Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Point of Order: Govt curries favour with farmers with climate change investments....

.....but a collaborative strategy (don’t forget) led to Five Waters

Governmental news for the farm and forestry sectors flowed too fast from the Beehive for your Point of Order team to quickly grasp all the implications.

At first blush, we are tempted to wonder if something that looks like good news for farmers has been deftly released to camouflage the not-so-good news buried in these announcements or in some yet to be released.

Many millions of dollars of government funding were among the goodies that might distract farmers from programmes designed to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by reducing their output – and incomes.

The latest Beehive releases tell us the government is …

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Minister for Agriculture, Damien O’Connor, launched the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions alongside the primary sector partners today at Mystery Creek Fieldays.

The bullet points emphasise
  • New Climate Action Centre launched to support farmers reduce ag emissions through R&D investment
  • 50:50 joint venture between Government and agribusiness to accelerate product development
  • First Centre projects launched to get farmers the emissions reducing tools sooner
  • Indicative funding commitment rising to $35 million per year by Joint venture partners, seeing at least $170 million invested over the next four years
The Climate Change Action Centre was announced as part of Budget 2022, and focuses on reducing agriculture emissions through research and development, including a substantial new public private 50:50 joint venture.

Almost as an afterthought, the statement tells us the joint venture will be chaired by Sir Brian Roche, who just a few days earlier had landed a job as director of Kiwi Group Capital Ltd.

The statement from the PM and O’Connor is peppered with figures but it’s hard to work out which are new public investments and which have already been announced.

The PM said:

“As part of the centre’s work to help farmers we’re partnering with the sector to invest $27 million into three new projects to decrease emissions and promote sustainable economic growth.”

Further down, the press statement says:

The Government also announced the Centre’s first three investments help farmers bring down emissions and futureproof the export growth of the sector to provide greater economic security for all New Zealanders, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor said.

According to our reading of the press statement, these are:
  • An investment of $7.8 million, to go alongside Ruminant Biotech’s $9.5 million contribution to develop a methane inhibiting capsule, or bolus, which delivers at least a 70 per cent reduction in methane while active.
  • An investment of over $2.2 million alongside a $2 million contribution from Beef + Lamb New Zealand and other industry partners, to increase the supply of low methane rams through genetic selection, introducing more low methane traits into the national sheep flock.
  • An investment of around $6 million in urgently needed greenhouse gas measurement equipment and infrastructure.
This doesn’t add up to the $27 million mentioned by the PM.

Was she referring to a different set of projects?

Damien O’Connor said that as part of the joint venture the Government is partnering with ANZCO Foods, Fonterra, Ravensdown, Silver Fern Farms, and Synlait. In the last week Rabobank has also signed on to join the partnership.

“Partners in the new joint venture have made an indicative funding commitment that will rise to around $35 million a year by 2025, matched by Government. This will see around $170 million invested over the first four years and we expect that to grow over time.”

Notes provided for editors say the funding comes from the $338.7 million appropriated over the next four years to strengthen the role of research and development for new tools and technologies to reduce on-farm emissions.

It will have two key components – a new public private 50:50 joint venture, and an enhanced New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC).

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern, Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Climate Change Minister James Shaw have confirmed the next steps in the Government’s partnership with the primary sector to develop a strategy for on-farm carbon sequestration.

The bullet points with this one are:
  • Government to work with primary sector on developing a sequestration strategy
  • Government confirms today it will bring all scientifically robust forms of sequestration into the Emissions Trading Scheme, starting from 2025.
  • This will be done at full value, rather than at a discount, so farmers can realise the true potential of the vegetation on their farms.
Farmers should not be too comforted to learn the government is to work with the primary sector on developing a sequestration strategy.

This is the same government that worked with local authorities to develop the Three Waters programme that – shazam! – after all the consultation and hearing of submissions turned Three Waters into Five Waters and generated a constitutional outrage.

The Government is working alongside industry to support thousands of farmers and growers to coordinate and integrate farm planning, which will reduce the administrative burden, and serve to demonstrate their sustainability credentials to export markets.

These points are highlighted:
  • 37 new investments to simplify planning and reduce paperwork for farmers and growers
  • Targeted projects for Northland, Waikato, Bay of Plenty, Taranaki, Gisborne, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatū-Whanganui, West Coast, Canterbury, and Otago
  • Resources, a digital wallet and template tools to help farmers develop and integrate their farm planning.
This announcement involved around $14 million towards 37 projects that are intended to provide “the kind of practical common-sense tools and resources that farmers are asking for, to give them back more time to farm.”

The funding is part of a package of investment outlined in April 2022 to strengthen the primary industry advisory sector to ensure farmers and growers have access to the highest quality farm planning support and advice.

The government will be partnering with the popular online learning platform Farm 4 Life and industry bodies such as Beef + Lamb New Zealand, Deer Industry New Zealand, and the Foundation for Arable Research, to develop national projects that will assist farmers who need support with planning.

Trust Alliance NZ has been allocated almost $900,000 to create a digital wallet for farmers and growers, to improve the efficiency of sharing their verified farm information with regulators, regional councils, and processors.

The Trust Alliance NZ is a fully incorporated society which is establishing a trusted data-sharing framework owned and governed by the members.

The Forestry and Wood Processing Industry Transformation Plan (ITP) will increase wood processing in New Zealand and grow a low-carbon, high-value industry.

An initial investment of $2.5 million from the Government, plus another $1 million from industry contributions, will result in a series of initiatives rolled out from 2023.

The Government allocated $27 million in Budget 22 to support delivery of the ITP, and have ring-fenced another $155 million to support ITP-related initiatives and projects.

Elsewhere in the Beehive, our busy bees have been –

Commerce and Consumer Affairs Minister Dr David Clark has today announced the appointment of Dr John Small as the new Chair of the Commerce Commission.

The launch today of a new firearms regulator to ensure the legitimate possession and use of firearms, and an online portal to apply for licences, marks a significant step towards modernisation and improvements in gun safety, Police Minister Chris Hipkins says.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and Finnish Prime Minister Sanna Marin have concluded their first in person bilateral meeting in Auckland this morning.

Whooping about spending $1.7m on energy-saving projects (to help more Kiwis save money – what else?)

Helping households to reduce their energy bills and make their homes warmer and more energy-efficient, is the key focus of a further 17 community projects receiving $1.7 million funding.

The Government has granted final approval for a new 80-bed acute mental health facility at the Hillmorton Hospital campus, Health Minister Andrew Little says.

A new Year 1-13 wharekura will extend Māori Medium Education into Porirua West from 2027, Associate Education Minister Kelvin Davis announced today.

Point of Order is a blog focused on politics and the economy run by veteran newspaper reporters Bob Edlin and Ian Templeton

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