Rural round-up

September 10, 2019

2050 deadline to improve freshwater in New Zealand – Rachael Kelly and Gerard Hutching:

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.

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. . . 

Water policy is doomed to fail – Aan Emmerson:

I can’t see anyone in the provincial sector being remotely surprised at the draconian nature of Environment Minister David Parker’s policy announcement on water quality.

For a start, Parker told us in June there would be tighter regulation of the agricultural sector.

He also made the earth-shattering statement he would regulate what, in his view, were some of the riskier farming practices.

Last Thursday’s statement came in three parts, a diagram, a bland summary then the actual document, all 105 pages of it.

Climate change Bill concerns for SFF – Brent Melville:

Silver Fern Farms, the nation’s largest procurer and exporter of red meat, has tabled “significant concerns” related to the economic impacts of the Government’s proposed climate change response Bill.

In its submission to the environment select committee this morning, the company said while it supported the Bill’s ultimate temperature increase goals, it had concerns specific to methane reduction targets, the inability of farmers to offset the warming effects of biogenic methane and processor obligations for farm emissions.

Silver Fern Farms head of communications and sustainability Justin Courtney said the submission had largely been informed by discussion with more than 750 of the company’s 15,500 farmer suppliers across New Zealand. The zero carbon proposals as tabled were “top of the list of farmers’ concerns”, he said. . . 

The unpopular tree sucking carbon from our air – Eloise Gibson:

Pinus Radiata grows like a weed, which is why it’s so fast at sequestering carbon. But since many people prefer native trees, forestry scientists are proposing an unconventional solution to get the best of both worlds.

To measure how much carbon is in a tree, you first have to kill it.

You slice up the trunk, branches, twigs, leaves and roots and dry the dismembered tree parts in an oven. Then you weigh them.

“It takes a long time,” says Euan Mason, a professor at the University of Canterbury’s School of Forestry. “I did some in 2012 with two students, and in six weeks I think we did 25 trees.” . . 

New campaign promotes wool’s benefits – Brent Melville:

Recent experiments in Japan measured the efficiencies of using wool carpet versus a synthetic option in two identical houses.

The wool option resulted in electricity savings of between 8% to 13%, with additional savings of up to 12% for cooling under the same conditions.

It is one of the fast facts contained in an informative and highly stylised campaign, designed to educate international frontline carpet and other retailers on the benefits of strong wool.

The “back to basics” approach is the brain child of wool sales and marketing company Wools of New Zealand (WNZ), in the belief that frontline retailers are neglecting the natural benefits of the fibre in the rush to sell synthetic product.

The heart of the programme is a 12-part “wool benefits” marketing campaign, which the company says has resonated strongly with local and international customers alike. . . 

NSA celebrates ban on false advertising about wool:

The National Sheep Association (NSA) is pleased to see the response by the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA) banning some misleading advertising from PETA propagating the lie that wool is cruelly obtained from sheep.

NSA Chief Executive Phil Stocker comments: ‘NSA is pleased to hear this decision by ASA that exposes PETA’s advertising for what it is, grossly inaccurate jargon which is misleading the public as well as damaging farmers reputations and livelihoods. The simple undeniable fact is that removing wool from sheep is necessary for their health and welfare. It does not harm them, and it does not exploit them. Wool is a by-product of their existence.”

Following reports of cruelty during shearing last year (2018), NSA joined with several other industry bodies to create a clear set of guidelines for farmers and shearing contractors to follow to ensure they shear to the highest standard possible. . . 


Rural round-up

September 8, 2019

Who needs the Greens when Labour hates farmers this much? – Mike Hosking:

Here’s the irony of David Parker. Parker was once the Minister of Economic Development and is currently the Minister of Trade and Export Growth – and yet he has done more than anyone these past two weeks to achieve exactly the opposite.

It was Parker who stopped the hydro dam on the West Coast despite every council, three of them, iwi, the Department of Conservation and 90 per cent of Coasters all being for it.

And now he’s put out water regulations that may as well come with the headline ‘we hate farmers’.

Tim Mackle’s piece in the Herald on this subject is excellent. It basically starts with him wistfully remembering a time when farmers were liked. Well I have a message to rural New Zealand: you still are, at least by people like me, realists who understand the energy, effort, and risk required to do what you do. . . 

The waters are rising on farming – Kerry Worsnop:

The release of the Essential Freshwater Report, ‘Action for Healthy Waterways’ will undoubtable add further turbulence to an already stormy torrent of proposed Central Government policy effecting Regional Councils and land based industries.

The report’s stated intention is to ‘stop the further degradation of New Zealand’s Freshwater resources and start making immediate improvements so that water quality is materially improving within 5 years’.  The reference to immediacy is no idle threat, with Regional Councils being expected to comply with many of the proposals by June 2020.

No one can argue with the intent of the report, and few would negate the importance of prioritising our greatest natural resource, however the scope and likely implications of the report will be a topic of much discussion in the coming weeks and months. . .

Forgotten aspects of water – Mike Chapman . .

The Government released its consultation on freshwater this week (click here).  We are now busy analysing it in detail and it is really too early to reach a view about the ultimate impact, especially before the consultation. 

Two of the background documents also released make interesting reading and provide insight into the thinking behind these proposals.  Te Kāhui Wai’s recommendations are strident.  They go to the core of the water issues facing New Zealand including: iwi/hapu water rights, a moratorium on additional discharges for the next 10 years, establishing a Te Mana o te Wai Commission, and developing a new water allocation system that conforms with iwi/hapu rights and obligations. 

The Freshwater Leaders Group’s recommendations include: bringing our water resources to a healthy state within a generation, taking immediate steps to stop our water becoming worse, and achieving an efficient and fair allocation system.  They also recommend an immediate stop to poor agricultural and forestry practices, and a complete halt to the loss of wetlands.  In summary, the reports are very similar in the outcomes they are seeking – immediate action to stop further degradation.

In all I’ve read, missing is how much water New Zealand gets each year and how much use we make of that water.  NIWA figures show that 80% of our water flows out to sea, 18% evaporates and only 2% is used.  My point is that there is more than enough water for everyone.  The problem is we are not being smart in our use of water and we are not planning for the impact of climate change – long dry summers.  . . .

Time for change – Neal Wallace:

A one-size-fits-all approach to freshwater management will penalise farmers shrinking their environment footprint, Beef + Lamb chairman Andrew Morrison says.

Farmers, like everyone, want clean, fresh water but the blanket regulatory approach in the Government’s Action for Health Waterways discussion document lumps those who have cut their footprint with those who haven’t.

Federated Farmers’ reaction was scathing.

Water spokesman Chris Allan said proposed nitrogen reduction targets of 80% mean farming will cease in large parts of rural New Zealand. . .

Fonterra’s clean-out is overdue – Hugh Stringleman:

Fonterra’s farmer-shareholder with the largest number of shares believes the co-operative’s house cleaning and write-downs are absolutely necessary and overdue.

Former director Colin Armer, who with his wife Dale has 10 million supply shares, says over-valued assets mean farmers sharing-up in the past four years paid too much.

He has made a formal complaint to the Financial Markets Authority over inconsistent valuations and executive performance payments. . .

Irrigating farmers record better enviro audit grades – Nigel Malthus:

Irrigating farmers in the Amuri district in North Canterbury are continuing to record improved environmental performance.

The latest round of Farm Environment Plan audits by the Amuri Irrigation Environmental Collective have given 97% of the farmers collective A or B grades, the remaining 3% a C grade and none a D.

That contrasts with 20% rated as C and 6% as D in the first round of collective audits four years ago. . .


Rural round-up

September 6, 2019

Farmers face $1b bill to meet new freshwater requirements :

Government proposals to radically improve the quality of New Zealand’s freshwater resources look likely to cost farmers at least $1 billion over 10 years.

Environment and Agriculture ministers David Parker and Damien O’Connor released a swag of documents from the government’s Essential Freshwater policy review at Parliament this morning.

The discussion document on a new National Policy Statement on Freshwater Management details proposals that would:  . . 

New rules to manage water – Neal Wallace:

The Government wants to take a tougher stance on and have a greater say in freshwater management, a discussion document released today reveals.

Action for Healthy Waterways will require every farmer to have a farm plan to manage risks to fresh water by 2025, extends rules on the exclusion of stock from waterways and sets new standards for intensive winter grazing.

Regional councils will have until 2025 to implement a new National Policy Statement for Freshwater and till then the Government proposes tighter controls on land-use intensification and the introduction of interim measures to reduce nitrogen loss within five years in identified catchments with high nitrate or nitrogen levels. . .

Rural innovations secure support – Luke Chivers:

A 14-year-old entrepreneur with an ingenious scheme to provide broadband access to isolated, rural communities is one of four ventures to receive support from the Rural Innovation Lab.

The backing was announced at the Beehive by Lab chairman Mat Hocken.

The initiatives came after a wide call for people to submit ideas to help solve rural issues. . .

Commodity export prices provide some cheer, even for those downcast Fonterra farmer-suppliers – Point of Order:

NZ lamb export prices have hit their highest level since 1982. That mightn’t be good news if you are contemplating a roast leg of lamb for the barbecue this weekend.

But for NZ meat producers that, and the high prices being earned in markets like Japan for beef, suggest it’ll be a good season for NZ’s meat producers.

This is despite the global uncertainty stemming from trade wars particularly between China and the US, two of NZ’s main markets. The outbreak of swine fever in China is likely to sustain demand for other meat such as beef. . . 

Breeding for parasite resistance important:

WormFEC Gold a collective of farmers breeding for parasite resistant genetics are leading the pack as drench resistance becomes more prevalent and drench failure is reported across the country.

Ten breeders across New Zealand have joined forces creating WormFEC Gold bringing together more than 200 years combined experience breeding highly productive, parasite resistant rams. The aim of their breeding programme – verified by Sheep Improvement Ltd (SIL) – is to strengthen flocks and save farmers time and money by reducing the number of times flocks need to be drenched. As a group they work collaboratively to improve parasite resistant stock genetics and educate farmers about the value of including parasite résistance in stock selection decisions. . . 

Benefits of entering Dairy Industry Awards numerous:

Entries for the 2020 New Zealand Dairy Industry Awards open on Tuesday 1st October and are an opportunity for entrants to secure their future while learning and connecting with others and growing their career. The 2019 Share Farmers of the Year say the benefits to their career and business from entering are worth the effort and time.

Colin and Isabella Beazley won the 2019 Northland Share Farmers of the Year and went on to win the National title as well. “We entered to benchmark ourselves against the best and also for the networking opportunities,” they say. “The networking and contact with industry leaders is unparalleled and we have used these relationships to grow our business.” . .

Farmers could lose tens of thousands as vegan activists plan fortnight-long blockade of UK’s largest meat market – Greg Wilford:

It is the largest wholesale meat market in Britain, and celebrated for selling some of the nation’s finest cuts of beef, lamb and pork for more than 800 years.

But, if vegan activists have their way, London’s Smithfield Market could be transformed into a parade of fruit and vegetable stalls without any animal produce in sight. . .


One size doesn’t fit all water

August 22, 2019

Federated Farmers is sending the government a strong message on water quality:

A ‘one size fits all’, inflexible and punitive regulatory regime for water quality just gets backs – and costs – up and most importantly will not work, Federated Farmers says.

“We have consistently argued that farmers will get alongside and work with sensible, practical and affordable catchment-based solutions based on an accurate assessment of the actual water quality,” Feds environment spokesperson Chris Allen says.

Labour and the Greens both tried to sell one-size for all policies before the election and every time they did support for national improved.

