Agricultural Emissions and Forestry

Environmental Accounting Services kindly contributed to the information provided in this section.

When do I need to know my emissions by?

If your farm is 80ha or more, or if you have a dairy supply number or are a cattle feedlot as defined in freshwater policy you will need to know your farms greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2022.  

If you don’t meet any of these three criteria then you will not be required to estimate and report your emissions under the existing He Waka Eke Noa programme. However, in the future, it is possible that smaller farms might be included. 

The He Waka Eke Noa programme milestones are: 

  • By the end of 2021, 25% of farms in Aotearoa New Zealand know their annual total on-farm greenhouse gas emissions. 
  • By the end of 2022, 100% of farms know their annual total on-farm emissions. 
  • By the end of 2024, 100% of farms have a written plan to measure and manage emissions.
  • January 2025 all farms in NZ are using the system for farm-level accounting and reporting of 2024 agricultural emissions at farm level. This will include an appropriate pricing system. 


Who can help me with understanding my greenhouse gas emissions?

WAI Wānaka provides a ‘Agricultural Emissions 101’ workshop with action groups in the Upper Clutha region that explains what these emissions are, where they come from and what needs to be done about them.

WAI can support you to calculate your farm businesses emissions using one of the currently available emissions calculators. We can then input the results into a Greenhouse Gas Emissions Plan for your farm that explains your emissions, provides a range of emissions mitigation options and resources for you to learn more. WAI then offers a “Agricultural Emissions 201’ workshop with action groups to explain the emissions sources and sinks of your farm and options for reducing your emissions. 

Farm advisors can provide advice about implementing emissions mitigation options specific to your farm. Industry bodies can also provide support to develop Farm Environment Plans. 

What gases for farmers are included in farm reporting 2025?

Methane (CH4) – Generated by ruminants as a by-product of digestion. Most methane is burped into the atmosphere by ruminant livestock. A small amount of methane (less than 5%) also comes from dung and effluent systems. The total feed eaten by livestock on your farm (per kilogram of dry matter intake) is the driver of methane emissions. 

Nitrous Oxide (N2O) – Released into the atmosphere from dung and urine patches, and nitrogen fertilisers. The nitrogen content of feed and the amount of nitrogen applied are the main drivers of nitrous oxide emissions. Temperature and soil moisture can also play a role.

Carbon Dioxide (CO2) – Generated by predominantly fuel and electricity use. Carbon dioxide emissions can be removed from the atmosphere by the growing areas of woody vegetation.

The AgMatters website is a valuable source of information on farm greenhouse gas emissions www.agmatters.nz  

The unit of carbon dioxide equivalent (CO2e) is a standard unit for reporting emissions and removals. It is used to compare the impact of each different greenhouse gas in terms of the amount of carbon dioxide that would create the same amount of warming.

Will my historical animal stocking rates be counted?

The Government has not yet decided the date from when stocking rates will be measured. There is no set date for this decision to be made. He Waka Eke Noa is assessing a range of emissions pricing mechanisms and the date of the base line stocking rate is being considered as part of this work. 

What are the typical Methane emissions per type animal?

“The average dairy cow produces 82kg of methane per year, the average deer approximately 22kg of methane per year, and the average sheep approximately 12kg of methane per year.”  “21-22 grams of methane are produced per kilogram of dry matter eaten.” 

The Ag Matters website can provide further information.  Reduce methane emissions | Ag Matters

What about my farm’s energy and fuel usage?

Energy and fuel use are drivers of farm CO2 emissions. Both energy and fuel use are already covered under the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme. For the Government agricultural emissions reporting deadline in 2022, farm energy usage is not included.  

WAI Wānaka takes a whole of farm business approach to assessing emissions therefore considers energy and fuel usage when assessing the costs and benefits of reduction opportunities. Overseer also accounts for these emissions when calculating your whole of farm carbon emissions inventory . 

Changing energy company to one which is 100% renewable is a way to reduce business emissions, but not affected by agricultural emissions policy, which focuses on methane and nitrous oxide not carbon dioxide. Reducing fuel consumption is another way to reduce business emissions and save money but again, will not be affected by agricultural emissions policy.

How do I know if I need a greenhouse management number and plan for my property?

You will need to know your greenhouse gas emissions by the end of 2022 if you are a farm over 80ha, or a dairy farm with a milk supply number, or a cattle feedlot as defined in the freshwater policy. Greenhouse gas management plans, which can be included in a farm environment plan, will be mandatory by 2025. 

In the future, it is possible that smaller farms might also need to know their greenhouse gas emissions. The Government is assessing options for small farms collectively reporting and accounting for their emissions. 


Why are the greenhouse gas numbers different using different calculators?

