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Guy: NZ Farm Environment Awards Trust Presentation

Nathan Guy

22 June, 2013

Speech to the New Zealand Farm Environment Awards Trust Presentation

Thank you to the organisers of the National Sustainability Showcase for the invitation to say a few words this evening.

Thanks to the Trust’s efforts, the farm environment awards have grown steadily in recent years.

I want to make a special mention of the previous Trust chairman, Mr Jim Cotman. Jim’s enthusiasm and commitment to farm and environmental sustainability has helped ensure this success - and the expansion of the Regional Awards, which now cover nine regions. His hard work has meant long periods away from home and the farm.

Introduction

The severe drought this year was a brutal experience for many farmers, but I believe it has had one important positive outcome.

If nothing else, it has reinforced to urban New Zealanders just how important the primary industries are to our economy and way of life.

They remain the powerhouse of the economy, generating around $30 billion a year and making up 72% of our exports. When they suffer, so does the rest of the economy.

New Zealand’s economic fortunes are largely underpinned by the success of its primary industries.

For over a century New Zealand has made its way in the world on the back of selling what the rest of the world needs – high quality primary produce.

As a nation of 4.5 million, we export to around 200 countries and feed around 40 million people.

I believe we are the best the world in what we do. But I believe we can do better. That is why the Government has set a goal of doubling our primary sector exports by 2025. This won’t be easy, and we will not get there by continuing business as usual.

So how will we achieve this goal?

This National Government has a plan to get there. There is no silver bullet solution, we need to do a number of things and do them well.

Primary Growth Partnership

We are investing heavily inprimary sector innovation. A total of $658 million has so far been committed by Government and industry through the Primary Growth Partnership.

This major boost in innovation spending has a potential benefit to the wider economy of over $7 billion per year from 2025.

“Transforming the Dairy Value Chain” is one such project. One part of this is focussed on building capability amongst rural professionals, such as better support for farmers for improving nutrient effluent and business management.

The “Clearview Innovations” project is led by Ballance and is aimed at reducing the leaching (or runoff) of nitrogen and phosphorous. It is developing a range of new products that will have real benefits for farmers and the environment.

We are also placing a huge focus on improving the potential and productivity of Māori land.

Recent reports suggest that raising productivity of the 1.5 million hectares of Māori land could result in an additional $8 billion in gross output.

Enhancing our irrigation infrastructure is also a key focus of mine.

Increasing irrigation could see a further 420,000 hectares of irrigated land becoming available for a range of uses, creating thousands of new jobs and boosting exports by $4 billion a year.

It’s also worth noting the potential environmental benefits that irrigation can bring, particularly through more consistent river flows which improve the habitats for fish and birdlife while taking pressure off groundwater aquifers.

Trade deals

New trade deals will play a big part in boosting our exports, such as the free trade deal with China which has proven a major success.

Earlier this year I went on a trade mission with the Prime Minister to four Latin American countries – Mexico, Colombia, Chile and Brazil.

What this experience reinforced to me is that New Zealand has a strong reputation as being a trusted exporter of primary produce. Our food safety, biosecurity and animal welfare systems have great integrity, and our reputation for producing food products while minimising impacts on the environment is highly regarded.

This reputation is crucial to New Zealand’s future, and a key part of maintaining this reputation is down to the way we manage the environmental impacts of our production.

Environmental issues

What is clear to me is that growing our primary sector exports is crucial to supporting and growing the overall New Zealand economy.

But equally important, if we are to continue to grow our primary sector exports, we need to have an emphasis on exporting goods that are produced in an environmentally sustainable manner that add real value.

It should be clear to everyone that this is not a choice between the economy or the environment. It has to be both.

There is a perception in some quarters of New Zealand media, and held by some political parties, that farmers don’t care about the environment; that farmers are short term thinkers, who care only about profit; and that farmers are the primary polluters of our waterways.

As a farmer myself, and as Minister for Primary Industries, I completely refute these perceptions.

Yes there is a distinction between good and bad farmers. And yes a few farmers do act in a way that is not sustainable. But there are a few ‘ratbags’ in any business, across any sector.

I believe most farmers are environmentalists, and want to leave the land in a better state than they found it.

Farmers are a competitive bunch and want to be the best across a wide range of indicators, including both environmental and economic. Farmers are there for the long haul - they are the custodians of their land.

And this event tonight is proof of that. Just read through the accomplishments of tonight’s nominees and you realise New Zealand farmers are world-leading in their commitment to sustainable farming.

I’d also like to mention a few of very important initiatives showing environmental leadership from the farming sector.

The first is the voluntary protection of over 120,000 hectares of private bush land in The Queen Elizabeth II National Trust open space registered and approved covenants. Here in the Waikato, there are nearly 600 registered and approved covenants, covering 16,300 hectares.

The second is the Dairy NZ-led Sustainable Dairying Strategy. A key action of this strategy is the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord. This is a great initiative that shows the sector is committed to sustainably managing its impacts on the environment.

Beef + Lamb NZ have also produced a land and environment toolkit to help keep stock out of water, and manage nutrient and erosion issues.

The Government is also doing its bit to show global leadership in this space.

We have established the Global Research Alliance on Agriculture Emissions.

This involves linking in climates change and agriculture scientists from over 30 countries in the search for alternative technologies and management systems that can achieve two global goals – increasing global food production by 70% by 2050 and reducing the emissions footprint of that extra production.

This year the Sustainable Farming Fund allocated a total of $8.8 million to 42 projects around the country.

These projects are driven from the grassroots and will help to improve economic and environmental performance.

Some of these projects include promoting pasture persistence, biological controls for pests, improving deer farm environmental management, and planning for collaborative water management.

We are also in the process of the most significant water and RMA reforms in a generation. I am working very closely with the Environment Minister Amy Adams in this space.

I know I am preaching to the converted in this room. But it is incumbent upon all of us to make sure that we are successful in telling the real story of how New Zealand farmers are dedicated to the sustainable management of our industry.

By showcasing what best practice and environmental leadership actually looks like on the farm, the New Zealand Farm Environment Trust is playing a vital role in promoting sustainable land management in New Zealand, supported by nine regional councils and key sponsors.

And I am telling this story to New Zealanders up and down the country.

To each of the Regional Winners, I hope you have enjoyed the judging process and the opportunity to interact with your peers. The Awards are about learning from the best, and you have all demonstrated excellence in farm and environmental management. Well done – I salute you all.

It is now my pleasure to announce the 2013 National Winners of the Ballance Farm Environment Awards: Craige and Roz Mackenzie from Canterbury.

ENDS


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