Farmer frustration evident at water quality roadshow

The department wants people's thoughts on the Government's proposed plan to clean up waterways....
The department wants people's thoughts on the Government's proposed plan to clean up waterways. PHOTO: ODT FILES
Another water quality roadshow, another band of frustrated farmers.

There were plenty of fiery outbursts in a 160-seat conference room at the Ministry of the Environment event in Queenstown yesterday.

It was one of 28 meetings across the country.

The department wants people's thoughts on the Government's proposed plan to clean up waterways, which covers five issues: urban development, freshwater quality, land use, hazardous waste disposal and waste minimisation.

But the six-week window to digest "complex" details has angered agricultural and environmental communities.

Ministry director of water Martin Workman said Environment Minister David Parker was aware of timeframe concerns and had decided to allow for late submissions.

Freshwater quality is the most contentious proposal because of a crackdown on farming practices and an increase in regulations.

Attendees argued this would decrease farming activity, lower land values and negatively affect the export industry.

Many expressed a concern the ministry had not done a thorough impact analysis to uncover the unintended consequences.

Waipahi farmer Ant Logan told policymakers the industry was passionate about protecting New Zealand's waterways, but draft documents were riddled with anti-farming sentiment.

"We want the same results as you but we feel alienated from this process," Mr Logan said.

"We are not just farmers, we are people of this land ... Don't forget who we are."

On the urban front, the plan to stop the degradation of waterways includes a mandate for councils to have a freshwater plan in place by 2025.

Mr Workman told the crowd he was aware of sewage overflows Queenstown Lakes District Council was dealing with at the moment.

"In this package is proposals on national standards around how those wastewater discharges get managed and what will be required going forward."

Mr Workman said some of the $229million water clean-up fund would be set aside to help councils.

Submissions officially close on October 17.

On Thursday, two public meetings in Southland received "unexpected" farmer interest, as hundreds of people poured into rooms and some had to stand outside.

Comments

No matter how you pitter patter around the issue, it is farmers farming, and more specifically dairy farmers farming cows, that have caused the massive pollution of our waterways. It is criminal that successive governments have allowed the farming industry to do this year after year to a point our children cannot swim in our rivers anymore. Of course the profitability of farming will decrease if they are not allowed to destroy the environment and dump their waste in our rivers. Every business would be more profitable if it could ignore the cost of processing its waste.

I think it would be sensible to levy a considerable back tax on farm ownership to divert the incredible capital gains the elite farming families have seen in their farms into the massive cean up that is now required.

As for exports, both sides of the house have continually ignored the strategic development of technology related exports in a world that is passing NZ by. We are a well educated English speaking workforce. We should be using that to our advantage in industries like medi-tech instead of remaining focused on “more cows equals more milk”.