Federated Farmers responds to Government's freshwater reforms

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 29 May 2020, 3:35PM
Photo / File

Federated Farmers responds to Government's freshwater reforms

Author
Newstalk ZB,
Publish Date
Fri, 29 May 2020, 3:35PM

Changes to central Government Essential Freshwater regulations reflect farmer feedback, says Federated Farmers.

"While we're still working through the detail, the high level policy decisions indicate the government has heeded some of the rural sector concerns" said Federated Farmers environment spokesman Chris Allen.

"What farmer groups seek now is the opportunity for input to ensure the final regulations and National Policy Statement matches the intent of the policies. And if the regulations are shown to be flawed or impractical, the government needs to be open to changing them".

Feds said farmers and rural communities had put a lot of time and effort into providing feedback on the initial proposals, outlining concerns with the practicality and cost, and the lack of recognition of work already under way on-farm.

The thousands of people who turned out at meetings up and down the country, organised by Federated Farmers and industry bodies Beef & Lamb NZ and DairyNZ, showed a level of unprecedented concern.

As a result there had been much needed changes to timeframes, some of the water quality limits and rules around stock exclusion.

"The proposals still have some sharp edges that will bite our farmers and rural communities at a time when we need it least" said Allen.

Given there was no further opportunity to provide input into the national framework, as it will now become law, Federated Farmers said it was focused on ensuring these proposals had an appropriate implementation plan.

"We want to work with the government and regional councils to this end. In particular we want to ensure there are no more amendments to national freshwater objectives so farmers know what they're working towards" said Allen.

"As we've been saying all along, we want regulation that recognises and responds to the good work farmers are doing, and the importance of food production to our communities".

Federated Farmers said that meant supporting farmers to find the high value actions for improving water quality at a farm level in the catchments and hotspots where it was needed, building on the work farmers had been doing around fencing streams and rivers, planting riparian strips, covenanting land with outstanding biodiversity and investing in improved effluent systems.

"Our environmental reputation is the thing that underpins our biggest export earners - tourism and agriculture," Environment Minister David Parker said.

"Many of our rivers, lakes and wetlands are under serious threat after years of decline and political inaction.

"If we don't start cleaning up our water now they will get worse, become more expensive to fix and we risk serious damage to our international clean green reputation."

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said work undertaken to date estimates 80 per cent of dairy farmers won't be affected by the cap on synthetic nitrogen fertiliser.

While some tougher measures had first been proposed, the Government opted to lessen the cost and impact on the primary sector, citing the role it would play in the country's economic recovery from Covid-19.

In the longer-term, there would be a new national policy statement "to achieve permanent improvements".