Fault found with regulations

Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Cameron Henderson is not impressed with the...
Federated Farmers North Canterbury president Cameron Henderson is not impressed with the Government’s freshwater consultation. PHOTO: FILE
A "lack of good consultation" has led to "bad freshwater regulation", Cam Henderson says.

The Federated Farmers North Canterbury president said the initial six-week consultation period, during one of the busiest times on the farming calendar, was not good consultation.

The Government extended the consultation period to eight weeks and received more than 17,000 submissions.

"To be fair to the Government, there were some changes made in the face of that avalanche of opposition," Mr Henderson said.

"But warnings at that time, and many times since, from Federated Farmers and others that some of the proposals would not only be extremely expensive but also unworkable in a practical sense, were ignored."

Agriculture Minister Damien O’Connor disputed this, saying extensive consultation was done with farming leaders "over a period of many months both before and after the public consultation".

"There were thousands of submissions received as part of last year’s consultations. The Government listened and as a result many changes were made to the original plan."

Changes included a longer timeline to implement changes, a national bottom line for dissolved inorganic nitrogen (DIN) would not be implemented at this stage and existing permanent fences were not required to be moved via regulation, Mr O’Connor said.

But Mr Henderson said the changes did not go far enough, as the October and November deadlines for re-sowing winter cropped paddocks took no account of weather conditions, were "unrealistic and more likely to reduce water quality than improve it".

Low slope maps prepared for the new stock exclusion rules were equally confusing as consultation documents identified 3.8 million hectares as low slope pastoral land, whereas the final regulations identified about six million hectares, including hill and high country, he said.

Mr O’Connor said he was meeting farmers around the country and while "the policy is good, the implementation may need to be adjusted for each region".

"Implementation comes down to the sensible application of necessary regulations.

"It became apparent that some of the regulations within the freshwater standards, including ones around winter grazing, needed to be adjusted, so we did that."

Meetings were ongoing with Ministry for the Environment and Primary Industries officials to work on making the mapping data more accurate, Mr O’Connor said.

"The intent is very clear — to clean up our waterways. Where the regulations are impractical or unclear we will continue to make adjustments.

"It is a change in practice for some farmers but we’ll make sure that it achieves the outcomes that the vast majority of farmers say they want, which is better water quality, better animal welfare standards and making sure that we can sell good-quality product to the world."

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