A re-elected National-led Government will spend $100 million over 10 years to buy and retire selected areas of farmland next to important waterways to create an environmental buffer that helps improve water quality.
National will also introduce a mandatory requirement to exclude dairy cattle from waterways.
National’s Environment Spokeswoman, Amy Adams, and Primary Industries spokesman Nathan Guy made the announcement at the Waituna Lagoon in Southland with Prime Minister and National Party Leader John Key today.
“New Zealand’s freshwater makes us an incredibly lucky country. We have over 400,000 kilometres of rivers and more than 4,000 lakes,” Ms Adams says.
“New Zealand’s water is among the very best in the world and we want to keep it that way. These are the next steps in our considered and sensible plan to continual improvements in freshwater quality.
“We are particularly committed to improving the quality of our freshwater and have made a number of key decisions that previous governments have put in the too-hard basket.
“This Government has introduced national standards for freshwater to safeguard it for future generations,” Ms Adams says. “That new framework will give communities around the country the tools to maintain and improve the quality of their lakes and rivers.
“To continue this progress, the next National-led Government will invest $100 million over 10 years to further enhance the quality of freshwater through a targeted fund to buy and retire areas of farmland next to waterways.
“This fund will give councils another option to help manage freshwater by enabling these sensitive areas to be retired for environmental purposes,” says Ms Adams.
National will also introduce a requirement to exclude dairy cattle from waterways by 1 July 2017, and will work with industry to exclude other cattle from waterways over time on intensively farmed lowland properties, says Ms Adams.
“National is committed to building a stronger economy, particularly in our regions. We are also determined to improve the quality of our environment at the same time, and we are confident we can achieve both.”
Mr Guy says dairy farmers have done a fantastic job addressing some of the key environmental issues they face, and they have fenced over 23,000 kilometres of waterways – over 90 per cent of all dairy farm waterways.
“This is an incredible undertaking to do voluntarily. At the end of the day, farmers are environmentalists; they want to leave their land in a better state for their children, and their grandchildren.
“Our approach involves working collaboratively with farmers, water users and communities. You don’t get good environmental results by aggressively penalising and taxing key industries.” says Mr Guy.
“A mandatory requirement will bolster this great work and highlight the importance of this key environmental protection.
“We will work constructively with dairy farmers when developing the legislation, to ensure practical solutions in those areas with difficult terrain or which are subject to extreme weather events,” says Mr Guy.
Farmers have already done a lot to protect and enhance waterways on their own and with encouragement from milk companies and regional councils.
This policy will ensure even more is done.
Irrigation New Zealand supports National’s 2014 Water Policy announced today which recognises the value of irrigation and which continues to place the responsibility of cleaning up New Zealand’s waterways with the community.
“Instead of penalising irrigators National is taking pragmatic steps to sorting out New Zealand’s waterways issues,” said Andrew Curtis, IrrigationNZ CEO.
“Ensuring riparian fencing and planting, especially in the lowland plains, will lead to big wins for restoring habitats and supporting aquatic life. This is what New Zealanders’ want to see – fresh water good enough to gather food from and enjoy recreationally.
“With the new freshwater fund and fencing requirements, plus objectives set by the National Policy Statement for freshwater, communities now have the tools to actively and collectively solve freshwater problems,” says Nicky Hyslop, IrrigationNZ chair.
A successful example of a communal resolution to a waterway issue using riparian fencing and planting is the Waikakahi stream on Morven Glenavy Ikawai Irrigation scheme. It has been restored over a number of years and is now thriving with aquatic life. See more detail here http://www.mgiirrigation.co.nz/environmental-management/
“This government understands that a water tax will not solve New Zealand’s freshwater problems and recognises that there is considerable public good to be gained from sustainably managed irrigated agriculture,” says Mr Curtis.
“There are proven significant socio-economic benefits to both the regional and national community from the productive use of water and it is right that this infrastructure is supported nationally. A water tax will only lead to higher food prices and no other country in the world has implemented an irrigation tax for this reason,” says Ms Hyslop.
The opposition’s policy would tax the majority who are doing what they can to clean up after the relatively small number of people who aren’t, or won’t.
National’s policy recognises that economic growth and environmental protection and enhancement aren’t mutually exclusive.