Science and research were not ignored in the Budget speech – but the ag/hort sector would have been disappointed

We listened closely for a mention of “science” in the Budget speech.

If we had triumphantly downed a glass of our favourite tipple to celebrate, each time the word was dropped into Finance Minister Grant  Robertson’s carefully crafted text, we could have driven off afterwards and – if stopped by the police – would have comfortably passed the breathalyser test.

There was just one mention of “science” and it had nothing much to do with the work of ag/hort scientists.  Rather, it was related to the government’s response to COVID-19.

“It has been recognised around the world as not only a leading successful, science-driven public health response but also as a strong economic response….”

We could have done the same thing, to celebrate each mention of the word “research”, without denting our sobriety.

Again, there was just one use of that word.  Mr Robertson spoke of the government’s goal to diversify and lift the value of what we produce, and to grow the range of places to which we sell our goods and services.

“ To do this, we are developing Industry Transformation Plans across seven areas of our economy where we believe we can get a global competitive advantage or where an industry sector needs to undergo transformation to significantly increase its level of productivity. These are in advanced manufacturing, agritech, food and beverage, digital, construction, tourism, forestry and wood processing.

“These plans see engagement with all stakeholders in the sectors so that the outcomes are well informed, aspirational and achievable. Underpinning this is our investment in research and development and export promotion.”

Maybe Research, Science and Innovation Minister Megan Woods had something to announce for ag/hort folk that wasn’t mentioned in the Budget speech.

Not really.  Dr Woods did issue a statement, but it was in her capacity as Minister of Energy and Resources (it’s HERE) and dealt with making more Kiwi homes warmer and reducing emissions

We were more successful when we checked out the statements from Damien O’Connor.

First, we found –

Budget boost to tackle on-farm emissions

The key figures are –

  • $37 million towards national integrated farm planning system for farmers and growers.
  • $24 million towards agricultural greenhouse gas mitigation research and development.
  • $900,000 to collect vital statistics on agricultural production, such as greenhouse gas emissions.

The Government is backing initiatives to help reduce costs for farmers and growers, boost returns, and help achieve lower on-farm emissions, Mr O’Connor said..

“To meet our climate change and sustainability goals we need a single national farm planning framework that is easy for farmers and growers to use and that integrates with their business requirements,” he said.

“A national training programme will deliver more skilled farm advisers and an accelerator fund will invest in targeted initiatives to significantly broaden the uptake of integrated farm planning.

“It will ensure up to 40,000 farmers and growers have the tools they need to improve on-farm performance and meet freshwater and greenhouse gas requirements by 2025.”

New funding will also boost research and development in technologies to reduce agricultural emissions. This could include promising areas like vaccine development, methane and nitrous oxide inhibitors, and low emissions animal breeding.

“We’ve set a clear objective for agriculture in He Waka Eke Noa for 100 percent of farms to have written plans to measure and manage emissions by December 2024. As the saying goes, what gets measured, gets done.

“This Budget commitment and subsequent ones by Labour will deliver lasting reductions in both agricultural greenhouse gas emissions and the associated costs. We’re enabling faster development and broad uptake of new technologies on Aotearoa New Zealand farms.

“New funding will also enable Aotearoa New Zealand to continue collecting vital information as part of the Agricultural Production Statistics. This includes measuring progress towards meeting our domestic and international greenhouse gas reporting and forecasting.

“As an agricultural nation, there is a lot riding on our ability to reduce agricultural greenhouse gas emissions.”

A key goal of our Fit for a Better World – Accelerating our Economic Recovery roadmap launched last year is cutting biogenic methane emissions to between 24 and 47 percent below 2017 levels by 2050 – this includes reducing them to 10 percent below 2017 levels by 2030.

“This new Budget investment will supercharge and streamline efforts. Getting the right result will actually add value to our exports. High-value consumers abroad want to know they’re buying food and fibre that are quality, ethical and sustainable.

“Aotearoa New Zealand has to move from volume to values – that is, aligning our story with the values of our consumers,” Damien O’Connor said.

