Turning regulation boat around

July 4, 2013

Willy Leferink, Federated Farmers Dairy chairperson, asks how are we going to turn the regulation boat around?

In his speech to Federated farmers annual conference he identifies the problem:

Regulation is being hijacked by bureaucrats and lawyers. Under the demand of a National Policy Statement, the public submits on it, commissioners listen to the arguments, make a ruling and then the real game of thrones begins in front of the Environment Court. Here, millions of dollars are squandered on lawyers and consultants. All in the fear of a draconian plan that nobody wants, let alone, understands. 

But it doesn’t have to be like that.

There is a disconnect here and if instead all this energy and money was put to a good cause we’d be one of the richest nations on earth, with water bodies the envy of everyone. Rotorua’s formula of “Councils+Farmers+Community = Results” will be outlined tomorrow by my mate Neil Heather at the Plenary Day. There’s a template for progress.

So how can we get some sense in this debacle?

• First off, get involved. Do not sit back and let others clean up the mess. Federated Farmers needs all the brain power we can get to fight the silly behaviour that comes our way because farmer inertia lets it in.

• Second, we must work together as the primary industries. In politics the weak must unite against the strong and we may be 72 percent of the exports but we are a mere 14 percent of the people.

• Third, we must stop infighting on nonsense issues such as the rights or wrongs of PKE. Instead we must influence those we elect to put in place policies that give us what we need to farm better and more productively.

• Fourth, it’s “the science stupid”. We need science to tell the truth not activists twisting it for a quick headline. Science helps to get some factual sense in the debate while giving farmers the tools we need.

• Fifth, get on the front foot with the bureaucrats before they design plans locking us into 2072. We need horizon visions for our own industry so policy makers can take us into account about where we want to go and how we intend to get there.

• Sixth, education. Maybe this should be the first to create a new generation of smart educated and articulate farmers. We see them at our awards but we need the award standard needs, to become the new normal. We also need a lot more scientists and academics to create a smarter New Zealand.

Regulations are usually made with good intentions but they’re not always practical and can have perverse outcomes.

Manawatu Whanganui regional Council has been forced to admit some requirements of its One Plan are unachievable.

Manawatu Wanganui Regional Council says no farmer will be stopped from intensive farming in the meantime, after it heard some were on suicide watch over its proposed environmental regulations.

Chairman Bruce Gordon said it has become clear some of the demands of its One Plan are unachievable, and that has resulted in groups of farmers being placed on suicide watch.

The One Plan said to reduce farm-nutrient loss and to improve freshwater quality and boost biodiversity in the region.

Mr Gordon said the council’s announcement is designed to alleviate some of the pressure on those who are “stressed to the max”.

“The council had to do something to give them certainty, and to give them a reason for getting out of bed and going to work in the morning.” . . .

Mr Gordon said farmers who meet the nitrogen leaching targets will be granted consents for 20 to 25 years.

Those who are working towards those targets will get a consent for 15 to 20 years. Those who have done nothing to reduce leaching will still receive consents of three to five years to give them time to come up with mitigation measures.

Mr Gordon said farmers in the area have done a huge amount to reduce their impact on the environment.

He said the region had 900 dairy farms discharging effluent from their sheds directly into waterways a decade ago. Today, he said, there are none.

Few would argue about the aims of the One Plan but it’s requirements must be achievable and balance economic, environmental and social needs.


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