Groundswell NZ has had a massive end to the year.
On Thursday we travelled up to Wellington to represent you at a meeting with the Prime Minister, James Shaw, Damien O’Connor, Kieran McAnulty and Meka Whaitiri. We were pleased to have the opportunity, and be recognised for representing a good portion of New Zealand grassroots food producers.
The half hour meeting turned into just over an hour, and we were able to touch on many topics that are having detrimental impacts on rural people, communities and our country as a whole.
We first spoke about the thousands of hectares of good farmland converting to trees. They said they are aware that this is a real issue, and are looking at ways to address it. However, we felt they didn’t understand root cause is poorly designed and unworkable regulations, such as climate change … they kept referring back point that they can’t take away landowners private property rights (to sell to who they want to). They did seem surprised that whole communities were suffering with this and Jacinda specifically asked where we had seen it - we gave example of Lawrence in Otago.
We asked why New Zealand farmers are being penalised – when we have studies to show that we are already the most emissions-efficient food producers in the world. James Shaw did not deny this, and actually agreed that is correct … but went on to explain, the issue for New Zealand is when you lump all gases (not just methane) together, the total volume of Green house gases needs to reduce. We agreed to disagree on this, as we know Methane should be treated separate, being a short lived gas.
They expressed the government wants a system that encourages emissions reductions - we said, but what about the perverse outcomes - they were interested to hear what! Jamie our environment spokesperson bought with him a native seedling, he popped it on the table and said ‘like this’! Farmers won’t have spare funds to invest in plantings along waterways, improving water quality and biodiversity, things that will directly benefit the environment, if they have to spend that money on an emissions tax.
Jacinda was keen to let us know they thought there had been misinformation around their emissions pricing proposal, giving the example of sequestration. We advised that was thanks to the industry bodies, they were the ones saying the govt was not allowing sequestration (when, if you look at the fine print, both the HWEN proposal and Government proposal are very similar in that most vegetation on farms will not qualify for credits). We also made sure they understood the whole HWEN consultation period was not genuine with farmers from industry bodies, farmers felt this had all been sprung on them as it had been worked on in background for two years before farmers had even heard about it, and then full and accurate information was not provided to farmers.
The Climate Change Minister indicated that there are probably more suitable options for helping farmers reduce emissions - but because of the agreement between government and industry body partners, this likely won’t happen. We intend to follow up on this, and believe it confirms that the industry body groups have not kept grassroots food producers informed of all options available.
We also discussed the extra stress and mental health impacts on rural communities from unworkable regulations, and how this is making the occupation unappealing for young farmers.
Reflecting afterwards, we keep coming back to the question, what have our farming groups been saying to the government all this time and what have they signed up to on our behalf?!