Regional councils out of balance?

Local Body and Primary Industries Minister David Carter has criticised the analysis about the economic impact of the Horizons Regional Council’s One Plan:

. . . A case study for the Manawatu catchment indicates farm profits could fall by 22% to 43% as a result of land use changes needed to meet water quality targets in the plan.

Mr Carter said he will wait for the outcome of High Court appeals from farming and horticulture bodies against the Environment Court ruling, but he’s concerned about the restrictions proposed in the One Plan.

Federated Farmers says it will be challenge the regional council’s cost-benefit analysis under the Resource Management Act.

Chief executive Conor English says the impact would go well beyond farming, causing income cuts and job losses right through the supply chain.

Balancing economic and environmental concerns isn’t easy but the consequences  of getting it wrong  has serious consequences.

The One Plan has been greeted enthusiastically by some people but with serious concerns by others who think it has gone too far in the environmental direction without giving sufficient weight to the economic and social impact it would have.

Horizons isn’t the only council upsetting its constituents.

Farmers are concerned about the Southland and Otago Regional Councils too:

. . . There had been an alarming increase in effluent-related prosecutions over the last year relating to incidents which were mostly unintentional, extremely minor and fixed immediately by farmers, the letter said.

Farmers, who in most cases asked the councils for help, got no support and were instead prosecuted.

“Why is it not possible for farmers and the councils to work together to improve farming practices on a consultative basis without the need to resort to prosecutions for the first time or minor offences?” the letter said.

Inspectors have been seen taking photos and flying over properties “looking for any breach possible,” the letter said.

Local councils had moved from being a pragmatic, solutions-focused body to a vindictive, prosecutorial body, it said.

The farmers asked that the focus of local councils be shifted to help them comply, rather than be prosecuted. . .

This could be a consequence of having one body set and enforce rules and also collect the fines for those who breach them.

The object should be improved practices on farms and cleaner waterways. That is far more likely to be achieved by co-operation and eduction than prosecution.

Prosecution might be reasonable for people who deliberately offend and cause serious pollution. But there needs to be tolerance and advice for minor offences and accidents with the aim of compliance, rather than punishment.

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