While the revised regulations give deer farmers more certainty about farm compliance there are still several impractical implications for deer farmers, Deer Industry New Zealand chairman Ian Walker said.
“As an industry we have supported the need for farm environment plans so making them mandatory should not be a burden as long as the proposed farm plans address actual environmental risks and auditing reflects deer farming knowledge and understanding of deer behaviours,” Walker said.
While the industry supports the principle of higher freshwater standards it is cautious about adding layers of bureaucracy and extra costs on deer farmers given there is very little expertise outside the deer industry about the most effective ways to minimise the impacts of deer on the environment.
Walker said the Government deserves credit for listening to farmer feedback on its freshwater discussion document and for withdrawing or amending some of its more extreme proposals.
The stock waterway exclusion rules are now generally focused on intensity of land use, which will be a relief for many farmers running low-intensity operations in the hills.
But there will be issues for some deer farmers who have low-intensity grazing operations, particularly on tussock-covered flats in some of the South Island high country and also in some high-rainfall regions where low-slope paddocks are crisscrossed with creeks.
“Fencing all streams in these situations is unaffordable, impractical and will have very little environmental benefit.”
Most deer farms are on hill country in areas where winter forage cropping is practised.
“Many of us will be required to apply for a resource consent for cropping paddocks that have a 10 degree or greater slope and we will be looking more closely at the implications of this when the Government makes more information available.”
Deer farmers are pioneers in good environmental practice and there is a good understanding in the industry of how to minimise the impact of deer during winter feeding, he said.
The industry is also into year three of a five-year study of the impact of deer on water quality in hill and high-country grazing.
“We will have good data to further refine decision-making.”
The summary and guide for sheep, beef and deer farmers are useful to get a start but deer farmers look forward to seeing the detail of the new National Environmental Standards for Freshwater and National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management.
“As with all legislation, the devil will be in the detail.
“Our objectives are quite clear – to help the deer industry play its part along with all New Zealanders in improving freshwater quality while making sure that regulations achieve their desired purpose without imposing unnecessary costs or compliance hassles on farmers,” Walker said.