Missed opportunity for fairer outcomes

July 19, 2018

The Ministry for the Environment has missed the opportunity for fairer outcomes in its new guidelines for the Resource Management Act:

Federated Farmers is in favour of ‘best practice’ guidelines on how councils exercise their duties under the Resource Management Act if they bring common sense and consistency to that role.

But there is concern the new guidelines miss opportunities for fairer outcomes.

The guidelines released by the Minister for the Environment this week are intended to assist councils in their compliance, monitoring and enforcement duties in promoting the sustainable management purpose of the RMA.

Richard Gardner, Federated Farmers senior policy advisor, says this is a very admirable purpose “because too often we find that councils are misusing their powers under the legislation, and managing compliance and enforcement matters inappropriately.

“The guidelines will hopefully usher in more practicality and consistency to the exercise of that role.”

That would be a welcome improvement but there is a but:

Federated Farmers finds fault with some of the guidelines and is disappointed that it had not been more involved in putting them together.

There is concern about the lack of differentiation in the guidelines between routine inspections and inspections that arise as the result of a complaint. Feds also sees faults in the way enforcement decisions are handled.

“We have long held the view that there should be a pecuniary penalty regime for ‘misdemeanour’ and accidental offences, with criminal prosecutions reserved for the worst, deliberate offences, and the current strict liability standard regarding those prosecutions removed,” Mr Gardner says. . .

There is a big difference between deliberately flouting the law and accidents which breach it.

Farmers can be charged for accidental effluent ponding that could reach a waterway. That’s a bit like charging someone for drink driving when they are drinking but have no intention of driving.

Contrast that to the soft approach taken to councils which fail to deal with sewerage spills.

The latest example of this was in Northland:

A Kaipara Harbour farmer says raw sewage was left to flow into local waterways for up to two weeks.

Grant McCallum, speaking with Jamie Mackay on Newstalk ZB programme The Country, said the overflowing sewage was discovered by a Wellsford farmer who leases the land.

McCallum said Auckland Council sent up one-tonne diggers to deal with the broken and blocked pipes but the machines were too small.

Five days later the sewage was still flowing, so the farmer contacted Rodney Local Board member Colin Smith to ask him to get involved.

Smith said there had been problems with the sewerage infrastructure in the area before.

“The sewerage line in the area’s been broken for a long time…it’s buggered.”

Farmers wouldn’t be allowed to get away with systems that were buggered, nor should they be and councils should be held to the same standard.

He said it took far too long for the problem to be fixed.

“The thing is it could’ve been done in eight hours and it took weeks.” . .

Too many councils waste their time and ratepayers’ money on fripperies when core responsibilities like sewerage are in urgent need of attention.

The RMA, or the way it’s administered, appears to let them away with it while farmers are prosecuted for accidents which are often beyond their control.


Rural round-up

April 17, 2014

IPCC Mitigation Report redefines agriculture as ‘green tech’:

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Mitigation Report places New Zealand in a very good position so long as the policy nexus supports the carbon efficient production of food.

“The IPCC’s Mitigation Report projects that emissions from Agriculture, Forestry and Other Land Use could, by 2050, be half of what they were in 2010,” says Dr William Rolleston, Federated Farmers Vice-President.

“In the IPCC’s Mitigation Report summary for policymakers, agriculture is seen as being positive because it “plays a central role for food security and sustainable development”.

“We think the IPCC has come a very long way from 2007. There is an increasing alignment between climate change and food insecurity, arguably, the two biggest challenges our species will face this century. . .

Tukituki decision a win for water quality and farming:

The draft decision by the Board of Inquiry (BOI) on the Tukituki Catchment proposal represents a significant win for freshwater management and the urgency of a transition to environmentally sustainable agriculture in New Zealand, says Fish & Game NZ.

Fish & Game lead the evidence presented against the most contentious issue in front of the BOI which was Hawke’s Bay Regional Council’s proposed “single nutrient management” approach – this focussed only on the management of phosphorous and set instream nitrogen limits at toxic levels. . .

Kiwi on the farm:

The sight of kiwi scratching the grass on Richard Gardner’s farm near Kaipara is now a common sight, thanks to his family’s dedication to a restoration project in the area.

Richard Gardner says they’ve been controlling pests in a fenced-off area of bush on his land and last year decided to introduce kiwi back into the area for the first time in 50 years.

He says his sister, Gill Adshead, and her husband, Kevin, were initially behind the restoration of 400 hectares of native bush, which is now home to kiwi. . .

Barns could give us the best of both worlds – James Houghton:

In a recent column by Sir David Skegg, he says we need to stop pretending that we can have our cake and eat it too. Whilst right now that may not be the case it is definitely a possibility.

Right now we are working to get the balance right between the environment and economy. Yes there is intensification and with that comes responsibility. Farmers are upgrading their infrastructure to keep within the acceptable limits, which involves nutrient budgets, cattle housing, new technology, and overseer programs. Overall New Zealand dairy farmers are investing a conservative $3 billion into improving their environmental impact, which is nothing to snort at. For each individual dairy farmer that equates to about a $250,000 investment, you can say we are taking every practical step to improve our environment.

It is all well and good to say we need a balance between meeting the Government’s target of doubling our exports by 2025 and maintaining and improving our water quality – everyone will agree with you here, but who sets that balance? It comes down to where your priorities lie, and everyone’s priorities are different. . .

Whitebait partners look for solutions:

Waikato-Tainui, local marae, councils and agencies are working together to better manage whitebait fisheries at Port Waikato following the compilation of a new report.

The report is the result of an initial scoping project to better understand the complex and inter-related resource management issues around whitebaiting in the lower Waikato River. The area has traditionally been a plentiful source of whitebait but over the years more and more people are seeking to gather the delicacy there.

With more people comes increased pressures for space to build stands, an increase in the number and size of baches and associated pressures such as sewage management, and a growing amount of whitebait being taken.  . .

Alps trail activity booms – Rebecca Fox:

In its first ”official” season, activity on the Alps 2 Ocean Cycle Trail is much higher than the forecast.

Tourism Waitaki general manager Jason Gaskill said monthly trail counter readings from September 2013 to February this year show 3604 cyclists used the Lake Ohau Lodge section of the trail, 4815 cycled the Lake Pukaki section and 3646 passed the Ohau Weir section.

”The numbers are fantastic … they are higher than what was forecast,” Mr Gaskill said.

”In a lot of ways, it’d be hard to imagine how things could have gone a lot better [this season].” . . .

Feed statistics reflect the growth of New Zealand dairy production:

Annual Feed Production Statistics compiled by the New Zealand Feed Manufacturers Association (NZFMA) for the year 2013 reflect the changing face of feed production. Based on figures supplied by NZFMA member companies nationwide, the NZFMA annual statistics report the total tonnages of manufactured animal feed and the tonnages of raw materials used in the production of compound feed in New Zealand. (Compound feed is heat-treated feed produced in a feed mill in pellet or mashed form.)

In 2013, compound feed production increased by 2.8% to 991,027 tonnes and raw material usage rose by 4.1% to 983,440 tonnes. The four main grains used were wheat (58.8%), barley (17.4%), sorghum (12.2%) and maize (10.3%). The majority of compound feed was produced in the North Island (65.3%). 86% of compound feed is currently produced in bulk form and 14% is bagged. . .


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