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ACT's Brooke van Velden argues a better approach to solving climate and fresh water issues lies in working with the rural community with data and evidence rather than punishing it with prescriptive rules from Wellington

ACT's Brooke van Velden argues a better approach to solving climate and fresh water issues lies in working with the rural community with data and evidence rather than punishing it with prescriptive rules from Wellington

By Brooke van Velden*

Our farmers and rural sector do so much for New Zealand. There’s the old cliché that they’re ‘the backbone of the economy’, well this was once again proved true during the Covid-19 lockdowns.

It was our farmers that kept our economy going. After years of demonisation, the efforts of our farmers raised the level of respect rural New Zealanders get. With the rural sector being given a short reprieve from the campaign of demonization, it’s time to put that change in rhetoric into action.

We need a more co-operative approach between government and the rural sector. We should work with our farmers rather than tying them up in red tape and regulations without consultation. We should also acknowledge the work they do for the environment. Farmers are some of the greatest conservationists we have. They know the value of their land and they don’t want to risk that.

With the right approach, we can once again see the rural sector as an essential and valued part of the New Zealand economy.

Climate Change

I believe New Zealand needs to play its part on climate change. But any response should be simple to administer, politically durable, and effective.

ACT was the only party to vote against the Zero Carbon Act. David Seymour stood one against 119 MPs to oppose the most expensive legislation in our history. That legislation will significantly raise costs on households and businesses, without having any significant impact on carbon emissions. The Act gives massive power over the economy to the Climate Change Minister. It also allows the Government to make regulations dictating price controls, minimum auction prices and reserve amounts of New Zealand units to be released.

We would repeal the Zero Carbon Act and introduce a no-nonsense climate change plan. There is a floor and a ceiling to the price we’d put on carbon. If we are forced to make significantly deeper emissions cuts than our trading partners, we will impoverish ourselves and push economic activity to other countries. If we set the price on carbon too low, our trading partners are likely to be unwilling to trade. The solution is to tie our carbon price to the average prices paid by our top five trading partners. This will show the world New Zealand is doing its bit. It’s simple and effective.

We’d also advocate for more accurate measurement and management frameworks for methane emissions acknowledging that the metrics for measuring methane currently overestimate the contribution of methane to rising temperatures.

Water quality

Farmers are often blamed for poor water quality issues in New Zealand. The Government recently announced a new set of water quality rules that will impose additional costs on farmers but will do little to improve water quality. Water quality is also an urban problem. Councils in Auckland and Wellington have let existing networks run down to the point where sewerage spills into harbours and streams, yet the Councils don’t need to report this to the public.

To solve our water quality issues, we’d require councils to commit to short and long term water quality objectives. We’d allow farmers to go back to setting environmental plans based on local river and soil science with the regional council, rather than adhere to a one-size-fits all approach from Wellington.

Data and Evidence

The Government’s response to environmental issues is to regulate. However, many of our problems can be helped by information and innovation.

New Zealand soil is one of our best assets but there are gaps in our knowledge around soil health. The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has found gaps in data preventing us from having a clear picture of our environment and the impact the measures we put in place have on it. We need better information otherwise we risk imposing costs on our environment and economy while flying blind. We need to be keeping track on our environmental progress over time. ACT supports developing a comprehensive, nationally-coordinated environmental monitoring system and establishing a science advisory panel to respond to issues that are raised from it.

It’s time to stop punishing our farmers. Let’s start listening to them, respecting them and getting the most from the sector. Our farmers are some of the most efficient food producers in the world, feeding New Zealanders, earning export dollars and producing enough food to feed 100 million people. Cliché or not, they are indeed the backbone of our economy.

We can work together with farmers to care for the environment, address New Zealand’s shortcomings with data and evidence, and play our part on climate change.

 *Brooke van Velden is the ACT Party's Deputy Leader and Wellington Central candidate. As part of an election series van Velden will be writing regularly for between now and the October 17 election. Vanushi Walters, the Labour Party's Upper Harbour candidate and 23 on the list, is also writing for

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How ridiculous. They need a new name, The


That's a bit strong Kate.. most Primary producers are feeling "under the pump" With the Greens and Labour constantly ratcheting up the pressure it's no wonder. If Urbanites were subjected to the same levels of compliance there would be a mass outcry.

Urbanites will feel the pressure soon enough. Read in Dominion last week that cost to upgrade greater Wellington's three waters' infrastructure will be in the vicinity of $5bn, with a probable increase in rates for that alone of 10%.

The part of your comment that backs up your perspective with a rational argument is notable in its absence, Kate.

Here's an example. The article states:

We need a more co-operative approach between government and the rural sector.

There has been much co-operation over many years. First we had the Dairying and Clean Streams Accord - a joint government/dairy sector initiative. It ran for 10 years (2003-2013). That was replaced with the 2013 - 2020 Sustainable Dairying Accord.