Greenhouse gas emissions calculation models vary in complexity. More complex models can capture more detailed farm scale information such as the nitrogen content of different feed types, dry matter intake, metabolisable energy, animal liveweights and replacement rates. These factors influence agricultural emissions. If action is taken to reduce emissions, it is more likely that a more complex model can recognise this action in its calculation. 

Simpler models are relatively quick to complete and rely on general national/ international default values rather than specific farm scale information. This can result in a less accurate farm-scale emissions estimates but can still be useful to get a general ball park estimate of a farm’s emissions. Differences in greenhouse gas estimates also occur due to different interpretations by users in the supplied input data.  

An estimation methodology and calculator for the pricing mechanism has not been decided yet.

The priority is for farmers to know their greenhouse gas emissions and understand where they are coming from on their farm. Any of the following calculators have been confirmed by He Waka Eka Noa as suitable: 

  • OverseerFM 
  • Beef + Lamb NZ  
  • E2M 
  • MfE Calculator 
  • Fonterra 
  • Farmax 
  • Alltech 
  • Hort NZ
Figure 7.1
Figure from the Interim Climate Change Committee, Action on Agriculture report. 

When will I start getting charged on my emissions?

Government has legislated that a price on emissions will start in 2025. 

He Waka Eke Noa are developing an appropriate pricing system as an alternative option to the New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme.


Can I use the carbon sequestered in my forests to offset my farm’s methane emissions and avoid paying the methane emission charges?

Under the Zero-Carbon Act (2019), methane cannot be directly offset by forestry sequestration. An offset is possible via a transactional process; the carbon credits from the forestry sequestration could be sold and the funds raised then used to pay any methane related levies under the regulation.

WAI Wānaka can provide support with the planting of these forests. Funding support is available through the One Billion Trees Programme Te Uru Rakau as well as advice on meeting ETS requirements. Find more information at: www.teururakau.govt.nz/te-uru-rakau-forestry-new-zealand

Engaging a forestry expert like EAS to help you with ETS registration is advisable. 

What are the definitions of forest in ETS?

Forest land must be:  

  • at least one hectare in size;  
  • have (or will have) tree crown cover of more than 30% in each hectare from forest species; and 
  • have an average width of at least 30m. 

Forest species in the ETS are those that can reach at least 5m in height when mature. This doesn’t include trees grown primarily for fruit or nuts. 

For more information see: 

What about carbon stored in my shelter belts, riparian plantings or scrubland?

Planting or restoring woody vegetation on-farm can improve erosion control, waterway enhancement, biodiversity, shade and shelter, commercial gain, and aesthetic appeal. These activities may also absorb carbon dioxide from the atmosphere (known as sequestration), however are not considered forests by definition in New Zealand and therefore cannot generate credits under the ETS. Through He Waka Eke Noa, the primary sector is exploring the potential for the inclusion of sequestration on non-forestland into on-farm emissions reporting.  

Currently only land that meets New Zealand Emissions Trading Scheme eligibility criteria can be used to generate finance to pay for emissions on farm. Landholders should consider the minimum standards to qualify for sequestration against the risks and benefits of entering the scheme. Engaging a forestry expert like EAS to help you with this is advisable. 

Find more information at www.teururakau.govt.nz/growing-and-harvesting/forestry/forestry-in-the-emissions-tradingscheme/  

Will the carbon stored in my soil be accounted for?

Research on ways to maintain and increase soil carbon under New Zealand conditions is currently underway. New Zealand currently has high soil carbon levels compared to other countries globally. Any disturbance of soil leads to soil carbon loss. Except for changes in land use (e.g. cropping to pasture), no management practices have been widely proven to increase soil carbon under New Zealand conditions, but some practices have been proven to help minimise the risk of soil carbon losses. Quantifying changes in soil carbon is possible but can be labour-intensive and expensive, requiring repeated measurements over long time intervals, e.g., 3-10 years.  

Through He Waka Eke Noa, the primary sector is exploring the potential for the inclusion of soil carbon into on-farm emissions reporting.


Why isn’t the carbon stored in my grass accounted for?

The long-term storage of carbon is what can be measured and accounted for. For example, trees remove carbon from the atmosphere and store it for 30 years or more, which reduces the total amount of carbon in the atmosphere. Grass is fast growing and is grazed regularly therefore carbon is cycled back into the atmosphere quickly rather than being stored for long periods of time. 

Which years are critical dates for farms in the ETS?

1st January 1990 was the baseline date for New Zealand’s international climate change obligations. As a result, there are two classes of forests for the ETS, ‘pre-1990’ and ‘post-1989’ forest.  

  • Forests established after 1st January 1990 are considered new forests and land owners can earn ETS carbon credits called New Zealand Units (NZUs) from their growth. These are classified as ‘post-1989’ forests. 
  • Forests that existed before 1st January 1990 are considered baseline forest. You can’t get NZUs for these forests and there are penalties for deforesting (permanently removing the trees). These are classified as ‘pre-1990’ forests.  

