Environmental footprinting expertise funded

  • David Carter
Agriculture Forestry

Proposals are being sought to establish New Zealand's first professorship for the study of the environmental footprint of our primary products, the Minister of Agriculture & Forestry Hon David Carter announced today.

"Overseas consumers are increasingly demanding to know the environmental impact of their food. This professorship will position us at the leading-edge of life-cycle science and enable us to meet this real and growing consumer demand."

The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry will seek proposals from New Zealand universities by 13 February 2009 to establish the professorship and graduate-training course in Life-Cycle Assessment (LCA).

LCA is the study of the environmental ‘footprint' of products across their entire life-cycle, from the farm or forest right through to disposal of the product by consumers.

Mr Carter said establishing a professorship in this field is important to New Zealand's primary export industries.

"Understanding the environmental footprint of our primary products is integral to understanding and identifying opportunities for ongoing improvement and productivity gains.

"Our export markets also need assurance that our reputation for efficient and clean production of goods is deserved.

"Our ‘clean green' image is our most valuable marketing tool, and the work carried out under this initiative will underpin that image with science."

Mr Carter said international demand for LCA expertise combined with growing domestic demand and the lack of specialised training in New Zealand made a Government-funded professorship the most effective way of building capability in New Zealand.

"By creating a professorship, the successful university will be responsible for training experts who can work with our primary industries to enhance their overseas reputations, improve their production processes, and help maintain New Zealand as a leading player in agriculture, horticulture, and forestry for generations to come."

"The professorship will be 95% Government-funded in the first year, reducing to 25 percent by the fifth year.  From year six, the initiative will need to be self-sufficient.  This ensures that it will continue to meet the needs of industry and remain relevant and focused."

The estimated cost is $1.5 million over five years, and all government funding will come from within MAF's existing budget.

An announcement on the successful university is expected in March 2009.