9 February 2021
New Zealand’s largest manufacturing industry is generally supportive of the Climate Change Commission’s draft report and its focus on reducing the use of fossil fuels but is concerned about the stated 15 per cent reduction in sheep, cattle and dairy numbers.
Sirma Karapeeva, chief executive of the Meat Industry Association, says red meat processors and exporters are committed to reducing and eventually eliminating the use of coal, although achieving the commission’s 2037 target will be difficult.
“We do need a fair and just transition away from coal to ensure jobs and livelihoods are not put at risk. However, our chief concern is any drop in livestock numbers may jeopardise the viability of some processing plants and jobs in rural communities.
“Meat processors rely on throughput of livestock to create efficiencies of scale and be profitable. The commission estimates that without major on-farm practice change and new technologies, a 15 per cent reduction in livestock numbers will be required to achieve the targets by 2030. This would have a serious impact on the ability of many processors to keep operating.
“On the face of it, this assumption by the commission that we can reduce livestock numbers by 15 per cent while still maintaining current production volumes seems optimistic. We need to understand why the commission made this assumption to better assess the likely effects for the industry.”
The industry agrees with the commission and sheep and beef farmers that the widespread planting of exotic pine trees is not a long-term viable solution to addressing climate change.
“We can’t plant our way out of climate change. Wholesale planting of pine trees on sheep and beef farmland is not the answer and it will have significant implications for jobs in regional New Zealand.”
The red meat processing sector generates more than $10 billion in export revenue every year and is also a significant regional employer in New Zealand so any changes would have a major impact on people’s livelihoods, says Ms Karapeeva.
“For instance, in the Otago/Southland region, the sector employs 7,700 full-time people with more than 10,000 full-time jobs underpinned by the industry. It also contributes 11.5 percent of household income in the region.
“In Taranaki/Manawatu and Whanganui, the sector supports almost 10 percent of full-time employment in the region with 5,200 directly and it underpins more than 8,300 full-time equivalent jobs.”
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