New Zealand farmers angry over ‘fart tax’


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  • Mike Vigers

    Correspondent Australia

  • Mike Vigers

    Correspondent Australia

In New Zealand, the government wants farmers to pay a tax on their livestock’s output. The tax should contribute to the goal of climate neutrality by 2050 and a 10 percent reduction in methane emissions by 2030.

The sector is responsible for more than half of New Zealand’s emissions. It’s mainly the harmful greenhouse gas methane, which is emitted by farts, burps and livestock waste.

Agriculture is one of the last sectors to pay for emissions in New Zealand. The country has had an emissions trading system since 2008, but farmers have not had to participate until now.

Farmers rage

Farmers are dissatisfied with this scheme of the government. “This scheme is a punch in the stomach for farmers,” says Stu Muir (52). He runs a dairy farm in the Aga Aga Hills in the Waikato region of New Zealand’s North Island.

“We’ve been trying for years to do what’s right for our country and climate, but also in a way that’s good for our community. That’s being pushed aside now,” he says.

Muir is a fifth generation farmer in the area. His ancestors came to New Zealand from Scotland in the early nineteenth century. Muir grew up on the farm, as did his four children now. “My children have been helping in the fields since they were young. They know where their food comes from. It’s a natural life,” she says.

Largest milk exporter

But Muir worries he may be the family’s last professional farmer. “This plan will bankrupt farmers,” he says. Many farmers hesitate. About 20 per cent of farms go bankrupt, says lobby group Groundswell NZ.

Ever since the government announced these schemes, there has been strong opposition. One more petition 100,000 signatures Delivered to the minister by tractor. Demonstrators took to the streets on tractors.

The debate became increasingly polarized as farmers, interest groups and the New Zealand government worked together. In partnership Hey waga ak noa The parties have been talking since 2019 about how to reduce emissions from the farming community. Eventually a proposal was made and farmers agreed to tax their emissions.


The big difference with the current plan, which Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s government has just submitted, is that farmers want to influence the level of that tax. But instead, the government wants to appoint an independent party that determines the level of taxes each year.

Emissions can be offset by planting trees. But there are many drawbacks, says David Hall, a climate scientist at Auckland University of Technology. “The plan has too much focus on compensation options, and not enough on biodiversity.”

Pine trees are not native to New Zealand. But because they grow quickly, they are planted a lot to offset emissions. That could be at a loss of biodiversity, Hall says. “Using agricultural land to plant pine forests is more profitable. But it creates a monoculture that leaves less space for our native animals and plants.”

‘No Acknowledgment’

And that has dairy farmer Muir worried. He has invested heavily in allowing parts of his land to go to forest for biodiversity. “I spent time and money cleaning up a local river and all the native fish and birds came back. But I didn’t get any credits for that in this project.”

Hall also sees a flaw in this government proposal. Although he insists that the tax is necessary to reduce emissions, he argues that farmers need more understanding. “It’s very severe for people, and we have to take that into account and everyone has to contribute to reducing emissions,” he says.

The government’s proposal generally has strong support in Parliament. The final plan will be presented early next year. The tax will come into force from 2025 onwards.

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