Opinion: Environmentalist and farmer Jane Smith says she wants to make urban New Zealand aware of the true long term costs of "headline-grabbing heroic environmental crusades".
Urban New Zealand you have been lied to. You believed someone had your back, a master plan, a blue print for the future. In its place is a lonely black box. They say the devil is in the detail. There are no details - only hyperbole and headlines.
At record speed, New Zealand is blindsiding opportunities to embrace the unique advantage we have as a sustainable island nation.
As a humble food producer, environmentalist, taxpayer and common sense advocate I can't help but analyse all aspects of policies, not just a one-sided narrow environmental view.
Regardless of election outcomes, I believe our nation is on the verge of the largest economic disaster since the 1930s.
History has shown that government-led recoveries don't work. Regeneration has to be driven by business growth, not 50 shades of tax. You cannot tax your country into wealth.
Urban New Zealand, when regulators are determined to drive your farming, energy and manufacturing sectors into the ground - we all pay the price.
Yes our country needs new money, but we cannot sell off the family jewels through fast tracking of land sales for overseas-owned forestry, the cessation of our gas, coal and oil industries, and, in my opinion, the blanket suffocation of rural New Zealand.
We are already competing in an uneven marketplace, without imposing our very own kamikaze policies.
Global Farmer Roundtable meetings reported New Zealand's $37 billion worth of trade exports are on-sold by someone else for $250 billion. For every $1 spent on food worldwide, farmers receive on average, less than 8 cents.
The real tragedy is that we produce enough food for 50 million people, yet thousands of Kiwi children go without proper nutrition each and every day.
Under the cover of Covid, I believe fear has overtaken free thinking, and we have forgotten that elections are not about the here and now - they are about deciding which pathway we take to protect future generations.
We have also conveniently forgotten that we need to hold our pricey politicians to account. Regardless of election outcome, we are painting ourselves into a corner.
Electioneering is short, consequences are long. Our leaders should be running a country, not an arms race. How can we promise $11.7 M to a wealthy overseas owned "green" school but have child poverty at an all-time crisis level?
Devoid of logic, we have created our own epidemic of fear. Critical issues of child poverty, affordable housing and the fact that we have the highest youth suicide rates in the OECD seem to have fallen by the wayside.
To quote Sir Roger Douglas recently"….if a public or private business were to mislead the public about the size of its financial obligations, as governments have done - the officers of those businesses would end up in prison for fraud".
You don't need a degree in telemetry to see that the myriad of policies touted on the electioneering circuit don't add up, particularly the ones that not only bite the hand that feeds the country, but chop off both arms and legs – and then ask those food producing and manufacturing sectors to run an economic marathon.
There are no prizes for being an environmental martyr.
The famous quote "A country with not enough food has only one problem. A country with too much food makes hundreds of their own problems" is entirely relevant.
So despite producing 10 times more food than we require ourselves, our provenance food will become less accessible and more expensive, due to the costs of being a food producer in this country.
These are escalating at an unpalatable rate, right at the time that we should be encouraging sustainable growth.
The draconian level of regulation and unsustainable employment costs mean our lowest income families will be the hardest hit by food, fuel and energy costs well beyond their reach.
Why does the rest of the world look at New Zealand with envy at the abundance of resources at our door step – when at the same time, we want to self-harm our own industries and play a game bordering on economic treason?
Why do we let over 98 per cent of our alpine-fed water straight out to sea? This has often been labelled by other countries as an irresponsible, poor use of resources.
We need to be promoting sustainable water storage and utilisation, not prohibiting it. Auckland you have had a taste of water shortages - get ready for this to be your new norm.
A rising tide lifts all boats, but similarly, a generic anchor halts all movement.
Without irrigation, the world would need to find 500 million more hectares to produce the same amount of food.
Someone obviously missed the memo that New Zealand's primary sector has been proven to be the most efficient user of water in the world per kg of product … meanwhile that imported almond "milk" in your latte has taken 5 litres of water - simply to grow one almond, yet to be milked.
New requirements state that everyone earning a living from the land must develop a certified environmental plan under a $700 million water reform package.
Someone forgot to mention that farmers are already carrying out these plans themselves anyway - at no cost whatsoever to the taxpayer.
Urban New Zealand, keep your $700 million.
Adding insult to injury, an extra $50 million of taxpayers' money has been pledged to subsidise the cost.
Farmers are both aghast and offended. The sector has been completed unsubsidised since 1984. They do not want this handout.
In effect, they are turning farming into a regulated industry, totally beholden to bureaucrats who have simply missed the point.
The cost of meeting regulations is not the issue, it is the opportunity cost of hamstringing the backbone of your economy and then smiling and waving while giving subsidies that they do not want nor need - all the while taking already stretched regional councils past breaking point.
This defies logic and breaks the fundamental requirement of the Paris Agreement, being that climate change policies must "not threaten food production".
Sorry urban New Zealand, you will be paying for this too - along with the $297 million promised by the Green Party for "transitioning" farmers to practices that they are already doing themselves - in their own time, and at their own cost.
Meanwhile, consumptive users of water – including over-capitalised power companies, blanket forestry owned by overseas corporates, and wastewater treatment plants fail to be held to account for their water use and environmental degradation.
In the energy sector, geopolitics have taken over.
Instead of using our own coal to produce our own steel, we are importing both coal and steel.
Taxpayers are now subsidising wealthy overseas forestry owners (modelled to cost at least $7000/per New Zealand household) to plant pinus radiata that they never intend to harvest; while receiving emissions trading payments - creating a false economy akin to the emperor's new clothes, doubled down by a scientifically flawed Zero Carbon Bill that promises to cripple our economy.
For forestry that is actually harvested, we can't afford to process them here and so 80 per cent of our export logs go to China – used for boxing around concrete and then burnt.
Any genuine environmentalist will tell you that a blanket monoculture of forestry causes irreparable harm to the landscape, soils, streams, beaches and communities. Every hectare of pasture that is planted in forestry here, has to be replaced elsewhere - hence producing food offshore, in a far less efficient manner.
According to Patrick Phelps, manager of Minerals West Coast, fossil fuels supply 88-92 per cent of energy requirements in dairy and meat processing and horticultural production. He says there are no economically viable alternatives available (woodwaste and electricity have cost, supply and technological limitations that make wide scale use totally unviable).
Wood fuel has much higher environmental implications for both people and wildlife than fossil fuel use, and solar power in its current form, results in higher net emissions, says Phelps.
Our tourism industry has been built on promoting long distance travel to sustain today's extravagant lifestyles. Avoiding a single one-way plan flight from LA to NZ has a four times greater effect on decreasing your carbon footprint than having a plant-based diet for life.
Urban and lifestyle blocks take up 6 per cent of our land in New Zealand, a similar area to our dairying industry at 7 per cent, but unlike static dairying land, urban sprawl is creeping onto our food producing land at a disastrous rate.
According to leading Kiwi sheep breeder Derek Daniell, as New Zealand's population grows to 6.1 million by 2100, the area available for growing food shrinks from 2.3 hectares to 0.6 hectares per person. He says this is expedited by the 3 million hectares that will be taken up by blanket tree planting and unaffordable urban housing.
Daniell also claims crown-owned DoC estate accounts for 48 per cent of our land area. I repeat, 48 per cent.
In theory, this is admirable. In practice it is not.
New Zealand, ask the residents that fled their houses at 4am at Lake Ōhau if the "locking up" of land governed by DoC is a good idea.
This negligent landlord has a track record of allowing weeds (including wilding pines) predators and pests to grow rampantly, choking out native species and creating a dangerous fuel source.
Decades of public policy errors and crown-owned land mismanagement, thinly disguised as heroic environmentalism.
New Zealand's stance has been described overseas as 'destroying a nation while thinking you are saving the world'.
Who will pay for environmental initiatives when we turn ourselves into a third world nation?
We account for a mere 0.22 per cent of the world's carbon emissions (even if you include the 90 per cent of food we produce that is consumed elsewhere, and then don't take into account the carbon neutrality of most of our livestock farms).
Meanwhile, the USA (14.75 per cent of global emissions) and Russia (4.86 per cent) have not even ratified the Paris Accord and so have no obligation whatsoever to reduce their emissions.
At my Global Farmer Roundtable meetings I learned that in New Zealand, 33 per cent of jobs "consumptive" rather than "productive" (leading to productivity per capita lower than many third world countries).
Our country has not only significantly increased the regulatory burden on New Zealanders, but, according to Dr Muriel Newman of NZCPR, added another 6000 staff to create a 53,000-strong bureaucratic army, at an extra cost of over half a billion dollars per annum.
Money that would be gratefully received in health and education.
New Zealand I ask you the following questions:
Could Auckland survive as a standalone economy, like Singapore?
How poor do you want your country to be?
Are you ready to import all your food from countries that have markedly lower environmental standards than our own, a massively higher carbon footprint, appalling animal welfare standards and virtually non-existent labour laws - simply because of the regulatory costs we have burdened upon our productive sectors?
Are you happy to increase the importation of coal from Indonesia and steel from China and then use our own alternative forms of energy that have a greater environmental, economic and social cost than our own fossil fuels?
Are you willing to accept that the zero carbon bill (of which all parties voted on, including National and Act) will hit our poorest families first – through higher fuel, energy and food costs – and eventually higher taxes and lower GDP for all. The gift that keeps on giving.
Would you rather do what is popular now, or what is right for the future?
• Jane Smith is a self-described advocate for common sense. An environmentalist, a sustainable food producing sheep and beef farmer, and an advocate for low decile communities and future generations.