Winter grazing rules not fit for purpose

When a giant tree falls so deep in the forest that nobody hears it crash, did it still fall? Of course it did! Just ask all the life that existed around it while it stood and provided their shelter, food and homes. And for years to come, ask the life that flourishes in its decomposing remains.

When stupid rules become legislation, are they still stupid rules? Winter grazing on crops is a vital part of farming in this part of the country, because stock need to be fed all year round, and we cannot grow good quality grass in some parts of New Zealand during the winter months.

Telling a farmer they’re not allowed to do it because they farm on sloping ground is ludicrous. And using a resource consent or any other bureaucratic process to manage the practice is like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Yet even with very few instances of concern in the practice reported by councils in the South over the last couple of years, despite its incredible prevalence, over 2000 farmers in Southland (by the Government’s own estimates) should legally go through a consenting process with council just to be able to feed their stock during the winter.

If something is not right, how long should you continue to fight it? According to Abraham Lincoln "You cannot fail until you quit". There are plenty of examples where a continued effort to highlight the issues and propose alternative solutions has brought about change. The ridiculous pugging rule is a recent one where a determined battle brought the right outcome.

Feds has long said that rules must be sensible, practical and affordable. We at Southland Feds don’t believe the winter grazing rules meet those standards. There is no need to waste council resources (which we all fund!) on this bureaucratic process. Farmers need to be able to feed their stock all year round and have already adopted a range of good management practices that are mitigating the environmental risks which winter brings. A piece of paper will add no environmental benefit.

Representatives from Feds, including Southland, worked really hard on this "in the boardroom" to try to reach a sensible solution that would not see farmers running the risk of being made criminals, and we did contribute to some very sensible improvements. But still these ridiculous rules remain law.

Does that mean we should just accept them now? We don’t think so. We’re working constructively with Environment Southland for the best way through for Southland farmers this season.

But we’re also continuing to fight for a sensible, practical and affordable alternative that fixes the legislative, one-size-fits-nobody mess the Government created.

Otherwise, just like that giant tree silently decaying, the impacts of this will continue to be felt for years to come. Quitting is failing, and at Southland Feds, we’re not quitters.


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