The ACT Party has launched its agricultural policy, promising to scrap the Zero Carbon Act tying any emissions price to that of New Zealand’s five main trading partners if it is part of a government following this year’s election.
The act would be scrapped with the caveat that if farmers in countries who are NZ’s biggest trading partners are not paying a price for their methane emissions, neither should NZ farmers.
“Farmers in countries who are our biggest trading partners are not paying a price for their methane emissions, and under ACT neither would New Zealand farmers,” ACT MP Mark Cameron and ACT candidate Andrew Hoggard said at the launch of the policy at Fieldays.
The Zero Carbon Act’s targets and the Climate Change Commission will also be disestablished.
“Farmers have had a torrid six years under Labour. They’ve had to put up with an avalanche of regulation and red tape from out of touch Wellington bureaucrats and the Government has tried to sacrifice them to the climate gods by implementing an emissions-pricing scheme that would only send production to less efficient countries,” Cameron said.
He said ACT was the only party calling for agricultural emissions to be measured accurately. Climate scientists have pointed out that the New Zealand Government’s calculations refuse to even measure methane as the short-lived gas that it is.
He and Hoggard rejected the notion the policy could risk NZ’s trade reputation.
If companies doing business within those countries have policies that require NZ farmers to lower their environmental footprint before consideration is given to buying those products, that was a market rather than a government decision.
“If a company says to Fonterra, we need your company to have a 10% lower footprint, then fine – Fonterra can come back to us as farmers. Let the market decide,” Hoggard said.
“That’s how things get solved, we use markets and somehow we have moved into thinking that politburos work again.”
Any farmers who refused to change would then lose out, Cameron said.
Hoggard said his fellow board members of the International Dairy Federation had messaged him in shock when the government first announced agricultural emissions price policy.
“They were sending me messages going, ‘What’s your country thinking? How stupid are you?’
“We were made to feel like the idiot child of the farming world for this.”
ACT leader David Seymour said the government had forgotten the importance of rural NZ.
He also took a dig at ACT’s potential coalition partner, the National Party, saying it has forgotten rural NZ’s importance.
A party vote for ACT rather than National was a vote for change, he said.
Its agricultural policy includes:
• A “genuine split gas approach”, acknowledging the fundamental difference between livestock methane and carbon dioxide.
• Shifting responsibility for farm plans from Wellington to regional councils, while ensuring a consistent template is used and existing plans remain valid.
• Making sure people with practical animal handling and farming experience are appointed to the National Animal Welfare Advisory Committee.
• Removing barriers stalling the uptake of new technologies by liberalising GE laws.
• Addressing workforce shortages by removing the cap on the Recognised Seasonal Employer scheme, abolishing labour market tests and wage rules, removing the “work to residence” divide for occupations on the Green List, and bringing back 90-day trials.
• A new minister and Ministry of Regulation to prevent pointless regulation and red tape from being introduced.
• Getting rid of Three Waters and bringing back a local approach to water resources by having local communities develop acceptable standards and rules for nitrates, sedimentation run-off and freshwater quality.
• Liberalising water storage requirements to increase farmer resilience to climate and seasonal pressures while maintaining aquifer health. And allowing councils to opt into a system in which water resource consents would be converted into time-based tradeable water permits so farmers could trade water allocations according to a sensible pricing system.
• Bringing back live animal exports, under a world-leading animal welfare standard.
• Scrapping Significant Natural Areas and “restoring private property rights”.
• Scrapping the “ute tax”.