Meat & Livestock News

Impact of Environmental Regulations on New Zealand Farmers

Recent research by Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) reveals that the surge in new and proposed environmental regulations in New Zealand has placed a considerable administrative and financial strain on farmers. The study, conducted by BakerAg, delves into the cumulative effects of the NZ Government’s environmental reforms on farming operations.

B+LNZ’s chief executive, Sam McIvor, emphasises the need for the Government to re-evaluate current and proposed regulations to ensure they are effective without imposing undue costs. He also calls for a comprehensive analysis of the overall impact of these reforms.

While B+LNZ Board Chair Kate Acland recognises the necessity for continual environmental investments, she stresses the importance of directing these investments towards actions with tangible results. She criticises the current “one-size-fits-all” approach, which imposes significant costs without evident benefits.

The research highlights the direct costs farmers incur due to these policies. For instance, annual consenting costs for on-farm activities reached up to $30,000 for some farms, with one farm incurring a one-time resource consent cost of $220,000. Additionally, all four farms in the study faced $15,000 in one-off costs for Freshwater Farm Plans and yearly costs for updates and audits.

Furthermore, while fewer farms will bear the costs of excluding livestock from waterways, those that do will face substantial expenses. One farm in the study anticipates stock exclusion costs exceeding $1.2 million.

McIvor points out that these costs, combined with the expenses of implementing new freshwater rules and biodiversity initiatives, jeopardise farms’ financial sustainability. He cites an example of a farm facing one-time direct costs of $75,000 and annual costs of approximately $88,000, a significant portion of its average annual profit.

Acland emphasises the cumulative effect of these regulations, noting that while individual rules might seem minor, their collective impact is causing significant stress among farmers.

Over the past six years, more than 20 new agriculture regulations and reforms have been introduced or are slated for introduction. These primarily address climate change, freshwater, and biodiversity. Acland urges the Government to streamline its approach, advocating for more practical and holistic policies that support farmers’ ongoing land stewardship.

The report highlights the red meat sector’s critical role in New Zealand’s economy. It underscores these policies’ adverse effects on farming communities, potentially impacting the broader economy and society.