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$175 million hardly amounts to ‘negligence’

9 November 2007

$175 million hardly amounts to ‘negligence’

Agriculture Minister Jim Anderton today dismissed assertions by National’s David Carter that the Government has ‘lumped farmers in the too hard basket’ over the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS).

“For a start, the Government is investing $175 million over the next five years on a Plan of Action on Land Management and Climate Change,” Jim Anderton said. “That is a not inconsiderable sum of money.

“The Government has also recognised that the agriculture sector needs time to adapt to the demands being placed on all sectors of the community as we get to grips with the issues of climate change and sustainability. For that reason agriculture has been given a longer lead time and will come into the ETS on 1 January 2013.

“Furthermore, when the agriculture sector enters the emissions trading scheme there will be a free allocation of emission rights to 90 per cent of the sector’s 2005 level of emissions,” Jim Anderton said.

David Carter was commenting on the statement MAF Director-General Murray Sherwin had made to the Primary Production Select Committee yesterday. Mr Sherwin said that it was not possible to be precise about the financial impact on the agriculture sector until all of the parameters of agriculture’s entry into ETS were tied down. The Government has a year long consultation underway with the sector to finalise matters, such as who pays − farmers, processors or industry organisations. The impacts on farmers will vary depending on these choices.

“For David Carter to claim that that means MAF has done no research into the matter is simply political game-playing,” Jim Anderton said. “The Ministry has done some initial modelling on the potential impact of the ETS on the farm gate but Murray Sherwin is quite right to say that precise figures can’t be given, after all the costs are dependent on whatever price is set by the market. That’s the whole point of having a market-based system.”

MAF is now in the process of forming a technical working group (including representatives from the agriculture sector) which will assess the technical issues and develop some scenarios as to how agriculture will be brought into the NZ ETS. It is expected this group will be in place before Christmas.

As well, MAF has been working closely with the inter-departmental group on ETS and has set out a clear process for working with the agricultural sector. There are also farming representatives on the Government’s Climate Change Leadership Forum, which is providing advice to ministers on the introduction of the ETS, and a Peak Group of leaders from the land based industries overseeing the Plan of Action on Land Management and Climate Change.

“David Carter’s claim of “gross negligence towards farmers” doesn’t stack up in the face of the commitment the Labour-Progressive government is making to agriculture,” Jim Anderton said. “The government will be investing:

- $45 million over the next five years in science research, with an ongoing investment of $10 million annually after that
- $41 million over the next eight years in technology transfer and farmer education
- $10 million in research, development and commercialisation of bioenergy and energy efficiency opportunities
- $6 million into a greenhouse gas footprint strategy that will allow New Zealand to take on the ‘food miles’ debate

- $5.7 million allocated to the Community Irrigation Fund, to help rural communities to adapt to increasing drought risk
- $50 million in an Afforestation Grant Scheme for landowners who choose to stay out of the ETS and prefer a simple cash payment, to target tree planting projects that offer co-benefits such as reducing erosion and improving water quality. (This $50 million in new funding comes on top of the $10m announced in the Budget for hill country erosion. It is also on top of the existing East Coast Forestry Project and Permanent Forest Sinks Initiative.)

“Unlike the National Party, which is big on generalisations and short on detail, this is a Government that is showing leadership and resolve in addressing the difficult issues of climate change and sustainability,” Jim Anderton said. “We are well aware of how vulnerable agriculture is to the potential environmental and commercial impact of climate change and we are doing something about it.”

“By comparing New Zealand farmers to Australian farmers, the irony is lost on David Carter that Aussie farmers are struggling right now precisely because of climate change. Our farmers have more to lose from not taking action on climate change than almost any other group on earth, whether from increased droughts, floods or pests, or from market reaction to our products being shipped thousands of miles to market.

“The National Party has to come clean on whether it proposes to exclude the half of all New Zealand’s emissions that come from agriculture from the Emissions Trading Scheme.”

ENDS

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