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Candidates at odds on emission consensus

The National Party is reportedly withdrawing its support for pricing agricultural emissions, declaring the plan the government is working on with farming organisations “dead”.

He Waka Eke Noa – which includes Dairy NZ, Federated Farmers, and Beef and Lamb – was set up in 2019 to work with the government to develop a pricing scheme as an alternative to farms being entered into the Emissions Trading Scheme [ETS].

After consulting with He Waka Eke Noa, the government proposed introducing a farm-level, split-gas levy for pricing agricultural emissions.

But now, National agriculture spokesperson Todd McClay has written off the He Waka Eke Noa initiative and partnership.

“I think Damien O’Connor and the Labour government have killed it, and I think it’s all over”, McClay said, accusing the government of showing “extremely bad faith to the sector” in the way it’s run the negotiation process.

The Times-Age canvassed Wairarapa’s electoral candidates about the future of the plan.

Current Wairarapa MP Kieran McAnulty said the Labour Party’s position on pricing agricultural emissions is unchanged, “unlike other parties”.

McAnulty said the preference of a majority of farmers is to have a farm-level pricing system rather than enter the ETS, and the government is committed to work with them to establish this.

“That work hasn’t stopped.

“If a system for pricing emissions cannot be agreed before January 1, 2025, then farming will enter the ETS. We want to avoid this.

“The entire House supported the Zero Carbon Act. That means, without any alternative, the National Party are supportive of agriculture joining the ETS,” he said.

McAnulty added that the pricing system is for the benefit of the food and fibre sector’s future: “It is helping respond to ever-strengthening market signals on climate from abroad.”

National Party candidate Mike Butterick, meanwhile, argued that the Labour government has “caused He Waka Eke Noa to fail by blowing up the consensus approach the primary sector had worked with the government in good faith on”.

He said Labour’s plan would see the agricultural sector “decimated”, with up to 29 per cent of sheep and beef farms and close to 6 per cent of dairy farmers having to exit the industry.

“That was never going to be acceptable for anyone and was always going to be rejected.”

Butterick said National has “always said we support pricing of agricultural emissions” – but only if it’s done in a way that has the broad support of the sector and won’t drive production offshore to less environmentally-friendly nations.

“National is deeply committed to our climate goals.”

Butterick said farmers are the “economic engine” of Wairarapa and National will collaborate with them to find a solution that works.

Green Party candidate Celia Wade-Brown said National is “inventing mischievous stories for short-term political gain”.

“There is a clear expectation from the public that farmers pay for their emissions. I expect the government, and [Green Party] Climate Change Minister James Shaw will continue working with stakeholders to get a pricing system in place for agriculture emissions.”

Wade-Brown added that when Cabinet put forward its preferred option for He Waka Eke Noa last year, Shaw set out an alternative approach that would have put an overall cap on farming emissions and allowed farmers to trade below that cap.

“Cabinet decided to go with its preferred option.”

Wade-Brown’s bottom-line: “We need to find a way to do that that’s fair and will drive the emissions reduction we need”.

Grace Prior
Grace Prior
Grace Prior is a senior reporter at the Wairarapa Times-Age with a keen interest in environmental issues. Grace is the paper’s health reporter and regularly covers the rural sector, weather, Greater Wellington Regional Council, and coastal stories.

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