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Farming: Freshwater proposals – Have your say

17 Oct 2019

The politicians assure us they are listening and will consider all the feedback they get from the submissions to the Freshwater proposals, so have your say.

We had 70 farmers and their rural advisers to a meeting in Dunedin on Monday of this week to hear Kim Reilly, South Island Policy Manager for Federated Farmers speak on the Freshwater Proposals and the key areas to make submissions on. With her was a panel of three speakers: Lyndon Strang (dairy farmer and chair of his catchment committee), Blake Holgate (adviser with Rabobank) and Mark Patterson (farmer and list MP with NZ First). They followed Kim and reinforced the points she made to make submissions upon.

For a very good overview of what Kim had to say, I have attached a link to the slides from the meeting including all Kim Reilly’s slides here. 

Kim’s points in summary. These are all worthy of including in submissions:

  1. Everyone agrees that we need to make progress in the area of freshwater quality, but regulations need to work with farmers, recognising the progress that has been achieved so far and helping the industry to adapt in a practical way. These regulations and the way they have been developed are hugely destabilising for the farming sector and will further hurt business confidence and hamper investment in this business sector.
  2. These added Freshwater regulations will have an immediate impact on the wellbeing of farmers, on anxiety levels and mental health.
  3. There are new rules in the proposals, but it is lacking in incentives for making change.
  4. The government should work with farming groups to fine-tune these proposals. They were not drafted with input from farming groups.
  5. No freshwater proposals should be regulated until the scientific research supports them and cost-benefit analyses has been completed.
  6. There is a one-size-fits-all approach to the proposals across the whole country whereas we should be asking for regional variation depending upon local conditions, local risk factors and existing progress.
  7. Federated Farmers supports the use of Farm Plans and farmers will now have to have a Freshwater module in their plan. The proposals say they will have to be certified and audited and the costs for some farmers are likely to be in the $10s of thousands. This is likely to be unworkable as there is not the capacity for all these to happen at once and be audited. Enough Certified Farm Planners are not yet available. Existing Farm Environment Plans should be exempt from certification at his time.
  8. There will be significant costs on Regional Councils and rates will have to go up to pay for all their extra work, if they are physically able to achieve it all.
  9. There will be an impact on rural communities, and this has yet to be modelled.
  10. There is a Grandfathering clause which immediately prevents anyone who has already made significant gains on their freshwater quality doing anything to worsen their situation while those that haven’t made any effort yet are able to carry on as before. Those that have led the environmental revolution should be held up as exemplars rather than restricted in their future decisions. They need the opportunity to be able to make changes to their farming systems in the future.
  11. Existing waterway fencing does not require planting under these proposals although we all know that planting is good. However, existing fencing will have to be moved if it doesn’t meet the strict 5-metre requirements and there is no allowance for existing planting. Fencing doesn’t have to be permanent. What is a reasonable set-back figure? Is it 5m or is it less? This is a good area for submissions to cover.
  12. The government has given itself a get-out-of-jail free card for the 6 largest hydro schemes. This exception should be removed.
  13. The ban on intensification hurts those farmers with existing low input or low impact farming systems even where they are in catchments that are not causing an environment problem. These rules should be effects-based rather than discharge-based.
  14. Wetland rules are too severe especially in the high-country where the impact on water quality is low. Some wetland is improved by light summer grazing. Some river margins are improved by year-round light grazing.
  15. Rules on intensive winter grazing in Otago and Southland are tough. Everyone agrees there needs to be changes but the alternatives are not yet available. There is normally no grass growth in the winter in these regions so how are farmers going to feed their animals in a cost-effective way?
  16. The proposals have requirements based on the average slope over the whole title and if the title is captured then all waterways on the farm must be fenced regardless of slope.

Kim suggests that individual farmers focus on the impact and costs on their farm and mention specific proposals they oppose, or support and why.

Rural professionals should submit on how they see the impact on their clients, on rural communities, local businesses and regional economies. There will be increased costs and what impact is this likely to have on getting young farmers started in farming?  It may also be appropriate to give feedback on the mental health of their clients.

It is time to have our say.

Keep asking great questions …

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