Saturday, April 13, 2024

Groundswell NZ is right behind environmental reform

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Groundswell says critics misrepresent its environmental stance.
For my sins as a fellow Groundswell NZ spokesperson, Google search my environmental work with farmers for the past 20 years and ours as a family – it speaks for itself, says Jamie McFadden.
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By Jamie McFadden, Groundswell NZ environment spokesperson

Groundswell NZ supports environmental change. The opinions from Andrew Luddington, “New regs? Bring them on” (August 8) and Geoff Prickett, “Home truths about farming in NZ” (August 22) misrepresent the positions of Groundswell NZ and Federated Farmers. 

A search across the credentials of many of the representatives of both organisations reveals farmers at the forefront of positive environmental change. Groundswell NZ leader Bryce McKenzie is co-founder of the award-winning nationally acclaimed Pomahaka Watercare Group, which has set a new level in terms of addressing water quality issues. For my sins as a fellow Groundswell NZ spokesperson, Google search my environmental work with farmers for the past 20 years and ours as a family – it speaks for itself. Hopefully this dispels the false notion articulated by Luddington that Groundswell NZ are resistant to change and not walking the walk.

As to the regulations themselves, where does one start? Otago University research quantified that the freshwater regulations could result in worse outcomes for the environment and the exit of environmentally progressive farming families from the industry. The Significant Natural Area policy has proven in our district of Hurunui (and others) to be disastrous for the environment and destroyed relationships between councils and their communities. Both the Freshwater and Indigenous Biodiversity regulations penalise the most those proactive in environmental endeavour and with the lightest footprint. I am surprised Luddington and Prickett are supportive of regulations that deliver these outcomes.

The reason I am, in the words of Luddington, “braying like a demented donkey” over emissions tax is because it will deliver worse outcomes for the environment and our country. It is causing the exit of more farmers from the industry and accelerating even more food-producing land into pines. The emissions tax policy penalises the best environmental farmers and will deliver a raft of disastrous consequences. 

Luddington appears quite happy with the regulations on his flat Canterbury plains farm devoid of all original vegetation surrounded by neatly trimmed conifer hedges. But for a steep hill-country farmer who faces an unaffordable bill to fence 10km-20km of waterways and with over half their farm designated a Significant Natural Area, life is not so peachy. Nor is it for the West Coast landowners who lost all their land to wetland designations and have been told their properties are now virtually worthless. There are hundreds of examples throughout NZ where people are unfairly impacted by unworkable regulations. 

Unfortunately for Luddington and Prickett, they will have to put up with more of my “braying” because I will not rest until we have workable regulations that respect people and their property; instil nature on farms as an asset; reward rather than punish environmental effort; and deliver the desired environmental outcomes.

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