High country conference discusses neighbourliness

What it means to be a ''good neighbour'' was discussed at Federated Farmers' high country conference in Queenstown yesterday.

The conference was examining how neighbours could look after each other in regard to water and nutrient management and pest control, Federated Farmers high country chairman Chas Todhunter said.

''We need to communicate with each other to understand each other's differences and work towards mutually acceptable outcomes,'' he said.

He was pleased with the Department of Conservation's ''increasing willingness'' to involve the wider community in its decisions and work.

Vice-chairman Simon Williamson said the high country group made submissions on the draft conservation management plans for Canterbury, Otago and Southland on behalf of Federated Farmers.

The more inclusive policy, outlined by Doc's then director-general Al Morrison at last year's high country conference, was evident in the introduction to all three draft plans, Mr Williamson said.

In most cases, the group was disappointed in the lack of commitment to pest control, particularly wilding trees, in the plans.

It was also disappointing that, in two of the plans, were stated intentions to adopt policies or projects that would impinge on private property. In some cases, the affected property owner had not been approached and the first they heard was through the draft plan.

That sort of approach was not in keeping with the ''partnership'' concept promoted by Mr Morrison last year and espoused in the introduction to the plans, Mr Williamson said.

Doc did some excellent work in protecting some of the country's precious natural assets.

However, over the years, it had been allotted considerable areas of land in which to undertake that role and it did not have sufficient funding resource to undertake its fundamental duty and to fulfil its responsibility as a ''good neighbour''.

''The way we see it, the 'partnership' concept has been introduced to encourage outside organisations and individuals to support Doc in its more important conservation projects.

''This will not happen if the conservancies do not talk with their neighbours prior to announcing plans that could adversely affect their neighbours' properties and livelihoods,'' he said.

Decisions on submissions to all of those plans were expected about October and he believed they would show the extent of commitment the various conservancies had to a ''meaningful partnership concept''.

There were still areas of ''major concern'' around the proposed Canterbury land and water plan, relating to stock farming in the hill and high country and restrictive rules, particularly in lake sensitive zones relating to nutrient leaching control, Mr Williamson said.

''We are well aware of the problems caused by nutrient leaching in some specific situations and support the need for control in these cases.

''Our concern from the high country perspective, though, comes from the fact that the Canterbury Regional Council is imposing stringent rules on properties where the current farming practice is not creating a problem.''

The proposals would be very costly for those properties, possibly jeopardising the sustainability of the farming business, he said.

Federated Farmers had appealed parts of the decision.

It was also involved with ongoing consultation with Environment Canterbury commissioners and staff in an effort to remove some of the more impractical aspects of the decision. Talks to date had been encouraging, he said.

The conference finishes today.


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