Crop farmer reckons water plan a threat

A claim that cropping farmers were in trouble and were being unfairly treated under a plan developed to improve water quality and quantity in the Ashburton District has been levelled at the committee responsible for the plan.

Alastair Studholme, who farms a 800ha sheep and cropping property at Coldstream near the Rangitata River mouth, raised his concerns with the Ashburton Water Management Zone Committee at its meeting last week.

Mr Studholme said he was very concerned about inequities in the plan for farms in the non-dairy sector, around nitrate leaching levels.

His property was only able to leach a fraction of the level of the neighbouring dairy farm, but the dairy property was worth more than his.

''At the end of the day we probably have a single-figure nitrate level. We're not creating a problem. We never have and we're unlikely to do so.''

Mr Studholme claimed the plan would hinder his farm and was putting a $200,000 crop of hybridised canola at risk.

''If we lose that contract we won't get it back.''

Mr Studholme said he had been developing irrigation and deep wells as he was able and was developing a small seed enterprise.

The property was in an area of the district with the lowest rainfall and most of the farm fell outside the Rangitata Diversion Race area.

He said there was plenty of ground water available in his area.

''We feel we are being treated unfairly. The plan will hinder our farm and damage our crops.''

Mr Studholme said he had talked to a lot of his peers in the district and the general view was that as cropping farmers, they were in trouble.

''We've been forgotten about.''

He said it was unfair to be putting farmer against farmer.

''If you can't get us on board, it concerns me it won't work. I can't see a future for us under this plan.''

When asked by committee member, Sheryl Stiven for a solution, Mr Studholme said the zone had been set over the whole area from the coast to the hills to simplify things and to get it moving forward. He said it needed to be split into more localised areas.

The plan is due to be notified on September 29 and will then be open for submissions.

- Maureen Bishop