The Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment has produced a new report, entitled "Going with the grain: Changing land uses to fit a changing landscape". AgResearch senior scientists Warren King and Robyn Dynes gave their reactions to the report, as follows:

Senior Scientist Warren King:

"The PCE report Going with the grain(external link) focuses on the challenges that NZ faces with respect to land use change: it’s happening already, climate change will accelerate it, current policy settings will likely lead to perverse outcomes, and we will need properly joined-up solutions to deliver optimal long-term outcomes.

None of this is controversial but it does make clear the case for changing the way we think about how these solutions will be developed and implemented. If it is to be, as the PCE suggests, “catchment groups” that should have the appropriate scope and mandate to co-develop catchment-scale plans, then they will be rather different from the “catchment groups” we know today. While the deliberately local focus remains, the new catchment groups will sit between national and regional policy frameworks and the private property rights of local landholders.

As the PCE notes, farm boundaries are frequently unhelpful with respect to dealing with environmental issues: externalities do not respect fences. To be effective, these new catchment groups will need:

  • To represent the interests of the all the stakeholders in the catchment (especially mana whenua, and including urban communities)
  • To be appropriately empowered and resourced over the long term
  • To be supported by rural professionals
  • To be supported by scientists who act as ‘knowledge brokers’ to connect with data and expertise as required. They can also identify knowledge gaps where science input can be directed

The PCE report does not develop a vision of what catchments should look like and what changes farmers might be required to make. Each catchment will need to determine that for themselves. But it does make clear the imperative to do something properly joined-up, and to do it now!”

Senior scientist Robyn Dynes:

"Going with the grain, the just released report from PCE, sets out the complex challenges that NZ must navigate in attempting to address the multiple environmental problems facing rural NZ.

Land use change will continue, driven by multiple factors, including the need to prevent further degradation and in response to a changing climate. The report acknowledges that land use change will inevitably involve difficult decisions and trade-offs between environmental, economic and social priorities.  
One recurring theme through the report is the need for data: it notes central government must enable farmers and regulators to have access to inexpensive, high-quality environmental information and underwrite it as a public good. Data behind a pay wall is not helpful.
One source of data that has recently become available is the Data Supermarket. The Whitiwhiti Ora (Land Use Suitability) programme in the Our Land and Water National Science Challenge has developed the Data Supermarket to make new high-quality data available for land managers and their rural professionals.

The datasets are intended for use by those providing advice on land-use change options in New Zealand. Guidance documents, such as for tree species selection and ETS look-up tables, are suitable to support on-farm decisions. The datasets in the Data Supermarket contain a wide range of datasets with information on suitability, yield maps, climate change impacts and economic information."

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