Environment Minister David Parker has said announcements on tighter regulations on the agricultural sector are imminent.

“We all want good, fresh water.  All of us – farmers included – need, and have effects on, water quality whether we drink it, use it for some commercial purpose or recreate in it.

“The question is how you drive water quality improvements.  There’s no doubt there is a place for rules and regulation, but they must take into account the circumstances of each catchment – soil types, land uses and community priorities to name a few,” Allen said.

What is needed and what works for one water way is not necessarily what will work and what’s needed for another.

“We must keep up the momentum with the water quality improvements we are already seeing in many catchments, not cut across this with cumbersome, draconian, one-size-fits-all regulations.”

Federated Farmers believes regional councils should be required to go through the nutrient limit setting process as per the current National Policy Statement, “with a stick approach to achieve it,” Allen said.

“Some councils haven’t done it, and that’s a problem.  If the reason is capacity issues for smaller councils, the government could help with resourcing. But we have to bear in mind that these processes are complex and take time.”

On stock exclusion, the issue is about keeping stock out of water, not mandatory and arbitrary setbacks.  A significant amount of work has already been done by farmers applying the appropriate method to achieve stock exclusion.

“In dairy districts, we should build on the Sustainable Dairying: Water Accord.  Farmers have already invested huge amounts of time and effort, resulting in outcomes including stock being excluded from waterways on 97.5% of dairy farms, and more than 99.7% of regular stock crossing points on dairy farms now having bridges or culverts. We are seeing the improvements form this sort of work coming though. For example, a recent regional council report shows that water quality in Taranaki rivers is showing long-term improvement.  Nearly half the rivers showed significant improvement, which has flowed from the stock exclusion, extensive riparian plantings farmers have done and changes to effluent disposal.

“There are now a lot of regional councils which do have good rules for stock exclusion, based on what is needed for their region.  They are fit for purpose and farmers have gone on and are living with them. Councils that don’t have rules are a minority and need to get on with the job.” 

If councils already have rules which work, they should be left to carry on with them.

Any proposed changes should be underpinned by robust cost-benefit analysis and rather than bald measurements of attributes (nitrogen, turbidity, phosphorus, etc) the catchment-based improvement programmes should be geared around the values the local community rate as the priorities – for example, can you swim in it, can fish and macroinvertebrates thrive in it, Allen said.

They should also take into account nature’s contribution to water pollution, like the nesting seagulls which foul several rivers, including the Kakanui from which we get our drinking water.

“When we do issue national environmental reports, the findings should come with the full picture.  What was the season like – hot, dry, wet…all of those things affect water quality and we need that context, not just bald numbers from a very limited number of sites.”

Farmers would also like to see consistency in approach across the sectors, and appropriate recognition of where changes that have been made, whether by urban or rural sectors, that are delivering improvements to water quality. 

Consistency would be a much needed improvement on current rules, or at least the application of them, that take a much more lenient approach to councils that allow storm water and sewerage to pollute waterways and beaches than it does to farmers.

Recognition of changes already made would help ensure those who are already doing their bit aren’t penalised to help the laggards.

Clean water is essential for human health and plays a big role in recreation.

We all have an interest in making improvements, it’s how it’s done is worrying farmers.

 


Houses bad, trees good?

August 15, 2019

The government has launched a draft National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land (NPS-HPL) that proposes a nationwide approach to protecting our most productive land.

New policies and standards could protect the most fertile and versatile land as soon as next year.

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor and Environment Minister David Parker have put out proposals to value high-quality soils as a resource of national significance.

“The threat to elite soils in this country has been very real,” O’Connor said. 

“We’ve been losing soils for the past 20 years at an alarming rate.

“You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to visit Pukekohe and see what is happening.

And not only Pukekohe. Urbanisation creep and the development of lifestyle blocks have been encroaching on productive land all over the country.

The Government has released a draft National Policy Statement for Highly Productive Land that proposes a nationwide approach to protecting NZ’s most productive land for future generations . . .

