Thursday, April 25, 2024

BLNZ urges rethink on freshwater plans

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Concerns about ‘rushed consultation approaches being taken by councils’.
BLNZ chair Kate Acland says the report ‘reinforces the message that we have been giving, that we need to talk about warming effect’. Photo: Clare Toia-Bailey
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Beef + Lamb New Zealand is urging the new government to pause regional planning processes and review the National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management 2020. It said urgent action is required due to the December 31 2024 deadline for regional councils to notify of changes to their plans to comply with the NPSFM. 

The NPSFM sets objectives, policies and implementation directives for regional councils, which will result in a suite of new or updated regional plans, including rules and limits.  

BLNZ chair Kate Acland said the importance of sustainable freshwater management is acknowledged but there are concerns about the varied contents of the draft plans, and the rushed consultation approaches being taken by councils. A pause in this process is needed while a review is undertaken of the National Policy Statement for Freshwater, she said. 

 “The rushed engagement by regional councils at present as the notification deadline approaches is creating undue pressure on communities and resulting in poor processes, leaving many farmers feeling unheard or without a fair opportunity to voice their concerns,” Acland said.

BLNZ is also concerned about the direction of some of the proposed regulatory settings across the draft regional plans, such as large setback requirements, mandated grazing retirements, input limits, and consenting regimes, which will create significant challenges to the farming community without always having clear environmental benefits. 

“Due to the rushed processes caused by the deadlines, many regional councils have also not undertaken full economic analysis of the impact of the draft proposals.  

“In addition to the National Policy Statement needing review, there are other elements of the national freshwater regulation that require immediate attention, such as certified freshwater farm plan triggers and requirements, the slope rule for winter grazing, and stock exclusion exemptions for cattle on extensive farms,” said Acland. 

She said sheep and beef farmers are committed to ongoing environmental improvements and significant gains have been made in recent years. 

“The direction of travel needs to continue, but we need to find a more pragmatic and practical way to achieve the outcomes that everyone wants.   

“We believe that an immediate government-ordered pause is necessary to ensure adequate time for a thorough review, proper consultation, and the development of practical, workable rules that will benefit both the environment and local communities.”

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