For more information go to the Ministry of Primary Industries website.

Can I register historical (pre 2021) carbon stocks in eligible ETS forest?

The emissions trading scheme was initiated in 2008 and operates in five-year mandatory emissions reporting periods. The current reporting periods is from January 2018 to December 2022. The next will be from January 2023 to December 2025, then in 5-year blocks thereafter. These blocks represent the periods in which NZ ETS forestry units can be registered.  

A landholder currently has until December 2022 to register eligible land and generate NZ ETS units for the period 2018 – 2022. After the December 2022 the reporting period ends and landholders will not be able to register any carbon sequestered prior to December 2022.  

If landholders are wanting to utilise carbon sequestered in NZ ETS eligible lands to then sell to pay the regulatory cost of methane emissions it is in their best interests to register the land before December 2022 to maximise the units available on eligible lands.


Emissions returns videos – YouTube 

Which species cannot be planted as forest in the Upper Clutha Basin?

The uncontrolled growth of invasive exotic tree species such as wilding pines are a considerable issue within the region. The new Proposed District Plan from QLDC, currently under review, will prohibit the planting of the following exotic tree species unless managed as plantations under the Resource Management Regulations 2017.   

  • Contorta or lodgepole pine (Pinus contorta);  
  • Scots pine (Pinus sylestris sylvestris);  
  • Douglas fir (Pseudotsuga menziesii); 
  • European larch (Larix decidua); 
  • Corsican pine (Pinus nigra); 
  • Bishops pine (Pinus muricate); 
  • Ponderosa pine (Pinus Ponderosa);  
  • Mountain pine (Pinus mugo uncinata); 
  • Dwarf Mountain pine (Pinus mugo); 
  • Maritime pine (Pinus pinaster);  
  • Sycamore (Acer pseudoplatanus); 
  • Hawthorn (Crataegus monogyna);  
  • Boxthorn (Lycium ferocissimum); 
  • Buddleia (Buddleja davidii);  
  • Grey willow (Salix cinereal);  
  • Crack willow (Salix fragilis);  
  • Cotoneaster (Simonsii);  
  • Rowan (Sorbus aucuparia);  
  • Spanish heath (Erica lusitanica). 

Planting of Radiata Pine (Pinus Radiata) is at the discretion of the local council and guidance/permission is required before plantation.  Existing wilding pine can be registered in the ETS so long as it considered to be at low risk of spread and Pest Management Plan under the Biosecurity Act 1993, requirements are being met.  

Please seek advice from QLDC or a local forestry expert for up-to-date regulations before engaging in plantation practices.

How will animal browsing on my property affect my carbon stock figures?

Browsing animals such as cattle, sheep, goat, deer or pigs can reduce regeneration or suppress survival of seedlings and saplings. Even small numbers of these animals can have a large impact, especially if the forest species are very palatable.  

A guide to Classifying Land for Forestry in the Emissions Trading Scheme (mpi.govt.nz) Page 10-11

What happens if my forest burns down?

If all or part of a registered post-1989 forest is cleared by a temporary adverse event such as a fire, the owner will be able to apply for an exemption from deforestation emissions. Under this exemption, the affected part of the forest will not earn any more units until it reaches the carbon stock it was at before the adverse event. 

Updates and changes to the ETS | MPI | NZ Government

Can I plant trees on land that currently does not meet the definition of a forest, such as scrubland, to then change it into a forest?

Re-establishment of forest land must still happen primarily through natural regeneration of indigenous forest species. However, it can now include some supplementary planting to help this process. 

Updates and changes to the ETS | MPI | NZ Government 

What are the costs of planting forests?

Costs will depend on what species you plant, and how large an area. 

WAI Wānaka Jobs for Nature has funding available to employ people who can plant for landowners. Get in touch to see how we can help. You can find more information on the WAI Wānaka Jobs for Nature programme web page. 

There are some costs associated with entering forests into the ETS. For further information, see Fees and charges related to ETS registration and participation

How much forest land can I register with the ETS?

There is no limit to how much eligible forest land you can register, but the method for calculating the total carbon stock depends on the total forest land registered with the ETS.  

If you have less than 100 hectares of forest land registered in the ETS you can use precalculated look-up tables to calculate your carbon stock. This is a simple process that can be done as a desktop study using pre-defined  

However, if you have 100 hectares or more of forest land registered in the ETS you must use the Field Measurement Approach (FMA). This involves measuring the trees at specific sample plots and submitting this information in the required format to the Ministry of Primary Industries who will create specific look-up tables for you to use to calculate the carbon stock in your forests. This is a more time consuming and costly process as it requires fieldwork to verify claims.