Hundreds to speak at hearings

Over 900 submissions have been made. Photo: Environment Southland
Over 900 submissions have been made. Photo: Environment Southland

Southlanders are ready for what could change their farming futures, as hearings start for Environment Southland’s Water and Land Plan on Monday.

The Water and Land Plan process which started in June last year is now reaching the halfway stage as more than 300 people, including farmers and representatives of southern groups, prepare to speak to their submissions on the plan.

In total more than 900 submissions had been received on the plan.

The hearing panel is made up of Rob van Voorthuysen (chairman), Edward Ellison (independent commissioner) and Environment Southland councillors Lloyd McCallum, Eric Roy and Maurice Rodway.

In preparation for the hearings, Beef and Lamb New Zealand (BLNZ) has run workshops with farmers, helping them to collate what they require for speaking to their submissions.

BLNZ southern South Island extension manager Olivia Ross said there had been five workshops scheduled originally, but demand had meant eight were held throughout Southland.

About 120 southern farmers attended the workshops, which walked them through the hearings process.

‘‘Initially it was very daunting [for some farmers]. It’s very out of comfort zones,’’ Miss Ross said.

Farmers wanted their voices to be heard and wanted to know the best way of making that happen, she said.

BLNZ had also run submission workshops last year, so holding the hearing workshops had helped follow through the process with farmers, Miss Ross said.

BLNZ South Island environment policy manager Julia Beijeman had helped farmers throughout the whole process, she said.

‘‘We want to ensure that whatever the final decision is, we’ve helped farmers get their word out there.’’

Submitters who have chosen to speak have 10 minutes each to talk to the hearings panel.

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