“Science” was mentioned early in Budget speech but the bucks were unleashed in connection with “research”

The good news:  “science” was mentioned in the opening sentences of the Budget speech today.

The more disheartening news:  it was mentioned just once and only in the context of previous budgets rather than the latest one.

Finance Minister Grant Robertson recalled that each of this Government’s three previous Wellbeing Budgets had considered the performance not only of the economy and finances, but also the wellbeing of the people, the health of our environment and the strength of our communities.

“In Budget 2020 and 2021 we applied that wellbeing approach to dealing with COVID-19. This meant taking a health and science-led approach…”

And that was it.

Fair to say, things looked more promising when your editor checked for mentions of “research”.

Yes, it was mentioned in a section of the speech on the Agricultural sector.

Mr Robertson said climate investments include:

  • $339 million funding for a Centre for Climate Action in Agriculture to support innovation and research to reduce emissions, and
  • $6 million for the implementation of an agricultural emissions pricing scheme, based on the outcomes of the Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership (He Waka Eke Noa).

And in the forestry sector:

  • $91 million is allocated to reduce the use of coal and other carbon-intensive fuels and materials by increasing woody biomass availability, and
  • $145 million to create large-scale native forests as carbon sinks, to offset emissions in other sectors where abatement is difficult.

Furthermore, a tsunami of press statements flowed from Mr Robertson’s ministerial colleagues  during the afternoon, including a statement from Megan Woods, Minister of Research, Science and Innovation.

She announced that researchers and businesses working in the rapidly developing field of RNA technology will benefit from a new research and development platform, funded in Budget 2022.

RNA technology offers an opportunity to develop applications in animal health, agriculture and aquaculture, she explained.

An investment of $40.7 million over four years will allow New Zealand to:

  • develop its emerging strengths in this field, identify and address gaps in terms of capability and create high value jobs
  • bridge engagement between researchers and industry partners to test and commercialise new approaches
  • support clinical testing
  • facilitate linkages with partners and institutions overseas.

“An RNA platform will help put New Zealand researchers at the forefront of global efforts by increasing domestic and international collaborations. We want to make sure that New Zealand starts investing in this now, bringing together key players across the industry, and unlocking and developing international relationships. This will complement the investment the Government has already made in managing infectious disease,” Megan Woods said.

The RNA platform will be run through the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment’s Strategic Science Investment Fund.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor popped up, too, with his Forestry and Rural Communities colleagues to announce –

  • $118.4 million for advisory services to support farmers, foresters, growers and whenua Māori owners to accelerate sustainable land use changes and lift productivity
  • $40 million to help transformation in the forestry, wood processing, food and beverage and fisheries sectors
  • $31.6 million to help maintain and lift animal welfare practices across New Zealand
  • A total food and fibre sector package of more than $1 billion (including CERF and pre-Budget announcements)

The Government is backing new integrated advisory services for farmers, foresters, and growers, supporting innovation and strengthening the animal welfare system, Mr O’Connor said.

“Budget 2022 demonstrates the Government’s commitment to our food and fibre sector and reaffirms that we see it as the bedrock of our future economic security,” Damien O’Connor said.

“The $190 million of funding announced today will help them adapt practices and drive value growth as they respond to changing international markets. 

“Consumers across the world are demanding higher requirements in areas like sustainability and animal welfare practices. New Zealand’s food and fibre sector products are known for their quality the world over, but we must continue to adapt.

More than $118 million over four years will go towards boosting advisory services for farmers, foresters, growers and whenua Māori owners.

“Many of our farmers and growers are already undertaking positive practices, like wetland restoration, setback fencing from waterways, riparian planting and low-till cultivation.

“People on the land need confidence they can access excellent information and sound advice that complements existing industry efforts. The vast majority acknowledge it’s a changing world and are adapting. What is important is that all farmers and growers are supported in their business decisions as they necessarily focus on sustainability,” Damien O’Connor said.

Forestry Minister Stuart Nash said a $40 million investment over four years will also accelerate transformation in the forestry, fisheries, food and beverage, and wood processing sectors.

“Industry Transformation Plans are being developed in partnership with industry and Māori to identify high-impact actions that strengthen the performance of our primary sector. 

“Our primary sector is leading New Zealand’s economic recovery from COVID-19, guided by the Government and sector 10-year roadmap Fit for a Better World, and the Budget will help those efforts,” Stuart Nash said.

Rural Communities Minister Meka Whaitiri said almost $32 million is being committed over four years to protect New Zealand’s animal health and welfare system and reputation. This includes increasing compliance and enforcement, for example, through more on-farm inspectors and providing more help on the ground when responding to adverse events.

Mr O’Connor said that including pre-Budget announcements, the Government is investing over $1 billion to help farmers and growers.

The pre-Budget announcements included $710 million to tackle agricultural emissions, including the Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions and accelerating carbon sequestration through forestry.

$110 million was also announced pre-Budget to boost the biosecurity system and continue the Mycoplasma bovis eradication programme.


Author: Bob Edlin

Editor of AgScience Magazine and Editor of the AgScience Blog