This project is in its very early stages. Shortly we will start working on an initial discussion paper with the working title How can we reduce the size of the national dairy herd and retain value in the dairy sector? This paper will act as a probe into the industry and will shape the purpose of a major piece of work in 2018.


The aim of the overall project is to explore a new narrative for livestock farming in
New Zealand – one that moves towards a more robust and ethically sound way of doing business while at the same time delivering better economic, environmental and social outcomes for all.

The work in 2018 aims to contribute to a wider ongoing discussion about the future of livestock farming in New Zealand. Our current thinking is to start by looking backwards, identifying the extent to which numbers and sizes of livestock have changed over the past 100 years. We hope to complete the first phase of this work later this year. This will enable us to start a more informed discussion with stakeholders next year, when we will focus on the latest science and emerging trends in agriculture in order to apply foresight and discover how New Zealand might develop a deeper understanding of the policy challenges and opportunities ahead.

We acknowledge that this work is based on the assumption New Zealand will need to manage farming practices. Our interest is in understanding what livestock (e.g. types, breeds and numbers) and what policy initiatives (e.g. taxes or incentives) might achieve the best outcomes for New Zealand in the longer term.

The Institute has undertaken a number of pieces of work focused on agriculture, including research on benchmarking protein, genetic modification and NZ King Salmon farming in the Marlborough Sounds. Together these form the beginnings of an investigation into how New Zealand might transition smoothly towards a more sustainable livestock model.

For the purpose of this research project, we are defining ‘livestock’ as domesticated animals raised in an agricultural setting to produce commodities such as food (e.g. meat, eggs and fish) and fibre (e.g. wool and feathers). This definition sees livestock as having a commercial purpose in that they are reared specifically for financial gain.

The Institute will be calling on four of our patrons to help guide and stress-test this work: Councillor Ella Lawton, James Palmer, Professor Jacqueline Rowarth and
Dr J. Morgan Williams.

The primary output will be a report along the lines of our Report 10: One Ocean: Principles for the stewardship of a healthy and productive ocean.

Please be aware that the Institute will not be working on this project until late 2017. We are currently seeking an agricultural economist graduate to work with us on this project, so if you know of someone who might be interested, please let us know.

If you have any questions or want to meet to discuss this project, please email us at