News ID: 258361
Published: 0846 GMT September 06, 2019

NZ government‘s plan to clean up freshwater would ’end pastoral farming': Federated Farmers

NZ government‘s plan to clean up freshwater would ’end pastoral farming': Federated Farmers
MICHAEL AMADEUS/UNSPLASH

New Zealand’s farmers say the government's new plan for freshwater is a signal it's prepared to see an end to pastoral land use in some parts of the country.

Once in place, the new rules could "lead to wholesale land use change to meet unnecessarily stringent targets", Federated Farmers said, newsie.co.nz wrote.

Under the proposed National Policy Statement for Freshwater Management, nutrient levels would require parts of New Zealand to reduce their nitrogen by up to 80 percent, spokesperson Chris Allen said.

"It becomes very hard to continue economically farming animals or growing vegetables under a regime like this," he said.

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

"Farming is an essential part of New Zealand's economy, so many people are touched by food production and in the document there's large parts of New Zealand — Canterbury, Waikato, Southland — where they're saying massive reductions in [nitrogen] is going to be required. So it is effectively shutting the door on agriculture."

Federated Farmers continued to be supportive of efforts to improve and maintain water quality, the use of farm environment plans and the continued shift to 'GMP' — good management practice policy, Allen said.

"We all want good water quality, that's why farmers are working towards it. Give us a problem and we try and solve it, but the problem's got to be solvable, not just like a mountain or a cliff that we just can't get over and we just can't see the steps on this one as to how we get there.

"But with today's proposals the government seems to be signaling it is prepared to gamble with the viability of food production as the major export earner for New Zealand."

Of particular concern were the proposed "interim controls" on what owners could do with their land, he said.

"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."

But Ministers have dismissed Federated Farmers concerns as "ridiculous" and "absurd".

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern rejected Federated Farmers comments. She said the organization’s position was at odds with what had been said by others in the rural sector.

"I don't think that everyone is of the same view of Federated Farmers. Keeping in mind of course when we developed these proposals we used and talked openly with those from the rural sector from processors to make sure that we were working alongside the rural community."

Agriculture Minister Damien O'Connor said they only need to look over the farm-gate to see that what the government is proposing is attainable.

"I think it's a ridiculous statement and I think the ability of New Zealand farmers to innovate to adapt, the fact that we have profitable farming operations up and down the country that are achieving what we wish to see across all farms says this can be done", he said.

   
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