Stuff Media Release 5 Sept 2019
A lobby group says some Southland farmers may abandon their land because of new water rules but the agriculture ministers says it’s a ridiculous statement to make.
Agriculture minister Damien O’Connor and Environment Minister David Parker released a draft National Policy Statement and National Environment Standards: Freshwater, on Thursday.
They propose changes to farming practices and new rules for councils, aiming to stop the degradation of waterways and clean up rivers and lakes within a generation.
Environment Minister David Parker and Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announce the Government’s action plan for healthy waterways.
* The tab for decades of water mismanagement is falling due
* Government to get tough on farming and councils by regulating for water
* Strict new water targets could push farmers out of business
Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young says some of the rules nitrogen may be able to be met but the numbers around freshwater may just be a step too far and there is going to be a significant financial cost.
New national standards for winter grazing are too stringent, and the Government should apply regional standards instead, he says.
In response, O’Connor says Young’s comment about farmers abandoning land was “a ridiculous statement” but not entirely unexpected from an organisation that continues to want to promote the negative and block the positive.
“We’ve got hundreds if not thousands of farmers across the country already achieving what we’re setting out to do here. They are at the leading edge of farm practice and environmental management and we need them sharing their wisdom with a whole lot of other farmers out there who would like to do that same. I want to see best practice become normal practice.”
North Otago dairy farmer Lyndon Strang says tougher rules to create cleaner water will not be the downfall of farming.
Strang backs the proposals, as long as they do not demand an instantaneous fix, which may send farming “down the gurgler”.
“My opinion is we can’t just say we’re clean and green, we have to demonstrate it. We’re making good progress but we’ve got things to fix up as well.”
One of the biggest annoyances for progressive farmers was the laggards who brought everyone’s reputation down.
Beef+Lamb NZ says it is concerned about some of the proposals because the sheep and beef sector would bear a disproportionate impact, far outweighing its environmental impact.
It appears Feds and Clutha-Southland MP Hamish Walker believe the rules will be detrimental, with the southern MP saying some farmers may question their future in the industry.
The economic impact of the announcement has the ability to cripple not only the southern economy but also the country, he said.
Yet others, welcomed the new rules.
Environment Southland chief executive Rob Phillips said the goal of the Essential Freshwater package was to improve water quality and ecosystem health.
“The proposed changes to the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management and the National Environmental Standards aim to refine the tools at our disposal, and this will help us to continue progressing the environmental outcomes that our communities want.
“The proposals announced today are wide reaching, and it is too early to fully understand what the impacts will be. It’s important that we take time to look at the detail and understand the significant amount of regulatory change that is proposed and what this will mean for our work programmes and our communities. So we won’t be in a position to comment further at this time.”
During hearings into Environment Southland’s proposed Water and Land Plan in June it was revealed that only six of 40 Southland waterways were swimmable.