DairyNZ boss addresses politicians over methane targets

The Chief Executive of DairyNZ has told a Government select committee that a proposed methane reduction target for 2050 would be setting farmers up to fail.

The Government's proposed Zero Carbon Bill announced in May aims to curb New Zealand's emissions for both CO2 and methane.

It aims for a 10 percent reduction of biogenic methane by 2030 and a 24 to 47 percent reduction of methane by 2050.

Dr Tim Mackle appeared before Parliament's Environment Select Committee on Thursday telling it the 47 percent methane reduction target was unachievable.

"The New Zealand dairy sector is committed to playing our part in the transition to a low-emissions economy, alongside the rest of the country," he said.

Dr Tim Mackle addressed a select committee at Parliament.
Dr Tim Mackle addressed a select committee at Parliament. Photo credit: Supplied

"We are acutely aware of the importance of looking after the environment and maintaining sustainable and competitive businesses too," said Dr Mackle.

He said farmers want to do what is right. 

"They are ready to go on this journey, but they need a fair target that they can buy into. A 47 percent methane reduction target is simply setting farmers up to fail, if the tools are not available."

DairyNZ wants the 2050 methane reduction target set at up to 24 percent and regularly reviewed against robust criteria. 

"This position is supported by Fonterra and its Shareholders' Council, Miraka, Synlait and Tatua."

"A lot is being asked of our farmers across a variety of issues such as water quality and biosecurity. If a methane target is set based on a global reduction scenario, rather than what is sensible at home, then they will simply disengage."

Dr Mackle said there would be serious implications and costs for farmers under the proposed target. 

DairyNZ estimated that with an up to 50 percent cut in methane, dairy farmers' total profit could reduce by 33-42 percent across the 2030-2050 period.

"This is a substantial loss of income and is more than 10 times higher than the cost of $2500 per farm estimated in the Government's analysis. The impact for rural communities and the wider economy could be huge."