The government’s freshwater policy is unworkable and the tiny tweaks announced yesterday won’t be enough to fix the foul up:
Federated Farmers aren’t convinced the changes to the National Environmental Standards for Freshwater, announced Wednesday, will make much difference for Southland and Otago farmers.
Southland Federated Farmers vice-president Bernadette Hunt welcomed the amendments and Government’s acknowledgement that the policy was flawed, but said the changes still didn’t address the unique challenges farmers in the south faced, with its wetter than average winters.
This comes less than a week after Southland Federated Farmers president Geoffrey Young called on Southland and Otago farmers to boycott the new regulations, due to take effect on September 3.
His main concerns were in regards to the regulations for winter grazing – specifically pugging depths, paddock slope, and deadlines for re-sowing crop paddock, which Young said had not yet been addressed. . .
Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor announced Wednesday that cabinet had agreed the winter grazing regulations weren’t practical.
“Discrete areas around fixed water troughs and gateways have now been exempted. We’ve also amended the definition for pugging to provide more clarity.”
Pugging is now defined as penetration of soil of more than 5cm, but Hunt said this was still impractical.
Speaking from a paddock inhabited by calves, on a warm, sunny, windy day, even the little animals were creating pugs of more than 5cm deep, she said.
The government has made the rules but expects regional councils to police them. How many people in high viz vests with clip boards and measuring tapes is it going to take to measure pugs and how much will that policing cost?
“The reality in Southland is that the ground is wet,” she said.
Hunt expected more changes to be announced in the future.
The latest amendments would not reduce the number of resources consents Southland farmers would need, she said.
Setting a date by which crop must be sown is simply stupid. When farmers sow paddocks is determined by the weather not the calendar.
Requiring consents for ordinary farming activities will add costs and compliance and reduce food production when farming is one of very few sectors that can keep earning export income to help with the Covid-recovery.
Young agreed. “It’s really only tinkering around the edges.”
He would like to see the whole freshwater policy rewritten, he said . . .
It doesn’t help that while farmers are facing unrealistic demands, more than 100 wastewater treatment plants are breaching consent.
This looks like one set of very tough laws and consequences for breaking them for farmers and no consequences at all for councils.
But urban people thinking this is a rural problem should beware. The new national standards for freshwater apply in town and country and cleaning up some urban waterways will be very, very expensive.
National is promising to review, and if necessary, repeal the policy:
Speculation that Environment Minister David Parker will have to yet again make fixes to his freshwater regulations further exposes the flaws in Labour’s package, National’s Environment spokesperson Scott Simpson and Agriculture spokesperson David Bennett say.
“The Minister has developed policy based on ideological notions and once again he has had to back down after realising it isn’t practical or based in science,” Mr Simpson says.
“National recognises the need for a sustainable approach and encourages the constant improvement of our waterways. We want to build on the existing structures around freshwater, while many of the Government’s freshwater proposals will have perverse effects on our primary sector and the wider economy.
National will repeal or review the nine regulations announced on 5 August. Instead National will work with farmers and environmental stakeholders to put in place alternatives that are practical, science-based, and achievable.
“We all want improved fresh water outcomes but we have to back farmers to farm their way to better outcomes as they have been doing. Farmers must see a pathway to improve while being profitable, our rural communities and economic wealth as a country depends on it,” Mr Bennett says
“While the country was focused on the worst economic downturn in 160 years, David Parker was busy rushing through new rules that will enforce impractical restrictions on farmers with no consideration for regional variances.
“National understands you can’t apply a blanket approach to this issue and will work with regions to ensure the rules are suited to every area.
“This Government’s changes will put the shackles on our farmers’ ability to innovate and will heap costs on to a sector that is vitally important to our country.
“Agriculture will lead our post-covid recovery. Unlike Labour, National will work with farmers rather than against them.”
We all want clean water and most farmers have already changed what they do to protect and enhance waterways.
There is still room for improvement but the best way to achieve that is working with farmers and councils to ensure high standards for all waterways.
There is also a lot of misinformation about winter grazing. Here are some facts: