Credits for all trees a key requirement

COMMENT: Federated Farmers Manawatu¯ Rangit¯ıkei president Murray Holdaway says credits for every tree is crucial for success of climate policy




The Country

It’s a few weeks since the agri sector’s emissions plan was put to the Government. Since then, the Climate Change Commission has been reviewing the proposal to prepare a report to advise the Government on how well it thinks the programme will deliver on the climate change targets that have been set for New Zealand, while ensuring the degree of economic and social impact is limited enough to enable our sector to remain internationally competitive and to deliver the export revenue the country needs to pay the interest costs on our borrowings, as well as the ongoing commitments to the wellbeing of all New Zealanders. The commission has commented publicly that it believes the proposal to include on-farm sequestration for shelter belts, riparian plantings, and small woodlots makes the proposal too complex and hard to achieve within the time frame, and that an alternative scheme should be developed at some stage to account for these trees. From my conversations with farmers, the ability to claim credits for all trees on their property is a fundamental requirement of any scheme. I cannot support the removal of that provision in the proposal, and I am sure many farmers will feel the same way. If we are to pay for every animal that we farm, surely it is only reasonable to expect to get credits for every tree on our property? And to suggest we should be accepting of not receiving what is a reasonable deal, because it is too hard and complex, is downright offensive. Do they think farming is a cake walk? Farming has always required a level of commitment well beyond many other occupations, but given the current conditions of labour shortages, uncertainty because of the unknown impacts of the raft of regulations, the increasing complexity of the international markets, the social and economic upheaval caused by Covid and the general insecurity produced by Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, I think we might have a better case for saying it’s all too hard and let’s delay the whole proposal. But that would not be well received by those in power. And then think about the additional people employed by government departments of the past four or five years. Why are some of them not available and capable of making things happen given this is seen to be so urgent? Maybe too many are in the spin doctor category? We as farmers should be proud of what our sector is doing for New Zealand, and the typical rural humility that we continually display means we do not demand recognition for the contribution we make, but we cannot carry the whole burden on our shoulders. If the Government and its ministries are not capable or committed enough to helping our sector achieve the country’s goals, why would we continue to be engaged and committed? I sense the rural sector is in serious need of some indication of appreciation and support from the Government and its ministries, and a call by the Climate Change Commission or the Government to exclude on-farm sequestration from the sector’s emission proposal would be a step too far for most. To the Government I say, if as we are continually being told, this is an urgent issue and cannot be delayed, then get on with it, find a way to make it happen, but please don’t ask us to be the ones carrying all the load. We have, and are, doing our bit — it’s now your turn to deliver.