Agriculture and fishing

Our growers benefit

More CO2 in the atmosphere boosts plant growth, and could lift cereal yields by up to 20 per cent within 15-35 years. However, for this to happen plants will also need enough soil nutrients and water, which will be a challenge in drier areas like Canterbury. Cropping zones will also move south: for example, kiwifruit will move out of Northland; corn from Waikato to Manawatu. New subtropical crops will become viable in Northland.

Our dairy industry

While studies predict that doing business as usual will lead to mild to moderate losses in profits and milk production from the 2030s onwards, farmers are well-placed to adapt and reap benefits – particularly if they take advantage of greater projected spring pasture growth rates.


NIWA researchers found the most likely scenario is that within 35 years’ time, most North Island regions, and eastern regions of the South Island, will spend 5-10 per cent more of the year in drought. Even under mild climate change Canterbury would experience more frequent droughts.

Wine growers to win

Warming is set to be great for wine growers here – while hammering our competitors in hotter places. Already warmer weather has produced better and stronger wines here. Growing zones will shift to cooler, higher elevations and southwards.

The M?ori economy

The heavily primary industry-based M?ori economy will be particularly sensitive to climate change. Over 60 per cent of M?ori land is steep (so slip-prone), and much of the lowland lies on floodplains. M?ori also own approximately 50 per cent of fisheries quota. Currently M?ori leaders are offering to plant a million hectares of trees if the Government will strengthen its climate change efforts.

Fishing and aquaculture

New Zealand fishing regions will move south as the ocean warms, and tropical fish currently seen only in La Nina years may become established. As oceans become more acidic they’ll weaken shellfish shells, which may affect our mussel and oyster farms.

Our forestry industry

Radiata pine will grow faster – though so will pine disease-causing fungi.

Best case – If farmers adapt well, studies suggest they could enjoy a boost in profits in coming decades. And scientists here are working on reducing animal emissions through breeding, feed additives and even vaccines – while laying charcoal made from waste sawdust under dairy land may reduce nitrous oxide leeching.

Worst case – If emissions aren’t reduced, yields could fall dramatically in the longer term. The country may become more arid, and everywhere except the South Island’s West Coast would spend more than double the average time in drought per year compared to now.

What can we do? – Ideas for building a safer future

Consume less

To avoid the worst we need to warm the planet no more than an extra 2°C by 2100. To do that Otago University physicist Bob Lloyd says the whole world needs to reduce CO2 emissions 5 per cent each year. “The essential thing we all have to do is stop consuming – and no one really wants to do that.” Yet we can
all make easy changes by:

  • wasting less food and eating less meat and dairy
  • being energy efficiency with appliances
  • driving less, biking more; walking and using public transport
Green the grid

One way to cut current emissions by half is by achieving close to zero-emission energy by 2050, and moving more of our transport on to renewable energy such as biofuel, electricity and hydrogen. This is feasible, as more than 70 per cent of our power generation is already renewable, and the Government is aiming for 90 per cent by 2025.

Plant trees

Agriculture produces more than half of our emissions – yet is crucial to our economy. We could have our cake and eat it too by boosting forestry to help offset its effects.

Meat and dairy-free days

United Nations research and other studies say that people in developed countries need to halve their average meat consumption by 2050 to avoid more extreme climate change. Swap meat for eggs, MSC-certified fish, legumes, or tofu a couple of times a week to put a big dent in your food emissions.



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