16 May 2019

Shane Jones slams farmers over Zero Carbon Bill response

2:31 pm on 16 May 2019

Regional Economic Development Minister Shane Jones has accused farmers of exaggerating the impact of the government's climate change legislation and pouring "bile" on the plans.

Shane Jones

Shane Jones Photo: RNZ / Richard Tindiller

Mr Jones' comments came as lobbying intensifies in the lead up to further government changes on climate change.

The government has introduced legislation setting net zero as the target for carbon dioxide and nitrous oxide emissions by 2050, and separate reduced emissions for methane. It is now focused on finding ways to implement this goal, which could include committing farmers to the Emissions Trading Scheme.

Farmers have been lobbying New Zealand First over this, but Shane Jones is showing little patience with them.

"They are stunningly silent over the National Party actually committing New Zealand to these burdensome targets internationally," Mr Jones said, referring to the Paris accords on climate change signed in 2016.

"They did nothing about operationalising it, or coming up with a system [like the one] we have come up with, and all of a sudden the farmers have found gallons of bile to pour in our direction."

Mr Jones also accused the farmers of "catastrophising" a climate change programme that was manageable and of undermining New Zealand's economic sovereignty.

"It's the farmers who are selling Westland Dairy to the Mongolians," he said. Westland Milk Products has announced a plan to sell to Chinese firm Yili, based in Inner Mongolia.

"It is the farmers and their failed governance model of Fonterra that has left it in a debt-ridden state, selling off iconic brands," Mr Jones said.

"It is the farmers who have borrowed the money from the Aussie-owned banks. The notion that New Zealand First politicians like myself ... are the origin of their problems is wrong in fact and suspicious politically.

"They are not taking responsibility for their own conduct and they are stunningly silent about the fact that is it the National Party that signed them up to this agreement [Paris]."

Federated Farmers vice president Andrew Hoggard

Andrew Hoggard Photo: Radio NZ / Jemma Brackebush

In response, Federated Farmers said it would be concerned if New Zealand thought it was being unreasonable in comments on flaws in the Zero Carbon Bill.

Its climate change spokesman Andrew Hoggard said Federated Farmers supported the Labour/New Zealand First/Green Party proposals to establish a framework to tackle global warming, and was grateful for New Zealand First's efforts to get a fair deal for the agricultural sector on a number of fronts.

"We'll take the net zero nitrous oxide by 2050 target on the chin, and we'll work with other New Zealanders to get carbon dioxide to net zero as well," Mr Hoggard said.

"But while we appreciate the coalition government has taken a two-basket approach to greenhouse gases, Federated Farmers is adamant that the methane targets are unjustified, and Herculean compared to what's expected of other sectors.

"The second target, a 24 to 47 percent reduction of methane by 2050 has been plucked out of two heavily caveated reports with a large number of scenarios.

"All of these scenarios but one involve new technologies not yet available, or a technology the current government does not support - the use of genetic engineering.

"The only significant option currently available to New Zealand livestock farmers to reduce methane emissions is retrenchment - to feed less to their animals."

Mr Jones' remarks were also criticised by the National Party.

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