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Perception risk in farmers’ protest

Editorial

Farmers ensured their Howl of a Protest was heard loud and clear yesterday and the Government is likely to react in some way, as no government can turn a deaf ear to such disgruntlement and this one is highly motivated by perception.

That will probably involve a redoubling of effort to take farmer concerns on board in the detail of regulation, rather than changing its commitments to improve the environment and reduce the nation's greenhouse gas emissions.

If one commitment was to be modified it would be the “ute tax” that was emblematic of yesterday's protest. Frustration over a hefty fee to encourage the transition away from fossil fuels is understandable when there is not yet an electric option to transition to.

It is ironic, though, that the Government's signature policy to speed our switch from fossil fuels has become the trigger for this protest, as turning our vehicle fleet electric as quickly as possible reduces the quantum of emissions we need, as a nation, to cut from agricultural sources or have offset by tree planting — the two greatest bugbears for many farmers.

The other key question is how much the wider public sees “The Howl” as an understandable reaction to the costly impacts of a range of sometimes impractical regulations, and how much it is seen as farmers wanting to continue polluting with as little consequence as possible.

The risk for the farming sector is that it is more the latter. Tied up in that risk, in this district, is the fact the local protest organisers are long-time activists trying to undercut the science of climate change.

On today's opinion page Neil Henderson claims that his farm has “zero liability” because it has stable emissions. That means he is failing to improve productivity on his farm (or slowly reducing herd size), and that he doesn't feel at all accountable for the warming those stable emissions lock in.

Electric vehicle technology, scale and sustainability are evolving rapidly; coal was used to generate 5 percent of New Zealand's electricity last year — it has spiked lately, but Huntly's operator plans to boost renewable generation and scale back its fossil-fuelled electricity.

And to methane metrics: Mr Henderson ignores the fact that the key proponent of his preferred GWP* metric, Professor Myles Allen, estimates a 10 percent reduction in global methane emissions is required for them to cause no further warming; that is, in addition to the large amount of warming that methane emissions already cause.

  1. Richard Whitley says:

    What must be particularly galling for farmers is the continual do as I say, not as I do attitude from this Government.

    Their policy to have their own fleet emission free by 2025/26 is heading the way of the abysmal delivery of their Kiwibuild policy. As of May this year they have converted a little over 1% of their own fleet to fully electric vehicles.

    The Government can stick their fingers in their ears and scream lalalala all they like, this groundswell of anti-authoritarian sentiment, which is not limited to farmers, is not going anywhere; if anything it will only grow.

    As a tradie I was more than willing to stand in solidarity with our farmers and take part in the first of as many “howl-ups” as necessary for the Government to remove fingers from ears.

    If citizens think this is an issue which does not affect them, then think again. All of these costs will eventually be passed on to you, the last link in the consumer chain.

    From what I can see, the largest volume of methane emissions appear to be coming from the 9th floor of the Beehive.

  2. Clive Bibby says:

    Oh dear! You’ve always got an excuse for this Government’s hypocrisy Jeremy.
    You begrudgingly refer to their importation of the world’s dirtiest coal to save the embarrassment of potential blackouts. But that’s OK because the end justifies the means even when we could have used our own superior variety that is less polluting.
    I assume you have done your homework before labelling some of our farming leaders as anti climate science activists. Clearly they aren’t all reacting to the Government’s irrational plans to slaughter herds although a good many obviously are.
    This movement has the support of citizens from all political persuasions and from those groups across all sectors of the community who are or will be affected by these unjustifiable decisions. I would suggest that quite a few even live in your street.
    You are the dinosaur Jeremy.
    Most Kiwis want a nation led by those who identify with the reality of the modern world – not one designed by ideologues.
    This is only the beginning of the movement to take back our country.

  3. Bob Hughes says:

    Hi Richard and Clive
    As I said the other day
    You “and others simply just don’t get the message.”
    “Lifestyles must change”.
    I add here, agriculture produces half of our country’s greenhouse gas emissions.
    A big share of responsibility falls on farmers. That’s the truth of it.

    1. Ken Ovenden says:

      Hi Bob, you simply do not get the message do you? Farmers feed New Zealand, end of story. Most cannot survive on their recycled belly-button lint like you. Lesson up, give practical ideas and examples instead of your constant criticisms which to date have been of no value at all.

      1. Lara says:

        Change the diet then Ken.

        1. Ken Ovenden says:

          Oh dear Lara, that colander on your head seems to be dulling your usual cutting-edge replies – go to an automotive panel beater and they could panel-beat it square for you, it may then fit better, LOL.

    2. Neil Henderson says:

      Bob, livestock only cause half this country’s emissions because of the method chosen to compare them. Professor Myles Allen of Oxford University has declared that method not fit for purpose. Livestock do not cause half this country’s warming. Just how much warming they do cause is a question that needs answering before we waste money on reducing emissions that are not responsible for any further warming.

  4. A McKellow says:

    Whether for farm use or trade use a business vehicle can be:
    1. Depreciated
    2. Have the GST claimed as a business expense/refund.
    3. Claim running and maintenance costs incurred.
    None of these are available to the persons this tax was targetting……the yuppy towny that does not require a vehicle like this.
    So if we start with targeting cars to better fit purpose that is part or at least a start to solving the problems we wish to address.
    It would appear in this case the government is a few steps ahead of many.

