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'Things might be heading south': PM heckled at Fieldays as Govt unveils projects to cut emissions

Newshub logo Newshub 30/11/2022 Karen Rutherford
Watch: Jacinda Ardern heckled at Fieldays as Government unveils projects to cut emissions. © Newshub Watch: Jacinda Ardern heckled at Fieldays as Government unveils projects to cut emissions.

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern revealed three major innovations to help farmers tackle emissions and climate change at Hamilton's Mystery Creek on Wednesday.

But she was in the National Party's heartland and had a lukewarm reception from farmers flocking to the COVID-19 postponed Summer Fieldays.

Dodging showers, Ardern had little time to press the flesh - and just as well as she was in slightly uncomfortable territory.

One person shouted at her: "Go home, no one likes you here."

Others were critical of how things "might be heading south" under her Government.

"We've been farming for 36 years and you almost feel like you want to get out," one person said.

Another said: "I've supported her through COVID-19 but now I feel like things might be heading south."

A third person said: "The emissions tax coming forward, that's a big one for us."

Farmers, food and fibre innovators, townies and toddlers turned out in their droves for the postponed Fieldays - the southern hemisphere's biggest agricultural event. 

The Prime Minister used it as a launchpad for the Government's Centre for Climate Action on Agricultural Emissions. 

"You are the most sustainable food producers in the world and I stand up proudly and say that on the world stage but I want us to retain pole position," Ardern said.

The Centre, which was announced as part of Budget 2022, will see a 50-50 joint venture with industry partners investing $170 million over the next four years to reduce agricultural emissions.

'Things might be heading south': PM heckled at Fieldays as Govt unveils projects to cut emissions
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"It's one thing to set our ambition collectivity, but there is an anxiety around how we achieve those with practical tools that are available on the farm as soon as possible, and that is specifically one of the things this joint venture is quite focussed on," Ardern said.

The first three projects will include work on a bolus capsule that goes into a cow's rumen or stomach to reduce emissions, rams that can be bred specifically to emit lower methane, and an upscaling in facilities to ensure better testing of methane levels.

"An investment of $7.8 million will go alongside Ruminant Biotech's $9.5 million contribution to develop a methane inhibiting capsule, or bolus, which delivers at least a 70 percent reduction in methane whilst active," Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said.

A total $4.2 million will be jointly invested by the Government and Beef and Lamb to breed the lower-methane rams.

Also, $6 million will be spent ramping up facilities with greenhouse gas measuring equipment.

The Government is confident the projects and others in the pipeline will achieve its goal of a 30 percent reduction in methane and nitrous oxide emissions by 2030. 

"This will work towards a pathway for farmers so they can reduce their environmental impacts while remaining sustainable and profitable. New Zealand can be a leader in this space," Minister O'Connor said.

Farmers are taking a wait-and-see approach to the innovations.

"It's another cost to us all," one said.

Another said: "We're not against all this sort of stuff. Just consult a farmer before you do anything."

Farmers know they have to adapt - without it our competitive advantage in world-class food and fibre could slip from our future reality.

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