Both of which were voluntary in nature and neither of which set environmental bottom lines for water quality. Here's an assessment;


Farmers have a very different perspective. The latest round of freshwater reforms is an example of where a much more cooperative approach is required.

Regarding your link, I don’t have access to your C: drive.

Sorry, the research article is from Lincoln University, titled "The Dirty Dairying Campaign and the Clean Streams Accord", Lincoln Planning Review, 6(1-2) (2014) 63-69. You'll likely get it via a Goggle search.

Sure, the latest round of freshwater reforms seem less 'cooperative' (i.e., more confrontational), but that's not for lack of consultation, instead it is because they are the first of any freshwater initiatives to actually define environmental bottoms line with respect to water quality. My point is, the non-regulatory, cooperative work went on for 20 years without any significant improvement to rivers being of good enough water quality to sustain our natural biodiversity and to be safe for swimming. Hence, a regulatory (as opposed to voluntary) complementary approach was needed.

Kate, President Xi of China has just announced that China intends to be carbon neutral by 2060, and not before. This puts the world on track for the dreaded +2deg C warming. Nothing NZ can do can prevent this. We should acknowledge this and prepare ourselves for the various eventualities. Kneecapping our economy by imposing restrictions on our primary producers when they are virtually all we have is not helpful.

In terms of addressing methane emissions - at this stage they are not included in the ETS. So, no problem there. And yes, I agree that we have to prepare for those eventualities/changes.

The issues which we as a nation have direct control over in terms of agricultural land-use are water quality, biodiversity and animal health.

Good points, but they are wasted on the 'We Know Best so Knuckle Under' crew. The Force inherent in Kotkin's Clerisy is strong in this lot.....

Um , whats the point of setting a fair carbon credit price if you remove the legislation requiring anyone to buy them ???
I fear there is not alot of depth past David Seymour in ACT , are we going to end up with an opposition weaker than National???.

We have just had three years of a Labour one person Govt and a pack of non deliver Ministers. The difference is ????
What Act is talking about is commonsense instead of Labour 'we know best'!
Labour and the Greens will win but the next three years of non delivery, mismanagement & incompetence will ensure that we will not see them again for a very long time.
National has lost the plot with identifying with the average National orientated voter. They need to drop the CCP.

" They need to drop the CCP." be careful of what you wish for. At last census Asian descent people well outnumber Pacifica (`700K) and, should they decide to create their own party, could easily be a parliamentary force. Surprised it actually hasn't happened yet. If all Asian voters voted for an Asian based and focused party you might find they'd control 15%+ of the vote

I would imagine more than 50% of "Asian descent people" are no fans of the CCP.

I'd be happy for you to explain to me how the above policy will work.
Seems like a lot of platitudes and no substance.

When you have a deputy for ACT describing the debt used to support the covid recovery as “fiscal child abuse” then you can see why the majority of New Zealanders believe this party is woeful out of touch.

ACT come across as the most hypocritial party there is , they are supposed to stand for indivdual choice and self determination but for certain sections of the population they want to determine how you live
Electronic Income Management . It issues an electronic card with tracked spending and restrictions on alcohol, gambling, and tobacco expenditure. Almost all of the benefit comes in this form, with a small amount left in discretionary cash.
this is so big brother so the government will decide how much you spend on everything,

Would you like them to put a caveat to their statement stating that they believe in individual choice unless you are a beneficiary spending other people’s hard earned tax dollars so they don’t want them to waste it on tobacco, alcohol and gambling?

Is this rule going to apply to all beneficiaries...the 1000’s that have been added since COVID? What about those on a sickness or disability benefit, them too?

not all beneficiaries they wont touch those collecting super, especially those that dont need it that collect money from the state
it seems only if you are at the bottom and poor you will be told what to spend on, to me they should get alongside people like Darryl Evans and help those same people with budgeting services.
if you believe in freedom of choice then that should apply to all not just some,
ACT have always been full of hypocrites willing to tell people how and what to live but then doing some shady things, even the way they have been elected up to now (gifted a place in parliament from national)
ACT Party MP Donna Awatere Huata is convicted on fraud charges involving a trust set up to help underprivileged Maori children
: ACT Party leader John Banks is convicted of filing a false electoral return in 2010, recording donations known to come from Kim Dotcom as
ACT Party Member David Garrett, the primary party advocate on tougher sentences and ending name suppression in ongoing court cases, admits stealing the identity of a dead infant for the purpose of obtaining a passport 26 years prior.
ACT leader Rodney Hide was criticised in November 2009 for taking his girlfriend Louise Crome on a tax-payer funded private holiday to Hawaii and on a tax-payer funded trip to London, Canada and the United States. He repaid the money for the Hawaii trip. These allegations were particularly notable given Hide's history as a self-styled parliamentary perk-buster, particularly in Opposition.