Environment must be priority

STEFFAN BROWNING
Last updated 09:32 19/06/2014

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The Green Party's Climate Protection Plan policy paper on effective and positive change to human controlled greenhouse gases emissions acknowledged the need for New Zealand to stay in front with our clean green 100% Pure brand.

It is that brand that is used to market primary production and tourism, although some would like to drop it so they can carry on polluting with gay abandon.

A sustainable economy can only be based on a sustainable environment. For us as an exporting nation, our reputation as a provider of safe food, produced sustainably, must be protected and strengthened.

While setting a carbon price of $25 per tonne on CO 2 equivalent emissions for all sectors except agriculture in part, with just dairy at $12-50 per tonne, the noisiest criticism has come from some in the farming sector.

In setting the plan, the recent difficulties in sheep and beef were recognised along with the fact that emissions for that sector hadn't climbed in the post-1990 period, and just dairy was included for now at its reduced rate.

An independent Climate Commission will determine when and how the rest of agriculture will join.

I am concerned that the most strident critics from the farming sector are not looking far enough ahead to ensure that New Zealand maintains its reputation, so that our products continue to be sought as top of the line - produced responsibly and deserving a premium.

Continued focus on volume commodity level production is not sustainable, but only reluctantly were even the basic environmental changes being implemented, except by those conscious enough to anticipate future regulatory demands or actually wanting to improve biodiversity and/or the quality of life for both their families and livestock.

Some still don't recognise the potential benefits of "getting it right" and remain fixated on the commodity treadmill of maximising production regardless of environmental outcomes and all too often actual profitability.

As commodity prices ebb and flow, especially dairy, now definitely averaging down as our international tradeable market share shrinks, New Zealand more and more will need its point of difference to compete. New Zealand's best value international customers have long been identified as those seeking safe, healthy, animal welfare friendly, GE Free, organic where possible, and fairly and sustainably produced food.

Doing our bit around greenhouse gas emissions and climate change is becoming increasingly relevant to our more discerning customers and it is those customers we will be looking to if we are to find economic sustainability; that is markets and price and an environment that will allow our children to farm profitably into the future.

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Those that squeal are not facing the facts and choose to inflate the impact of even the $12-50 price which will lower the average farm pay-out by just 8 cents/kg of milk solids.

The impact is an average 2 per cent drop on current profit, however that could be considered an investment for future profitability, and there will also be a helpful set of complementary measures to accelerate technological change required by farmers, businesses and consumers to adapt to low-carbon futures.

These include government supporting affordable renewable energy, biofuel development, and efficient transport, a Green Investment Bank for low carbon resource efficient projects, and Green Farms and Forestry.

The Federated Farmers criticism chose not to consider the claw back of some of the carbon tax costs achievable from carbon credits and rebates from the Green Farms and Forestry certification system for on-farm mitigation of agriculture emissions and other environmental improvements. These can include carbon credits from various plantings, including for riparian strips, biodiversity and erosion control.

The farm certification scheme will include planting and fencing riparian strips, effluent management including bio digesters, synthetic fertiliser management, and de-intensifying, all features that will also help the great New Zealand brand, clean Green 100% Pure; all features that will help sell New Zealand products internationally while we meet our responsibility to our children and future generations.

Climate change is the biggest environmental challenge of our time. Our plan is that New Zealand is carbon neutral by 2050. Under current government direction, emissions are set to grow by 130 per cent by 2020. Someone needs the courage to make a change, for the climate and for the sustainability of our farming communities. The lead has been taken.

  • Steffan Browning is the Green Party candidate in the Kaikoura electorate, which includes all of the Marlborough region. He is a sitting list MP.

- The Marlborough Express

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