It is intended to target the high-value classes 1 and 2 soils that account for 5% of NZ’s soil profile but almost 85% of high-value crop production.

“One of the greatest challenges facing the world right now is the need to feed a growing population. 

“We have a well-earned reputation for producing some of the best food in the world,” O’Connor said.

“Continuing to grow food in the volumes and quality we have come to expect depends on the availability of land and the quality of the soil. 

“Once productive land is built on we can’t use it for food production, which is why we need to act now.” . . 

These are exactly the arguments farmers, councils and other advocates for rural communities have been using against the government’s policy that incentivises planting pine plantations on land better suited for cattle, deer and sheep.

We can’t eat trees and once farmland is converted to forestry it is both difficult and expensive to convert it back.

“We appreciate the balance for councils between the need to provide more houses and the need to protect their soils and economic activity,” O’Connor said.

Since April last year the Government has been looking at the best options for the protection of NZ’s high-value soils.

“This is not about spatial planning.

“It doesn’t dictate exactly what will happen.

“But it does place an obligation on councils to ensure there is enough highly productive land available for primary production now and in the future and to protect it from inappropriate subdivision, use and development.”

Councils will have to complete a cost-benefit analysis of using land for growing fruit and vegetables, assessing that against the short-term value of converting it to housing.

The criteria will be consistent nationwide but be flexible enough to allow councils to take into account their local situation and circumstances. 

“The NPS is not absolute protection for all soils. 

“It does consider local growth aspirations and the reality of where urban growth is now but it does force the councils to recognise the value of this soil for its productive capacity not just its subdivision capacity.”

Until now councils have not always had to consider the productive value – decisions have simply been based on market value and the potential for subdivision. . . 

All of that sounds vague enough to drive several tractors through especially if people who have bought land on the edge of urban areas at prices that reflect development potential seek to prevent the loss of value if it has to kept for food production.

The Taxpayers’ Union points out:

The Government’s plans to prohibit housing on ‘productive’ farmland will serve as yet another regulatory tax on housing, and is a shameful breach of Jacinda Ardern’s promise to fix housing supply, says the New Zealand Taxpayers’ Union.

“Maddeningly, Government is now introducing even more restrictions on housing, ensuring prices will continue to rise, all for the sake of a small gang of potato-growers who want to keep urban farmland prices artificially low. This is a slap in the face for aspiring homeowners, and makes a joke of the Government’s claimed concern over housing affordability.”

“There is no need for the Government to intervene here, because the market already works to allocate land to its most productive use. If the land is more productive as farmland then farmers will outbid housing developers, and vice versa.” . . 

Ending the incentives for forestry on farmland could happen immediately without providing anyone with viable reasons to oppose the move.

It must happen for exactly the same reasons the government wants to protect class 1 and 2 soils – so we can keep growing the quantity and quality of food the country and the worlds needs.


Rural round-up

July 28, 2019

88-year-old dairy farmer keeps ahead of technological changes – Gerard Hutching:

“If you don’t comply you won’t be able to supply.”

Ngatea dairy farmer Ken Jones has seen the future – and at 88 years of age a lot of the past.

He knows farmers will soon be confronted with an assortment of environmental rules they will have to abide by – in fact they already are – and he wants to get ahead of the game.

“I don’t know how far off that is but it’s no good hitting your head against a brick wall. I just want to make the farm compliant so I can hand it on to the family.” . . 

Tech journey discussed – David Hill:

Tina Mackintosh admits there were some late nights loading data after she and husband Duncan opted to embrace technology more than a decade ago.

The Mackintoshs, who farm at White Rock Mains, north of Rangiora, shared their journey of using technology to improve their farm system at last month’s Beef + Lamb New Zealand FarmSmart conference in Christchurch.

”We have a curious mind about data and what it can do, and we also believe it’s about sharing the good things when they work and, equally, not being afraid of sharing when the shite happens,” Mrs Mackintosh said.

