A New Zealand National Party Farmer Candidate Speaks His Mind
Mike Butterick is remarkable for having sharply identified the flaws or “own goals” as he describes them in the Emissions Trading Scheme and even more remarkable for publicly pointing them out.
Why, he asks, is New Zealand hell-bent on “restricting its export income?”
This is the income that pays for the “expectations” in health, education, and welfare the “teachers, nurses, and police…..”
The ETS, emissions trading scheme, he describes as inflationary in that can “only add costs.” At the heart of the problem is that dividends are paid out only on the first forestry rotation, the first crop of trees.
If the forest remains a forest say after 30 or 40 years he points out, it has also deprived the country of the farm export income that would otherwise have been earned for those same 30 or 40 years.
“The cash flow into New Zealand has been lost for that same space of time.”
Who makes, he asks, “the phone call to the foreign developers when after this period of time they head off into the horizon with their ETS money and the forest still unharvested?”
He adds. “Who says: Hey! You said you would harvest this – and now you have left us instead with a liability?”
It adds up he says to a financial incentive to leave the trees in the ground for as long as possible.
This in turn also deprives the nation of the export revenue it would otherwise obtain from shipping them out even as logs.
Also, he adds, these foreign forestry developers receive as income New Zealand carbon units which are sold in New Zealand.
Thus New Zealanders are paying for something that has not been produced which is inflationary in itself because it is an internal cost.
All this and much else he ascribes to the yearning of politicians to parade the nation and thus themselves “on the world stage.”
Yet he asks “What is the point of being green when the nation is in fact in the red?”
He laments the pervasive impression given by politicians and other authority figures to the effect that in New Zealand money quite literally now “grows on trees.”
It is he reminds us in fact created by the 80 percent of the nation’s earnings derived from food and fibre exports.
Yet there remains he insists a make-believe and deliberately nurtured impression that artificial constructs such as offsets pay for the police, teachers and nurses…
Does anyone, he asks, really, truly believe that offsets “feel right?”
Mike Butterick started as a shepherd in Canterbury. His wife Rachel, a police woman, was assigned to the North Island and the family moved too. Soon after he acquired his own farm outside Masterton.
His experience with irrigation in Canterbury was now applied to the flatland farm and as proprietor he now experienced directly the benefit of accessible aquifers.
He believes that water has become politicised to the point at which only a very few understand that it is the central ingredient of the agri economy.
“We have 12 times the amount of water per head of any population anywhere.
“Yet only two percent of it is used: one percent by the rural population and the other one percent by the urban population.”
It is the application of the nation’s water resources that he insists “de-risks” agriculture.
He believes water gives the agribusiness here the “diversity” (his word) that enables it to “adapt” to the known and the unknown. Water he underlines should be allocated exclusively “on need and nothing else. “
On climate change he comments that the government effort so far to combat nature has been to “stop it.”
The emphasis must now be deployed on “how to adapt to it.” The government’s emphasis he cautions has been on the abstract publicising of the climatic shift instead of on the “practical” measures of coping with the extremes such as the ones being experienced now.
The high profile given to intercepting nature rather than coping with it has given rise to widely held misunderstandings about climate and farming.
The Paris Accords he stresses exclude food production from the climate regime. He adds that New Zealand’s very climate allows the nation to produce food “with half the carbon footprint per unit of production “of any other producer nation, anywhere. And it is unsubsidised
He remains unconvinced by the various computations underpinning New Zealand’s stated contribution to the green houses gases effect.
“As a country we should take into account everything that is accountable.”
He is perplexed by the way in which any “narrative” about climate at all is “required to fit the in-place agenda.”
As someone who has had to produce in three dimensional form whatever he earns, he points out how successive governments raise expectations without any reference at all to how these expectations will be paid for.
Why, for example, is it never explained that the New Zealand economy is “unique” in that it is a developed economy yet one with most of its income deriving from agricultural products, a ratio normally associated with developing countries.
The National Party candidate for Wairarapa, a rural seat, echoes the perplexity of someone from the productive sector contemplating the florid, abstract, yet so often lavish expectations emanating from Wellington.
“I am constantly being told what without a shadow of doubt will happen decades away in the future and what it will cost, when farmers cannot with any confidence predict what will happen even next year……..”
Mike Butterick personifies and symbolises one side of the rural/university-urban divide increasingly looming as the deciding factor in the pending general election.
This is the clash, the contradiction, in which those calling for greater spending on health education and welfare simultaneously openly and determinedly “seek to shrink the earning power of those who pay for it all.”