Tuesday, December 5, 2023

National hardens stance on HWEN

Neal Wallace
Luxon repeats pledge to restart negotiations if he gets into government.
Christopher Luxon says the price of HWEN is too high with potentially 20% of sheep and beef farmers likely to be forced off their land.
Reading Time: 2 minutes

The National Party has withdrawn any support for the He Waka Eke Noa agreement on pricing agricultural emissions.

Party leader Christopher Luxon and agriculture spokesperson Todd McClay have hardened their stance on the He Waka Eke Noa (HWEN) primary sector agreement, saying the government is to blame.

Luxon told the AM Show this morning, June 7, that the price of HWEN is too high, with potentially 20% of sheep and beef farmers likely to be forced off their land, and that there is a risk lower New Zealand production would be picked up by less efficient offshore producers.

These issues have been known since the government responded to the HWEN recommendations last December, but it has only been this week that the National Party has withdrawn its support.

Last week Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor floated the idea of a fertiliser tax, a response, many believe, to the likelihood that legislation enacting HWEN will not be passed before the election.

Luxon said HWEN no longer has consensus and a government led by him would restart negotiations.

He said he is committed to meeting the obligations of the Paris Accord on climate change but the way a National government delivered on that obligation would be different. Policy details will be released in the coming weeks, he said.

McClay last week told Farmers Weekly that farmers have lost faith in HWEN, something he blamed on O’Connor and his proposed fertiliser tax.

“He has driven a truck through the trust he has been trying to build with HWEN and now come up with his own plan when he has run out of time,” McClay said.

McClay said the sector must meet its emissions obligations, but a National-led government would revisit HWEN with the sector groups, adopt the best parts of the current agreement and renegotiate the rest.

There would be several provisos.

Targets would be reassessed based on science and any commitment would not be at the expense of NZ’s competitiveness or the sector’s viability, and nor would it allow production to shift to less carbon efficient countries.

ACT agriculture spokesperson Mark Cameron is also seeking a new agreement and has similar provisos.

He said emissions targets must be tied to those of NZ’s five main trading partners and available emission reduction technology.

Cameron also wants a “mature conversation” about technology, including the role of genetically modified organisms.

Any agreement must not make farmers poorer or result in the export of production.

He said compared to those trading nations, NZ currently has lower emissions.

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