Wholesale land use change on cards

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Federated Farmers estimates large parts of rural New Zealand will have to abandon their reliance on the pastoral sector based on the freshwater proposals released last week.

The Essential Freshwater announcements could lead to wholesale land use change to meet unnecessarily stringent targets.

The proposed National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management nutrient levels will require parts of New Zealand to reduce their nitrogen by up to 80%.

“It becomes very hard to continue economically farming animals or growing vegetables under a regime like this,” Federated Farmers environment and water spokesperson Chris Allen, of Ashburton, says.

“The long term targets for nitrogen reduction, are effectively unachievable in some parts of the country, and will end pastoral farming in these areas.”

Federated Farmers continues to be supportive of government effort to improve and maintain water quality, the use of farm environment plans and the continued shift to ‘GMP’ – good management practice policy.

“But with today’s proposals the government seems to be signalling it is prepared to gamble with the viability of food production as the major export earner for New Zealand.”

Feds has one simple message for the government, freshwater quality will continue to improve in rural areas, because farmers and growers are already doing the work.

“Lumping regional councils, with an entirely new regulatory system to implement and manage puts up everyone’s rates, and gives little additional support to actual water quality results,” Mr Allen says.

“Millions of dollars raised from increased rates which could have been spent on more river and waterway restoration will now be spent on hearings, lawyers and other random water experts,” he says.

“Basically your rates will go up, while farmers are doing the work anyway.”

Feds is particularly concerned about the proposed “interim controls” which will have untold ramifications for the New Zealand economy, as there will be an inevitable slump in land values, across all sectors and regions.

“The discussion documents say an ‘interim control’ is not a ban. But if it stops you from doing something with your own land, without appeal or any achievable recourse, then it’s a ban, pure and simple,” Chris says.

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