”As we were going along the journey we had two babies, so we were entering data late at night. There was a lot of data to enter so it was quite frustrating. . .

$10,200 dog makes quick impression – Yvonne O’Hara:

A farm dog that sold for more than $10,000 in Gore yesterday marked the occasion by lifting his leg on his new owner’s gumboot.

Heading dog Glen sold for $10,200 at the annual sheep and cattle dog sale at the Charlton saleyards.

PGG Wrightson Gore sheep and beef representative Ross McKee said his company was calling it ”a New Zealand record”.

”At $10,200 he is in a league of his own.”

Glen was sold by his breeder, trainer and farmer David Parker, of Teviot Valley, and bought by sheep, beef and venison farmer Richard Tucker, of Becks. . . .

The Poison of Precaution: The Anti-Science Mindset -Riskmonger:

In last year’s excellent book, The Wizard and the Prophet, Charles Mann juxtaposed two polemics on the environment in the 1940s during the turning point of agricultural development: Norman Borlaug and William Vogt. Borlaug (the Wizard) took the scientific approach to innovate and develop new tools to solve problems facing agriculture. Vogt (the Prophet and arguably the founder of the modern environmental movement) would see an environmental problem as a reason for man to pull back and let the planet heal itself.

To this day, both approaches (to innovate or to pull back and take precaution) have defined environmental debates. There is no doubt which side I fall on. Borlaug’s scientific route has allowed humanity to thrive over the last 70 years. The Green Revolution in agriculture led to global economic expansions as abundance led to generations of risk-takers being able to leave the land and develop other opportunities for wealth generation. Environmentalists argue that the agri-technologies have led to deeper problems from saturated soil and poisoned water tables to serious human health issues to climate calamity. Social justice theorists are proposing agro-ecology as a Vogtian response in pulling back from seven decades of agricultural development. . .

Landmark report shows value of pesticides to NZ’s land-based industries:

The New Zealand Institute of Economic Development today released a landmark report, showing that New Zealand’s economy would lose up to $11.4 billion without crop protection products – and that crops would lose 30 percent of their value overall.

The report covers forestry, pasture, horticulture, field crops and vegetable production.

Agcarm chief executive, Mark Ross, says that the report highlights the importance of the crop protection industry to New Zealand’s economy. . .

African farmers increase yields and income with their smartphones -Bekezela Phakathi:

From drones and big data to financing apps, advanced technology can be a game changer.

More farmers across Africa are set to turn to digital solutions within the next three years, which will boost productivity and, potentially, employment across the value chain, according to a new study.

The study by the Technical Centre for Agricultural and Rural Co-operation (CTA) and advisory firm Dalberg Advisors, says that several barriers hindering the adoption of digital solutions in agriculture across the continent — notably, limited access to technology and connectivity — will be overcome. . .


RMA reform welcome and needed but

July 25, 2019

The government plans to reform the Resource Management Act:

The Government is overhauling our resource management system, focusing on the Resource Management Act 1991 (RMA) – the primary legislation governing the use of our land, water and air resources. 

The Government wants the RMA to support a more productive, sustainable and inclusive economy. It also wants the RMA to be easier for New Zealanders to understand and engage with. The Government is approaching this in two stages. 

It plans to start by amending the RMA.

The Government is proposing several specific changes to the RMA through an amendment bill. The aim of the bill is to make the RMA less complex, give people more certainty on RMA issues, and increase opportunities for public participation.

The bill will address issues with resource consenting, enforcement and Environment Court provisions within the RMA. It may also include some other policy proposals. 

The bill is currently being drafted and we are working to introduce it to Parliament later this year. Public submissions will be called for when the bill is referred to a select committee. . . 

Then there’s the second stage:

The Government is undertaking a comprehensive review of the resource management system. This review will examine the broader and deeper changes needed to support the transition to a more productive, sustainable and inclusive economy. 

The aim of the review is to improve environmental outcomes and enable better and timely urban development within environmental limits. . . 

