Freshwater proposals - New Zealand First MPs might be our best bet?

Don't let David Parker, environment minister introducing the Freshwater proposals, tell you that their freshwater proposals are just a 'discussion document'.

There is a discussion document called 'Action for Healthy Waterways Discussion Document', as part of a package of four documents but the other three documents are "fully drafted, comprehensive legal documents for which this is the only opportunity to make submissions to them," says Federated Farmers Kim Reilly, South Island Regional Manager Policy, in her paper 'Freshwater proposals not easy going'.

The three documents that contain the devil in the detail are:

  1. Draft National Policy Statement Freshwater
  2. Draft National Environment Standard Freshwater
  3. Draft Stock Exclusion s360 Regulation

The shocking aspect of this whole process is that Parker, a labour minister in government who as close as can be demonstrates a hatred of farmers and of farming, has excluded farming leaders from the drafting of these new laws.

Where is the discussion Mr Parker? There is no genuine discussion taking place. This is bully-boy tactics rushing through new legislation. There appears to be a lack of good faith in the way it has been handled.

Farming leaders are too nice dealing with this crowd. You have to believe this is all about votes. Auckland votes. It is politics. Where is the politician to take them on? Could it be Winston Peters ...? There doesn't seem to be anyone in National with the clout to challenge them.

New Zealand First tell us they are the party of the provinces and they do have a number of voices in cabinet. They could be all that is standing between these 'draft regulations' and a fait accompli.

After the vote-catching aspect comes money. Secondly, this is about money. Who is going to pay for all the mitigation that is required on farms? I believe we all should. And given that cleaning up our freshwater systems will benefit our children and our children's children the New Zealand government should be prepared to borrow to fund it. But that would have to be sold to the public and no-one seems to be undertaking that job.

Photo Credit: Kieren Scott, Minaret Station

There is a lot of common ground on freshwater standards, says Reilly, with industry, local authorities, catchment groups and farmers already changing their practices and working hard on solutions over a number of years.

All it needed was for government to start with that common ground, assemble leaders from farming, industry, iwi, academia and local government and work pragmatically from there. They would have found no disagreement on the need to improve freshwater quality. But it is not a 4- or 6-week exercise. Good things take time.

Farmers don't live in an ideal world. They are not dreamers. They are practical people who have to do stuff that works, every day of their lives. They live with reality, not theory. And every farm is different.

Cut the theory Parker. Work with the people of the land. Look to the provinces, not the cities. Find people who do hard work for a living and listen to them. Find your empathy. Without empathy you are useless to us all.

Too much more of this carry-on and it will be left to the other lot to fix it up after the next election.

Keep asking great questions ...