  5. Rae O'Connor, Tamaki Makaurau says:

    Richard Whitley, it’s important when making a complaint that everything you write is truthful. You wrote: “Their policy to have their own fleet emission-free by 2025/26 is heading the way of the abysmal delivery of their KiwiBuild policy.” National opened the borders to the world who bought up everything; National sold old Housing NZ stock without any replacements. Labour has built more homes than any other government in 30 years. If complaining, get it right!

    1. Gordon Webb says:

      Can you give me the numbers and numbers of what? I suspect you are looking at total residential building consents issued – which is vastly different to Government housing stock. Oh, and don’t forget that just because a house is sold it’s no longer used to house people.

    2. Richard Whitley says:

      Rae, I am indeed making a complaint and it’s one grounded in fact.

      In comparing their fleet conversion rate of 1% to date, to the KiwiBuild policy delivery to date, some basic mathematics might help you out.

      In 2017 Labour released a KiwiBuild policy to build 100,000 homes in 10 years, the targets being 1000 in the first year, 5000 in the second and 10,000 every year after that.

      Three years into their programme they have delivered a meagre 1000 homes, or 1% of the target.

      Now, I’m no mathematical savant, but I would say those rates of delivery are pretty equal?

      The Government competing directly against first home buyers in the open market and driving historically high house price inflation does not equate to “Labour has built more homes than any other government in 30 years”.

      So Rae, if complaining about complaining then get it right!

      1. Rae O'Connor says:

        I repeat the quote, this Labour Govt. has built more homes in five years, whether it be for first home buyers or Kainga Ora, for Aotearoa NZ than any other Govt in the past 30 years.
        In my 65 years, the first Member of Parliament who impressed me was Norman Kirk. I was looking forward to voting for him, but sadly he died before I could. The Hon. Jacinda Ardern is the best Prime Minister I have witnessed. She works 24/7 for all 5 million of us. Many around the world love our Prime Minister and have said so many times; that makes me proud. All Labour MPs work incredibly hard. I am grateful to witness such hardworking, caring, lovely people.

  6. Neil Henderson says:

    First of all, Mr Editor, thank you for the splendid coverage you gave the Howl of a Protest on Friday and Saturday. However, I must take issue with many of your comments in your editorial on Saturday.
    You allege I am trying to undercut the science of climate change. When all this global warming stuff started, I was a believer in it. The attack on livestock was one of the main reasons I reassessed my position. The continual refusal of the majority of the science community to assess the real warming of livestock coupled with idealistic ideas such as EVs that will in all likelihood make no change to global temperature only serves to harden my scepticism. Further, scientists such as Professor James Renwick have been challenged to cite one paper that does not use models to show human emissions of greenhouse gases cause global warming. All have failed, so what is the science I am supposedly undercutting?
    It is possible to increase productivity without increasing emissions through increasing feed conversion efficiency. For example, if an animal reached slaughter weight in less time, then it has eaten less grass for maintenance and its total emissions are down. This is essentially what the sheep, beef and dairy industries have done for years.
    You are in error to state I prefer the GWP* metric. There is simply no way that a short-lived gas can be effectively compared to a long-term gas. The notion we need to reduce emissions by 10% to be warming neutral is absurd. This means that a steady state of emissions causes continual warming meaning ruminants have been continuously warming the planet since the beginning of time. When Professor Allen was questioned about this idea of needing to reduce emissions to be warming neutral he merely said that was what was needed to make his model work! Hardly inspiring logic in the face of the fact the biological cycle must balance over time.
    Further, none of these metrics make allowance for the effect of water vapour. Methane and nitrous oxide both absorb energy in a very narrow band of the infrared spectrum. Water vapour is active in this space and being present at around 10,000 ppm cannot leave any energy for two ppm of the livestock emissions.
    As for EVs, there are insufficient resources to make the required number of batteries and supply existing requirements such as cobalt for cancer treatment or to prevent bush sickness in our sheep. The fact that coal only produced 5 percent of last year’s electricity is irrelevant. Even if it was only 1 percent it makes no difference to my claim. Our existing generation is all spoken for in warming our houses, cooking our food, running our industry etc. Every extra requirement has to come from increased generation at Huntly until such time as new generation comes on stream. Little is likely to happen in the short term because of planning and consenting constraints. There is only one long-term option to get significant renewable generation and that is from the taboo subject of nuclear power. Given NZ’s unstable geology I am not sure about the wisdom of this option.
    We farm hill country that cannot be cropped. We either farm livestock for food or trees for carbon credits. We are not likely to be able to produce logs economically because of distance from processing. Our 400-hectare farm would gain an annual income of $500,000 from forestry at a carbon price of $50/tonne and not a cent of that would find its way into the local economy. How many of your readers want farmers to go and do that? How friendly is that to biodiversity and the environment, especially if at all burns down?

    1. Bob Hughes says:

      Hi Neil,
      You said “When all this global warming stuff started, (you were) a believer in it” and scientists such as Professor James Renwick . . . All have failed . . . to show human emissions of greenhouse gases cause global warming.
      Whether this is so or not does not matter. There is plenty of evidence, some of it over 200 years old.
      Neil, I invite you to again become a global warming believer. This for starters:
      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/History_of_climate_change_science