Thursday, December 7, 2023

Farmers must get their stories in

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Every farmer and Federated Farmers province is being urged to lodge submissions on the Government’s freshwater proposal even though a lot might not be read.
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The message comes from Feds chief executive Terry Copeland who says that prospect highlights the lack of openness and transparency in the Government strategy.

As a national policy statement implemented by regulation the freshwater plan is not required to go before a select committee, meaning a submissions will be considered only by a panel reporting directly to Cabinet.

“It’s legal but we think there will be thousands of submissions and many of them probably won’t be read,” Copeland said.

But farmers should tell their personal stories describing how the proposals will affect them, their farming businesses and their communities.

Copeland has been attending farmer meetings around the country and Federated Farmers headquarters will be filing a comprehensive submission by the October 31 deadline. 

“I believe that one will be looked at.”

The Government will be urged to take a catchment-by-catchment approach to water quality improvement that farmers can be a part of, he said. 

Huge amounts of work have been done by farmers in many catchments.

A rushed, heavy-handed and one-size-fits-all regulation, as proposed, to return waterways to pristine levels is impractical. 

Every region is different and there should be plans specific for them.

Tough nitrate level reductions, by 50% or more in some regions, would be negative for social structure in rural areas and for support businesses but there is no analysis from the Government on those impacts.

“It’s like shooting in the dark.”

In other regions issues like stock exclusion and winter grazing restrictions are more important.

And a planned moratorium on land-use change is impractical and inconsistent with other parts of the economy.

“Auckland’s got a major sewage disposal problem that will take years to fix but they’re not saying there will be a moratorium on new house-building till it’s done. But that’s what they’re doing to farming.”

He described some of the comments by Environment Minister David Parker and Primary Industries Minister Damien O’Connor as injudicious and dismissive of farmers.

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