outcome profit-wise.”

    • David

       /  May 7, 2018

      Parker is so over rated, just because he is older and has glasses doesnt make him blindingly brilliant. I find him arrogant and he is dismissive of anyone who doesnt agree with him and have never heard of him doing anything particularly fantastic.

      • Blazer

         /  May 7, 2018

        Parker is 57,hardly old by Parliamentary standards and the fact that someone wears glasses hardly equates to…intelligence.Key was P.M for 8 years and I challenge anyone to name anything he did that was…fantastic.(besides resign).

        • Key, Key,Key,Key,Key,KeyKey, Key,Key,Key,Key,Key,Key, Key,Key,Key,Key,Key,Key, Key,Key,Key,Key,Key,Key, Key,Key,Key,Key,Key……

        • Alan Wilkinson

           /  May 7, 2018

          He beat Clark and allowed the country to grow again. He fostered the TPP, coped with the GFC and earthquakes and was a friendly and respected PM despite the evil hatred directed at him by the likes of you.

          • Blazer

             /  May 7, 2018

            you forgot to add that he won the W.C…TWICE.Bol.

          • Gezza

             /  May 7, 2018

            Next time I board a plane with luggage I’ll be thinking I’m paying for that beggar’s rich golfing mate to come here & swan about doing stuff all & piss off again because Sir John conned the AirNZ Board into funding Bazza’s golfing holiday when he could’ve paid for it himself if Bazza was too hard up, which he patently isn’t.

  3. Blazer

     /  May 7, 2018

    Dairy makes up 3.5% of GDP.Bending over for farmers needs to stop.They do not deserve any special treatment.This land is OUR…land.

    • Their land is their land – not yours

      • Blazer

         /  May 7, 2018

        you are taking a literal interpretation.If you pollute waterways and and have a negative impact on the environment you need to be accountable.In your world the whole country would be sold off to overseas investors…and then we would become tenants in OUR own …country.National’s agenda,with their ludicrous…’open economy’.

  4. alloytoo

     /  May 7, 2018

    This government is adverse to comprehensive assessments because, while like us they already suspect the answer, official ignorance allows them to go ahead regardless.

  5. Griff

     /  May 7, 2018

    it will be done on nutrient limits, the amount of nutrient that can be lost from a farm to a waterway, because it’s not just a dairy cow issue.

    A farmer can modify practice to avoid over loading water ways. Less nutrient lost means more value from expensive and carbon heavy fertilizer retrained on farm.
    I dont see this as an attempt to force a reduction in cow numbers.
    I see it as a attempted to preserve river health.
    Cropping probably has as much or more impact on nutrient levels.

    • Callum

       /  May 7, 2018

      Cropping has significantly more impact and any moves on that will see prices rise. Saw on twitter there is some research for the Rotorua lake catchments that shows gorse is a bigger issue than sheep and beef farming for nutrient loss.
      What I dislike most about this is that no one is going after cities for their pollution. This is a far bigger issue than farming but politicians are too scared to tackle it.

      • Trevors_Elbow

         /  May 7, 2018

        Indeed Callum. Townies easily led by Green activists point the finger at Farms for polluting rivers, but never look at their own runoff problems… and not just sewage, but also oil/petrol and other by products of modern city life washed down drains and into waterways and thence to the sea…

    • chrism56

       /  May 7, 2018

      Griff is correct. There are some crops, usually the high value ones where the nutrinent loss is a lot greater than dairying. A lot of this is because the nutrients attach to sediments, so crops like say potatoes, have to have ploughed and tilled soil, as well as dug up for harvesting give plenty of opportunity for wash off.

  6. Over stocking has a detrimental effect on income.
    labor forget that dairy farming employs a lot of people in rural settings.
    You want to really kill North Auckland and Gisbourne this is the way to do it

    • Blazer

       /  May 7, 2018


      • Alan Wilkinson

         /  May 7, 2018

        You wouldn’t have a clue.

    • It’s clear more than ever that Peters, Jones and co were derelict in their duty to their voters

      You couldn’t imagine a more through abdication of regional care if you tried and when seen in the context of their election campaign it’d be funny if it wasn’t so sad.

      I expect nothing more from the farmer hating party of Labour, but I’d imagined that the mumbler and his mates might rein in their excesses.

      Where are Peters, Jones and RonAir?

      • thorough

      • Blazer

         /  May 7, 2018

        dunno about that..pal…’You couldn’t imagine a more through abdication of regional care if you tried and when seen in the context of their election campaign it’d be funny if it wasn’t so sad.’
        10 bridges for Nthland….ring a big BELL!

        • High Flying Duck

           /  May 7, 2018

          One off by-election pork barrel politics aside, the regions did very well out of the National government. The gains made look likely to be cut off at the knees by a tsunami of good intentions over the next 3 years unfortunately.

          • Blazer

             /  May 7, 2018

            what initiatives did National introduce that directly lead to an increase in GDP in the period…. highlighted?

            • High Flying Duck

               /  May 7, 2018

              Plenty. But I’m not going trawling through the archives because it is pointless against your entrenched world views.

            • Blazer

               /  May 7, 2018

              @HFD…cut and paste…save having to rebutt any challenge to your view.

    • Maggy Wassilieff

       /  May 7, 2018

      Dairy farming is practically non-existent in Gisborne region.
      Gizzy Milk ceased production last year.
      We are Beef country.

  7. Gerrit

     /  May 7, 2018

    How will nutrient levels be measured where more than one property has run off feeding a stream. Each runoff point will need a nutrient measuring system and the results collated in a database somewhere.

    For if you are the cleanest dairy farmer in the catchment area but a farmer further upstream is the dirtiest, how will the the state measure and set and differentiate the taxes for nutrient levels for each.

    You would need to map every stream, drain, creek, river, estuary, overlay each farmers established runoff point and place a nutrient measuring device at that position. These will need to be solar powered and on line to feed the database.

    mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm, anyone from the minister down had a think on how to implement an effective measuring system?

    Now some systems are available to at least deal with cowshed and wintering barns effluent. Maybe it would be wiser (and cheaper) to have a government grant to encourage these type of systems? Much like electric cars are subsided through the cancelling of RUC charges.


    • Blazer

       /  May 7, 2018

      so you are in favour of welfare then…’have a government grant to encourage these type of systems?’
      Spending other peoples money….such a Capitalist…notion.

      • Gerrit

         /  May 7, 2018

        Well if it is good enough for electric cars…is it good enough for farmers effluent disposal systems?

        Such a…socialist…concept.

  8. Zedd

     /  May 7, 2018

    Most kiwis know that farming is a major contributor to the economy !
    BUT many seem either ignorant or turn-a-blind-eye to the environmental degradation the current practices ARE having. Chemical runoff, animal effluent/faeces (unprocessed) that goes into rivers.

    Its like the fossil fuel issue; just because many others do it.. does NOT make it OK. We ALL have to breath the air, drink the water & eat the produce.. do we really want it tainted with this CRAP ? “NO !”

    At the end of the day, its the usual Tory thing; ‘follow the money’.. cut costs & Maximise their Profits.. first & foremost 😦

    btw; many also want to swim in the rivers & lakes, without their skin falling off, after they get out !

  9. PartisanZ

     /  May 7, 2018

    No, farmers and all other primary producers – being the last vestiges of our ‘productive economy’ – should be allowed to rape and pillage the environment to their heart’s content …

  1. Environment Minister wants to regulate to force cow destocking — Your NZ – NZ Conservative Coalition