Sunday, March 3, 2024

OFF THE CUFF: It’s not what you think, Jacinda

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We live in a cluttered world, where there are billions of sounds and images. That landscape is also filled with the cancer that is social media, a mainstream media that struggles to display journalistic integrity and a general public that is sometimes disconnected from hard truths. But sometimes one clear voice has the power to cut through.
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Two years ago, out of sheer frustration, I wrote you a letter outlining my concerns about proposed climate change legislation and the impact it will have on farmers. None of us could have predicted what has happened over the past two years and I certainly understand you have had a lot to deal with. And I would like to commend you on the way you have handled incredible pressures in remarkable times.

I have heard you saying in the media how you believe climate change to be our “nuclear moment” and to be honest, this scares me. I cannot see how the testing of nuclear bombs in the South Pacific compares to taxing our Primary Industries out of existence, although the effect on farmers will indeed be nuclear.

I feel like we need to have a summary of exactly where farmers stand at the moment as it is a much more precarious position than then. Climate change has been joined by other legislative nightmares – freshwater, indigenous biodiversity and Resource Management Act reforms, to name a few. There is a saying that doing the same thing repeatedly and expecting different results is the definition of insanity. To me, a better definition of insanity is forcing legislation on the main contributor to our national economy, the farming sector, without displaying any common sense, understanding of the impacts or meaningful consultation with those it affects most.

But let’s deal with climate change, as I know it is important to you and your government. The recent climate commission report has really just cemented what farmers have been facing for some time. There is a real possibility now that legislation will be introduced that “taxes” farmers annually on their emissions, based on questionable science and calculators that are still being built.

I hear over and over again the reporting that agriculture in this country makes up nearly half of our emissions profile, and is repeatedly painted as the villain. The truth is New Zealand red meat has a very low carbon footprint. That is because we rely on a farming system called rotational grazing, not feed lotting or industrial farming, as in many other developed countries. Other countries that produce red meat in particular would sell their souls to have the low carbon footprint that we have currently. And they would be incredibly grateful to the NZ government for introducing legislation that hamstrung Kiwi farmers and was ruthless in their exploitation of any advantage they would gain.

Now, I understand that we need to get better in regards to our climate. We farmers don’t need to be told that as we are the “frontline workers” in this regard. We knew this years ago, which is why we have spent tens of millions of dollars on our own farms without any legislative pressure to fence off waterways, plant trees and retire productive farmland forever.

Here’s another hard fact to chew on. The climate commission has suggested livestock numbers may need to be reduced by about 15%. The sheep and beef sector has already done exactly what they are asking, twice as good in fact. Livestock numbers in the sheep and beef sector have dropped by 30% since 1990, and will continue to organically decline as land-use change continues.

So in terms of nuclear moments, I am in total agreement with you about this being such a point in time. But that is not because NZ is going to change the world and its behaviour regarding climate change. It is because if the farmers of this country are legislated out of business, the effect on our economy and our country will indeed be nuclear and catastrophic.

If you are looking for something to champion on the international stage to encourage behavioural change regarding the climate, it’s really quite simple.

Just tell the world what a great job your Kiwi farmers have already done.

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