This week the Government announced their much-anticipated reset of the controversial Three Water’s reforms, but I’m sorry to report that it seems to be more of a superficial rebrand than a real reset.
Yes, they’ve changed the name from ‘Three Waters’ to ‘Affordable Water Reform’ and 10 entities is slightly better than four, but when you get to the guts of the policy not much else seems to have changed and Fed’s concerns remain unresolved.
They’re still pushing ahead with co-governance, local councils will still be stripped of their assets, and the water entities will still be managed by unelected people at arm’s length from local democracy which means there’s a lack of local accountability.
Feds also have some real concerns about the way Te Mana o te Wai statements can be issued and what this might mean for farmers if Regional Councils need to interpret them when setting water policy.
Like I told Jamie Mackay on The Country yesterday – you can put a Ferrari logo on an old Toyota Corolla, but it’s not going to make it go any faster. You can listen to my full interview here if you’re interested.
Earlier in the week we also got the news that New Zealand’s greenhouse gas emissions are down for the second year in a row, and that the main driver was reduced Ag emissions. Although this sounds great at face value, it only tells a small part of the story. Ag emissions will be down for a number of reasons.
Some will be positive like farmers improving fertiliser use or using better genetics, but others will be less positive like productive farming land going into plantation forestry for carbon farming which brings with it a whole lot of other social and environmental issues that we need to deal with.
One thing that I did note is that while agricultural emissions are down, energy emissions from things like transport are actually up 0.3% and that’s a real problem for a number of reasons. The first is that if we don’t bring our transport and energy emissions down, they will just continue to offset those emissions through forestry carbon farming.
The second is that they emit CO2 which is long-lived gas that stays in the atmosphere for thousands of years. Not all greenhouse gases are made equally, and methane behaves differently in the atmosphere to other gases like CO2.
That brings me to my final point which is that we need to shift this whole conversation about emissions. At the end of the day, it’s not about the total amount or percentage of emissions, it’s about their warming impact. That needs to flow through to everything from our emissions reporting to our emission reduction targets. Feds will keep fighting hard to make sure that shift happens.