‘Grandstanding’ over rule changes called out

Waipahi Wetland project manager Shane Bocock rests on a gate at the wetland in South Otago last...
Waipahi Wetland project manager Shane Bocock rests on a gate at the wetland in South Otago last week. PHOTO: SHAWN MCAVINUE
A South Otago farm overseer is "sick and tired" of farmers’ political grandstanding and believes freshwater regulations are needed to "lift the laggards".

Agri 7 managing director Shane Bocock, of Greenfield, said he understood the frustrations about any proposed freshwater rule which made no sense but he got "sick and tired of the grandstanding going on".

"We should stop this tension between regulator and operator and understand we should all be in this a little bit closer," he said.

"The farmers who often make the most political noise are the ones who don’t want rules for anything."

Asked for his opinion on whether regulation played into the hands of big corporates — which could afford services such as overseers to deal with red tape — and put smaller farm operations under threat, he said history had shown smaller operations had to adapt or economies of scale would make their operations "uneffective, unprofitable and overcapitalised".

The changes came as a result of commercial interests and market forces rather than new regulations, he said.

Big farming operations carried the "biggest risk" and many were "just waking up" to the "seriousness" of a need to be environmentally sustainable.

"If they haven’t realised that environmental best practice is important, then they should consider another type of investment."

Mr Bocock is a member of the Pomahaka Water Care Group, which was formed to clean up "degraded" waterways by getting farmers to improve their catchment sections.

The group wanted to stay ahead of the regulations by doing more than required "because we know that the minimum standard is not good enough", he said.

The motivation levels to make improvements varied between farmers; Mr Bocock believed "sensible rules would force many farmers to do something".

Any "common-sense" regulation from central and regional governments would "lift the laggards off the bottom and bring them up to a minimum standard".

Historically, farmers had been able to run their operations "without too many rules and regulations" and "without them knowing, the state of the waterways has degraded".

Generally, the industry had recognised the state of the waterways was not good as a result of industrial pollution.

"It’s up to us to clean it up — it’s not up to the Government."

Many farmers were "sharp operators" and were ahead of the regulations by understanding and applying the science and adapting to be more sustainable.

As an overseer, Mr Bocock represented the interests of a farm owner and worked to keep an operation compliant and profitable by looking at the "bigger picture", including policy.

Overseers had become more common as more entities began owning multiple farms in the past 30 years, he said.

He was constantly monitoring potential impacts on waterways from things such as effluent management, land-use intensification and fertiliser use to future-proof the farms for any new legislation.

He is also the project manager for the the development of the Waipahi Wetland on 9ha of Gerard and Ann Vallely’s dairy farm in South Otago.

The wetland was officially opened late last month.

About 15,000 trees had been planted already and when planting was finished, Mr Bocock expected creating the wetland to have cost nearly $170,000.

The Ministry for Primary Industries gave more than $92,000, the Otago Regional Council had given $20,000 to buy plants and the Vallelys had given the land and "a fair bit of cash".

Mr Bocock’s experience in project management included owning and contracting in West Coast underground coalmines.

Designing a wetland was similar to dealing with mine wastewater "by modifying the landscape to lessen the effect of water coming in — by holding it up".

He also had experience in the dairy industry as a sharemilker.

Between running his family business, Greenfield Honey, he was looking for another project.

"Another wetland install would be great."

Comments

At last a voice of reason coming from the agricultural community. It makes a refreshing change.

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