Thursday, August 11, 2022

Ag census boycott doesn’t have the numbers

Neal Wallace
Groundswell and FARM call to ignore farming headcount fails to dent figures so far, says Stats NZ.
Groundswell and FARM are supporting a boycott that was initially to force a change in the metrics used to measure greenhouse gases. File photo

Stats NZ says response to its agricultural census survey is tracking as expected despite a boycott call from two lobby groups.

Groundswell and FARM (Facts About Ruminant Methane) are supporting a boycott that was initially to force a change in the metrics used to measure greenhouse gases from GWP100 to GWP*, but has extended to general dissatisfaction with the Government.

Some consider GWP100, a system introduced in 1990 to standardise the impact of greenhouse gases, no longer suitable as it does not fairly reflect the impact of short-lived gases such as methane, which GWP* does.

Groundswell spokesperson Bryce McKenzie said FARM asked for his group’s support but the protest has since shifted to become an outlet for general anger and dissatisfaction with Government policies.

“They don’t want to give them the data because it is being used against us,” said McKenzie.

Stats NZ says in a statement that participation in the census is a legal requirement and compliance so far has been as expected.

“Our response rates are tracking as expected and we thank all the respondents who have completed their agriculture census so far,” the statement says.

“The boycott refusals Stats NZ has received so far represent only a very small number of overall potential responses.”

Almost 60,000 census packs were sent out in late June to agricultural enterprises, including farmers, commercial growers and forest owners, asking questions about their production, land use and practices for the 2021-22 year.

They were given three weeks to return the completed forms.

Stats NZ says it can prosecute for not filing a return, but that is not its preferred approach. It hopes people appreciate the use to which the data is put: to influence rural infrastructure, services, policies and programmes that serve rural communities.

McKenzie said he accepts that census data is vital for funding and targeting services, but farmer sentiment is being affected by an onslaught of rules and regulations.

“We accept there are very good reasons for giving that information, but given the barrage of regulations, some are digging their toes in and seeing a very good opportunity to say no.” 

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