Farmer group wants halt to mapping private land

Farmer group Groundswell NZ has written to all regional, district, city and unitary councils in New Zealand, requesting a halt to mapping of natural areas on private land until concerns are resolved.

It was the first of a range of actions being launched as farmers mobilised against what they described as "unworkable regulations".

The Groundswell campaign, started last year by Otago-Southland farmers was now spreading nationwide.

Initially, the campaign’s focus was on the National Policy Statement Freshwater Management, but it had been broadened to include the National Policy Statement Indigenous Biodiversity, climate change policies and the Crown Pastoral Land Reform Bill.

It was now calling on landowners to refuse access to public agencies undertaking surveys on private land. That included significant natural areas (SNA) and wetland surveys.

Under the new freshwater and indigenous biodiversity regulations, the Government was proposing it be mandatory for councils to survey all land within their districts for SNA assessments and wetlands.

In a statement, Groundswell said landowner concerns included "the misuse of the survey information, no caveats to protect landowners’ privacy interests, no compensation and impacts on property values".

Spokesman and West Otago farmer Bryce McKenzie said it was not an issue about the need to look after the environment but a question about lack of respect for landowners who had been proactive in conservation.

There was already a proven successful system with QEII National Trust covenants that helped landowners protect areas on private land, he said.

Some councils had already indicated support for the campaign as they were "fed up with the heavy hand of government" and loss of flexibility for councils and communities to design their own plans.

In their letter to councils, Mr McKenzie and fellow Groundswell founder Laurie Paterson said there were some "devastating consequences" on people, communities and the natural environment from poorly designed policies.

The impact on the welfare of people was a "major concern". Many farmers were suffering stress and anxiety "because of the overwhelming, and in many cases impractical, regulatory requirements", they said.

Groundswell would also be calling for farmers to refuse to do Government-mandated Farm Environment Plans.

"We support the need to address environmental issues and are promoting alternative solutions that have a proven success record. This includes catchment groups, the QEII Trust covenants and actions-focused farm planning approaches tailored to individual farmers’ needs and issues," they said.


Could this scheme be called environmental communism?

Time to put down your pitchforks and start thinking about the bigger global picture.
"If we can’t see the way to create a new, more respectful relationship with nature and a new, more sustainable economy, then the outlook for future generations is honestly pretty grim." - Jane Goodall