Not the time for contentious legislation

April 7, 2020

The government is, rightly, expecting the opposition to support it through the lockdown.

In return it ought to hold back on contentious legislation.

Instead we have this:

The Government is using Parliament’s select committee process to sneak climate change provisions into the Resource Management Act, National’s RMA spokesperson Judith Collins says.

“A recently-released report by the Environment Select Committee recommends several changes to the Resource Management Amendment Bill, including provisions for climate change considerations in RMA decisions.

“These late changes are an abuse of the select committee process because they were made after public feedback was called for, meaning submitters have not had the opportunity to properly consider the new bill.

“The climate change considerations were not in the original bill, and it appears only some of the people who submitted were aware of them.

“The amended bill also gives submitters the right to cross-examine each other during RMA applications. This would significantly increase the time and cost of hearings.

“The Government’s expert review panel is likely to recommend significant reform when it reports back in May so it makes no sense to proceed with these changes now.

“Last week, Environment Minister David Parker said he was working on ways to improve the speed and certainty of consenting. This bill will have the opposite effect.” 

Could there be a worse time to add such contentious provisions to the Bill?

Now is not the time to be adding contentious, expensive and time-consuming hurdles to the RMA.

Now of all times, the government should understand the need to relook at everything that could hamper the recovery.

When the lock down is over we’ll be facing a new, and much poorer, normal. We need to be reducing red tape and simplifying regulations not adding to it and complicating them.


Water, water . . .

February 12, 2020

We had around 70mms of rain last week – it was welcome for both the timing and amount.

For once North Otago has been blessed with enough but not too much, unlike Southland which was inundated and further north which is suffering from drought.

This photo, taken a week before the rain, shows the difference irrigation makes:

Without irrigation, all of the district would have looked like the hillside in the background, and had it not been for last week’s rain, we’d have been facing drought.

While nothing beats water from above, dry weather here doesn’t matter nearly as much as it used to.

Before we had widespread irrigation the district lurched from one drought to the next, playing catch-up in the good years but never making progress.

Enough of the district now has irrigation which allows grass and crop growth in dry weather and gives opportunities for people on dry land to buy feed or grazing or to sell stock to those who have water.

It’s drought-proofed farms and created more jobs on farms and in town.

Many other districts aren’t so blessed.

Large areas of the country are now facing drought and don’t have the option to irrigate. But many places could if there was more water storage.

If predictions of dry weather caused by climate change prove to be right we should be investing in more dams to store water when there’s an excess to use when it’s dry.

It has economic, environmental and social benefits, not just for farms but for towns and cities which are facing water restrictions now as they wait for rain.


Petition against preaching

January 17, 2020

Federated Farmers has launched a petition seeking to have the government’s climate change teaching resource withdrawn until it’s corrected:

The Ministry of Education has made a new Climate Change resource available to teachers on the Te Kete Ipurangi (TKI) website. This is not compulsory but is a ready-made unit of work designed to be picked up and taught by teachers. The “Climate Change: Prepare today, live well tomorrow” unit has significant information missing which would provide important context about New Zealand’s emissions, it makes food choice recommendations that are not supported from a health perspective, it refers to overly simplistic and inaccurate messaging, it refers students and teachers to websites that are not intended for primary school age students and/or are not appropriate for the NZ context, and it encourages activism. In its current form it is not appropriate for use by teachers in classrooms.

Some of the content is scientific but some is inappropriate, simplistic and/or simply wrong.

The resource is also incomplete. It covers the risks with nothing about the remedies that could be available through innovation and technology.

It’s not unlike telling children they will all get diabetes without giving them reliable nutritional information and informing them about insulin.

Sign this petition to demand that the “Climate Change: Prepare today, live well tomorrow” is removed from the TKI website (and any other distribution forms) until such as time as it has been reviewed and amended to ensure completeness, accuracy, and relevance to the NZ context. In particular:
1. Provide information about the short-lived nature of methane in the atmosphere, and the difference between emissions and warming
2. Provide context around NZs agriculture emissions which are largely methane based
3. Encourage critical assessment of “food miles” and “buy local” messaging which is often simplistic and inaccurate
4. Remove suggestions around food choices, beyond “avoid waste”
5. Remove teaching of activism
6. Ensure all material is age appropriate and relevant for the NZ context

Education should be encouraging children to think not stirring up feelings of hopelessness.

Teachers should be encouraging pupils to investigate, question and problem solve, not inciting them to activism.

And schools should be teaching not preaching.


Need right response

January 16, 2020

Climate change agitation started on the left.

Some of it was driven by genuine concern for the environment. Some had, and still has, a wider anti-capitalist political agenda.

Climate change is now an issue that spans the political spectrum but most response is still shaped by the left with its usual recipe of less of this here and more tax on that there.

Ironically, given climate change activists’ demands to accept the science, a lot of the response does not follow the science.

Much of the response is also simplistic and does not take into account all the costs and consequences of prescribed actions nor does it follow the prescription for sustainability which requires a balance of economic, environmental and social concerns.

The teaching resource on climate change issued by the Ministry of Education exemplifies this, mixing misinformation and preaching with the science and teaching.

There is a huge opportunity here for the right to promote a much more positive response that will counter the eco-pessimism and provide real solutions with technology and innovation.

That is what has provided answers to problems that have beset the world in the past and that is what is needed if we’re to safeguard the health of the planet for the future.


Stuff won’t publish this

December 13, 2019

50 Shades of Green:

Today we sent a piece to stuff in response to an opinion piece written by Green Peace. Thanks but no thanks to our views, so what better place to post it, than to our facebook group.

We’d like to respond to the opinion piece published in Stuff 7th December 2019 written by the Greenpeace agricultural campaigner, or as it reads anti agricultural campaigner, trying to further demonise the ag industry (https://www.stuff.co.nz/…/agricultures-role-in-getting-to-z…)

Gen Toop writes as if she thinks New Zealand farmers are sitting on their hands in the race to mitigate global warming waiting for a mythical solution, she is offbeat in that view. While it’s true the industry continues to look to technology to innovate and improve, she has highlighted something that needs to be understood about the way we grow animal proteins for the world.

Agriculture in general is nowhere near as harmful to the climate as is often described and New Zealand, with our large swaths of native bush possibly contributing less to global warming than any other international producer. We wouldn’t know because not everything behind the farm gate is measured or measured accurately.

First some inconvenient truths, emissions do not necessarily result in global warming. As we now know from multiple government reports our methane emissions only need to be reduced by a minuscule 0.3 percent per year to avoid further warming. This is because once stock numbers have stabilised for around 10 years, methane decays in the atmosphere at around the same rate as it is being emitted.

The outdated GWP100 metric, which our ETS is based on, assigns methane a warming value of 28 x CO2. This is how much warming a single pulse of methane will cause over the next 100 years. Farm’s however emit a steady flow of methane over time so it is the inflow versus outflow we must measure if we want to understand our impact on warming.

According to Ministry for the Environment data, farmers have reduced their methane by 2.8 percent since 2014 putting them well on track to achieve the 10 percent by 2050 needed to remain climate neutral. Notably, Agriculture is the only sector being asked to reduce emissions below the point of zero warming and this is a direct result of the failure to properly articulate how methane effects climate

It is an absurd situation that agricultural methane accounts for 35 percent of our country’s entire emissions, yet how it is accounted for does not consider the rate it is decaying in the atmosphere. Because NZ’s methane emissions are stable the decay is equal to what is being released. It is similar to a factory planting trees to offset their Co2 emissions. Any emissions cause warming in isolation but not necessarily when measured on a net basis. Perhaps Ms Toop would like to explain why she promotes a net zero release of emissions for CO2 emitters but still finds this unacceptable for Methane?

A more accurate accounting method called GWP-we has been developed for the specific purpose of measuring the warming effect of flow methane over time. Inexplicably this option has so far been ignored, the folly of which is even more surprising given the entire objective of the Paris Agreement is to limit global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial temperatures

How are farmers to measure success against this stated goal if they are not measuring the methane’s warming effect?

Add to this, the major oversight of not collecting more data on farm trees. 1.4 million ha of trees already are growing on drystock properties not presently being assessed for their annual carbon sequestration rates.

An agricultural emissions scheme should count ALL measurable offsets. Simply put, make it fair, make sure the accounting system is the correct one, make sure farmers can claim for trees annual carbon sequestration rates, and any other measurable offset so New Zealand continues to grow the most carbon efficient animal proteins in the world.

Until this is done, the likes of Greenpeace and other anti-farming campaigners will continue to use incomplete information and half-truths to criticise the industry.

Instead, let’s celebrate our industry, the day in day out work in all weathers all year round by our 46,000+ farms and celebrate the extraordinary fact that in one amazing minute every day in NZ, our country exports five and half tonnes of pastoral agricultural product generating more than $100,000 for NZ. That is almost twice the average annual income of a New Zealand household. In less than a minute the pastoral sector that works so hard for this country generates income that helps pay for a school teacher, a policeman, a nurse. Maybe that minute also makes it possible for a non farming household to take their family on a holiday, or provide their children a better education

More broadly, we all need to do some serious navel glazing rather than opining on ideology and travelling the same old road of finding someone else to blame for everybody’s problem. Let’s face it, it’s not so much the ruminants, it’s people. Here is agriculture already reducing its impacts, yet on the other hand a recently released report tells us Wellington’s vehicle emissions, have risen 12% between 2013 and 2018, and not to pick on Wellington, it’s airport also proposes to DOUBLE numbers flying into the city by 2040.

Is the keen focus on agriculture because dealing with the growth in emissions from other sectors is too close to home, and will impact individuals requiring a change their own behaviours?

Stuff has decreed that it will publish nothing that could be construed as climate change denial.

This piece from 50 Shades of Green isn’t denying climate change, it’s responding, rationally, to an opinion piece Stuff published and that in the interests of balance it ought to have published.


Mixed messages

December 6, 2019

The government is sending mixed messages on fuel prices.

It’s imposed a carbon tax as part of its climate change strategy while it’s also criticising fuel companies for charging too much.

In doing the latter they are conveniently ignoring the fact that nearly half of the cost of fuel at the pumps is tax.


Rural round-up

October 26, 2019

The deal’s done – Bryan Gibson:

Farmers now control their emissions destiny but industry leaders warn the hard work starts here.

The Government has adopted He Waka Eke Noa – the Primary Sector Climate Change Commitment, which Beef + Lamb New Zealand chairman Andrew Morrison said is a good outcome for farmers.

“I hope farmers understand the importance of today,” he said.

“This is a piece of work that empowers us as a sector to put the tools in place to measure the mitigations, the sequestrations against our liabilities. 

“That’s our goal and that will drive the right behaviours.”

But now the office work is done the farm work will start. . .

Water policy stymies green work :

Hill-Country farmers will be deterred from doing environmental protection and enhancement because of limits put on land use by the proposed Essential Freshwater policies, Tararua farmers Simon and Trudy Hales say.

They believe restrictions on farmers’ ability to realise the productive potential of their land will stymie investment in environmental protection.

The couple, this year’s Supreme Award winners in the Manawatu-Wanganui Region Ballance Farm Environment Awards, estimate over the past four years they have spent about $120,000 on environmental protection on their 970ha, 819ha effective, hill country farm. . .

Taranaki farming couple reap benefit after lifetime of responsible land management – Mike Watson:

When Norton and Coral Moller decided to plant trees on a bare coastal dairy farm south of New Plymouth, the response from neighbours was disbelief.

Nearly 50 years later the retired Oakura couple are reaping the benefits.

Last month they were among 17 Taranaki Environment Award winners, for environmental leadership in dairying. . .

New Zealand’s anti-science GMO laws need to change to tackle climate change – Mia Sutherland:

If this coalition government is serious about tackling climate change and ensuring future generations are left with a prosperous planet, GMO law reform must be considered.

A poignant aspect of making a difference to New Zealand’s carbon emissions is discontinuing ‘business as usual’, meaning that the lifestyles we have founded and the way our society operates now needs to change. It’s not sustainable, and doesn’t promise the 170,000 people who took to the streets on September 27 or their children an inhabitable future.

We need to be exploring new methods, changing the way we think, and reevaluating ideas we have while taking into consideration the increasingly fast development of science. We need to reform the law about genetically modified organisms. . .

Kiwifruit pushes onto dairy land – Alan WIlliams:

Two properties destined for conversion to kiwifruit are among the few dairy farms being sold.

The farms are in the Pukehina area, east of the main kiwifruit zone at Te Puke in Bay of Plenty.

It is fringe kiwifruit land away from the main post-harvest infrastructure and indications are the buyers are already in the industry with the knowledge to make the bare-land investment, Real Estate Institute rural spokesman Brian Peacocke said.  . .

More Trades Academy places good news for primary sector:

The announcement of up to 4000 more trades training places in schools will help meet demand from students to learn about farming and horticulture, Primary ITO chief executive Nigel Philpott says.

The Government will fund 2000 more Trades Academy places, where secondary students combine full-time study with experience in the workplace, as well as up to 2000 Gateway places, where students have job placements along with classroom learning. The Trades Academies are across a number of sectors.

Primary ITO currently has New Zealand’s biggest Trades Academy, with approximately 830 students, and Mr Philpott says schools have asked for nearly 1100 Trades Academy places for next year. . .

Genetic engineering, CRISPR and food: What the ‘revolution’ will bring in the near future – Steven Cerier:

Humankind is on the verge of a genetic revolution that holds great promise and potential. It will change the ways food is grown, medicine is produced, animals are altered and will give rise to new ways of producing plastics, biofuels and chemicals.

Many object to the genetic revolution, insisting we should not be ‘playing God’ by tinkering with the building blocks of life; we should leave the genie in the bottle. This is the view held by many opponents of GMO foods But few transformative scientific advances are widely embraced at first. Once a discovery has been made and its impact widely felt it is impossible to stop despite the pleas of doubters and critics concerned about potential unintended consequences. Otherwise, science would not have experienced great leaps throughout history­­—and we would still be living a primitive existence


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