Familiarity with water plan urged

Federated Farmers executive members (from left) meat and fibre chairman Simon McAtamney, of...
Federated Farmers executive members (from left) meat and fibre chairman Simon McAtamney, of Puketi, dairy chairman Stephen Crawford, of Clydevale, president Stephen Korteweg, of Kaitangata, and vice-president Phill Hunt, of Maungawera Valley, at the Federated Farmers Otago annual meeting yesterday. Photo by Leith Huffadine.
Signing off the Otago Regional Council's 6A water plan was the ''big one'' when it came to Federated Farmers Otago's achievements in the past year.

In his report to the province's annual meeting in Alexandra yesterday, president Stephen Korteweg said it had been another challenging and mostly satisfying year.

There were 12 interested parties involved in negotiations with the ORC on the water plan and Federated Farmers South Island regional policy manager Kim Reilly was ''instrumental'' throughout the process and in what was achieved, Mr Korteweg said.

It was ''no mean feat'' that it did not end up going through the Environment Court and all parties, along with the ORC, should be commended.

''Had it gone through the Environment Court, we would have been faced with a lot more costs and maybe worse still, an outcome based on the ruling of the judge of the day,'' he said.

Implementation of the plan would be the next big challenge, Mr Korteweg said.

Federated Farmers Otago dairy chairman Stephen Crawford urged all farmers to become familiar with the implications of 6A on their businesses, saying to not do so would be a ''fatal mistake''.

''You need to understand what impact your farming system has on the environment.

''In a nutshell, consider the quality of water entering your property and the quality of any water exiting your property.''

Mr Crawford urged farmers to put some time into it and get help if they needed to. Most importantly, they had to understand their farm's impact and plan to make changes if that was required, he said.

The dairy industry's biggest challenge in New Zealand was the public's perception of it regarding the environment. Fish and Game and Forest and Bird had very public campaigns on their views regarding dairy, its expansion and even existence.

''We hear very little in the appropriate places to counter this. We must try and alter this negative perspective,'' Mr Crawford said.

He believed DairyNZ had to be more proactive in that area, while farmers must also help themselves.

Plan 6A was also raised at North Otago Federated Farmers' annual meeting in Oamaru on Thursday.

President Richard Strowger, who was re-elected for another term, said the wet conditions being experienced could have a major effect on water quality through the winter.

Farmers had to work through ways to reduce the runoff of nutrients as the plan set clear requirements to be achieved.

''Some of our past methods will no longer satisfy the requirements of 6A,'' Mr Strowger said.

Dairy chairman Lyndon Strang said the water plan result seemed to be workable for most farmers and the ORC appeared to be open and willing to work with farmers to get to the desired results.

''What happens between now and 2020 will be crucial and the work with 6A is definitely not completed.

''We will continue to be involved to ensure that limits and levels are workable and that managing the requirements does not become an administrative nightmare,'' Mr Strang said.

Mr Korteweg, a South Otago dairy farmer, said it was one of the better grass and crop-growing seasons in Otago that he had seen in his farming career.

Dairy and forestry have had record prices for produce, with big demand coming out of China. Arable had been good, while meat and fibre were trailing in prices and the effects of last year's drought were affecting lamb numbers.

New Zealand's increasing reliance on China and what happened within its economy was a little worrying, he said.

The challenging aspect came from the increased workload that seemed to be coming Federated Farmers' way.

There were ever-increasing requests from both inside and outside the rural lobby organisation for advice and representation ''on just about everything to do with farming''. However, it was pleasing the province's input and advice was valued, he said.

Farmer representation on boards and organisations was becoming increasingly short, but harder to find.

More people had to be encouraged to take active roles in representing the farming sector for the future, Mr Korteweg said.

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