Tuesday, December 5, 2023

ALTERNATIVE VIEW: Water rules outcome predetermined

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I joined more than 400 local farmers at the Ministry for the Environment consultation meeting in Carterton.  In addition it was streamed to Federated Farmers members. It was an interesting experience.
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The meeting started with MfE staff telling Wairarapa rivers are in good shape. 

They then went on to outline all the expenses to be foisted on us even though our rivers are, in their words, in good shape.

We were then told we need to manage our emotions and to be respectful of other attendees.

I’d suggest it’s not easy to manage your emotions when you are getting considerable costs foisted on you for no good reason.

The chairman and subsequent speakers told us the document is a discussion paper only and farmer input is wanted.

I found that interesting because Environment Minister David Parker collected a veritable army of anti-farming types for his committees to develop the documents.

We were told long-retired Federated Farmers chairman Tom Lambie was on the committee as was ex Landcorp chairwoman Traci Houpapa and there were other farmers involved.

My information via an Official Information Act request is that neither Lambie nor Houpapa attended any meetings.

The cynic in me suggests they decided not to waste their time.

I wouldn’t describe the Landcorp crew as farmers and there were enough of them on the committees along with Fish and Game and other anti-farmer types.

Why they were there when many highly respected farming leaders and scientists weren’t was surprising.

Landcorp doesn’t farm successfully, is happy to foist its prejudices on the entire farming community as evidenced by its select committee submission and it gives a bunch of anti-farming enviro warriors money and credibility.

Maybe I’m missing something. 

We were told there were four advisory groups. One was Maori, of which I have no knowledge. Likewise the regional sector water subgroup made up of council leaders and senior staff with relevant expertise.

We have the Freshwater Leaders Group that was made up of farmers, growers, agribusiness leaders, scientists and resource management experts. Given the make-up of the group I found that description misleading.

There was then the science and technical advisory group made up of 16 leading freshwater scientists.

I could describe them quite differently.

So, my belief is the document was created to produce a preordained result. 

There are four big ticket items – water quality for swimming, nutrients, water coming first and sediment.

I have problems with all four.

For a start, as people swim only in high summer will the Government analyse water quality only then. In addition, how many people swim in rivers these days compared with school, council or private pools?

With nutrients they told us one milligram a litre of nitrogen will be allowed. On what scientific basis? When NIWA can say 1.5 is just fine why is the Government, yet again, playing with figures?

Also, with 3.5mg you’ll have some growth effect on only 5% of species.

Water coming first seems simplistically arrogant in my view. Surely life should come before water.

I’m over the sediment argument. Sediment comes from erosion of hills and mountains caused by rain, sometimes heavy rain. Agriculture has nothing to do with that. If the Government is worried about sediment from farmland it should surely encourage irrigation to create coverage and limit runoff.

There will be an army of consultants developing plans, inevitably at great expense, that won’t achieve much. Amazingly, regional government can introduce regulations that can be harsher than those contained in the discussion document.

So what will those plans achieve, especially in areas like Wairarapa where the rivers are, according to MfE, in good shape.

So, once again, you have city-centric policies naively created that don’t have solutions.

It is a one-size-fits-all document trying to align the entire country with the issues in Canterbury.

Insanely, in my view, the economic impact report will not be out until mid November, long after all consultations have closed.

The questions were interesting.

One local farming leader said there is nothing in the document that indicates how the changes will affect his farm. So how could he possibly make a meaningful submission? He didn’t get a meaningful answer.

Another asked how all the costs will be funded. He was told from existing farm surpluses.

That did get a laugh, albeit hysterical, but the answer showed without any doubt that there isn’t anyone at Government or MfE who has any idea of what life is really like on the farm.

Finally, if you hand pick a motley crew of anti-farmer types and give them a year to come up with a document. If you exclude scientific input from farmer groups and then give people just eight weeks to respond you are not consulting, you are dictating.

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