Breaking news: Stats NZ says number of employed people fell 11,000 in June quarter; 'underutilisation rate' had record climb More soon.

Guy Trafford looks at what the latest variation to the Climate Response Bill the Government has handed out to farmers, and wonders what have the Greens received for their agreement

Guy Trafford looks at what the latest variation to the Climate Response Bill the Government has handed out to farmers, and wonders what have the Greens received for their agreement

The announcement Thursday October 24 that farmers will be exempt from any ETS charges has been largely welcomed by the livestock sectors.

The most positive aspect of the announcement is that the preferred approach of government to tax farmers has been overturned, at least for now.

The quid pro quo is that the five years are to be used to come up with a counter scheme to make it possible, and agreeable to farmers, to assess farm emissions and sequestrations at the farm level.

Taxing at the processor levels was a particularly dumb idea and was a straight-out tax on production with no incentives to find more efficient ways to produce products. The new scheme will allow farmers to become more innovative and inventive to find practical ways to reduce emissions.

Given that Fonterra has been leading the way on this one and already intends to have all their dairy farmer supplier fully conversant with what their individual farms emissions are in a relatively short time shows that this approach is not only possible but close to being achieved.

The catch is likely to the ‘auditing process’ that will inevitably follow to make sure that the figures farmers have put forward do bear a close resemblance to what the auditors find. Sheep and beef farms will have a greater variability between farms and seasons depending upon selling dates, weights, lambing and calving percentages and a range of other factors. This will mean the sheep and beef sector will likely need to have to keep (more) accurate records than in the past to justify seasonal changes.

However, the benefits should provide the incentive. If, for some reason the farmers sectors fail to meet this challenge then the government has promised a return to what was originally planned.

Government has put $229 million on the table to assist farmers through this transition phase and presumably this includes assisting in the funding of a new workable scheme.

Rolling forward five or more years it will be interesting to see who MPI  (or IRD?) appoint to do the checking. Perhaps the poor souls roped into the M. Bovis programme can move onto ‘greener’ pastures. With the raft of new compliance requirements to be adhered to is does beg the question about the cost and time required to check the numbers. The low rate agriculture is going to be required to pay, at least up to the medium term, will mean that the ETS post 2025 is hardly going to be a ‘cash cow’ unless some additional pretty heavy user pays programme comes in.

On current emissions pricing, which is unlikely to remain at this level, the ETS programme would cost farmers about $0.01c per kg of milk solids and $0.03c per kg of sheep meat. The low rate for all is because agriculture still is (only) liable for 5% initially. On the surface it does look as though the farmer sector has got off very lightly. However, the methane reduction target is still there and trumps everything else with its 10% reduction by 2030 and the 24-42% reduction by 2050 (with provisos).

Another positive outcome of the move back to on-farm assessments has meant that National are less likely to make changes at some future point, providing more certainty for business. Greens have come onboard with this watered-down version also and the cynic in me wonders what behind the scenes horse trading went on.

Foreign farm ownership gets Green light

Despite Shane Jones saying a week or two back that the Government policy of giving overseas investors a green light to purchase farmland, little has been down to slow the transfer of land. In fact, it has taken a leap forward with Green MP the Minister for Land Information Eugenie Sage announcing that Pan Pac. the Japanese owned and Napier based timber exporter. is able to purchase a further 20,000 hectares of land for forestry planting. Sage is not known as being friendly to farming and is an advocate for tree planting.

If the plantings stay on steeper hills between Napier and Wairoa criticism could be muted.

However, if it moves onto prime land as has been happening elsewhere then the decision will be tested. Perhaps the Greens believe they have already lost the primary vote and so getting more criticism from this sector may be water off the ducks back. With the next election only 12 months away no doubt politicians’ behaviour will soon start to be shaped by the need to get back or into power.

We welcome your help to improve our coverage of this issue. Any examples or experiences to relate? Any links to other news, data or research to shed more light on this? Any insight or views on what might happen next or what should happen next? Any errors to correct?

We welcome your comments below. If you are not already registered, please register to comment.

Remember we welcome robust, respectful and insightful debate. We don't welcome abusive or defamatory comments and will de-register those repeatedly making such comments. Our current comment policy is here.

