24 Sep 2020

National pledges to ease legislation for farmers

2:24 pm on 24 September 2020

Judith Collins has today confirmed farming will not be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme under a National government.

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National Party leader Judith Collins. Photo: RNZ / Samuel Rillstone

With the release of its agriculture policy today, National is promising to dismantle legislation it says is too much of a burden for farmers, including the new freshwater regulations, the Resource Management Act and the Zero Carbon Act.

The agriculture policy also includes improving access to foreign workers, reviewing treatment of forestry by the Overseas Investment office, reviewing parts of the Emissions Trading Scheme, and pursuing an active free trade agenda.

National is pledging to:

  • Repeal the Resource Management Act (RMA) and replace it with an Environmental Standards Act and Planning and Development Act
  • Allow skilled workers and Recognised Seasonal Employer (RSE) workers to enter New Zealand
  • Create a fast-tracked Primary Sector Visa
  • Repeal or review the nine new water regulations Labour introduced in August
  • Promote water storage options
  • Review the treatment of forestry in the Emissions Trading Scheme
  • Remove the exemption that streamlines the process for forestry applications in the Overseas Investment Office test
  • Remove the review process around introducing agriculture into the Emissions Trading Scheme in 2022
  • Pass seven changes to the Zero Carbon Act, including a review of the methane target
  • Pursue an active free trade agenda to open up new markets for New Zealand's food and fibre products.
  • Enforce stronger penalties for biosecurity offences
  • Build the infrastructure to ensure better connectivity for rural communities

Party leader Judith Collins and agriculture spokesperson David Bennett are in Gisborne to announce the policy today.

Collins says the party's pledge is to "ensure that our agricultural policy focuses on allowing farmers the opportunity to farm their way to better outcomes, rather than being regulated into oblivion".

Bennett says: "There will be a demand for more sustainability in our farming practices. Farmers are up for this challenge and this desire for improvement is clear in farmers' efforts over recent years.

"We'll address the issues around workforce shortages and ensure that primary sector businesses have every opportunity to continue growing and supporting New Zealand's economy."

Collins says freshwater rules will be established on a regional basis.

"Water issues in Southland are different to water issues [on the East Coast]. What we're saying is take it out of the one-size-fits all and put it into what is going to be useful and is going to work regionally."

She says National is ripping up "quite a bit" of the work on farming Labour had done in the last three years and denies the party's agriculture policy was "stuck in the past".

National will honour advice from the climate commission on farming, she says.

Bennett denied that National's plans to repeal and replace legislation would create uncertainty.

"There still will be requirements around fresh water. There still will be requirements about greater sustainability... we will talk to farmers and farmer organisations about how best we can work out those challenges that we face in those areas and get rules that are fit for purpose and practical."

Asked about how National defined sustainability, Collins said: "It's about being able to farm food and fibre in a way which does not affect in an adverse way or permanent way the environment. But there's always going to be things where there are environmental change".

She confirmed farming would not be included in the Emissions Trading Scheme under a National government.

"No other country has it with their agriculture and it won't be from us either. I'm not going to do to our farmers what no other country does to theirs."

Labour says National policy would take country 'back decades'

Labour leader Jacinda Ardern said National's agriculture policy would take the country "back decades".

"We previously had, from the National Party and across political parties consensus around climate change, and it is incredibly disappointing to see a change in position from them.

"It takes New Zealand backwards and I think it also hurts our brand, which trade on and which we are growing our exports over.

"It would, for instance, cause further degradation of our waterways. It's fair to say that when we came into office, our waterways were in a terrible state... we made a pledge do something about that and we've done it working alongside our farming community. To see that work being proposed to be unravelled by the National Party is very disappointing."

It would be a "shame" to see the work done to gain consensus on climate change with farming leaders undone by National policies, Ardern says.

Green Party calls National policy 'dangerous'

Green Party co-leader James Shaw says National's "appalling policy" shows the party is "anti-science and anti-climate".

We've made huge progress this term introducing legislation to protect the environment, after National allowed it to be degraded.

"Farmers are on the frontlines of climate change and must be supported to drive the solutions. Many of our farmers and growers are already leading the way... National wants to sabotage their efforts by pulling back the crucial reforms put in this term.

"National wants future generations to inherit a decimated environment and an unstable climate, for the sake of winning a few votes. Climate action and environmental protection go above politics, but that's clearly not something National is willing to accept."

Federated Farmers welcomes stance on fresh water

Federated Farmers National President Andrew Hoggard says "it is pleasing to see that nine of this government's new water regulations will also be reviewed or repealed under National's policy.

"This simply must happen, as written they are not fit for purpose, and will simply crush any chance of economic recovery involving agriculture".

But he also welcomed agriculture policies announced this week by Labour and ACT.

"We are looking forward to other parties reinforcing agriculture's proud position and ongoing role in our economic recovery."

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