Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has outlined the Government's plans to boost primary sector export earnings by $44 billion over the next decade in order to help fill the economic vacuum left by the Covid-19 pandemic.
At a presentation at Mt Albert Grammar School's ASB-backed training farm, Ardern and Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said the primary sector - already strengthening despite drought and Covid-19 - would play a big part in rebuilding the economy in the years to come.
Ardern outlined a plan to lift primary sector earnings by $44b over the next 10 years by creating value and employing more people, while at the same time sticking to environmentally sustainability targets.
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She said the sector had already made significant strides to improve the sustainability of New Zealand's primary products and practices, but that there was potential to go further.
In releasing its "The Fit for a Better World" plan, Ardern said the Government planned to spend nearly $100 million through a Sustainable Food and Fibre Futures fund and in forestry for innovative and creative projects.
The Government, in response to Covid-19, had funnelled an extra $200m into NZ Trade and Enterprise to support and work with exporters.
"The Government is already backing parts of the road map with more than $1.5b invested in freshwater quality, water storage, supporting exporters, reducing agriculture emissions, assisting farmer catchment groups, the One Billion Trees scheme, getting people into sector jobs, rural sector resilience and developing new high-value crops," the Prime Minister said.
The Government wants to reduce the country's biogenic methane emissions to between 24 and 47 per cent below 2017 levels by 2050; and 10 per cent below by 2030.
It also wants to restore New Zealand's freshwater environments to a healthy state within a generation.
The paper outlines a plan to employ 10 per cent more New Zealanders in the food and fibre sector by 2030, and 15,000 more Kiwis in the primary sector workforce over the next four years.
The paper said that with the big export earners such as tourism and international education unable to reopen until it was safe for international visitors to cross the border, primary sector exports would become more important.
Federated Farmers national vice-president Andrew Hoggard welcomed the extra effort on the trade front, especially given the rising tide of protectionism in some parts of the world.
"Without access, doing any of this stuff is no use," he told the Herald after the presentation.
Hoggard also backed the call for more jobs and increased skills and training in the primary sector, but said farmers had a "completely different view" on the Government's methane targets.
Likewise the National Party's agriculture spokesman, David Bennett, said the plan to lift exports by $44b ignored the high costs of meeting its methane standards.
Dairy NZ has said the 2050 target range of 24 – 47 per cent "is not soundly based in science" and would come at a cost.
"I think that it is a deceptive policy," Bennett told the Herald.
"It sets out a great deal, but at the same time it does not have the basis to achieve what we need."