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  • Aotearoa New Zealand’s primary sector exports reached a record $46.4 billion in 2019.

    Rights: 123RF Ltd

    Milk – a nutritious food source

    Milk is packed with nutrients and is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, protein and more. Milk from cows that eat mostly grass is significantly higher in beneficial fatty acids.

    Our nation’s farmers and growers produce some of the highest-quality food in the world – and the world knows it. They are bringing home record export returns, and that’s something for them to be really proud of.

    Damien O’Connor, Minister of Agriculture and Minister for Trade and Export Growth

    Even though we export many of our agricultural, horticultural and forestry products, the greenhouse gas emissions are counted in the New Zealand Greenhouse Gas Inventory. We have an unusual greenhouse gas emissions profile. Almost half of our gross emissions are from agriculture – 48% compared to 12% on average for other developed countries.

    The paradox has been how to substantially reduce emissions without substantially limiting production.

    A collaborative approach

    New Zealand ratified the Kyoto Protocol in December 2002. The agriculture community and the New Zealand Government were quick off the mark in their support. These are some of the larger initiatives:

    • The Pastoral Greenhouse Gas Research Consortium (PGgRc) formed in 2003 and is funded by eight agricultural sector partners. The industry funding is matched dollar for dollar by the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment.
    • The New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre (NZAGRC) formed in 2009 to work in partnership with the PGgRc. Its members are Crown research institutes, universities and DairyNZ.
    • The Global Research Alliance on Agricultural Greenhouse Gases (GRA) also formed in 2009. Initiated by the New Zealand Government, the goal is to reduce greenhouse gas emissions without jeopardising global food security.

    The New Zealand “cogged approach” to GHG research results in better research, accelerated development of practical solutions and new ideas to help solve New Zealand’s GHG emissions problem.

    New Zealand Agricultural Greenhouse Gas Research Centre

    These research initiatives work in a co-ordinated manner to optimise production while reducing environmental impacts. Their research is broad ranging with the goals of developing solutions that work at a practical on-farm level in Aotearoa and in other countries. Specific areas of research include reducing methane emissions through feeds, animal breeding and methane inhibitors, reducing nitrous oxide and nitrate leaching and increasing soil carbon.

    He Waka Eke Noa

    He Waka Eke Noa – derived from a Māori whakataukī that means we are all in this together – is the name of a world-first partnership. It is a collective commitment from 11 primary sector organisations – including DairyNZ, Beef+Lamb NZ, Federated Farmers and the Dairy Companies Association of New Zealand (DCANZ) – to respond to the challenges of climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The 5-year work plan includes clear and measurable actions, outcomes and timeframes. It also includes other environmental improvements such as water quality and biodiversity.

    The primary sector, Māori and government stand shoulder to shoulder on the path to reduced emissions.

    Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern at the launch of He Waka Eke Noa
    Rights: DairyNZ

    Foundational principles of He Waka Eke Noa

    Principles, partnerships and relationships underpin the primary sector response to climate change.

    Through He Waka Eke Noa, sector organisations will provide additional extension and engagement with farmers and growers. The goal is to help people understand the actions they can take to reduce greenhouse gases and to develop resilience to adverse weather events. There will also be a focus on innovation and uptake of new technologies – taking care that the activities are relevant and respond to the distinct and long-term cultural needs of Māori agri-business.

    The initiative includes the use of farm environment plans for all farms by 2025. This will ensure farmers know their emissions footprint, where the emissions are coming from and what can be done to manage them.

    Dairy farm research and climate change

    DairyNZ is conducting considerable research into how dairying impacts climate change as well as the impacts climate change is having on the dairy industry.

    Select here to view video transcript and copyright information.

    We are all in this together! Aotearoa needs farmers and growers to produce food for our people – and for the rest of the world. We need the economic benefits primary industries provide. And just like the primary industries, we all need to take action to reduce our greenhouse gas footprints.

    Related content

    Primary producers have been proactive in reducing their environmental footprints. These resources tell their stories:

    Activity idea

    Farming and environmental issues explores issues related to farming and environmental pollution. Learn about the science involved and consider the range of perspectives among a variety of stakeholders.

    Useful links

    Read about the He Waka Eke Noa – Primary Sector Climate Action Partnership on the MPI website.

    View DairyNZ's climate section on their website.

    Ag Matters provides practical information backed by science to help farmers and growers get to grips with climate change.

    Check out some of the actions taken by dairy farmers to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.


    This resource has been produced with the support of DairyNZ.

    Rights: DairyNZ


    DairyNZ is the industry organisation that represents all New Zealand dairy farmers. DairyNZ supports farmers through investing in research, resource development, extension and advocacy to ensure sustainable dairy farming and food production.

      Published 15 April 2021 Referencing Hub articles
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