Few if any will argue with the aims to support a more productive, sustainable and inclusive economy and to make the RMA easier to understand and engage with.

Media releases from right, left and centre support the proposal. Reform is welcome and needed but getting agreement on that is the easy part.

The difficulty will be getting those who support the need for reform to agree on the details of any changes that are proposed.

Federated Farmers says reform will be a huge challenge:

The organisation agrees with Environment Minister David Parker that because of frequent amendments, the RMA is now overly cumbersome, costly and complex.

“The review will be no easy task. It will need to consider wide and diverse opinions and concerns. There are few organisations which have been more intricately and routinely involved in resource management processes across the country since the Act first came into force than Federated Farmers, so we consider our active input on the review panel will be vital,” Federated Farmers resource management spokesperson Chris Allen says.

The Act is a source of much frustration for resource users across the country. It is now twice the size it was on enactment in 1991 and while it has created a booming market for planners, lawyers and other experts, this has been at the expense of resource users, ratepayers and the environment.

Federated Farmers would support amendments that made the Act, in the Minister’s words, “fit for purpose in the 21st century”, and approve of any attempt to remove unnecessary complexity, delays and costs.

“But we have a word of caution – it’s hard to make processes move faster, when regional and district councils are already under-resourced and facing increasing public pressure and inadequate central government support,” Chris says.

There is also insufficient weighting given to the economic impacts of regulation on farms, rural communities and the regions of New Zealand. Economic impacts should be considered in balance with environmental, social and cultural wellbeing, instead of just the quick skim currently given.

“The trend appears to be for central government to push national regulation onto local government, expecting them to both resource and fund processes. This isn’t a case of local government being given too much power, rather it’s a trend of central government putting out cookie-cutter national rules and regulations, and expecting local councils to ‘make them work’.

“We have real concerns over central government interfering with local processes, as many regional councils are well underway in developing plans to address water quality and quantity,” Chris says.

Some of these plans are already in place, and other regions are wrestling with tricky questions around how plans can be tailored so they are both efficient and effective. Anything that interferes with these processes, and the considerable economic and social investment already made by our communities, could be a step-backwards for water quality management in New Zealand.

There has been a massive investment in time and money into changing farm practices and infrastructure, and getting a better understanding of the implications of activities on land to the environment.

This groundswell of change has been happening across the country, from landowner level through to catchment groups and wider district efforts. These efforts do not result in improved outcomes overnight, but trends are indicating we are on the right track.

“Ultimately, we don’t want to see this timely opportunity to reform the RMA, being instead used simply to put up as many affordable houses as possible, with an overly urban focus, to the peril of fixing other key issues with the Act,” Chris says.

The previous government’s attempts at reforms were vehemently opposed by the parties in the current government and it won’t be easy to reconcile those parties’ differing views on what needs to be done and how to do it.

At a press conference on Wednesday, Parker said that no RMA reform legislation would be introduced until after the 2020 election because the working group would take nearly 10 months to make its recommendations.

Collins called this “cynical timing.” Given that the next government to consider legislation could well be a National one, she believes Labour should be consulting the Opposition. But Parker refused to consider including the Opposition in the reform process until legislation is introduced, insisting it was the “parliamentary process”.

Given this, the latest effort at fixing the RMA is unlikely to succeed, Collins believes. “You’ve got New Zealand First going around the provinces saying, ‘We’re going to sort out the RMA and stop all these impediments to development.’ You’ve got the Greens saying, ‘We’re gonna stop all these developments.’ It just must be a nightmare for Labour.”

Winston Peters didn’t disagree with her. When asked if he thought New Zealand First would be on the same page as Labour and the Greens about RMA reform, he answered simply, “No”.

“I cannot agree with their race-based approach,” he said of Green Party support for a Māori role in the resource management system. . . 

That isn’t an encouraging start to the process.

Getting consent through the RMA is process is a long and frustrating process, reforming the act won’t be any easier.


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