Imagine if, instead of selling actual plants, farmers could sell the restoration and preservation efforts involved in farming. Sounds like a win-win, doesn't it? Welcome to the world of biodiversity credits, a fascinating concept that could revolutionize farming in New Zealand and beyond. This novel approach not only empowers farmers but also plays a crucial role in safeguarding our environment.
Principal Consultant and Agricultural Economist from Perrin Ag Carla Muller told REX host Dominic George that this idea might not be as far away from reality as first perceived.
"Biodiversity credits is an option...We're more talking about selling the restoration and preservation activities," she explained.
"So it might be the pest control, it might be the ongoing fencing or maintenance of an area. We're not selling the biodiversity, we're selling the, I guess, the activity required to protect that."
Biodiversity credits, still a relatively new concept in the marketplace, have the potential to finance land use changes that may have a high capital cost or a lower return. By allowing farmers to monetise their conservation efforts, these credits could provide an additional revenue stream that supports sustainable farming practices. However, as Muller points out, transparency and measurability are essential.
"I think so, and the reason I say that is because you're selling it to someone, right? So they've got to know what they're buying...You've got to know what you're selling and (you have) got to be transparent and it's got to be observable."
Of course, the introduction of such a system isn't without its challenges. Questions around greenwashing, measurement standards, and the potential for offsetting rather than promoting behaviour change need to be addressed.
The Government has shown interest in the concept, with discussions underway to explore the potential of biodiversity credits. Muller believes that for a successful implementation, it's essential to involve all stakeholders in the conversation.
"I hope they're, you know, involving that perspective from landowners who will actually be doing this, from the finance sector, as to how this might actually look when you consider things from a business perspective and a lending perspective from the conservation sector, because we want to all work towards the same goal here, and equally those who might be investors."
Biodiversity credits may still be in their infancy, but their potential to reshape the agricultural landscape in New Zealand is immense. For a country that values both its farming heritage and its stunning natural environment, it could be the key to balancing the scales between economic viability and ecological responsibility.
The full report on biodiversity credits and other innovative financing options can be accessed on the Perrin Ag website.
Listen to the full chat between Carla Muller and Dominic George above.