The Ministry for the Environment released a National Adaptation Plan earlier this month designed to prepare New Zealanders for climate change. It includes adaptation recommendations for farmers.
The plan – Adapt and Thrive: Building a climate-resilient New Zealand – features an Integrated Farm Planning Programme. Led by the Ministry for Primary Industries (MPI) and running from 2022 until 2025, the programme would provide a framework for farmers and growers to incorporate environmental concerns, such as greenhouse gases, into their farm planning.
“The goal is to enable a farmer or grower, using their preferred data-collection tool, platform or system, to meet all regulatory and business needs within a single framework,” the report reads.
The programme will also fund a career pathways scheme, providing more advisors skilled in whole-of-farm planning. This includes climate change advice, and a fund for industry, catchment and similar initiatives to increase the uptake of integrated farm planning.
According to the plan, the programme brings together broader work, including greenhouse gas farm planning, a biodiversity planning module, education for primary industry advisors, planning for adverse events such as storms, and increased data sharing in the primary sector. The new MPI On Farm Support services will also guide integrated farm planning, including how to use greenhouse gas calculators and other tools.
Farm Monitoring Programme
Also included in the report is a Farm Monitoring Programme, which is collecting information from approximately 2000 dairy, sheep and beef, deer, arable and horticulture farms from now until 2024.
Detailed information on physical, production, financial and environmental aspects from each farm is collected to determine how the farm is performing. Farm environmental plans and nutrient budgets are created for each farm by MPI.
“Quality data will inform decision-making to enable improved farm management decisions and profitability, while considering compliance and regulations to assist greenhouse gas reductions. This data helps farmers adapt to climate change by determining optimal stocking rates, diversifying crop rotations, improving soil quality, reducing off-farm flows of nutrients, and implementing more efficient farm practices to improve performance,” the report states.
Sustainable Land Management Hill Country Erosion Programme
Turning to erosion, MPI is running a Sustainable Land Management Hill Country Erosion Programme from 2022 until 2028 which will support regional planning for, and treatment of, erosion-prone land and, in turn, contribute to afforestation.
“Afforestation can reduce soil loss and other effects from the increasing scale and magnitude of storms. It also mitigates downstream damage to infrastructure. The programme reduces the impacts of erosion and sediment deposition most acutely felt by farmers and rural communities during heavy weather events, such as the high-rainfall event on the East Coast in March 2022,” reads the report.
The full report can be found at www.environment.govt.nz (search ‘first adaptation plan’).
Response from Federated Farmers
Federated Farmers has made a submission in response to Adapt and Thrive, requesting:
– That the National Adaptation Plan acknowledge that farmers are aware of climate change and are acting on this information where possible
– The Government needs to use its own Rural Proofing framework, which aims to help rural people have a higher quality of life, have access to social and economic opportunities and be just as able to reach their potential as urban New Zealanders.
– New Zealand needs better water storage
– and that the Government needs to stop subsiding fire prone pine trees.
Federated Farmers Senior Policy Advisor Climate Change, Trade, Forestry, Science & Innovation, Macaulay Jones, pointed out in the submission that businesses in the agriculture, forestry and fishing industries are amongst the most aware of the potential impacts of climate change.
In Statistics NZ’s 2021 Business Operations Survey, 61% of businesses in those industries said they were ‘very aware’ of climate change impacts compared to only 39% for all businesses. Meanwhile, 52% were ‘very aware’ of government policies and programmes to reduce emissions, again much more than the 27% for all businesses.
“Farming communities, farmer livelihoods, and day-to-day farm management, are regularly disrupted and directly affected by extreme weather events,” said Jones.
He said Federated Farmers is often involved in coordinating help for farming communities and farm operators when these disruptions occur. Most of this is done using farmers’ own initiative and resourcefulness.
“This assistance can involve coordination of emergency livestock feed and other rural supplies, movement of livestock to other regions for secure grazing and assistance in getting critical infrastructure reinstated in rural areas.”
Federated Farmers is disappointed that rural communities are not specifically mentioned as a community requiring a critical or supporting action, he said.
“We reiterate our request that the rural proofing framework be applied to all policies, and a specific critical action is developed to ensure that rural New Zealanders are just as prepared to adapt to the impacts of climate change as urban New Zealanders.”
Jones added that the Government is “troublingly and deleteriously reluctant” to support, or even to enable, infrastructure projects that improve community water security and generate renewable hydroelectricity.
“Water storage infrastructure projects have the potential to mitigate emissions (by producing renewable electricity) and also have the co-benefit of improving New Zealand’s ability to adapt to the impacts of climate change by enabling communities to resiliently store water during times of plenty and draw upon reserves during times of need.”
As well as being the dominant source of renewable electricity, water storage infrastructure has historically enabled New Zealand to resiliently store water during times of plenty and draw upon reserves during times of need. As the impacts of climate change are experienced across the country the favourable climatic conditions many farmers currently enjoy will need to be supplemented by additional water resilience infrastructure, said Jones.
“Federated Farmers is not in the business of telling farmers how to manage their farms, but we are concerned to see a suite of distortionary government policies artificially leading to monocultural plantation forestry and replacing farms in a wholesale manner,” said Jones.
“Our concern is not just because of the loss of jobs that occur when productive sheep and beef farms are converted to pine plantations, we are also concerned by the increased fire risk these exotic forests represent for rural communities.”
Federated Farmers requested that all climate policies be specifically examined through the Rural Proofing framework.
“We are concerned that many policies designed to reduce emissions take a Wellington-centric approach and are not designed with all rural New Zealanders in mind. As stated by Minister of Agriculture Damien O’Connor when releasing the Rural Proofing guidance in 2021:
‘The Rural Proofing Policy will ensure that when policy-makers sit down to design the rules they take into account the unique factors that affect rural communities such as low populations, isolation, and reliance on the primary sector for employment.’