Farmers’ voices come through loud at Southland hearing | Beef + Lamb New Zealand
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Farmers’ voices come through loud at Southland hearing

The first two weeks of the Southland Water and Land Plan hearings have been dominated by farmers and the drystock sector story is coming through loud and clear.
Monday, 3 July 2017

Farmers have shared their unique stories with the hearing commissioners and many more are scheduled to appear over the next two months. 

Fourth-generation Riversdale sheep farmers Tania and Mark Shallard spoke at the hearing.

“We did a lot of preparation and were really nervous beforehand, but we’re really pleased we fronted up. We stayed and listened to several other presentations afterwards – and we were all saying the same things to the hearing commissioners, which was great to see.” 

Tania says the B+LNZ workshops held around the hearing process were critical.

“Without them, there would have been no chance of us putting together a submission, let alone going to the hearing. They have made the process achievable for the 'average' farmer to speak for themselves. At the end of the day, no one else is going to. Regardless of the outcome, we know we did everything we could.” 

Beef + Lamb New Zealand (B+LNZ) Environment Programme Manager Matt Harcombe says – as a levy-funded organisation – B+LNZ is helping farmers, including the Shallards, with the skills and knowledge they need to effectively participate in the regional planning process. 

“If a plan or decision is going to have a huge impact on their future, then it’s imperative farmers are effectively voicing alternatives that work for them and their farms. 

“We have developed workshop-ready material that engages farmers in the process and gives them the confidence that they have just as many legitimate answers as anyone else. 

“Farmer leadership is essential – not just in the submissions and hearings process, but when it comes to implementing the plan.”

B+LNZ was the first industry body to be heard by the commissioners. The six-strong team presented a case that demonstrated how sheep and beef farming is inextricably linked to the economic wellbeing and fabric of the Southland community, and that flexible land use is key to a profitable and confident sector.

The key message: A plan that trusts and empowers farmers to achieve real change to water quality will endure. One that is predicated on thresholds, resource consents and audit trails will not.

B+LNZ Southern Southland Island Director Andrew Morrison says the evidence and messages put forward by B+LNZ seemed to be well received by the hearing commissioners. 

“Our presentation generated a lot of excellent questions from the decision makers. The team’s evidence was objective and well balanced. It aimed to outline practical solutions to enable flexible land use, while protecting water quality.”

Pearls of wisdom of farmers fronting up to the hearing

  • Remember to outline solutions, as well as problems. It’s great to outline where the plan won’t work, but try to follow this up with solutions that work for your farm.
  • Look for win-win solutions. As a sector, our message is stronger if we focus on where we can take action, rather than pointing fingers or placing blame. 
  • Remember that the stock exclusion rule is likely to be shaped by a national stock exclusion regulation, currently being considered by government. This proposal was outlined in the council’s s42A recommendations and is summarised on the B+LNZ website. Its great to stress the importance of the plan retaining some flexibility in the way this is applied. 
  • Use photos to help you tell your story and to demonstrate solutions. 

Find out more

The full B+LNZ hearing statement and evidence is available on the Environment Southland website

If you have any questions or would like to share feedback/advice from your experience with other farmers, get in touch with B+LNZ Environment Policy Manager, Julia Beijeman, at Julia.Beijeman@beeflambnz.com