Greens, farming and “more sustainable land use”

The leak of policies the Greens say were agreed on in governing negotiations will raise a few eyebrows in the farming and export sectors.

1. Climate action

“Significant climate action, with a shift towards a net zero carbon emissions economy by 2050” and the establishing of an independent climate commission. This would include shifting farms to “more sustainable land use” and a focus on transport, energy and primary industries.

New Zealand is supposed to be committed to zero carbon emissions anyway, and it was also Labour policy.

‘Sustainable farming’ is more contentious.

4. Water

Improve water quality and fund “freshwater enhancement”. Government support for irrigation will be wound down.

There has to be continued and increased efforts to reduce water pollution from farming. Somehow this needs to be done without impacting too much on farm incomes, employment and exports.

The farming sector may be concerned, given that Greens have said they want to reduce cow numbers by (I think) 25%. Some reduction is probably sensible, but significant reductions quickly could have a major impact.

During the campaign James Shaw said that a nitrate tax would cost the average dairy farm “no more than 5%” of their profits.

He said the party, if it were in government, would invest in the Sustainable Farming Fund and introduce a fund to support organic farming alongside a new sustainability accreditation scheme.

Mr Shaw said this would be paid for by a nitrate pollution levy on dairy farmers who continue to pollute the soils and water.

He said nitrate pollution was already measured by a modelling system called Overseer.

“The average dairy farm would pay no more than five percent of their pre-tax profits. So that’s the average and it would be no more than that.

That could be significant to struggling cow cockies, especially when it could be in addition to carbon tax for emissions as well as higher costs for irrigation.

What’s really important is that farmers would be able to get that money back by applying to the funds that we’re setting up.”

The Green Party would also place a moratorium on any more farms being converted to dairy, and instead support organic farming.

There have already been moves towards more organic farming methods and this should certainly be encouraged.

However the potential impact on the livelihood of farmers is not a minor matter.

Green policy (not all included in the governing agreement):  Clean water, great farming

The Green Party has a plan to support farmers to move to less polluting, more environmentally sustainable and more profitable ways of farming so that our rivers and lakes are safe to swim in and our drinking water from aquifers is protected.

We will put a levy on nitrate pollution from agriculture, starting with intensive dairying, and use the revenue raised to fund a package of game-changing support measures that farmers can use to reduce their impact on our environment.  We will:

  1. Help farmers move to more sustainable and profitable farming by
  • Extending the Sustainable Farming Fund with an extra $20 million every year.
  • Creating a Transformational Farming Partnership Fund of around $70 million a year.
  • Increasing funding for the Landcare Trust to $16 million over three years.
  • Rewarding tree planting by farmers and landowners.
  • Allowing accelerated depreciation on dairy farm equipment.
  • Support organic farming by introducing national standards, and new funding of $5 million a year.
  1. Implement a levy on nitrate pollution to help protect our rivers, lakes and aquifers, which will raise around $136.5 million in the first year. This will fund the programmes listed above, and an additional $20 million a year for freshwater clean-up projects.
  2. Put a moratorium on new dairy farm conversions.
  3. Wind up Crown Irrigation Investments Ltd and stop providing subsidies for big irrigation projects.
  4. Transition away from Palm Kernel Expeller/Extract (PKE) to alternative feed stocks, from 2018.
  5. Establish a ‘Good Food Aotearoa New Zealand’ national sustainability accreditation scheme for food products, processors and farmers, so those who work with the land, not against it, can prove it to consumers at home and overseas to fetch a higher price and are more attractive to export markets.

“Help farmers move to more sustainable and profitable farming ” – great ideals, but this is vague. I wonder if there has been any real research done on how much more profitable farming will be if it is made more sustainable, how much it will affect farm production, employment and exports.

There is a massive amount dependant on farming in New Zealand, and raising costs and reducing intensification could have a big impact. Do the Greens know how much?

Local bodies try political activism

The new Dunedin City Council has continued it’s predecessor in political activism, influenced by a new intake of councillors and ongoing activist pressure and lobbying.

The council voted by 9 to 4 to call on the Government to place a moratorium on deep-sea oil and gas exploration and extraction.

ODT: Council green as grass on oil exploration issue

The incoming Auckland council did similar recently – see Auckland Council votes against deep sea drilling.

Not exactly core business for councils, nor a productive use of their time and council resources.

As these symbolic moves can in no way be seen as representative of all city residents the Government can safely ignore them, and they probably will. They are local body and activist posturing on national issues.

Another attempt was made with the Southland regional Council yesterday but was voted down – but a Southland Times article hides that in what looks largely like an activist promotion.

Stuff: Environment Southland urged to oppose oil and gas exploration in the south

Environment Southland has been urged to oppose oil and gas exploration in the region.

Opponents of oil and gas exploration addressed councillors at an Environment Southland committee meeting on Wednesday, saying the fracking industry in the US was damaging natural resources, contaminating drinking water and using exorbitant amounts of water.

Invercargill resident Nathan Surendran, speaking in the public forum of the meeting, said councils around New Zealand were opposing the government’s oil and gas exploration block offers in their submissions.

Those councils opposing the Government have done so without a mandate from their residents and ratepayers.

Reverend Denis Bartley, a former oil industry engineer for 30 years, supported Surendran, telling councillors an increasing number of community groups and organisations had divested from the fossil fuel industry for environmental, climate change and economic reasons in the past four years.

Peter McDonald told councillors that environmental and social risks shadowed the drilling industry; he questioned whether the drilling industry shared Environment Southland’s vision for the region.

Jenny Campbell told councillors the biggest contributor to the global temperature rise came from the burning of fossil fuels.

When they had finished speaking, Environment Southland councillor Robert Guyton moved a motion for the council to oppose the Government’s 2017 block offer proposal for two oil and gas permits in Southland.

This is how it is done – orchestrated activist lobbying, and they claim popular support because they outnumber people who don’t get involved – most people have no idea about the political games being played.

He received voting support from councillors Maurice Rodway and Rowly Currie, but they were out-voted by councillors on the strategy and policy committee.

So while they get most of the article publicity they failed in their bid.

Environment Southland chairman Nicol Horrell, who believed there were insufficient substitutes to fossil fuels at this stage,  said if the council opposed the Government’s block offers now it would take it out of discussions further down the track.

“It’s appropriate to remain neutral at this stage.”

Southland, Dunedin and Auckland would be stuffed if they didn’t have ongoing supplies of fossil fuels. We should do what we can to reduce use, but we are a long way from the activist ideal of being oil free.

And ‘oil free’ is what activists want. From the ODT:

Oil Free Otago’s Brooke Cox said her group was relying on councillors to be ”a voice of reason”, to take a strong stand and say ”no” to the block offer.

”It’s time to think about how you are remembered as a council.”

And it’s not just activists outside councils. Stuff:

However, a council staffer said the council would still be able to make submissions on the issue in future.

ODT:

Council corporate policy manager Maria Ioannou said in a report councillors resolved in 2015 to call on the Government to place a moratorium on exploration in New Zealand waters.

”However, this position may no longer reflect the views of the new council following local government elections earlier this year.”

What is a ‘council corporate policy manager’ spending time working on ‘oil free’ activism?

The Christchurch City Council has also voted to oppose offshore drilling.

There appears to be increasing attempts by local body councils to lobby Parliament on behalf of small activist groups with the growing involvement of Green and Labour parties.

Most people don’t know and/or don’t care so the activist groups and activist councillors get to promote their agendas, which is not the core business of local bodies, nor a good use of their time and resources.