As Biosecurity Minister and in a joint statement with Associate Environment Minister James Shaw, Mr O’Connor issued another statement headed …

Stronger biosecurity protections at our border and for our iconic kauri.

The dollar signs show –

  • $28 million (as part of $32 million over five years) to roll out a National Pest Management Plan to protect kauri from dieback.
  • $8.9 million for advanced screening technology to strengthen biosecurity management of the growing mail pathway.
  • $22.5 million for the National Animal Identification and Tracing Scheme (NAIT).

These were described as important investments to protect kauri, introduce hi-tech biosecurity safeguards and bring a greater focus on animal tracing to support the eradication of Mycoplasma bovis.

The Government will fund new technology to detect biosecurity threats in international mail.

“New Zealand Post’s decision to shift its international mail operations to a new processing centre in Auckland has created an opportunity to rethink how we keep out pests and diseases that could arrive with ever-increasing mail volumes,” Damien O’Connor said.

“The investment will involve installing new 3D scanner technology that has the potential to automatically detect things like seeds and fruit.

“Biosecurity will also be enhanced by the screening of electronic data associated with individual mail items.”

The Minister said a continued focus on NAIT compliance and enforcement was critical to ensuring the national animal tracing system was as reliable as it could be and supported the programme to eradicate Mycoplasma bovis.

“Our ability to trace cattle and deer through the NAIT system is a critical factor in managing biosecurity threats that could have a devastating impact on New Zealand’s agricultural sector. Traceability is also important for food safety and quality assurance programmes and for responding quickly to natural disasters.

“We’ve achieved increased levels of NAIT compliance in recent years. This funding will help us maintain and build on that good work,” Damien O’Connor said.

Another statement came from James Shaw as Minister for Climate Change…

Foundations laid for strong climate action

Mr Shaw said Budget 2021 provides the foundation for lasting climate action – it will support the deployment of low-carbon technologies and the creation of new jobs and opportunities that will also support the economic recovery.

  • $300 million to accelerate investment in low-carbon technology
  • $67.4 million to implement the Carbon Neutral Government Programme, including a significant boost of $19.5 million to the successful State Sector Decarbonisation Fund, and $41.8 million for leasing low-emissions vehicles
  • $19.7 million to support the Government’s policy response to the Climate Change Commission’s final advice
  • Commitment to recycle future Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS) revenue to achieve more emissions reductions from Budget 2022

The Climate Change Commission will soon provide final advice to the Government on the steps that need to be taken to build a net-zero carbon future for New Zealand by 2050. Once the Government receives that advice it will publish a plan setting out how it will cut emissions over the next 15 years.

The Minister of Finance has also stated his intention to recycle the revenue from the Emissions Trading Scheme for the implementation of the forthcoming Emissions Reduction Plan, which must be published before the end of the year.

“Such a change is only possible because of the changes this Government has made to the ETS – and it will be a game-changer that is forecast to provide approximately more than $3 billion of investment over the next five years to help meet our emissions reductions goals,” James Shaw said.

“Every part of Government will need to come to the table and commit to urgent action to bring down emissions. Budget 2021 puts us in a good position to make that happen.

“This Budget will enable us to develop a clear, ambitious plan for long-term emissions reductions that will, in turn, create more of the jobs and opportunities for prosperity that can be driven by the transition to a low-carbon future.”

Budget 2021 also backs technology and innovation to help deliver a low emissions economy.

Quadrupling the size of Green Investment Finance Ltd is intended to help to accelerate the use of low-emissions technologies across the economy.

Green Investment Finance Ltd was created to accelerate the transition to a low-carbon future by stimulating private investment in activity that reduces Aotearoa New Zealand’s domestic emissions. The additional funding will support the uptake of low-carbon technologies, renewable energy, and low-emissions vehicles. Green Investment Finance Ltd’s additional investments in transport alone are expected to save up to 240,000 tonnes of greenhouse gas emissions.

James Shaw said Budget 2021 also provides additional support for the Government to rollout its plan for a carbon neutral public sector by 2025 with additional support for clean energy projects.

Sources:  The Budget Speech and Beehive press statements



Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog