Fed Farmers says no need for new water rules

Canterbury farmers want the Government to leave them to get on with efforts to improve the region’s water quality.

The region’s Federated Farmers presidents plan to write to Environment Minister David Parker asking him to let Canterbury farmers get on with the task of improving water quality and to acknowledge the new freshwater standard is being met by the existing Canterbury land and water regional plan.

"The new regulations are coming in over the top of what Environment Canterbury already has in place and will waste farmers’ time and ratepayers’ money," Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Cam Henderson said.

Speaking on behalf of his colleagues in Mid-Canterbury (David Clark), South Canterbury (Jason Grant) and North Otago (Jared Ross), Mr Henderson said some of the new rules were "not workable" and "simply not needed" in Canterbury.

"Not because we don’t have intensive farming but because our current regional plan already deals with improving water quality in a much more targeted and effective way."

The existing regional plan contained provisions to control land use intensification and ensure good management practices were adhered to for all farm types, including for intensive winter grazing.

All forms of nitrogen fertiliser, not just synthetic, were accounted for.

Intensive farms were required to hold a resource consent to farm, including the requirement for independently audited farm environment plans.

"Canterbury farmers and the regional council have contributed years of work and considerable financial investment to implement the plan and drive real change on farm that will lead to improved water quality over time," Mr Henderson said.

The new national standard used different rules, meaning many farmers may need to reapply for consents and rewrite their farm plans.

Federated Farmers North Canterbury dairy chairman Karl Dean raised concerns around how farmers would be able to manage wintering stock in a way that avoided more compliance and paperwork under the proposed freshwater regulations.

"This needs to be discussed with graziers so there are no nasty surprises come next winter if there is an increased cost for that winter crop.

"One option would be to do economic and overseer sums on keeping more cattle at home on grass, and to supplement those cattle with baleage and straw instead of planting a crop.

"This may be an option for a few farmers, but most may be best to sit down now before planting and plan ahead on which paddocks will be best for the least pugging damage and look to limit mob sizes."

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