By Jamie McFadden
The opinion piece by Marnie Prickett and Chris Falconer, “We have found common ground beneath our feet” (September 21), criticising Groundswell and Federated Farmers, leaves readers misinformed about the role and positions of these organisations. It also makes claims about the environmental regulations that are false.
Despite Groundswell on numerous occasions spelling out its position, the opinion writers persist in taking cheap shots to deliberately mislead readers.
Contrary to their assertions, Groundswell supports the need to change in proactively addressing environmental issues.
The records of Groundswell leader Bryce McKenzie as co-founder of the nationally acclaimed Pomahaka Watercare Group and my environmental work with hundreds of farmers and community initiatives spanning 25 years speak for themselves.
To back that up we have developed an alternative to the unworkable regulations and flawed environmental reforms called the Groundswell Solution.
Our solution starts with a vision that all New Zealanders can share in – For New Zealand to be a world leader in environmentally sustainable produced food and fibre. We believe all farmers (and indeed all people) should join in the environmental journey addressing all issues including freshwater, indigenous biodiversity, and emissions.
The writers state that Groundswell and Federated Farmers claim to be the voice of farmers, followed by the bizarre assertion that they are not.
Both organisations are a voice of farmers and with the membership of Federated Farmers at 13,000 in 2021 and Groundswell with an email supporter base of over 100,000 (and growing) we collectively have a substantial representation role on behalf of farmers.
Another false claim is that Groundswell (and others) are advocating for a catchment-based approach because we want to “get rid of bottom lines so that any level of pollution is legal”. This is both spiteful and false.
As part of the Groundswell Solution, we propose a proactive approach to prioritising actions to where they are most needed and bottom lines have a key role in ensuring freshwater is not overallocated in terms of water quantity and contaminants. Every river is different and over the past 80 years the catchment-based approach has proven to be a successful way to fix water quality issues.
Prickett and Falconer then attempt to paint a picture of the environmental regulations that is far removed from reality. They suggest communities “all over the country” have been pushing to have stronger regulations. This is incorrect and should have read “environmental lobbyists”, not “communities”.
In our district of Hurunui, the wider community were frustrated by outside environmental lobby groups’ continual demands for regulation. When our council initiated a process to remove all mapped Significant Natural Areas from the district plan, it was widely supported by the community and there were no appeals against this decision.
One of the reasons we have so many unworkable regulations is that for too long policy makers have kowtowed to the demands of environmental lobbyists.
To add weight to their argument that regulations have been overstated, Prickett and Falconer used the example that Waikato has had only one new statutory requirement in the past five years.
However, they neglected to mention the recent Freshwater Farm Plans and Indigenous Biodiversity requirements, winter grazing regulations, Sites and Areas of Significance to Māori, the ute tax, and new regulations emanating from plan reviews and changes from the 10 district councils and Waikato Regional Council. I suggest they read the recent report by Beef + Lamb NZ that found more than 20 new regulations, laws, and reforms impacting farmers in the past six years.