Winter grazing rule changes welcomed

Industry bodies are breathing a sigh of relief over news the Government has accepted most of the Southland Advisory Group’s winter grazing recommendations, which now go out for public consultation.

Under the latest proposals, controversial pugging and resowing date rules have been replaced with a practical management approach, farming groups say.

Industry groups Beef + LambNZ, Federated Farmers and DairyNZ have backed the proposed changes.

B+LNZ chief executive Sam McIvor said industry groups had for some time been calling on Government to replace the pugging and sowing date rules with sensible and pragmatic alternatives.

‘‘It is positive for farmers that we now have clarity on the proposed approach in this area, which aligns with winter grazing recommendations made by the Southland Advisory Group last December.

‘‘We believe the Government’s new proposed approach, which focuses on practical management by farmers, is more workable — and that’s progress,’’ Mr McIvor said.

Federated Farmers environment spokesman Chris Allen said everyone wanted strong protection for the waterways, but some aspects of the initial Essential Freshwater programme winter grazing rules were unworkable.

‘‘It’s good to see the Government taking a pragmatic view, a stance we’re also looking for across more of the multitude of issues they are imposing on farmers in the next three years.

‘‘We’ll take this as a win for common sense,’’ he said.

‘‘We never give up hope that common sense will eventually prevail, especially when Covid makes it clear New Zealand’s prosperity to a large degree depends on our primary industries’ export earnings.’’

Key changes recommended by the advisory group included deleting pugging and replanting date conditions, replacing them with a requirement to protect critical source areas.

Where permitted activity conditions, could not be met, the group wanted an alternative pathway by way of a winter grazing module to be submitted to the farmer’s regional council and subject to audit.

These key changes, and others, were accepted.

Concerns remained about the proposed revised 10-degree slope rule for winter grazing and the certified freshwater farm plan process. The advisory group recommended winter grazing should be allowed on slopes of 15 degrees or less (removing the requirement to determine the mean slope of a paddock).

Instead, the Government has settled on a maximum 10 degrees slope.

Mr Allen said ‘‘making noise’’ had been necessary to get ministers’ attention. The only way forward was for multiple parties to work together.

The proposed new winter grazing rule changes are due to take effect in November 2023.

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