18 Comments

Eugenie & her Green cohorts must really truly love radiata pine trees ... cos , a result of their policies has been the upsurge in forestry plantings... some of it on prime land ...

... and that benefits only by sequestering a small quantity of carbon ...

Those monoculture forests are devoid of animal life , birds , insects ... nada ... but , she was wise , sage enough to realise that ?

I would like to know the viability of redwood forests as an alternative to pines. Superior timber and they grow pretty darn straight..
But I agree. Monoculture in any shape or form isn't what nature intended

.. redwoods ( Sequioa sempervirens ) require moist deep soils ... valley bottoms away from high winds suit them... similarly the Douglas Fir ( Psuedotsuga menziei ) ... another good straight timber tree ... and a fast grower ...

The radiata pine , unfortunately , is far hardier , and much more at home in NZ than the redwood is ...

Myth. Many native bird species, especially the insectivores, do better in exotic plantation primarily because forest managers do pest control at levels that DoC can't afford.
Exotic forest beats pasture hands down for biodiversity, soil protection, and water quality.

"Exotic forest beats pasture hands down for biodiversity, soil protection, and water quality."
You may wish to explain this statement to anyone living downstream of forests. Particularly those who have had their highly productive flood plains destroyed by silt and debris.

The comment was about a living forest. Not a cut one. For once, I'm with GBH here. We need to relinquish some of what we turned into pasture. Some of it we need to return to biodiversity, some of it to local food-production (because I don't reckon BigAg will continue, nor the fossil-fuel-dependent just-in-time food processing/distribution system).

There will still be a place for pasture, but a lot less than currently.

SimonP I'm sorry but thats plainly false. Please break that down to a species level. Clearly the bulk of NZ native birds do not outperform in exotic plantations!!!

Reread SimonP comment as it is comparing exotic forest to pasture. There is plenty of research out there on native species thriving in exotic forests.

... I would welcome a listing of native birds and insects that prefer pine forests to native ... or to pasture for that matter ... I stand to be corrected and educated...

All the erotic forests I've been in have seemed to be desolate of other creatures ... except for red cap toadstools ...

Wrong. Forest managers only control pests until the trees are large enough to not be damaged.

I can't believe NZ sells NZ

Nor me,
The one billion trees may have been Grandstanding, like Kiwibuild, was there any research to justify the goal?
And initially I believed we would lease the land to overseas inverstors, I was mistaken.

Word on the backroad is Panpac are looking at prime sheep and beef country. Why would a forest investor invest in a NES red zoned steep area and load themselves up with resource consent issues down the line? Hence yellow orange farms are the preferred option. The NES regulation has pushed forests in to prime farmland. Panpac is only acting rationally. Take the carbon money now, and once the carbon trading scheme falls over you want to have prime farmland planted up -paid for by the fuel user - not shite steep country that is low yield and expensive to harvest.

That is how I see it too, but after the Gisborne flooding debacle they may be preferring harvest trees on less steep surfaces and natives on the steep slopes.
Hope they know what they are doing.

The CEO of NZ Forest Owners Association, of which PanPac is a member, stated at the Primary Industries Summit in Wellington, that the members of NZFOA are not looking for steep erodible country, but flat to rolling land with a preference for Otago and Southland land. They have already started buying sheep farms for this purpose in these regions.

.. and the sheep farms, not being subsidised by fuel users, will be wiped out at the auction. That is happening on the Pan Pac patch already.

Seems like yet mo' Unintended Consequences for the Carbon Credit Mining push. Forests on less steep country are much easier to harvest (e.g. with feller-bunchers) and typically will be closer to roads so transport is simpler. That means buying and planting easier country. Good cash flow from the Carbon Credits (but only for the first rotation... all bets are off after that).

I saw a redwood planting in a shallow valley in the North Island.
The sheep and goats were grazing the steeper land above.
Novel, but we will get used to it.
The guide said they were planting redwood because it was less prone to disease than radiata.
It was the forgotten highway by the way, a fun trip on a jigger from Taumaranui.

Your access to our unique content is free - always has been. But ad revenues are under pressure so we need your direct support.

Become a supporter

Thanks, I'm already a supporter.